There are some days where everything goes wrong. Thursday was that day. I am blessed to have lovely friends in nearly every city that I travel to. We drink. We commiserate. We eat. We find joy together.. We eat and drink some more. By the end of the evening we are renewed.
The opportunity to catch up over well-made cocktails at 25 Lusk and listen to my friends' lives helps put everything into perspective. Twenty-five Lusk is an upscale neighborhood bar and restaurant in SOMA. Like SOMA, the restaurant regularly re-invents itself. The cocktails there are always good. After a few cocktails (Old-Fashioned and Dark 'N' Stormy cocktails) I found myself breathing a little easier. It is a proper jumping-off place for a relaxing evening out.
The pièce de résistance of the night was Cockscomb. Cockscomb is Chris Cosentino’s celebration of San Francisco’s diverse culinary heritage and a celebration of offal. It is a place for invention -a welcome place for anyone who appreciates humble ingredients or has previously worked the line. We hustled over in hopes of catching the staff meal. The line didn’t have enough for us to partake but convinced used that the wood oven roasted pigs head was going to be more fun. Boy were they right. Hands down, it is the best restaurant meal I have had in San Francisco.
Roasted pigs head is a challenging cut of meat to prepare. It is what I consider a zero margin dish. It requires a lot of effort. It needs to be braised for hours, a minimum of six hours in fact. Then it needs to be roasted to a perfect crisp. My expectations were also high. The Cantonese, Taiwanese, Indonesians, and Pilipinos are masters of offal in everyday cooking. I can go to a warung in Bali and find it stuffed with fragrant spices. In Hong Kong, it’s a meaty version of Peking duck served with plum sauce. In Taiwan, it is a treasured delicacy where chefs celebrates the collagen and chewy jowls with soy and rock sugar.
Cockscomb version celebrates California’s Mexican influence. Served Mexico City style, with a cabbage slaw, tomatillo salsa, corn tortillas & lime, acid from the salsa cuts the richness of the crispy crispy skin and tender meat. What would have been a heavy meal is suddenly made light. After removing the bones and breaking up the protein, we were happily making tacos for ourselves and other folks at the bar. It may be a mess, Oh My Marie Kondo, this meal sparks joy! Can you see that pile of chicharrones? Seriously, look at the size of that paella pan they are using!
We also ordered the Brussel sprouts. Cockcombs’ version is served with gochujang, a Korean chili and miso paste and bonito flakes. I could swear that they dressed it with a bit of fish sauce as well. This was the kind of veggie dish where I thought, “Damn I am so full, but I am going to finish it anyway.” This dish could only be made better if the restaurant had access to a block of katsuobushi. It is a lot more effort but the payoff will be satisfying. (Dylan the offer still stands!)
Now we didn’t order dessert, but the guys dropped a bowl of chocolate ganache topped with torched meringue AND another bowl of. Sticky Date Pudding. Both are amazing desserts, but my favorite was the Sticky Toffee Date Pudding. I had flashbacks of the dessert cart at the Oxbridge Club in London. It was layers upon layers of flavor: notes of caramel, medjool dates, date sugar, and ginger. Believe it or not, it was not overwhelmingly sweet. My buddy who hates sweets found himself enjoying both bowls. He was also slightly disappointed that the Sticky Date Pudding was largely consumed by me. Sorry man!
Cockscomb is a must visit restaurant in San Francisco. You won’t be disappointed. Under no circumstances should you go with only two people. It is a family-style restaurant, and you want plenty of people to share with so you can order across the menu.
Special thanks to Travis (grill/oven) and Dylan (sauté) for their excellent execution. You can feel how much fun they had putting the meal together. It was a work of beauty. Also many thanks to the front-of-house for having fun with us.
Kent is a management consultant who has spent years traveling for work. His refuge is looking for the perfect meal so that he can reproduce it at home with his wife and friends.