Restaurant, It’s Only a Step Away
|Bart Taylor, co-owner
of the HiDive, newest “in” spot on
San Francisco’s burgeoning downtown waterfront scene.
By Paul Redman
Locals often talk about new business development
in the South of Market area in the abstract, as if it were actually
in a completely different city than San Francisco. So insulated are
we in our isolated trips to a baseball game at SBC Park—or the
ever-less-frequent night out at a techno-music club—from the
goings-on in the massive gridiron of warehouses and new apartment
complexes shooting up in SOMA.
Whether your own calculus counts the lower
Embarcadero as part of SOMA should become irrelevant. Because if you
head south from Market Street, beneath the shadow and slight chill
of the Bay Bridge, your brain would have to be sleeping with the
fishes not to notice that something’s afoot.
Draw your eyes to that sunny, open stretch of the
Embarcadero along the water. In a small shack that sports a fresh
coat of paint at Pier 28 1/2, there is tangible evidence for all to
see that indeed this part of town is developing a life of its own.
Hidive restaurant is an example of an attempt to
stretch not just downtown San Francisco, but to expand the quality
and diversity of the typical neighborhood bar and restaurant. As you
pass through the entrance, you are greeted by a slick wooden
countertop and a large plasma television built into the wall. It’s
as if instead of a host stand, there were some talking head ready to
serve you. But you will quickly find out that Hidive’s service is
much friendlier than that. Although the dining room seats 63, it
feels quaintly like 15. There is a stout bar along the front of the
building, and all of the tables are against the back wall of wide
windows looking onto the Bay.
|Inside the HiDive,
located directly beneath the Bay Bridge, next to Red’s
Executive chef Bart Taylor, formerly of the Cliff
House restaurant, hits some high notes not normally found in either
a bar and grill or fine dining restaurant. Indeed, at Hidive one
might expect there to be an identity issue, given the informal
service and the classy, diminutive dining room with upholstered
seats and modern wall sconces.
On a recent lunch at Hidive, I did not know if the
logo “Organic” that was stretched tightly across the chest of our
waitresses t-shirt referred to the ingredients or something else,
but the appetizers, salads, and fish tacos we tried were nonetheless
fresh and delicious. The bourbon prawns ($5.50), plump and hot, were
bathed in a sticky, sugary glaze that thankfully dripped onto the
accompanying bed of spinach leaves. Another preparation that excited
was the Napa cabbage-based slaw—lightly crunchy, seasoned with
tarragon—served alongside the bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado
sandwich ($7.50). The sandwich itself was tasty and rich, not
breaking down any culinary walls but treating the classic
ingredients with the care and attention they deserve. And when it
came to the fish tacos ($7.95), Hidive delivered the goods in a
number of ways. This preparation usually involves one of two cooking
techniques. Hidive chose its own course that did not involve
deep-frying the fish pieces, instead sautéing them to a light and
healthy, batter-free brown. There was homemade, black bean chili
with the tacos, which was indeed vegetarian, although it tasted of
some obscure, smoky and meaty ingredient. There were also two
homemade, Mexican-style sauces, one green, one red, both flavorful
and sweet more than spicy.
When it comes to dessert, Mr. Taylor and his
kitchen brigade have carved out their own little niche, which is
fitting for the growing following of “Hidivers” that seem to come
out of the woodwork for this little restaurant. The homemade
cheesecake ($3.50) is as our waitress informed us, a true New
York-style cheesecake. It was tall and thick as it should be, and
like the mixed identity of Hidive itself, seemed to be both moist
and firm, dense but not overcooked. The cheesecake was further
lightened by a mango coulis sauce judiciously dripped around the
edge of the plate. And for the grand finale, the dessert that may be
Hidive’s signature, help yourself to the Ginger Ecstasy ($1.75).
This ginger cake is an exercise in cake density. It has the texture
of cookie dough that has been chilled but not frozen, a sweetness
quotient high enough to choke an adult goat, and an appeal that
transcends the sum of its parts. Ginger Ecstasy is like a piece of
hard candy that has been slightly softened to serve to one who
dislikes hard candy, and is lightened by the dollop of fresh whipped
cream that is its only companion on the plate.
By next spring, when the “KFOG KaBoom!” concert
comes back to Pier 30, you will have to fight me for a table at
Hidive. With a clear view of the fireworks that accompany the annual
concert, Hidive is a little spot with the biggest of aspirations, a
path to the future and growth of our beloved city by the Bay.
Hidive restaurant is located at Pier 28 1/2 in San Francisco, (415)
977-0170. Paul Redman can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.