scalloped potatoes. The other half holds a pile of lightly dressed Bibb lettuce. Down the middle, straight as a picket line, is a stripe of finely diced Kalamata olives. A hard-boiled egg lies at the end. The presentation is the classic niçoise salad, playfully disassembled.

Absinthe’s balance of play and rigor is definitely present, and the good-natured ruffling of tradition continues into dessert, where executive pastry chef Bill Corbett gives old favorites deliciously modern upgrades. Corbett revamps the classic carrot cake as a winter squash cake, which is light as a feather. This seasonal cake is vegetable-based and striated with layers of a creamy icing. Through the mastery of winter squash’s natural sugars, the cake’s sweetness is notably vegetal, almost ephemeral, and barely rests on the tongue. The cream-based icing, too, is surprisingly airy. For the last bites, the cake’s spongy texture makes a perfect base for soaking up dollops of squash purée that decorate the borders of the plate. Truly, this dessert is one of a kind.

After 14 years, Absinthe is still a favorite in San Francisco, populated by both the symphony crowd and the neighborhood regulars. Thanks to its perfectly balanced atmosphere of refinement and relaxation, Absinthe transports guests to that joyful time a century ago when brasseries invited them to sink into the furniture, to order another drink, to forget about the bustle outside, and to dine.

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This article was published:
Throwback Issue - Released May 2012
Issue 4 / Version 2 | Buy print copy here
Issue 11
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