Ernst is the first solo project of Chef Brandon Rice, formerly of Rich Table and Coi, and for anyone familiar with these restaurants, it should come as no surprise that the dining experience here will not only be memorable, but unique and captivating. Although only celebrating his first year in business in San Francisco’s vibrant Mission District, Ernst immediately made waves in the city’s culinary world thanks to Chef Rice’s playful and eclectic approach to upscale cuisine.
The list is divided into four parts: a raw bar; Snacks. Salads, vegetables, meat and seafood. Each section consists of dishes designed to surprise and delight the palate in ways you wouldn’t expect.
“Ernst’s menu contains food that I like to eat myself,” Chef Rice explains in response to the inspiration behind the menu at Ernst. “It is an expression of what I love about food with the flavors of my upbringing, traveling and working around the world. The food behind it is thought. I want to deliver high flavors, while still feeling the food is accessible and informal.”
Some examples of the ever-changing menu are Keluga Caviar Tater Tots, which are served in two bowls: one filled with crunchy tater sticks and the other filled with fresh cream with chives, lemon zest and a dollop of caviar. stand out post? Sushi rice is a beautiful dish of beef served with bright orange ikura (salmon caviar), sushi rice and nori to make handmade rolls.
Other current menu items include Uni Toast with jamon serrano and quail eggs; Mexican Shrimp Cocktail with Avocado and Salt; Lo Mein Sea Urchin “Carbonara” with Oliver Bacon; pork tomahawk tonkatsu; The fried duck confit.
The menu offers diners a true culinary journey that ends with a selection of exquisite, nostalgic desserts: Ernst’s signature sundae with a vanilla and hazelnut swirl, with hazelnut fudge and the house-made Magic Shell milk chocolate; Current icing flavor, Strawberry Shortcake, with homemade strawberry jam and topped with yellow crumble cake and whipped cream; And finally, the decadent Basque cheesecake.
“We’re not a restaurant with limits – we cook what we love and change the menu often. It’s about serving up seasonal flavours. In California, we have the best produce in the world, with seasons constantly changing what’s available to us at farmers markets. Our goal is to create new and exciting dishes that are yet comfortable “.
We chatted with Chef Brandon Rice last year in business; list highlights; Inspiration and more. That’s what he said!
How did your previous experiences working in places including Rich Table and Coi prepare you for your first solo project, Ernst?
For me, the restaurant is the sum of all the places I’ve worked. Everyone has their own cooking style, so every kitchen has a way of shaping you. I think of Coi and how amazing Daniel Patterson’s plate was – he taught me how to season food. Then with Rich Table, I really had the opportunity to run a kitchen on my own and cook my own style of food.
Prior to these experiences in San Francisco, I spent time in Boston with Ken Oringer. It really introduced me to food that I still love, to this day. Looking back, Ken’s kitchen is still one of the most exciting I’ve ever visited.
Talk about what your first year on the job looked like, has the pandemic affected work?
Our first year in the business was never what I expected, while also exceeding all expectations. It has been great so far and I am very grateful to the community and the reception we have received from the guests. We opened on March 17, 2021, in the middle of COVID.
Following SF city guidelines, we were only allowed to dine outdoors with space for only about 40 seats. It wasn’t like what I imagined my first restaurant doors to open – I couldn’t even see the guests from the kitchen.
With the loosening of restrictions, we were able to grow on the outside only to 50% on the inside, then 75%, and finally all the way on the inside. Honestly, I look back and realize that while outdoor dining alone was very difficult to operate, such a small number of guests helped our team. It allowed us all to loosen up on the true pace of the restaurant. I’m looking around the full dining room today and I’m so proud of where we are just one year after we opened our doors.
How would you classify your kitchen? What do you wish guests could take away from your dining experience here?
I like to say ‘modern California’ because it epitomizes it all – the world’s best produce, seafood, and amazing butchers. I like to play with flavors and create dishes that are unexpectedly nostalgic but may be entirely new to the guest, giving them an experience that surprises but comforts them through flavors throughout the meal.
My hope with this is that our guests will come and explore the menu and have a good time. There is no greater feeling than when people book to return before they leave.
Talk about the featured menu and what’s currently getting you excited in the kitchen.
Beef Tartare was one of the first dishes I thought of when I was dreaming of Ernst. I loved the idea of playing with the classic beef rice and sushi rice flavors – it’s one of my favorite things to eat on my days off. I think there is a novelty and knowledge of the dish that excites the guests.
Our Uni Toast bread has become a staple – it’s decadent, soft and textured. And we just added Crab Rangoon Dip to the list. It’s been floating around the back of my head for a while now, and I love the way it embraces the freshness of summer stone fruit from one of our favorite farms, Kashiwase Farms.
Really excited for what Bay Area cooking has to offer, like all the beautiful oysters from Hog Island and seeing the summer produce on the farm stalls. We are already loading our carts at this time of year. On top of that, seeing the team around me grow with the restaurant was an incredible thing to drive and be involved in.
We’ve created this daily ritual where a member of our kitchen team gives a short speech before turning in to start serving. Seeing how this kitchen come together and inspire each other, and cheer each other up every night, is incredible.
Strawberry ice cream is one of my all-time favorite desserts. How do you come up with these seasonal flavors? How did you create this particular creation?
I really love the classic Americana desserts. Growing up, I ate strawberry cake in the summer and loved the Good Humor Shortcake bars that you can buy at the ice cream truck. I thought shaved snow was a perfect opportunity to create something fun and take you back to those flavors from your childhood.
We always put icing on the menu, update the flavor seasonally and always play on classic desserts. We had fun with these peach and apple pancakes. black sesame tiramisu; upside-down pineapple cake; And shaved ice in classic rainbow colors. Being in California, we get pretty fruit 12 months out of the year and strawberry season has a long stay in the Bay Area, so we can really make this the star of the summer.
That same nostalgia drove the thinking behind Ernest Sundae and Cheesecake, too. They are elevated versions of desserts that I have loved all my life.
Do you make other sweets too? The desserts were an equal highlight as the delicious dishes!
Yes we did! Our cheesecakes are baked every morning from scratch, and we make all our sundae items in-house. We make our own soft service base; We roast the hazelnuts, cook the sugar until it’s deep amber and let it solidify, then mix with the hazelnut oil to make our own pralines and make our own chocolate crust ‘magic shell’ that we pour next to the table. It’s a fun moment to see the guests light up as they pour those chocolates.