Restaurant Review: San Francisco, California


 photo by Eric Wolfinger

If Fellini had filmed a cozy yakitori lair, he might have gone for the same effect as Aster, with its mirrors infinitely repeating the thin train-tracked light bulbs and softly polished wood-grain tables. Chef Brett Cooper, with stints at Coi, Saison and Outerlands under his belt, crafts a nightly prix-fixe menu that transforms local ingredients into exotic experiences. One night, cucumbers came with seaweed, pluots and yogurt; instead of pasta, there was rye spaetzle with chanterelles, corn and okra, or green farro with peas, ramps and nasturtiums. Umami-rich and ever-changing, the menu presents pairing challenges that Sarah Blau turns to feats: Her wine pairings range from bonedry sakes to sweet chenins from Moulin Touchais. Her list is as eclectic as the food, especially strong in Austria and Germany, as well as lesser-known, acid-forward California whites and reds. And most bottles run under $100.

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