From its geometric wood floor to its gray banquettes, Bluestem exudes mid-20th century modern. The svelte advertising executives of AMC’s Mad Men would probably feel quite at home here. Or would they? Because this steakhouse is no mere throwback, nor is it a stuffy boy’s club. Instead of a traditional martini, that young woman in the lounge is sipping a Salt Lick, a potent concoction of Zubrowska vodka, Noilly Prat Dry and caper berry brine, garnished with a plump caper berry. The steak tartare, tangy with Worcestershire sauce, also flirts with nostalgia while adding some contemporary touches: a quail egg on top, a handful of mâ che, a drizzle of pistachio oil. While cocktails might better drive home the early-1960s fantasy, owner Adam Jed and bar manager Matt Cleave have compiled a trim wine list that yields California classics from the likes of Ridge, Mount Eden and Heitz, with a few choice imports slipped in (William Fèvre Chablis, Graillot Crozes-Hermitage Blanc) to appease more Eurocentric palates. There are also cool, fresh wines on tap. Together with the watermelon salad, the oysters, the sautéed branzino and the chickpea cake with eggplant caponata, this cosmopolitan steakhouse can satisfy even those who shy away from red meat.
One Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco, California
This story appears in the print issue of October 2011.
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