At Birdsong, chef and owner Chris Bleidorn chars morel mushrooms to bring out their earthy flavor and to tell their story. Morels are the phoenix of fungi, flourishing in the ashes after forest fires. The dish is not only a reminder of the California wildfires that occurred last fall, but it also pays homage to the land.
The mushrooms are the third stop on my five-course tasting journey at Birdsong, where Chef Chris draws inspiration from nature and the Pacific Northwest. Dishes highlight key ingredients from this region and are prepared using ancient cooking methods including open fire, fermentation, and dry-aged meats.
“Our whole thought process is really focused on backward thinking and how things used to be done when people had to forage, hunt, and gather for nourishment,” Chef Chris says. “We’re not trying to be a cabin the middle of San Francisco, but a city restaurant with refinement.”
My meal began with a clever take on fish and chips. A chilled piece of cured halibut draped over a warm, pomme soufflé filled with tartar sauce – the perfect contrast of textures, temperatures, and flavors. Next, it was on to the creek raised trout served three different ways. Part one features the fish lightly cured, smoked, and served in a parcel of warm cedar bark. There’s also a delicate “sandwich” that uses crispy trout skin and cured roe as well as a Japanese-inspired chawanmushi made from dried bone stock. Other menu highlights include the morel mushrooms stuffed with Sonoma lamb, Shigoku oysters, and whole duck aged over 30 days right downstairs.
“I feel that it’s my responsibility to preserve the art of cuisine by avoiding conventional agriculture and supporting a network of small farms, ranches, and fisheries,” Chef Chris says. “A lot of restaurants are advertising that their produce is organic and grown by farmers, but I think that’s to be expected. We’re taking it to a whole new level by using that same approach with our livestock and aging it ourselves.”
The restaurant’s airy space also plays into the Pacific Northwest theme with teal accents and wood finishes throughout. Even the cast-iron pans and skillets hanging from the open kitchen come from the region. There is also a downstairs with two private dining rooms and a glass walk-in meat cellar for dry-aging.
“The tasting menu will change every two to three weeks based on what’s available,” says Chef Chris. “As a new restaurant, I think this will really help us improve and inspire the team to come up with new, creative ideas that truly celebrate each ingredient.”
With unique flavors, thoughtful presentation, and a contemporary interior, Birdsong is yet another five-star addition to the Yerba Buena neighborhood.