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First Bite: Thermidor

All of a sudden, the city seems like it has its dining mojo back. I keep a running list of new restaurants that I’m looking forward to checking out and that list is growing long. And while certainly not all of these places are destined to be great or destined to last, plenty of them are and will. Regardless of that, it’s just nice to see something happening in the dining world after so many months of stagnation.

A few nights ago—an ordinary Tuesday in the middle of summer—I decided to check out Thermidor, the newest project from Bruce Binn and Neil Jorgenson (who also co-own Spork in the Mission). The first thing I noted, before I even got to Thermidor, was how lively Mint Plaza felt—people were spilling out from Chez Papa, and 54 Mint looked full. And newcomer Thermidor? Well, they were just packed, and my partner and I claimed the last two seats at the bar (thankfully, the bar stools have backs—I later discovered backless bar stools are a peeve I share with Jorgenson) and quickly ordered cocktails—a whisky, strawberry, mint combination for her, a Pimm’s, gin, blackberry and lemon one for me.

Thermidor feels like Spork’s older sibling. It shares some design elements and the same warm lighting, as well as a retro wink—in this case, evoking the 60s, from the light fixtures to the uniforms, which for the men include short-sleeved white button-down shirts, skinny black ties and gold tie clips. But this is a grander, larger space in a downtown location, with a full bar and a space for private parties.

The menu also has a retro 60s appeal, with a lengthy section of hors d’oeuvres (all $6) that includes celery Victor and pommes dauphine along with more “modern” options such as goat cheese fritters with fresh peaches, short rib crostino with horseradish cream and a little burger, four perfect bites of beef on a plush housemade bun, topped with caramelized onions and Tillamook cheddar. From the first courses, I sampled a Caesar salad and a miniature lobster roll, which may well be my favorite dish of those I tried. The meat is virtually unadorned, save for a bit of butter and a scattering of fresh herbs, and the tender touch with the crustacean makes me look forward to trying other lobster dishes on the menu, including bisque, lobster and scallop newburg and, of course, the storied lobster thermidor, a great, classic dish poised for resurrection.