Lazy Bear: An Adventure in Communal Dining

Dining at Lazy Bear is an adventure. You buy a ticket. You don’t make a reservation. Instead of a traditional menu, A Field Guide awaits you at your seat. But rather than a rustic camping adventure the restaurant’s name may connote, you have purchased a ticket to ride on a communal dining adventure that is so fresh, so innovative, and so very San Francisco.

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My husband and I had the good fortune of being treated to dinner at Lazy Bear by our very dear (and generous) friend, Meredith, on Tuesday, October 27, 2015. Before dinner, guests receive a cocktail to accompany the first few courses. That night ours was a refreshing gin punch with lovely herbal notes. We then began our beverage pairing with the Gaston Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, one of the creamiest and most delicious Champagnes I have yet to experience. It paired beautifully with each of the delicious snacks served that evening: Whipped Scrambled Eggs with bacon, maple, and hot sauce; Kumamoto Oyster with Granny Smith apple, fennel foam, and fennel pollen; Caviar with potato, crème fraiche, and horseradish; Sea Urchin with sudachi, passion fruit, coconut, and long pepper. And the snack course ended with a palate cleansing shot of Sorrel Soda before the staff escorted us to the main dining room to begin the next ride.

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Once all of the guests were seated, David Barzelay, a self-taught chef and recovering lawyer, greeted the guests and, like an expedition leader, described the journey upon which we were embarking. Barzelay explained the dinner party concept and politely requested guests stop and pause their conversations during the service of each new course so that the chef could describe it and its inspiration. He then warmly invited guests to come up to the open kitchen to engage the chefs with any questions and take pictures throughout the meal.

It was to be a very interactive evening –with the chefs and the other diners. The Field Guide even contains a page for jotting down contact information to keep in touch with new friends. Quite simply, Barzelay breaks down the barriers of modern urban life and asks us all to engage in a shared experience.

Chef Barzelay and Lazy Bear follow no rules. Instead the team appears to be a band of culinary explorers clearing paths for others to follow while having a rip roaring good time doing it. The beverage pairings were just one such example. We zigged and zagged between whites and reds from France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, as they rightly poured whatever most beautifully complimented each course.

Every course appeared to be an experiment in color and flavor, beautifully plated and simply delicious.

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Highlights included a deceptively simple dinner roll with house-cultured butter. As Barzelay explained, it was their interpretation of a Parker House roll.

But this version was made of spelt and rye topped with brown butter salt and served with what he aptly described as their “fucking awesome” butter. “Pillows of heaven,” Meredith breathlessly proclaimed.

Other high notes of the meal included:

 Bonito with pomegranate, beets, pink peppercorns, Meyer lemon, and hibiscus petals grilled tataki style

Bonito with pomegranate, beets, pink peppercorns, Meyer lemon, and hibiscus petals grilled tataki style

 Grilled Aged Duck with Quince

Grilled Aged Duck with Quince

 Miyazaki Ribeye with pumpkin, Maitake, Asian pear, and bone marrow

Miyazaki Ribeye with pumpkin, Maitake, Asian pear, and bone marrow

The Japanese Wagyu Miyazaki Ribeye was so thoroughly marbled, it created a sensual texture evoking prurient thoughts.

And then there were the desserts. Pastry Chef Maya Erickson is an impressively pedigreed 24-year old who epitomizes the restaurant’s fresh approach. Each of her dessert courses was beautiful, balanced, and delicious.

 Olive Oil with apple, lemon, green herbs and a pistachio crumble

Olive Oil with apple, lemon, green herbs and a pistachio crumble

 Black Sesame with forbidden rice, cocoa, and cassis with red shiso leaf and activated charcoal powder

Black Sesame with forbidden rice, cocoa, and cassis with red shiso leaf and activated charcoal powder

 Semifreddo with Vietnamese coffee; Sticky Toffee Pudding with fig and red walnut; and Cinnamon Macaron with cayenne pepper

Semifreddo with Vietnamese coffee; Sticky Toffee Pudding with fig and red walnut; and Cinnamon Macaron with cayenne pepper

I highly recommend dining at Lazy Bear. It has grown from an underground, pop-up dinner party Barzelay hosted between law jobs to a very grown up, Michelin-starred restaurant. To fully enjoy the ride, you must – figuratively – let go of the safety bar and put your hands in the air as you crest each peak of this unique dining ride.

Lazy Bear – located at 3416 19th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110