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Chef Adam Keough Discusses Changes At Absinthe

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Here we are, technically almost two months after Adam Keough took over the kitchen at Hayes Valley fixture Absinthe. Keough's resume includes work with Michael Mina at Arcadia and Stonehill Tavern and with Joshua Skenes at Chez TJ. So now lets mull the changes afoot at Absinthe, straight from the kitchen's new main man.

One month in, have your expectations been met? Yes they have, I have been very impressed with the staff at Absinthe and there's excitement in the air regarding the new menu. So about that menu, what's worked? What hasn't? I'm really happy that the garlic pretzels and pork meatballs have become such a hit with our guests. On the other hand, I've been offering a daily brunch roast on Saturday and Sunday that's not sold as well as I would of liked.

What drew you to Absinthe? Were you wanting to come up to SF? I've wanted to come back to SF for the past year. I was looking for a neighborhood restaurant that had great food and service but was not fussy. Absinthe has such a good vibe when you first walk in, after my first time visiting I became very interested in the position.

What's been the biggest adjustment? Training such a large staff is a bit of an adjustment for me.

What's been the most pleasant surprise? The regulars have responded so well to the new menu and have voiced their compliments to our staff.

How do diners in SF differ from their LA counterparts? SF is such a small city with such a huge food culture. I have not noticed a difference in diners, but I feel that people are more knowledgeable about food in general in SF.

How did it feel filling the shoes of Jamie Lauren, who had a big personality on TV and here in San Francisco? Jamie has done a great job with Absinthe and my hat's off to her for that. I was a fan of her food on Top Chef and feel we share a few similarities in style.

How have you walked the line between doing your own thing and fitting in to the "old" Absinthe? I think I am doing both at the same time. The menu reflects mostly my interpretation of classics, but then again some dishes I feel should not be interpreted too much -- like a good French onion soup or a crouque monsieur.

Bauer's been in, right? How many times so far? What has he ordered? He came in this past Thursday for the first and only visit so far. He tried the melon-tomato salad, French onion soup, potato-crusted arctic char and the whole roasted Berkshire pork rib eye. He also tried our chocolate pot de creme and buttermilk spice cake.

Sounds like he ate quite a bit. Now, as you and the new menu at Absinthe settle in, how do you want the restaurant to grow? I think the focus will be on raising the quality without raising menu prices.

Well that doesn't hurt. Anything exciting coming up for you? Let's see. Next month, I'm putting a country rabbit stew and vegetarian wild mushroom pot pie on the menu that I'm excited about.

Where do you want to be a year from now? Launching the fall menu at Absinthe.

[Photo: Ana Homonnay Photography]


298 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA