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The Early Word on SoMa's AQ Restaurant and Bar

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Several weeks ago, AQ opened in the dining outback that is Mission and 7th St. Owner Matt Semmelhack, an optimistic 28-year-old Princeton grad who used Kickstarter to raise funds for the venture, brought on chef-partner Mark Liberman, a 2010 Bocuse d'Or participant known for his work at La Folie. With a market-driven, oft-changing menu and a judiciously brick-lined décor that shifts with the seasons, AQ seems to be attracting enough destination diners to the food desert. But will its rotating menu continue to bring them back? Let's hop to the Early Word for a read on the situation.

The Barley News: Liberman’s toasted barley and Dungeness crab, seasoned with Douglas fir, has garnered attention across the board. Robert Lauriston of Chowhound praised the “amazing toasted barley ?that was like nothing I've ever had.” Fellow Chowhounder tomotsu agrees that “the barley and crab dish?was unique and delicious.” But tjinsf notes: "I overheard a neighboring table complaining the barley was 'too strong' and the food was 'too crazy'. It's certainly not the dumb downed "comfort food" that is so popular right now." [Chowhound]

The Bauer News: The Mike Mic adds AQ's cobia to his weekly best dishes picks: "The fish is surrounded by long sticks and gossamer shavings of tender poached salsify, with a bright spinach puree underneath, garnished with small spinach leaves and paper-thin slices of lemons." [Chron]

The Staff News: Chowhounder tjinsf thought the service “quite good,” and Yelp’s Sebastian L. claims “the hostess, Mary-Anne, was friendly and exceptionally visually-pleasing.” Yelper Mike K. thinks the staff “felt like long lost friends,” but co-Yelper Sidney P. experienced an “overabundance of wait staff,” which added to the “crowded feeling.” [Chowhound, Yelp]

The Booze News: Grubstreet says "the place stands to give Heaven's Dog and Bar Agricole a run for their money in terms of cocktail geekery in the 'hood — and the drinks all taste great too, so that's a plus." SFist chimes in with its favorite drink on the list (the New Amsterdam #1), and Yelp’s Robert G. adds that the “wine list is carefully curated and has unusually low price points with some great bargains.” [Grubstreet, Yelp]

The Décor News: Housed in a former beauty school, AQ’s interior has drawn considerable attention. 7x7's Sara Deseran calls it a "pretty warm space," and Thrillist compares the cocktail-lounge couches to those found in “a psychiatrist's office” and was taken with the “equinox-specific trees sprouting up through the basement.” Chowhounder tjinsf thinks the décor “was pleasant?without being too twee and pretentious.” [7x7, Thrillist, Chowhound]

The Price News: Sarah Duxbury of the San Francisco Business Times says “In a welcome twist, pricing is simple, with appetizers either $9 or $13, all entrées $24 and $8 for desserts.” But Yelp’s Sidney P. logs an alliterative complaint: AQ is “pretty pricey for paltry portions.” [SF Business Times, Yelp]

Add your opinions in the comments section, or send Eater a note this way .

· All AQ Restaurant & Bar Coverage [~ ESF ~]

[Photo: dinnerwithfriends]

AQ Restaurant & Bar

1085 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103 415-341-9000 Visit Website

AQ Restaurant & Bar

1085 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA

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