By now you've probably heard that Bill-Russell Shapiro (Absinthe, Arlequin, Comstock) went Creole in his newest endeavor, hiring Louisiana native Justin Simoneaux (Coco500, Moss Room) in the kitchen at their Hayes Valley outpost. Open a mere 7 weeks, the buzz is a brewin' over Boxing Room, the Cajun inspired restaurant in the old Citizen Cake space at Gough and Grove with Absinthe Pastry Chef Bill Corbet on sweets. As a 2009 Chronicle Rising Star, people are looking to Simoneaux's pedigree to see how the Moss Room veteran pulls off his native down-home cuisine. They're serving up fried shrimp po' boys, hush puppies, and 'gator flown in fresh from Southern Louisiana... a far cry from the New American cuisine on his resume of late. Russell-Shapiro has succeeded before; but with a restaurant so new, we're left with questions: Is Simoneaux pulling off his home-town fare? Is Boxing Room succeeding in filling a somewhat lonely Cajun niche in San Francisco? And can I finally break out the banjo?
The Reservation News: Signore Lucchesi warns, "Reservations are being kept on the scarce side in the earlygoing as the restaurant finds its legs, so don’t be discouraged if OpenTable isn't cooperating. There's a big bar area, with a few tables and full food service." [ISSF]
The Stylin' News: SF Editor for the Rundown, Christine Tusher, tells 7x7 that she thinks the best dressed people are "kicking it" here. [7x7]
The Bauer News: The Bauer Machine gave three of their dishes a shout out as his favorite dishes of the week. First, loving the "sauteed Gulf flounder, flavored with brown butter and lemon and served on Romano beans and cubes of crispy potatoes." Then on a vegetarian option, he said, "I can't think of anything better than the stuffed mirliton (chayote) and eggplant at the Boxing Room." And on to the peanuts: "I'm generally not a huge fan because I find them kind of soggy and without much flavor. Here, however, they're both salty and spicy." [ISSF]
The Cajun News: Simoneaux calls it, "pure, unadulterated Louisiana food." Does it stand the test? Virginia Miller seems to confirm: "The food coming out of the kitchen... just begins to assuage my constant hunger for New Orleans." But an Open Table diner sings a different tune: "Next was the small size chicken/andouille gumbo which was quite a large serving. Very unlike traditional gumbo but meaty and filling--well seasoned if you don't think--New Orleans.[sic]" [ISSF, SFBG, Open Table]
The 'Gator News: Virginia Miller loves the alligator and paints a picture: "Deep fried alligator with a Creole remoulade ($11) is about the freshest alligator I've tasted – even better than what I've had in Nola or Florida. He's taken painstaking efforts to source the best possible ingredients and it shows: this alligator is more tender and flavorful than its fried status would suggest." SF Station seems to agree: "It tasted like a scrumptious cross between chicken and calamari. Doused with lemon and dipped in creole rémoulade, it was bite after bite of culinary perfection." CBS SF confirms, it "was delicious, perfectly crisp and still with that fresh-water gator taste." [SFBG, SF Station, CBS SF]
The Beer-Only News: After a satisfying meal, Virginia Miller adds, "The only thing missing is a Mint Julep." And as Grubstreet puts it, "What's New Orleans without hard liquor?" But the selection of beer and wine they do have doesn't seem to disappoint, as Anh P./Yelp describes, "They had a pretty extensive selection of different types of beers and if you ask, they do have samples. Cute samples by the way that come out in mini beer mugs." [SFBG, Grubstreet, Yelp]
The Price/Portion News: Bay Zest tells, "The menu at Boxing Room is diverse and coursed out well for individual portions or for sharing." And a 7x7 commenter applauds, "Kudos... to Boxing Room for making this great place actually affordable." [Bay Zest, 7x7]
The Interior News: SF Station gushes, "The space [is] utterly gorgeous. Minimal, industrial, and oozing with trendy chic-ness." And star Yelper Genevieve Y. calls it, "Urban Rustic.[sic]" [SF Station, Yelp]
The Service News: A commenter on 7x7 shares their story of when a server had to switch tables to take a break: "It was no big deal..the food had been ordered, and nothing suffered as a result. We just got to meet someone else who was equally nice to us." But another 7x7 commenter who dined on opening night, wasn't as understanding of the break policy: "[the server] informed us that she would have to leave and introduced a new waitress who would be finishing our meal service. I did not like this. It is neither professional nor acceptable.[sic]" Let's see what blogger Kimberly Chin had to say on the matter: "[We] were promptly greeted with a smile and seated in a booth. Our server greeted us quickly and very attentive.[sic]" [7x7, Kimberly Chin]
The Pretty Darn Good News: We'll leave the last word to SF Station, who praises, "In a word, the meal was outstanding. One of those every-bite-gets-better-can’t-wait-to-go-back-again SF culinary experience. Take my advice and leave your diet my the wayside and head to The Boxing Room for your next gastronomic gathering—you won’t regret it.[sic]" [SF Station]
Have you tasted the Bayou at Boxing Room yet? As always, your early thoughts are apprecited below or in the tip jar.
· All Previous Boxing Room Coverage [~ESF~]