When AQ abruptly shuttered in January, owners Matt Semmelhack and Mark Liberman of Mercer Restaurant Group blamed rising costs and dwindling numbers for the celebrated restaurant’s decline. Now chef Chris Bleidorn (Saison, Atelier Crenn, Benu) hopes to make the space his own by literally putting a bird on it. This Winter, Bleidorn plans to open Birdsong, “an ode to heritage cuisine” of the Pacific Northwest, in AQ’s former SoMa digs.
That means diners should expect to find plenty of ingredients originating in the forests and waters along the coast from Oregon to Alaska, including mushrooms, berries, cold water shellfish and wild game like boar, elk or buffalo. When it opens, dinners at Birdsong can go one of two ways: Bleidorn plans to offer a 12-course tasting menu as a culinary tour of the region, or groups can opt for meatier, banquet-style dishes a la carte. Think whole roasted duck, lamb shoulder or whole trout. The heritage theme extends to the techniques on display as well, so expect lots of open fire preparations, smoked or dry-aged meats and plenty of fermentation experiments. The wine collection will focus on classic European wines as well as “exciting selections” from the PNW, and beer will likewise lean towards Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
Bleidorn and company also plan to do away with AQ’s interior, working with LA/DC-based design firm SAINT to reconfigure the space with an open kitchen and 10-seat chef’s counter. The remainder of the dining room will feature banquette seating and there will be two private dining rooms downstairs for groups of up to 14 or 30 people.
For the moment, Birdsong plans to open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, sometime this Winter.