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SF’s Most Sustainable Restaurant Ushers in an Era of Experimentation

A new chef lineup, and a series of high-profile collaborations are happening now

The Perennial

Almost two years in, The Perennial continues to bloom. The mid-market restaurant, founded by Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz, appears to have weathered the uncertain economy of the area, which has been marked by closures of other restaurants like Cadence and Bon Marché. Now it’s evolving with a change of guard, as opening chef Chris Kiyuna (Mission Bowling) moves on and chef Michael Andreatta steps into the role.

Andreatta, who was previously at Commonwealth and returns to the Bay from a stint in Chicago restaurants, will share the role of chef with Myint (also a co-owner of Commonwealth). Together, they’re crafting a menu that furthers the goal of educating diners on sustainability with delicious, playful food rather than sermons. That, for example, will include a bigger version of Myint’s popular Apocalypse Burger, created for the MOMA restaurant In Situ, a commentary on climate change that dresses the burger up like a charcoal briquette. More offal will hit the menu as well, according to Leibowitz, whose whole-animal approach affords a wider range of cuts.

Myint and Leibowitz, parters in life and business, are also behind Mission Chinese Food, which began as a food cart, and inspired an expansion to New York. The Perennial was the pair’s passion project, the beginning of a sustainability movement that continues to take root. The scope of the project also includes the founding of several initiatives, including the Perennial Farming Initiative, a nonprofit that targets climate change; Myint is also a co-founder of ZeroFoodPrint, an organization helping restaurants like Benu and Noma become carbon-neutral.

“What’s exciting about the reboot of the menu is to think about the potential for food and restaurants to be communicative in the way art is communicative,” Leibowitz told the New York Times in an interview, “so that people are eating the message more.” That edible message includes kernza, a carbon-offsetting grain that the restaurant uses in bread, and as polenta, produce from the restaurant’s aquaponic farm, and carbon-neutral beef from Stemple creek. (Check out the new menu below.)

A monthly dinner series called “Perennial Prime Cuts” is also part of the plan, with speakers like author Paul Hawken and collaborations with chefs like Nick Balla (Duna) in November and Danny Bowien in October. It’s a return to Myint’s original pop-ups and collaborations with fellow chefs during the early days of Mission Chinese Food. This new phase should be an interesting push in a dining scene that continues to evolve.

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