The bar at 155 Columbus Street has served drinks to thirsty patron since 1907, but one food item on a new menu at Comstock Saloon is hard to imagine outside of our present food moment: Unicorn tuna tartare. Referencing the trend of “unicorn” foods — ice cream, lattes, and yes, even bagels in rainbow colors, newly appointed Comstock chef de cuisine Jason Raffin makes a classic tuna tartare with all natural ingredients that change color table-side.
But Raffin (25 Lusk, Finn Town, Morimoto Napa) says the idea for the dish is nothing new. At least the mechanics of it have been clear to him since he did a middle school science experiment as a kid in Palo Alto demonstrating the different pH levels of oranges. That project came back to him recently while staging at Coi, where he was working with cabbage juice. The addition of ascorbic acid to the cabbage juice (and some parsley oil) creates the tie-dye colors right before customers’ eyes (and iPhone cameras).
“It’s psychedelic,” Raffin says.
Other items on Raffin’s menu aren’t quite so flashy, but all are designed to impress alongside Comstock’s popular cocktails and without breaking the bank (nothing is more than $19). “I saw so much potential,” says Raffin of Comstock Saloon, a part of the Absinthe Group (Absinthe, Bellota, Arlequin, Barcino). ”The food program hasn’t been shining, and with an amazing cocktail program and great live music here, there’s so much potential to elevate the food.” Some of Raffin’s other new dishes play off the bar’s location on the edge of Chinatown and North Beach, like a Lo-Mein Cacio e Pepe made with Szechuan pepper and noodles from Kim Hong Noodle Co.
In the past, the chef has made a name for himself with burgers, including the ones he helped create at Finn Town and, before that, Scotland Yard. “I designed this burger to be a heavy hitter that’s affordable,” he say. It’s made with a six ounce beef patty ground in house, and even a house made nori and togarashi seeded bun. And if diners want to know how the staff at Comstock eats, they can order the family meal — Raffin will serve a plate of whatever they’re having on their shift, a program he takes pride in.