About 11 months after going dark at the top of this year, Michelin-starred Quince bursts back into the San Francisco dining scene on Tuesday, November 28, with a fresh look and new menus. Co-owners Michael and Lindsay Tusk shut down the restaurant in January to renovate the Jackson Square space ahead of Quince’s 20th anniversary, and as they now approach the long-awaited reopening, Michael Tusk says he’s excited to give diners more flexibility. Specifically, the restaurant will resume offering two versions of its tasting menus: a four-course ($270) option that lets customers select some dishes and add supplements, as well as a more traditional eight- to 10-course ($360) gastronomy experience.
The idea to split the menu into two tracks stemmed from what the Tusks noted as a shift in customer behavior during the past couple of years. With fewer tourists coming to San Francisco post-pandemic, Quince had been serving more local diners before its temporary closure. “And not everybody wanted to be in their seat for two to two and a half hours,” Michael explains. “Some folks wanted to be complete in an hour and a half or eat in an a la carte fashion. I like giving the guest those options, as long as the food is honest, and we’re cooking these dishes the way we believe in them.”
As ever, menu conception starts with examining what’s fresh from Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas, then looking around to see what other pristine ingredients the team can rustle up in West Marin. “We want it to be a California expression at the end of the day,” Michael says. Recently, he’s been enamored by the products coming out of Tomales Bay Oyster Company, which will appear in both cold and hot preparations. The former, the chef says, aims to transport diners to the coast, where they might slurp grilled oysters right by the water. “The quality of the oysters when you’re eating them where they’re from is something I just felt I wanted the guest to have,” he says.
Other ingredients diners can look forward to include an abundance of mushrooms — “There’s been this nice, beautiful flush of mushrooms,” Michael notes — which the kitchen plans to pair with a supply of preserved porcinis. A final dish remains in the works but could feature abalone from Monterey Bay alongside matsutakes and pine nuts. Plus, Michael says the vegetable-heavy menu always features one course that’s “centered around Fresh Run Farm and [farmer] Peter Martinelli,” which he’s calling “Bolinas and Back.” It’s prime time for root vegetables and hearty greens, the chef says, so he’s looking forward to shining a spotlight on cabbage — savoy and arrowhead, in particular — and romanesco, among other items.
And there’s a new pasta to try: orecchiette. The little ears will likely appear with a salsa di ricci di mari made with sea urchin from either Fort Bragg or Santa Barbara. A preserved habanero condiment will amp up the heat. “I kind of view this as where Puglia meets West Marin or Northern California,” Michael says. But the pièce de résistance may well be the squab, which the kitchen is thrilled to be sourcing from the one and only Philip Paine, who once provided some of the highest-quality pigeons to restaurants including Quince and Oliveto, before he retired years ago. Now, he’s back in the game and Michael says his birds will “definitely” be on both menus “as often as possible.”
As for the space, Micheal says opening up the dining room to let in more light and give diners a view of the landmark Transamerica Pyramid means he feels excited to open Quince for lunch service after the top of the year. The dark, somewhat austere dining room didn’t feel conducive to having diners fill it during the daytime, but with the brighter and more relaxed aesthetic, he and Lindsay hope customers will feel comfortable visiting Quince even when they don’t feel up for a multi-hour dinner. Diners will now have the option to come in for a glass of Champagne at the bar, a couple of plates in the lounge, or a full dinner — depending on their mood. “I think you can't be as strident as you were years ago, times have changed,” Michael says. “It was all about choices I wanted to give the guest.”