clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Jim Sullivan

Filed under:

Beef Tendon and Venison Get the Star Treatment at San Francisco’s New Tasting Menu Restaurant

Chef John Wesley created his menu at Kiln through the lens of Japanese, French, and Scandinavian cooking

Dianne de Guzman is a deputy editor at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, upcoming openings, and pop-ups.

Kiln is one of the newest fine dining restaurants to debut in San Francisco this year, but it’s been 10 years in development for chef John Wesley. An alum of such storied kitchens as Baumé, Michelin-starred Commis, and most recently Michelin-starred Sons & Daughters, Wesley is now pouring what he learned from those restaurants into Kiln. What that translates to, in practice, is a tasting menu informed by French, Japanese, and Scandinavian cooking styles that transforms the staples in each of those cuisines. The ingredients used are the best the team can source locally and globally — fish from Pier 45, to mackerel from Norway and blue lobster from Portugal. Each dish is fashioned in a minimalist style that only hints at the multi-day preparation required for each component.

“I would say Kiln is very ingredient-driven and technique-driven,” Wesley says. “But everything on the plate should hit hard.”

Kiln updated the former Cala space on Fell Street, where Wesley and fellow co-owner Julianna Yang continued the minimalist aesthetic of the dishes in the restaurant space itself. The exposed concrete walls and stark, cavernous interior of the original 1910s-era auto repair shop are striking in its own right, yet keep diners dialed into the food — and moment. It’s all in line with the plan that Wesley built up and fine-tuned for the last decade, including the early restaurant name he chose and what he wants to convey with it. “Kiln to me is when something gets fired into a kiln, it comes out different and transforms,” Wesley says. “In a restaurant setting that’s applied to food and, hopefully, guests, but also front of house, staff, cooks — people that come in and spend time here should leave different than when they came in.”

Read on for a closer look at some of the dishes on the Kiln menu:

Beef tendon with sweet potato and roasted onion vinegar


Served as the second snack of the night, the beef tendon is meant to surprise diners, Wesley says, both in its appearance and flavor profile. It’s inspired both by his time growing up in San Jose and eating at Vietnamese restaurants, as well as a puffed, chicharron-like, beef tendon snack Wesley made at Sons & Daughters.

It also involves a laborious three-day process. The beef tendon is boiled in salted water for 12 hours and frozen together before being sliced thinly the next day on a meat slicer. The pieces are dried out overnight and fried until puffy, then placed into a blender to create a fine crumb. Meanwhile, Korean sweet potato noodles are made from scratch with sweet potato flour, which is piped into thin strands and cooked until soft. After an overnight rest in egg whites, the noodles are individually rolled in the beef tendon crumb, then laid into wild shapes to dry out again until service, where it’ll be fried for customers. House-made roasted onion vinegar is thickened and piped onto the fried tendon-noodle in dots, and dusted with dehydrated onion powder and fried chive blossoms. From its playful shape to the intensity of the beef tendon crumb, it’s meant to bring some levity to the table. “​​I think snacks on the menu should be fun,” Wesley says.

Cornette of grilled beet with bone marrow and huckleberry


The cornette dish at Kiln is another throwback to Sons & Daughters, where Wesley prepared a similar item that he called the most “me” dish on that menu. At Kiln, they use a lot of the same preparation of the cornette, taking beets and roasting, peeling, marinating, then smoking them before it’s blended and spread thin to dry. The beet puree is then formed into cone via a mold. Rendered bone marrow is emulsified into egg yolks, creating a yellow, almost fudge-like texture to the ingredient. Meanwhile, huckleberries are cooked down with sugar and blended with sherry vinegar, to give the sauce some texture and tartness to counteract the bone marrow’s richness, and assembled for each diner.

The item is also a moment for the restaurant to be intentional with its plateware. The round, wooden dish is made specially for the cornette, thanks to a design and measurements made by Wesley and produced with London’s Bird & Branch Turnery Co. Other wooden dishes and items proliferate the table, like a butter serving dish and spreader. Glass bowls from Zelmer Olsen in Denmark are used to create a rainbow, shimmer effect on the table when placed under the overhead light.

Venison, four ways


For one of its final courses, Kiln works with Maui Nui Venison to create four dishes centering around meat from the wild Axis deer in Hawai’i. The first dish serves as an introduction to the venison set: a custard made with venison shanks that are brined then braised, before shredded. From there, the meat is then held in a braising fat and served with grilled morel mushrooms, parsley oil, and a sauce of butter cabbage. The next procession of dishes is a trio that continues to highlight the venison in various forms. A strip loin is served with a paste made of fermented mushrooms and alliums that are cooked down into an intense savory flavor, plated next to grilled cabbage cooked over a fire, and topped with au jus seasoned with red currant juice.

The venison also comes in the form of a croquette, where the meat is again brined and braised, then breaded and fried before topped with an elderberry vinegar. The last component is a cracker made of roasted celeriac that is fried into a cylindrical, corkscrew crisp, dressed with a venison fat emulsion and dotted with preserved cherry blossoms to counterbalance the venison fat.

There are two tasting menus available at Kiln that will change seasonally: an 8 to 10 course bar menu as well as an 18 to 20 course dinner served in the dining room.

The Kiln team, including co-owners John Wesley, front row, left, and Julianna Yang, right.
Jim Sullivan

Kiln (149 Fell Street) is open Tuesday through Saturday, with seatings between 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., available by reservation.

San Francisco Restaurant Openings

A Charming Neighborhood Trattoria From a Team of Restaurant Pros Opens on Ocean Avenue

San Francisco Restaurant Openings

The Chef Behind Michelin-Listed Empress by Boon Just Opened a More Casual Pan-Asian Restaurant

Best Dishes

The Best Dishes Editors Ate This Week