After a fantastic meal, dessert should be the sweet finale that can really secure a meal’s memorability. But what if it’s too sweet, too rich, or simply too overwhelming? What if your options are another bread pudding, another galette, or yet another chocolate-and-cream concoction? While this can sometimes be the case even in the finest San Francisco restaurants, there are stunning desserts for those who love a light, unusual, tangy, or even savory dessert. Here are 10 rebellious desserts that don’t play by the usual rules.Read More
Smoky, Savory, and Unexpectedly Flavored Desserts Around San Francisco
For anyone indifferent to chocolate and cream
Tapioca pudding at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Not all puddings are created equal. This one, from the popular waterfront restaurant La Mar, isn’t too sweet and extremely light. The silky tapioca pudding is gently flavored with coconut and topped with cubed mango, frozen raspberries, and a scoop of vegan avocado ice cream. The tapioca pearls do wonders to the pudding’s texture, while the fruit puts a tangy spin on this comforting dessert.
Fruit cup at Boulevard
Not enough desserts in the city rely on the power of nuanced bitterness — but the sophisticated fruit cup at this Ken Fulk-designed restaurant remedies that. The dessert consists of blood orange sorbet, cultured coconut yogurt, slivers of winter citrus, and, to finish out with a bang, Campari caramel. After a rich meal, it’s almost impossible to crave anything else.
Date cake at G O Z U
This intimate, open-fire FiDi restaurant artfully weaves wagyu beef throughout its tasting menu, so why not feature it in a dessert, too? Date cake might sound ordinary, but the miniature Medjool date pastry, also available a la carte, gets a tableside pour of “tallow scotch” — caramel sauce made with wagyu beef tallow instead of butter and scorched with special charcoal. The result is smoky, a bit savory, and pleasantly unusual overall.
Mochi cake at Bodega SF
The springy, chewy texture of mochi makes a really fun alternative to dough-heavy pies and cakes. This excellent family-run Vietnamese restaurant perfumes its cake and colors it electric-green thanks to pandan and serves it with a scoop of lychee gelato. The play of textures and flavors is as memorable as it is refreshing.
Hibiscus granita at Tenderheart
At the new restaurant at the Line hotel, this chilly and surprising dessert makes the ideal antidote to saccharine treats. Floral hibiscus granita meets carbonated, biting, nearly-frozen grapes, with a tiny dollop of soft, lightly sweetened almond ice cream to tie it all together. Each spoon wakes up the taste buds, instead of putting them into an end-of-the-meal food coma.
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Oyster ice cream at Palette
Ice cream might be a vanilla option, but you probably haven’t had ice cream quite like this. The menu at Palette, the ever-evolving SoMa restaurant, is fish and seafood-centric, which led to this playful dessert. Fresh oysters get cooked in milk, cream, and sugar, then the mixture is blended and frozen into ice cream that tastes a bit like the ocean. The decision to serve the ice cream, adorned with mignonette “air”, on oyster shells adds to the mind-bending qualities of this dessert.
Seared goat cheese at Uccello Lounge
Uccello Lounge, the new post-symphony or ballet retreat helmed by chef Loretta Keller, has some surprises up its sleeve when it comes to dessert. Sure, we’re all familiar with the dessert cheese course, but squeaky, seared goat cheese served in a sweet iteration is another story. At Uccello, it’s a slice of Cypress Grove’s excellent Bermuda Triangle cheese, served with satisfying honeycomb and crunchy seeded crackers — a dish of beautiful salty-sweet balance.
Sunchoke creme brulee at Rosemary and Pine
While creme brulee normally falls in the rich register, the version at this new Design District restaurant is a bit different, with a seasonal veggie twist. Charred sunchoke skins get steeped into the cream, giving this dessert a savory nuttiness that takes away from any would-be-dense sweetness. The malted vinegar-flavored whipped cream on top adds an acidic kick.
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Poached pear at Birch & Rye
It doesn’t get more decadent than the menu at Birch & Rye, which is why, for dessert, you’d be glad for this super-light, aromatic poached pear. It’s not easy to find a boldly fruit-centric dessert these days, especially not one so intricate. The Anjou pear, cored and served whole, is poached in birch sap — a floral, syrupy liquid derived from the birch tree — and filled with marzipan. For an additional kick of acidity, it’s served with sea buckthorn sorbet.
Pumpkin wreath at Marlena
The pastry team at Marlena knows that pumpkin as dessert deserves consideration way beyond Thanksgiving. The tasting menu at the Bernal Heights restaurant ends with two dessert options, and the less typical would be the pumpkin wreath, a gorgeous, moist, and delicately sweetened cake that plays up the earthy qualities of the winter veggie. Yogurt, kumquats, and persimmons lighten up things further.