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Review: Ernest is a new culinary jewel in the Mission’s crown

It took me a month to get reservations at Brandon Rice’s (Rich Table) newest endeavor, Ernest, which seems odd in pandemic times.  But the accolades have been pouring in, even as we enter another phase of this culinary journey under Covid-19. 

I was happy to see Ernest has a small outdoor patio for dining, so I only caught glimpses of the pristine interior. The menu has a kind of American/Asian upscale comfort food vibe; the food sounds fancy, but it also feels very familiar.

We started out with cocktails: a cherry leaf Negroni for me, umeboshi plum Paloma for my sister. Both were interesting, refreshing, and an excellent twist on the standards. 

Speaking of fancy, we began by splitting a starter of Tsar Nicolas caviar and tater tots. 

I am sure the caviar was not of the finest caliber (we’re not talking beluga here), and it added very little to the dish besides dollar signs. Less than an ounce, it was rather bland and a bit mushy, not at all the briny/buttery, gentle popping of tiny eggs in the mouth one expects. The crème fraiche and cheese, normally perfect accompaniments to tots, overwhelmed the delicate ova.  This was the only flaw of the meal, however. The house-made tots were fantastic.  Hot, very crispy outside, with a fluffy, light interior.  

For her appetizer, my dining partner got the marinated Jimmy Nardello peppers with burrata and 12-year aged balsamic. 

The mellow, peppery flavor, the creaminess of the cheese and the balsamic’s sweetness were all set off by the pickled mustard seed, giving it a tangy, textural twang.  A homey dish that was as beautiful to look at as it was to devour.

My Koshihikari fried rice with summer squash, squash blossoms, and aged Parmigiano Reggiano was a study in umami.  

Review: Ernest is a new culinary jewel in the Mission’s crown