A Dining Experience Review
Type: Modern American Food: 7/10 Service: 6/10 Value for money: 8/10
- The restaurant doesn’t make it easy to find out where their produce comes from, so this doesn’t fall into my responsible dining list.
- Value for money would have been a 10/10 if it were not for all the additional fees added to your bill – something our Uber driver warned us about dining at restaurants in San Francisco. Nevertheless, the portions are huge!
- Try the “fry bread” for a good Snapchat or Instagram post.
Patrick Bateman would probably eat at Cadence.
He would eat here, and then would complain about things like the carpet in the dining area looking dated and unfashionable, and how the front of house is wearing too much hair gel. The music is loud enough from the adjoining Jazz bar so he doesn’t have to hear his boring date drone on about her friend Becky’s disastrous cheek implants. The wait staff are all Nordic looking, all dressed like ushers at an old school cinema. He would make fun of the fact that their satin vests are made out of polyester rather than silk.
The thing about trendy, modern restaurants in San Francisco is that they are quite incredible – possibly boasting better quality food than most “trendy” fusion-ish restaurants in Melbourne, Sydney or Perth – but they attract a skin crawlingly annoying breed of pretentious, cookie cutter, opinion-echoing yuppies. This unfortunate virus has spread to some restaurants in Melbourne I dare say. There are times where I have dined at Chin Chin and overheard the diners next to me make ridiculous non-comments about the brand of tableware, and ordering a dish they so clearly cannot eat because it’s too spicy or too strong but try to tough it out anyway because some Broadsheet article told them to order it. The dish is left half eaten at the table as the politely chat away ignoring the fact that they made bad choices.
Upon arrival at Cadence, my colleague Monique and I are greeted by two staff members all in black, behind a stark white counter that looks like an art installation more than anything else. They sort of look up at us mid conversation and smile cooly.
“Hi there! Here to dine?”
No actually, we’re here to watch other people eat…Strange question to greet people entering a restaurant.
“We have a reservation for two at 7.30 under Sacha.”
My restaurant/coffee shop/takeaway name is Sacha because no one has time to help staff as they struggle to spell out “Shasha”. You tell them “It’s just Sha twice” and they struggle with the placement of the h or hesitate as they decide whether they should put a space or hyphenate the two Sha’s.
“Wonderful! Please follow me.”
We’re weaved in and out through a very strange, dark interior dotted with retro looking teacup booths, hanging tables and violent looking wooden structures that seem to rise from the ground and resemble dinosaur or whale rib cages. It’s almost eerie with the jazz music humming in the background. Towards the back of the restaurant are more traditional seating arrangements – elegant chairs and tables along a wall of sci-fi looking candelabra. Our menus are beautiful. A watermark of tattoo-like artwork sprawls across a silky matte pamphlet boasting suggested cocktails on the left column, degustation and a la carte menu centre stage. A dessert menu and wine list comes separately.
Cadence has become a social media sensation due to one particular dish: The Native American “Fry Bread”. The dish is just as bizarre and eccentric as the restaurant decor, but it is addictive and delicious. It is sold as an Appetiser as “Indian Fry Bread” (which bugs me), but given the portion it could easily be considered to be a small meal. There are dining theatrics are you crack open the bread to reveal a six minute poached egg, nestled atop a luscious goats cheese and whipped linguica spread. The “bread” is sort of like a crisp mountain bread, flexible but crunchy. It arrives at your table looking like a pillow of insanity. It is dusted with spices and topped with a mound of saffron.
You will not be able to finish this on your own, but at the same time you will not want to share it.
We’ve done a degustation at another restaurant just a few days prior to this, and so we decide to order a la carte at Cadence. The term “entree” is known to Australians (and I think most of the world) to be small dishes served before a main meal. This is not the same for North Americans. Entree is the main meal, and this confuses us a little bit as we scour the menu looking for the mains. Given that the “entrees” are the most expensive items on the a la carte menu we quickly catch on and decide on what sounds like an Asian-fusion braised short rib dish.
Something about the menu irks me, mainly because as I went on to write this review I struggled to populate the cuisine “type” segment. There are Italian dishes, hard core traditional Southern dishes, very European roulades, and of course the Fry Bread they label “Indian” even though the origins come from America’s Navajo tribe. I settled for “Modern American” as I suppose that is what it is, but each dish still seems disjointed to me.
Regardless of the confusing menu, the food is absolutely divine. When the miso-braised short ribs arrive at our table, we are a little in shock by the portion sizes. It’s quite large and probably better suited as large sharing dish, but again, it is one of those meals where you will most likely struggle to eat on your own but not want to share it with your fellow diners.
The short ribs melt in your mouth and the miso is sticky and caramalised, drawing earthiness from the braising liquids generously drizzled on top. The fried taro is so fine and delicate but adds a nice crunchy texture to the whole dish that is predominately rich and soft. The forbidden rice is moreish and bitey – the texture of slightly crisp melted cheese on toast. Every mouthful is a delight. The only flaw is probably the fact that it needs more freshness to keep it lively after several mouthfuls. A rich dish like this could be well paired with fresh vegetables and a sharp vinaigrette.
Dessert isn’t really needed after all of that, but we are two girls and we like our pretty desserts. After struggling to finish our mains, the waitress comes around and asks us if we would like to see the dessert menu. We hesitate, but upon noticing something beautiful arrive at the table next to us, we catch a sense of FOMO. There are three desserts on offer for a very reasonable $10 each. One catches my eye as it contains strawberry nesquick. Strange…so of course, we order it.
Pretty as expected, but probably one of the more average dishes in my opinion. The tres leches cake underneath the layers of fresh strawberries and refreshing cucumber granita is so smooth and cool to the palette, not too sweet either. We think there is a bit too much cucumber granita on the plate, as it needs to be taken on our spoons in tiny amounts so as not to over power the rest of the flavours. The strawberry nesquick is so strange I don’t really know what to think of it, but it doesn’t add much to the dish. The strawberry flavour in the meringue is punchy and delightful.
Overall, the experience at Cadence is very positive. A bit of it is marred by some of the Patrick Bateman diners sitting next to us as they spend half of their dinner time discussing loudly about how terrible so-and-so’s decision to quit their job as a banker (clearly they were all bankers) to support his foreign wife’s cafe and work with her. Or the fact that they all MUST try this new Ashtanga yoga studio that will change your life.
Cadence needs to cater more for food lovers rather than try too hard to impress basic yuppies with over-the-top interior design and an overreaching menu that attempts to incorporate every possible type of fusion food trend. The technique is there, and the quality is there however. I’m excited to see how they develop in the future, as they are still quite a young establishment.
Happy feasting, and remember to mind your table manners.