The Progress – quite possibly the most hyped 2014 restaurant opening in all of the Bay Area – is the second offering from the husband and wife team of Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski. Located next door to their critically acclaimed and impossible to get a reservation at State Bird Provisions, The Progress is sure to draw comparisons to its wildly successful neighbor. But is that comparison really fair?
State Bird is well known for its style of serving innovative Californian dishes on a fleet of roaming dim sum like carts (with a menu to order some larger scale items). On the other hand, The Progress looks to offer a choose your own adventure family style dining experience.
The menu at The Progress consists of 15-ish dishes which for the entry fee of $65/head allows the table to decide on 6 courses (plus 10$ per head per additional course). Each course is served on a large communal plate and it becomes survival of the hungriest to grab your own share.
The Progress is best enjoyed in larger groups (reservations available for groups of up to 6) but this also presents the largest obstacle – getting everyone to agree on a limited number of courses from the menu where everything sounds amazing.
We managed to score a reservation for a table for 5 on their second night of operations. The table agreed on an 8 course journey, that went a little something like this….
Cocktails – Kings Crossing
rye, calvados, mulling spice, lemon, egg white, cider
The first page of the beverage list opens to the speciality cocktails, with five classic cocktails (with their spin) and five speciality cocktails. King’s Crossing was nice and refreshing but based on the ingredient listing I was hopping for a little more egg white.
The first course presented was the amuse bouche, which contained a medley of items. (Off memory) Front and center is a raw radish over a goat cheese puree, to the right is a lightly tempura’d broccoli, hidden behind that is a pickled beet and to its left is smoked trout dip with squid ink crispy nori. While my memory of what each quadrant is exactly, I can say it was all a fabulous start.
with smoked prune romesco and almonds
The tater-tot looking things were puffed and airy and the duck “bacon” was salty and smokey and unique.
This Afternoon’s Ricotta
with beets and spicy mandarin
A colorful salad, the mandarin slices were an explosion every time one was chomped into. The cheese was mild and complimentary.
with sake lees and kale
This dish was amazing. The kale was cooked but not wilted. The dumpling was more of a pierogi than a gyoza, loaded with the matsutake mushroom and I caught a hint of potato.
Sunchoke, Rosemary, and Smoked Cured Egg “Roti”
The roti was thin, light, and stretchy. A touch on the salty side.
Spicy Dungeness Crab Ricotta Cavatelli
Definitely spicy, the sauce was thick and the cavatelli was dense. The crab flavor was almost secondary to me, until I got my molars into a sizable chunk of the crustacean.
Smoked Black Cod Fried Rice
with squid and chrysanthemum
The cod was lightly battered and fried. Not to say that is was bad, but this was my least favorite dish of the night (and this opinion was not at all influenced by the fact that I had no input in selecting it).
Aromatic Spiced Squab
with salted chili paste
This dish was out of this world. The red meat on the bird was tender and juicy. The spicy rub on the skin was peppery and the chili sauce added a nice kick; even though the squab was fantastic without it.
Honey Cocoa Ice Cream and Olio Nouvo
The dessert was actually one course but was delivered in two plates, with each individual getting their own share. The ice cream was heaven for any chocolate lover; very, very rich.
Jasmine Tea Poached Fruits, Greengage Plum Jam and Ricotta Whey
Rather full at this point, I recall the plum being lightly tempura battered and fried. The plate as a whole was on the sweet side.
Comparing The Progress to State Bird might not be completely fair. The experience of each place is absolutely different; with each offering a different stressful way to have to cull down your dining options. While in some of the dishes there are hints of the chef’s (and therefore State Bird’s) style, the food is not the same. The bottom line is that both places are unique and delicious and are worthy of being high on the list of “must visit restaurants.”