12 years in a restaurant seems like a lifetime. We are so fortunate to have had such an amazing run in a fiercely competitive city. 13 years ago, we had a dream of opening a small neighborhood spot that was cozy and felt like home. We’d fill it with friends and serve nothing but great things. This happened and so much more. The accolades and stars exceeded our wildest dreams, our staff became our family and our regulars became our friends. Each and every one of you put a hand in creating Range and filling it with love. We produced goodness in a spot that was still rough around the edges. We’ve watched the neighborhood change, Valencia street become unaffordable, neighbors move, staff pursue their own dreams, marry each other, have babies and go on to conquer the world. Range was always a constant fixture because we believed in consistency and under-promising and over-delivering. We did it all. We are so very proud of this dream we shared. The friendships that were cultivated within these walls will live long after the doors close. Thank you for sharing this amazing chapter of our life. Last dinner will be served New Years Eve. Join us!
Rising Stars 2015: The year of the pastry chef
Range – COLIN KULL
Couldn’t live without: Balloon whisk
Dessert he could make in his sleep: Compost Cookies inspired by New York’s Milk Bar
On learning from former Range chef Rachel Silcocks: “She said that you have to balance what people want and what you want. I’ve had hits and misses, but the misses usually happen because I’ve made only what I want.”
In the world of pastry, there are some who live to create and plate, and there are others who are happiest with their heads down, deep in the throes of production.
Colin Kull says he’s normally the latter.
“I love being able to make 200 of something amazingly perfect,” says the chef, who was trained in the Tartine Bakery kitchen, where only the best-looking items make it to the pastry case.
In the small Mission restaurant, Kull concentrates on a short menu of composed, seasonal finales that are a fun departure from his past work. Not to mention a more demanding schedule.
“The 15-hour days don’t even phase me anymore,” says Kull, who lives close by in Bernal Heights with his partner.
Kull isn’t the guy who always knew he wanted to be in pastry, although the Oregon native got a job as dishwasher at a bakery when he was 16 and was a night-shift baker while a photography and art history student at the University of Oregon. It wasn’t until he was offered a head pastry chef job at another bakery — and followed that with a year doing butchery at an Italian agritourismo — that he realized his future was in the culinary world.
Shortly thereafter, he picked up and moved to the Bay Area. He set his sights on Tartine, and landed a job there in a month.
“If you think you know everything and you go to work at Tartine, you quickly realize that you don’t,” laughs Kull, who says that being there helped shape his career. “It’s an education that you’re getting paid for.”
While there, Kull helped develop recipes for “Tartine Book No. 3,” where owner Chad Robertson recreated classic Tartine recipes using alternative grains.
It’s this style that has influenced Kull’s desserts at Range, and his recipe for buckwheat profiteroles, which he serves with tart Greek frozen yogurt, black sesame brittle and roasted strawberries. He’s drawn to dishes that balance sweet and savory — “You know, the ones where people think it’s going to be a sugar bomb, but then it’s not,” he says.
Of course, he also makes sure those desserts look pretty perfect. It’s what he knows best.
— Amanda Gold, email@example.com
Phil West is back. And for everyone who remembers how he electrified the dining scene when he and his wife, Cameron West, opened Range a decade ago, that’s a major announcement.
He’s always had a way of subtly weaving together ingredients to create combinations that make diners pay attention. It shows in his light and airy chicken liver mousse ($14) and in the spike of coffee he rubs on the tender pork shoulder ($26), with the juices collected in the mat of ground hominy below.
West has always maintained a hand in the kitchen, but a few years ago he stepped back a bit to spend more time with his family and to open Third Rail in Dogpatch. While the restaurant made the Top 100 last year, the food had lost a bit of the complexity that comes from the hands of a real master. It’s a quality that I’m not sure can be learned, much like a phenomenal singing voice.
Inside Scoop announced a few weeks ago that chef Rachel Sillcocks was leaving after 2½ years to pursue her own dream, and that West was stepping back in.
Even if I wasn’t aware of that change before my recent Update visit, I would have suspected it after just one bite of that chicken liver mousse. The intensely livery whip, served with warm toast, spreads like butter; the accompanying frisee, dressed with a vinaigrette, is designed to be put on top to cut the intensity. It adds just the right touch.
That knowing hand extends to a confit garlic vinaigrette that’s judiciously applied to the Little Gem salad ($12), along with tiny fried capers, radish wedges and a blizzard of Parmesan that adds a nutty counterpoint.
Goat-cheese stuffed pasta ($16), spiked with sorrel, is glazed in lime butter and chives, which offer an acidic quality that clears the palate for the creamy cheese filling.
Steamed Manila clams ($14), another Range classic, were served in a creamy sauce with generous chunks of sausage deeply punctuated with fennel. Although the portion of clams was on the sparse side, the dish was topped with two slices of toasted garlic bread that created another play of contrasting flavors and textures.
Olive-oil-poached true cod ($27) comes in a casserole with butter beans, lacinato kale and Meyer lemon Lucques olive tapenade. Lucques olives have a nuttier flavor than other varieties, so they blend and enhance rather than make a statement on their own.
West rolls, ties, slow-cooks and sears a strip loin ($32), cutting a thick slice of the medium-rare beef to order. It’s so tender that the meat practically melts, forming a startling counterpoint to the crusty, salty exterior. He places the meat on fingerling potatoes, cipollini onions, rapini and a creamed horseradish for a play of classic ingredients realized in a new way.
Desserts ($9) at Range have always been good, and that continues under Colin Kull. The chewy caramel nut tart on a shortbread crust is served with burnt honey cream and cashew butter; a tender genoise flavored with pistachio is set on toasted coriander meringue, with a pistachio cream that reinforces the elements of the cake, and a scoop of blood orange granita.
Service has always been on point, but the staff seems to have stepped up, too. Our waiter was not only efficient but intuitive, knew the wine list and was able to move from table to table without losing her place.
The dining room, which was a pioneer in the area, dovetails with the cuisine, featuring familiar items used in unexpected ways: a Depression-era medical cooler behind the concrete bar, industrial fan blowers that look like stylized ceiling lights in the main dining room, zinc-topped tables that contrast to the more refined glassware. It all comes together in an artistic, comfortable way.
This summer Range will celebrate its 10th anniversary. While the past decade has seen a lot of changes and expansion in San Francisco’s dining scene, Range, under West, has stood the test of time. It’s as fresh today as the day it opened.
Michael Bauer is The San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant critic. Find his blog athttp://insidescoopsf.sfgate.
★ ★ ★ ½
Food: ★ ★ ★½
Service: ★ ★ ★½
Atmosphere: ★ ★ ★
Noise: Four Bells
842 Valencia St. (near 20th Street), San Francisco
Dinner 6-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5:30-11 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Full bar. 3% S.F. surcharges. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Difficult street parking.
From the training ground for greatness behind their bar to the always delicious seasonal menu and friendly service, Range is one of the most consistent restaurants in town. It’s a grown-up place, good for date nights, dinners with the parents, and anything else that requires some peace, quiet, and space.
Maybe it was the seven-year itch, but last year Range fell from the Top 100 because the focus seemed to blur. Now it’s back on top. Cameron and Phil West pioneered a new area of the Mission when they opened in 2005, creating a stylish oasis with items from nearby secondhand shops.
As I watched the pierced, tattooed couple spreading creamy chicken liver mousse on crisp croutons at Range, I was jealous. Not because of their cool look, but because I coveted that mousse ($10). It’s been my favorite version ever since I tasted it when the restaurant opened in 2005.