Have you already eaten? The words, a neon doodle on the back wall of the Good Good Culture Club, are not a question. For anyone who has ever had a mother, father or grandparent who struggled to say “I love you”, they are an expression of love.
So does this sophomore effort from chef Ravi Kapur, whose culinary gymnastics praised at the Liholiho Yacht Club continues to hold San Francisco in its grip.
Good Culture Club partners Jeff Hanak (left) and chef Ravi Kapur.(Marc Fiorito, Gamma Nine Photography)
Bon Bon Culture Club is the culmination of a herculean, pandemic-defying effort by Kapur, his wife April Storm and their partner Jeff Hanak, and a diverse family of dedicated chefs, servers and managers. It’s not just cuisine inspired by South Asian and Pacific heritage and cocktails accented with guava and passion fruit, Good Good is a true effort to redefine restaurant culture.
There is an overwhelming sense of joy that radiates from the open front door of the restaurant when I arrive for dinner. The dining room, painted bright blue and pink, adorned with a shapely bamboo chandelier that’s six feet long if that’s an inch, buzzes with staff and diners and upbeat music. Up on the rooftop, a warm tropical oasis blooms against the cold San Francisco sky.
We sit against a wall of windows through which natural light will pour in as the days stretch from winter into summer. Our server beams when she explains what makes Good Good so good (good). The first is the restaurant’s equity fee. In almost every other restaurant in the country, waiters and bartenders live and die on the tips they earn while chefs, line cooks and busboys receive no monetary rewards for their work, a caste system two-tier that left these behind the scenes. struggling to survive. Good Good Culture Club deleted everything. Instead, they automatically charge each visitor a 20% equity fee which is then split among all staff.
The second is their use of a QR code and online ordering system. Instead of ordering through our server, we request our food and drinks directly over the phone. This allows the staff to show genuine hospitality to their guests, explain details of dishes and check in regularly, instead of laboriously writing down our orders and hauling our food and drinks back and forth. Considering the times we live in (I’m looking at you, Covid) this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this system and I love it. If I never have to wait for a waiter to order my next drink again, it will be too soon.
Before she’s even finished welcoming us, our first cocktails arrive, a Home by the Sea for me, a gin drink made with shiny shiso leaf and slightly tart candied lemons, an As You Wish with infused bourbon with cocoa nibs and black sesame syrup for my table companion. I suggest party sass – shots mixed in combos like cocoa, honey and fernet or cardamaro and tequila – but am roundly reprimanded by my partner who reminds me that some of us have to work in the morning .
So, off we go for dinner. I struggle to choose an entree, hesitating between the shaved Brussels sprouts with Monterey calamari and crispy tripe, and the local dried halibut with cured kombu, salsa macha and ponzu. He wins and I don’t regret it. Halibut is tender and fresh, flavorful and spicy.
There’s a whole host of larger, interesting dishes – mom’s Lao sausage; short ribs marinated in misoyaki pepper and sesame-date glaze; pork belly marinated in an aromatic oyster sauce with achiote pineapple, cilantro and fermented mustard seeds, but for me the most eye-catching is the fried whole petrale sole with a turmeric and coconut brine. It arrives with a delicately spiced breading and a delicious ginger-cilantro dressing that makes a perfect companion to the side herb palapa salad. The next morning, I’ll wonder why my fingers are yellow before remembering how I devoured my meal, ripping flakes of tender flesh from the bones in ecstatic indulgence.
It was however the dessert, in particular the pandan bibingka, something I read about but never tasted, that I was most looking forward to. The semi-spongy coconut rice cake, which Good Good serves with rich English miso, is deliciously flavorful and melts in your mouth fantastically.
When we are fully sated, once again, there is no need to wait for our waiter, who takes care of checking his other guests. The bill, including the equity fee which is automatically added to our total for distribution to every member of the Good Good family who played a part in our meal, is paid before she even has a chance to walk away. see.
// Good Good Culture Club is open 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday ; 3560 18th Street (Mission), goodgoodcultureclub.com.
Good terrace on the roof of the Good Culture Club in the Mission.(Marc Fiorito, Gamma Nine Photography)