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AQ Restaurant Spinoff Promises Soft Serve, "Nogronis"

Carolyn Alburger | October 14, 2013 | Story Restaurants

Matt Semmelhack and chef Mark Liberman, co-owners of two-year-old SoMa restaurant AQ, have a lot to look forward to these days. They’re opening a French brasserie called Bon Marche on Market Street around the middle of next year. And their new baby, TBD, will officially say hello to the world on November 1.

Semmelhack sums up the M.O. of TBD thusly: “What’s missing from AQ? Let’s have some of that.”

“We want TBD to be the kind of place nearby workers will hang out at any night of the week,” he says. That's good news for employees of Square, Yahoo, and AirBnB, all stationed just a few blocks away. They'll find lots of things you won't see at AQ: a La Marzocco espresso machine, 24 taps behind the bar, and a menu that's approachably priced in the $5 to $24 price range.

Many details have already been shared about the restaurant’s menu, camp d├ęcor, and lower prices. Today we can add a few more specifics, including the shiny, new custom-made grill and early menu items Liberman is excited about. Options will be divided according to the cooking style: "smoked" (ricotta tartine with wild mushrooms and huckleberry), "hearth and embers" (e.g. clams with fermented peppers, cabbage and bonito), "plancha" (lamb belly with peach, mustard and urfa), "grilled," and "sweet" (Dutch oven parsnip cake with sweet woodruff and muscovado). “Overall the flavors are nostalgic, but sophisticated,” Semmelhack says. Liberman chimes in that there will be a few large-format items you can order 24 hours ahead of time, like a whole roasted duck, a shoulder of beef, or a—wait for it—whole sturgeon on a spit.

The custom grill will be the driving force behind all of the food, from smoking fish to blackening fruit for dessert. As you can see in the image above, the grill has V-channel grates, which collect all the juices from meats and vegetables cooking on top. “This lets me do things like baste carrots in lamb juice,” Liberman says, gleaming.

The team also went for it with the bar’s two dozen taps, which will pour wine, house-made sodas (pictured), and beers (the restaurant is only licensed to serve beer and wine, but they’ll have a lot of fun with beer cocktails). Bartender Tim Zohn has taken a page from Holeman & Finch in Atlanta, serving “loophole” cocktails that approximate classic drinks without using spirits. Examples are the “Nogroni” made with bitters, Punt e Mes, and juniper-infused sherry, and a “Beer Old Fashioned” made with bourbon barrel-aged stout, bitters, and a lemon twist.

There will also be a tap in the kitchen reserved for pumping out soft-serve ice cream. “The base won’t be too crazy,” says Liberman. “But we’ll do interesting toppings. I just preserved a ton of peaches.”

Check back for more opening details on TBD as the November opening nears.

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