Aug
01
2011

The Latest

Chef Adam Carpenter's fresh-baked pretzels dotted with Maldon sea salt, dipped in smoked gouda/chedder fondue

Early Favorites at new Union Square Tavern

Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen, Downtown/Union Square  (401 Taylor at O’Farrell, 415-775-7979)

Elegant & boozy, the Grand Promenade: Templeton Rye, Benedictine, Laird's Bonded Applejack, Yellow Chartreuse

You heard it in my Guardian column a couple weeks ago: Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen is going to be a drink destination, no doubt about it. Pair its all-star bartender line-up and impeccable cocktail menu with 18 beers on draft (like Telegraph Reserve Wheat from Santa Barbara), a fine wine list with playful categories like “Flower Power” and “We’ve Got the Funk”, satisfying bar food, (eventually) open-all-day hours – and plunk the whole thing down next to Union Square, a perfect tavern space for your downtown rendezvous? The set-up is already screaming hit.

Jasper's sign at O'Farrell & Taylor

If a sneak taste before opening is any indication, it’s the type of place to bring friends for casual comfort food – house-made sausages, fish and chips, and lamb shepherd’s pie — with well-crafted yet un-fussy cocktails or craft beers in a space that manages to be industrial and warm at the same time.

Light-frothy Shibuya Shake: Beefeater 24, St. Germain, lemon, grapefruit, house orange bitters, egg white, Squirt, shiso leaves

Bar service bodes well with a  talented staff that includes not only Kevin Diedrich (formerly of Burritt Room and NYC’s PDT), but also Brian MacGregor (Jardiniere), Francis Kelly (Ponzu, Presidio Social Club), and Allison Webber (Portland’s Irving Street Kitchen and The Gilt Club).

End of the Affair, an Allison Webber creation: dry sherry, Hennessey cognac, Rocky's Bitters, honey & cream

As bar manager Kevin Diedrich told me, the menu is meant to be “approachable and not too geeky,” yet in signature Diedrich style, perfectly balanced and nuanced (for a delicious example of Diedrich balance, try his Soda Jerk, in which blanco tequila and Campari get tart with hits of lime and passion fruit, then fizzy and gently sweet with cream soda and egg white).

Dreamiest way to drink Guinness: on the stem with champagne & Plymouth Gin in Jacques Bezuidenhout's Velvet 75

Upping the game, Jasper’s will be the first known bar to have Bols Genever on draft! Starting next week, get your fill of a beloved Dutch spirit, flowing fresh and lush. Stay tuned for future unusual draft and barrel-aged offerings.

Enjoying Adam bar bites (Berkshire pork riblettes, anyone?), I tasted through a wide range of the cocktail menu.

Brian MacGregor's lovely Empress Bianca: Martini & Rossi Rosato Vermouth, Yellow Chartreuse with lemon & grapefruit bitters

With playful descriptions under each drink and plenty of house bitters and syrups, it satisfies the cocktail aficionado but, as Diedrich mentions, keeps bartenders and customers happy by not being painstaking or pretentious. Some drinks only have a handful of ingredients, others require a simple mix and stir and they’re ready. Elegant but straightforward.

With location, talent and hip casualness on its side, I can bet this will be destination for locals and tourists downtown.

** Cocktail recipes are Kevin Diedrich’s unless otherwise noted.

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