Ambition and inclusiveness are two things that really make for an innovative eatery. When those two elements are taken to gastronomic heights, you get an iconic institution.
That’s Bar Tartine, the fusion cuisine hot spot right in San Francisco’s red-hot Mission district.
Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns are not only the chefs behind Bar Tartine, but are also a couple who grew up in the US and later traveled far and wide to places like Hungary and Nepal. Bar Tartine was spun off from their other successful venture, Tartine Bakery.
The background of Balla and Burns comes into play, given the remarkably diverse influences reflected in Bar Tartine’s food.
Bar Tartine is also a reflection of the many cultural influences in the Bay Area.
These influences are evident in “Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes” from Chronicle Books.
The hardcover’s first half features very detailed and technical instructions and introductions, down to the pepper and dairy. Everything comes with explanations.
The second half deals with Bar Tartine’s distinctive recipes, with short introductions to each dish, and photographs by Chad Robertson.
“We serve the food we want to eat,” one introduction reads, enumerating the family influences which inspire them: “Collectively, we are Hungarian, eastern European Jewish, Japanese, Irish, Polish, German, Filipino, Slovak, Laotian, Mexican and Mayan.”
That’s why you get everything, from Gai Lan with Air-Dried Beef to Krumkake with Grilled Figs, Walnut Butter and Lemon-Sour Cream Sauce, Ensalada Rusa to Kefir Ice Cream Float.
There is a clear emphasis on preserves as well as fresh, locally sourced ingredients, even if the influence is global.
“Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes” is a pretty, photogenic encapsulation of the phenomenon that is Bar Tartine, the world at one table.
It is so detailed and covers such a wide range of flavors that it is probably not for beginners.
But for experienced chefs and restaurateurs who seek an amalgamation of international flavors with character, this is an inspiring, instructive book.
“The food of Bar Tartine is firmly grounded in the commonalities within traditional preservation and processing techniques across the globe,” the book says. “This layering of flavors—ones that naturally complement each other in technique or origin, even as they are culled from different cultures—is the key to unlocking long forgotten depths of flavor.”