Northside SF
Appetites and Afterthoughts
The Hav: If you have to ask where it is, you probably don't belong

As far as I know, this is the first review to appear on a new San Francisco restaurant that does not give readers its address or telephone number. It’s all a bit of a mystery; however, read on and we’ll try to clear it up.

The restaurant is called Hav and apparently is named after that strange, middle European city-state Jan Morrison wrote about in a travel book published several years ago. 

With an undercover attitude
There’s some precedent for restaurants not to list addresses and telephone numbers. For example, Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, has a in spot in Manhattan that he doesn’t want real people to know about. A little silly I suppose, but then the social restaurant world can be a little silly. And here in San Francisco, there’s an underground dining scene sparked by zealous guerilla gourmets – no addresses or telephone numbers listed. But Hav is not part of that world. It’s a big-time, serious-but-secret restaurant with an undercover attitude.

Not a ‘Bauery’ storefront
So I can’t give you the location or telephone number. You have to know someone, but not me. I’m sworn to secrecy. What I can say is Hav is within the confines of the City but it’s not one of those “Bauery” storefront establishments out in the avenues specializing in offal and foam. 

And, readers will not like this either, but I can’t reveal the name of the chef. What I can say is that he is internationally known and has restaurants in other U.S. cities and even one or two abroad.

No use Googling it. You won’t find this snobby outpost. So now that you’ve got the ground rules, let’s get on with it.

Willie was there
Your tight-lipped columnist was privileged to be at Hav on opening night. Chef X personally invited my esteemed publisher, Susan Dyer Reynolds, and she took me as her date. Since then, in the unbreakable rules of the restaurant reviewer’s game, I have been there three times incognito. I’m an incognito kind of guy. 

Opening night was what you might expect. Willie Brown Jr. was there with a young thing named Iris on his Brioni-clad arm. Guests at Willie’s table were Uma Thurmond and Sam Shepherd – in town for a movie, I suppose. Merla Zellerbach was there as was Catherine Bigelow, but she, too, was sworn to secrecy so you didn’t read about this opening in the good gray Chron – or anywhere else for that matter.

The Secret Service scoped it
Word got out in advance. There was a report that the Secret Service was scoping out the place. Gavin Newsom admits he heard about opening night but got no invitation. Jerry Brown did get one but refused to attend. Marcia, the deep-dishing Tablehopper, did not get to tablehop – no invite. Michael Bauer, learned about the Hav opening from a friend in Dallas, of all places. Some said he was dyspeptic and disjointed. Lois Lehrman sleuthed Hav’s location dressed for dinner and made a cold call. She was turned away. Tina Fey sent regrets. She was on vacation in Alaska and practicing her act. 

But onward for the sake of stomachs everywhere.

‘Poulet a la Codeine’
I was partial to two appetizers. Gazpacho with Prawns a la Hav was not blenderized and whipped into a froth-broth. It was chunky with tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, cucumber, and lots of Spanish onion. It was served in a huge, hollowed yellow bell pepper and topped with two, shelled fresh prawns. A sensational way to start.

Or, how about this?  Oeuf a la Orzo – Small, rice-shaped orzo poached in chicken broth and stuffed into a brown eggshell along with a few dozen pearls of Beluga caviar.

Undoubtedly, the sensation at Hav is the Poulet a la Codeine. Wait, just hear me out. On a bed of pureed artichoke hearts flavored with licorice, one discovers a thinly pounded slice of tender chicken breast poached in butter and chives. That’s topped with steamed asparagus tips lined up like Lincoln logs. This in turn is topped with minted marshmallows. Finally, the dish is napped with what I can only assume to be Nyquil and an ancient balsamic vinegar. Chef X’s chicken creation has that pleasant, slightly metallic taste many of us love.  

Stripped of artifice
And Chef X is not above honoring the plebian. In a bow to the old Chasen’s in Beverly Hills where Ronald Reagan was a regular, there’s a hell of a bowl of chili with a side of coleslaw. On Hav’s menu it’s XXL Chili, extra large. We learned the chili was concocted from ground armadillo. Just where does one find an armadillo these days?   

There’s also a winner called Ron’s Steak. It’s not named for Ronald Reagan but for Ron Spinali, the North Beach butcher. A New York strip, stripped of all artifice and broiled two minutes on each side, then rested for a bit and served with a huge hunk of sweet butter on top. Beefy is the word I’m looking for here.

I’m awarding Hav three stars, four toques and three soupspoons. Definitely worth a visit – if you can find it.

Ernest Beyl is an accomplished chef. He spent several years cooking at Burning Man. E-mail:


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