Weíre at the San Francisco Hyatt bar at the Embarcadero, draining our cocktails. Itís 7:30 on a Friday night. Weíre ready for dinner but not ready for the hour-long wait we would expect at any nearby restaurant.
So we venture out the hotelís back door, walk a few steps, and find ourselves facing Sensí front door.
I stay at the Hyatt on occasion. But Iíd never heard of Sens before that night. Never knew it was there. But there, it is. With no wait. And an intriguing menu.
In fact my Cyprus branzino, also called European sea bass, was the best fish dish Iíve had in a long time.
Turns out that restaurateur Pat Kuleto reclaimed a space that sat empty for four years and turned it into Sens, a southern Mediterranean-inspired hideaway. The entrance is a brick dome giving out onto several dining areas separated by rock walls, with a wood-beamed ceiling, open kitchen and views of the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge.
They have an active bar crowd off to the right and apart from the dining area. We didnít even notice them until we were leaving after dinner.
And dinner? The menu features flavors of North Africa, Greece and Turkey, using local sustainable products. My branzino was marinated in lemon, oregano and Greek olive oil, roasted in a wood oven and served whole with lentil-stuffed onions. If itís not their signature dish, it ought to be.
Sens serves manti Ė a Turkish style ravioli filled with manouri cheese, pine nuts, raisins and baby greens. You also can get lamb meatballs, a Greek fishermanís stew, flat breads, chicken kebabs, steaks and other fish dishes. The menu calls out ingredients like tamarind sauce, citrus honey reduction, harissa aioli, sumac onions, Spanish chorizo rice, pine nut couscous and potato and feta fritters.