Stepping Into The VaultAug 15, 2019 12:13PM ● By Fran Miller
BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER
The personal liquor lockers that line one wall at The Vault provide a tongue-in-cheek nod to the restaurant’s former life as a true bank repository. Encased behind lock and key are the prized and potent possessions of those who frequent the swank San Francisco eatery located in the subterranean regions of what is known as the iconic Bank of America building. Each locker – or metaphoric safety deposit box – features star quality spirits that double as décor in the D-Scheme Studio-designed eatery that has quickly become a treasured amenity for the 5,000 employees who work within the building, as well a desired destination restaurant for those seeking a night on the town.
Sleek and sexy, The Vault’s windowless setting serves to create a sultry vibe, the better in which to enjoy your Vault Martini, served ‘up’ or on the rocks with Tito’s vodka or Ford’s gin and a splash of house made pickle brine. During happy hour (3 – 6pm, Monday – Friday), the backlit bar and its front of house lounge are a lively gathering spot, juxtaposed by the tranquil dining room in back where hues of deep blue, velvet seating, and leather booths provide privacy.
A slatted wood ceiling adds a lofty feel while authentic elements pay homage to the venue’s past, such as the vault door mural in the lounge and original safety deposit boxes repurposed as behind-the-bar storage. A set of vintage low-ball glasses trimmed in gold depict a graph outlining the historic price trends of the valuable metal over the years. Even the restrooms pay homage to the financial theme, with heist film-themed wallpaper and quotes from iconic movies such as Ocean’s Eleven and The Town. It’s fun and it’s fitting for this fiscal environ.
A product of Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group, the dynamic team behind award-winning establishments Trestle, Corridor, and Fat Angel, The Vault presents a modern and elevated take on Americana cuisine. Under the astute direction of Executive Chef Robin Song whose Korean heritage is evidenced in several menu items, dishes feature classic elements expertly prepared with innovative spins, such as Song’s use of gochujang on the Crispy Pork Belly starter and kimchi on the 28-Day Dry-Aged Flannery Been Ribeye. Other highlights include the Raw Platter – a beautiful presentation of Oysters, Singing Pink Bay Scallop Crudo, Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Fort Bragg Uni, and Chilled Main Lobster Salad. A delicate Beef Tartare with smoked egg yolk, cornichon and shallots paired perfectly with the restaurant’s celebrated Parker House rolls, as did the Chicken Liver Mousse – thick dollops of creamy goodness garnished with pickled mustard seed and red onions. The Comtè-Stuffed Tortolloni with rye pasta, chanterelle mushrooms, and chervil pistou oozed of the French cow’s milk cheese, and the tender Slow-Cooked Wagyu Beef short rib with pommes raclette, swiss chard, and cornichons was the stuff of carnivore dreams.
No fine dining meal is complete without a sweet-note ending, and rising star Pastry Chef Tara Lewis offers innovative, playful, and elevated creations such as her Tahitian Vanilla Pavolva with rhubarb compote, forage blanc, and toasted noyaux, a Passion Fruit Tart with graham cracker, mango and lychee sorbet, a Jivara Milk Chocolate Cremeux with honey comb, sheep’s milk, strawberry, and bee pollen, and her signature Chocolate Lava Tart with stout-marshmallow ice cream, blackberry, and tahini caramel.
The Vault’s wine program features a bold list with both familiar and esoteric selections from California and abroad. The cocktail offerings, created by bar lead Tyler Groom, feature, in addition to the aforementioned The Vault Martini, the Hi-Chew, served up with Charbay green tea vodka, orgeat, pomegranate, aloe liqueur, and lemon juice, the Into The Rabbit Hole, blending blanco tequila, Lillet, rosemary, lemon, and lychee, and Moon Stepping with Kikori rice whiskey, lemon, coconut, and toasted sesame.
“The Vault is our most ambitious project, and we are immensely proud to open its doors,” says Ryan Cole, partner at Hi Neighbor. “Our team has worked tirelessly on this restaurant for months – it’s truly a labor of love and we’re thrilled to extend our signature high level of service, food, drinks and atmosphere to locals and visitors alike. We aspire for The Vault to become a renowned dining destination for all types of gatherings – from business lunches and after-work dinners to happy hour meet-ups and celebratory outings.”
The Vault: 555 California Street at Kearny, San Francisco
Photos by Kevin McCullough