Chef and owner Kim Alter talked to 24 East about the touches that make Nightbird (one of SF’s hottest new restaurants) and her adjoining bar, the Linden Room, so special. Read on for insight into the amazing food and décor, and design and cooking principles we can apply in our own homes and kitchens.
Chef Alter has created an incredibly personal restaurant and bar, where unique touches abound. Five things that exemplify what makes Nightbird and Linden Room so special:
1. The curtains, napkins and coasters were all handmade for Nightbird by Alter’s mother, and Alter lovingly washes and irons all the napkins herself. Every. Single. Day.
2. The nightly tasting menus have a “secret” theme – Past menus have ranged from a reinterpretation of Escoffier’s classics, to a Don Giovanni menu for the SF Opera.
3. Look for the hidden owls – there are a few sprinkled throughout Nightbird and Linden Room from Alter’s personal collection.
4. That gorgeous font on the menus? It was created based upon Alter’s own handwriting.
5. Ralphie (Alter and her partner Ron‘s adorable French bulldog) is the unofficial mascot of the restaurant –Ralphie even has a book written about him! You can get an occasional peek at his cute face on Nightbird’s Instagram.
Chef Alter’s food is as personal as everything else about her restaurant. The ever-changing tasting menu (a new one is created every two weeks) is always based on the most delicious products that our Northern California seasons provide. Her cooking style has elements that we can translate to our own culinary efforts:
1. Get excited about fresh, seasonal produce! “Ever since I became a chef, I’ve been going to the farmer’s market five to seven days a week. And the relationship that I’ve formed with the farmers really is the base of everything that I do in the kitchen.”
2. Food doesn’t need a ton of different ingredients to be amazing. “I’m always editing. Because there’s so many things that sometimes I want to put on a dish! I’m like, “Oh, I could put sesame oil and I could do a sesame tuile, and then I’ll do a matcha powder.” And then I think “What are you doing, Kim?” I focus on the key elements. Make it simple. Make it just taste good.”
3. Don’t be afraid to reinvent the classics. “I just really enjoy doing spins on dishes that either I loved when I was younger or that I love now and putting my own touch to it, creating a familiarity that’s new. I bring in old memories, approachable dishes, and then I put my own twist on it.”
4. Have fun with your food! “I like to have a little bit of fun. Not be so precious. A little bit louder music, no tablecloth, a little bit modern with the food. I try to have fun with the menus too. On Valentine’s Day I did a menu with the top five things that could give you food poisoning or kill you if you didn’t cook them properly – I thought it was hilarious, though I don’t know if anyone else got it.”
From the food to the cocktails to the decor, everything about Nightbird is thoughtful. The décor of Nightbird immediately conveys a sense of serenity – the blue and grey color palette of the walls evokes the San Francisco fog, while the gold line that encompasses the room seems to demarcate an oceanic horizon. “For the Nightbird dining room, I wanted to be able to evolve into it, because I didn’t want to hate it in four years, or spend too much on expensive piece of art or a modern structure in the middle. I wanted it to be something that could change and grow with the restaurant. We’re constantly talking about what the evolution of this room could be,” says Alter.
What are you waiting for? Book your reservations at Nightbird now. It’s a restaurant experience you won’t soon forget.
Written by Samantha Nobles-Block
Interior shots by Kassie Borreson, food and drink shots by Marija Vide