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Friday, July 4, 2014

Dirty Little Habits

“Habit, noun, 1- a settled or regular tendency or practice, esp. one that is hard to give up.”

Located on the fifth floor of the Hotel Palomar near Union Square in San Francisco Dirty Habit has made its presence known. Shun the nun, this is a habit worthy of indulging in.
The energy level is high at this bar/tapas spot but it’s not populated with a hipster crowd, but more a cross section of diverse people, fanned out across three separate but adjoining spaces. There are two interior bar sections and an outdoor area with a narrow fire feature, set next to a water feature of three balls water spurting out the top, open to the sky. You’re here for booze and a good time and their cocktail program is solid. Cocktails run $11 - $13 reasonable by San Francisco standards. The Barrel Aged Old Fashioned uses Cana Brava rum, Velvet Falernum (a blend of Barbados rum, lime, cane juice), All Spice Dram (an allspice liqueur), and Angostura bitters, then it’s aged in rye casks for three months The result is a traditional old-fashioned that is rich and potent with strained but tangible viscosity and an earthy, complex smoothness. 

The Chupacabara is, for me, the standout: Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, blanco tequila, Aperol, grapefruit cordial, lime, and rimmed with Sal de Gusano - a Oaxacan salt blended with desiccated caterpillar. First off what you need to know is that Mezcal, which seems to freak out quite a few people, can be hit and miss. The Del Maguey is a single village Mezcal, an organic version which is pretty spectacular as I’ve had it before. The dusty rose colored belies this smooth, smoky, sensuous drink. There is both earth and smoky and a seamless quality to this cocktail which is just too damn good. The Lovable Trixter ($12) is that “I’m not into cocktails” cocktail due to its mild nature. Plymouth gin, lime, blackberry and sage is served over crushed ice in a ceramic glass. It has elements of fruit, but it’s not a fruity drink – it’s more like an adult punch that has been to charm school as everything is in place, balanced and reserved.

The stunningly good Octopus
As with any booze you need protein and here Dirty Habit also scores high. The Chicken Wings ($12) are six wings with jalapeño, sweet soy and chilie vinaigrette which are crispy, spicy and immensely addictive. The heat sneaks up on you, being shy at first and the crispness secures wonderfully moist chicken.

The Charcuterie plate ($16) includes duck pâté, chorizo,
jamón, pancetta along with crackers and house made pickles. There is also a chicken liver mousse with a chorizo pralines topping it - a stunning concoction combining texture, heat and spice and this shows that something so simple can be so surprisingly and immensely flavorful but also satisfying. But I also loved the Steamed Buns ($6) with fried lamb belly, peanuts, vinegar, a savory with a bit of tart and earthy, viscous sauce with a crispy meat in contrast to the soft bun, and the Octopus ($16) with grilled eggplant, pine nuts and cherries is also a winner. The chili spice is mild at the first, but then makes its presence known; the delicate power of the charred fish is still evident with a nice textural bump from the pine nuts, and the chewy cherries which adds a hint of sweetness.
Bottom line? Get a new habit. Dirty Habit will do nicely. DIRTY HABIT

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