I like Hayes Valley. It's got all the good stuff a neighborhood should have like shops and restaurants and walkability, plus it's close to all the Civic Center happenings like the opera and symphony, etc. This does mean, however, that restaurants there are often busy before and after shows. Knowing this I made our reservation at Paul K for 7pm on the nose. It was packed but, just as suspected, about 15 minutes to 8 the place cleared out. A little tip from you to me about Hayes Valley dining. You're welcome.
Anyway, I was sans camera (it's in the shop now) which is a real shame because Paul K and its food are both really pretty. I dug the orange beam over the bar and the grey walls and giant flower arrangements. It was modern but really inviting. Our server was super nice, and even though she may have known about veganism, I went with the old "I'm VERY allergic to dairy" line. It just seemed like my best bet for getting what I wanted, and it came very close to working.
Paul K offers two mezza platters. One is vegetarian, but not vegan, and the other contains (even the word grosses me out) riblets. I asked for the vegetarian one and to please replace the yogurt and feta and with the baba ganough and cucumber salad that was on the non-veg platter. What arrived was a beautiful dish of delicious bites presented on a rectangle as long as our table for two. From left to right we had baba ganoush (tasty but runny), pickled carrots (not quite as pickled as I like but still good), papadum (better than I've had in most Indian restaurants), hummus (garlicky yumness), olive-oil poached artichoke hearts (a buttery highlight), baby beets (sweet and cute), and cucumber salad (could have been dressed more). We also ordered a small portion of their citrus-marinated olives. They were so lemon-limey they tasted like they could have marinated in 7-Up. That is not a bad thing. All in all, it was a great start. Unfortunately it was downhill from there.
For entrees, they have nothing vegan or veganizable, so I just had the butter lettuce salad. It was good but I'm pretty sure the walnuts were candied with butter. They were easy enough to push out of the way though, so I didn't complain, but you'd think that the dairy allergy would have alerted our server to keep them off the plate, especially because she knew better than to offer me dessert afterwards. Oh well - a small faux pas considering it was a great meal.
I should also note that we brought from home (we're in a recession after all!) one of my fave wines to accompany the meal - the Coturri Albarello. It really opens up and gets spicy over the course of a meal. Great with Mediterranean flavors, IMHO.
Afterwards, we walked to Martuni's for some entertaining piano music. I'd never been before and I loved it. It seems so often in SF that for all our tolerance and acceptance, the gays and straights segregate for socialization. At Martuni's I was happy to see a mix of gay and straight couples all enjoying the mediocre musical experience together. It felt like a dark piano bar of yesteryear only everyone was invited. Good times... and the perfect ending to our mighty fine night in Hayes Valley. It won't be our last.