All photos courtesy of Ernest

Letter of RecommendationSan Francisco

At Ernest, You’ll Find Some of the Most Creative Cooking in San Francisco Right Now


As a roving food writer, I eat at hundreds of restaurants every year, across the country and around the world. I’m on the road from anywhere from one or two weeks each month, and when I’m at home, I’m having to constantly keep up with the never-ending slew of new openings, so I don’t ever really get the luxury of being a true regular. It’s a good problem to have, I suppose, but when I think of restaurants where I wish I could be a regular at, one of them is the ever-changing, globally-inspired restaurant Ernest.

Chef-owner Brandon Rice is a creative culinary genius and his food and cooking keep me wanting to come back time and time again. Prior to opening Ernest back in early 2021, Rice was the chef de cuisine at Rich Table (another restaurant I love). And prior to that, Rice cooked at fine dining restaurants all around the world, including Coi, noma, and Quique Dacosta in Spain. Rice is also a frequent traveler; take a look in the bathroom where menus from his favorite meals hang framed against the wall. All of this experience and passion inspires and informs the ever-changing menu. At Ernest, I see and eat beautiful and creative dishes that I’ve never seen before.

A recent meal featured a neatly cut thick square of pork country paté topped with a chive salad, served with a side of pickled mushrooms, a buttery flakey scallion flatbread, and a bright orange, creamy, spicy gochujang mustard of sorts. Cut off a piece of pate, tear apart some bread, swipe with some mustard. It’s a little bit French, a little bit Korean, a little bit Chinese, and 1000% delicious.

At Ernest, I see and eat beautiful and creative dishes that I’ve never seen before.

We writers (and humans) like to put things into neat labels and categories to understand and compartmentalize things, especially when it comes to the realm of restaurants: “Oh this restaurant is a New American Californian restaurant. And this restaurant is a fancy New Nordic tasting menu restaurant.” But to me Ernest defies categories and just delivers good food with solid service. It’s a place you can come in any time for any occasion.

Want a quick drink and one bite? Fine—just walk in and head to the bar. Order an MSG martini (which is fortified with umeshu, made in house) and pair with some things from the raw bar section of the menu: Oysters with a green apple cucumber ginger lime foam, a blue fin tuna tostada perhaps, and definitely the sushi rice topped with raw beef topped with shiny orange pearls of ikura. That last one is served with toasted nori on the side for you to make fun handrolls and has been a menu mainstay for a reason.

On the very opposite end of the spectrum, you could come to Ernest and make a long meal out of it by going with the Let The Kitchen Cook For You option,  which is one of the best and most affordable tasting menus in the city. For $99 per person, you get a few waves of food, starting with seafood-centric snacks like the oysters and a shrimp cocktail, then multiple more waves that pull from each and every section of the menu, including dessert, of course. You’ll be rolling home, happily.

Speaking of desserts: I’ve actually come to Ernest just for that reason alone. There are usually three desserts on the menu, and they always hit so hard. I love the tall soft serve — it’s one of my favorite in The City. It’s topped with a crunchy, sticky hazelnut praline topping, then finished with a tableside pour of Valhrona chocolate that hardens up like the magic shell of your youth. The seasonally changing kakigori (pictured above) also hits hard on a rare hot San Francisco day; right now, it’s strawberry and milk.

But the medium rare basque cheesecake is my other go-to: it’s insanely delicious—its rich and creamy and oozes out. He also sells these by the whole, which feeds eight to 10 people. Stick a candle in it and that becomes the best birthday cake ever.

No matter which way you choose, you’ll be in for a treat at one of San Francisco’s finest restaurants right now.

Omar Mamoon is a San Francisco-based writer & cookie dough professional. Follow him on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.