I ate at San Francisco's State Bird Provisions, the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the US.
The restaurant was very noisy and crowded when we entered, and the service was only OK.
The menu was a bit intimidating, but the food was incredible, I just wish the portions were larger.
I always assumed dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant would completely break the bank. But not every award-winning spot is priced the same.
Michelin ratings range between one and three stars, granted by the French tire company. Usually, the more stars, the more expensive the food.
I reserved a table at State Bird Provisions, a restaurant in San Francisco's Fillmore District with one Michelin star.
The first hurdle is landing a reservation at the acclaimed dinner spot
It's famously tough to get a reservation at State Bird Provisions. I had to call a couple of weeks in advance.
The restaurant also accepts walk-ins, but a line usually starts to form around 4:30 p.m., half an hour before it opens.
When we sat down at 7 p.m., the restaurant was completely full.
On the way to our table, we passed the Chef's Counter and an open kitchen
As you make your way to your table, you can hear and see the hustle and commotion in the open kitchen.
Each member of the team can be seen sautéing, chopping, and searing the components of the restaurant's award-winning dishes.
The Chef's Counter seats about 10 people and those lucky guests have a front-row seat for the action.
My very first impression was that the restaurant was very loud
Packed restaurants are unsurprisingly noisy, but it was hard to even hear the person sitting across from me.
It got to the point where the noise level was almost frustrating.
That said, the music was good. It was a mix of upbeat rock and indie-style songs.
The 5-part menu is a bit intimidating
The waiter only sat the two of us with one menu, which I thought was weird because I saw plenty of unused ones on the way in. It wasn't a big deal, but it was kind of annoying.
The menu is broken down into five sections: snacks ($8-$24), provisions ($12-$18), toast and pancakes ($14-$20), commandables ($20-$45), and dessert ($12-$13).
Many of the dishes feature lesser-known ingredients, so the descriptions didn't necessarily make it easier to decide what to order.
Things like ohitashi (Japanese blanched greens), pickled honshimeji (mushrooms), bagna cauda (hot sauce made of garlic and anchovies), and yuba (dried tofu skin) were sprinkled throughout the menu without descriptions.
As someone who writes about food, I understood most of the dishes. But my boyfriend, for example, was put off by the complicated menu and had me order for us.
It was an intimidating process. Although the dishes were delicious, unless you really had an understanding of all the different flavor profiles, I think you'd have a tough time ordering without help.
I ordered 3 courses for the table starting with a 'provision'
To start, I ordered the pork-belly "salad" with winter citrus and fish-sauce vinaigrette ($18), which was on the provisions section of the menu.
I loved the refreshing flavor of the citrus. The zestiness of the orange and grapefruit cut the fishy sauce and fatty pork. And the spice from the thinly sliced jalapeños rounded it all out.
It came with four deliciously meaty pieces of pork belly. The quality and perfect sear of the pork chucks had me drooling. It was the perfect ratio of meat, fat, and seared outsides.
My entrée was super filling and flavorful, but I wanted more meat
For my main entrée, I ordered the sichuan pepper-duck confit fried rice ($28).
The duck shreds were so savory and rich — I just wish there were more of them.
The rice itself was very complex and delicious, and it was slightly toasted on the bottom. The dish was also topped with sesame seeds and a bed of crunchy greens.
It all had an umami taste, kind of like a traditional sweet-and-sour sauce combined with soy sauce.
For dessert, we ordered a frangipane 'buckle'
The black-sesame frangipane buckle with bergamot cream, rhubarb, and caraway ($13) was delicious.
It was like a combination of a coffee cake and tart filled with a sweet sesame paste. Paired with the fragrant cream and sweet-meets-tart rhubarb jam, each bite was a unique treat.
Another dessert option was something called "world peace" ($3) featuring peanut muscovado milk. I have no idea what it was, but it looked like shots of milk.
The experience wasn't perfect, but for the price and delicious food, it's worth a visit
The flavors, innovation, and complexity of the dishes were a 10/10. I don't come across many of the ingredients often, and the presentation was on point.
The menu is highly sophisticated and seasonal, so this isn't a restaurant you'd get bored of visiting.
I understand the place was busy, but our server wasn't very attentive and didn't make the dining experience feel special. He took a very long time to get us the check and never brought our leftovers back to our table.
That said, I didn't even pick the cheapest dishes on the menu, and my three-course meal only came out to $59.
State Bird Provisions is a loud, lively restaurant with a creative, unique menu to match. I think it's great for a special night out that doesn't include spending hundreds on a meal.
Representatives for State Bird Provisions did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Read the original article on Insider