Only a few months after David Fisher and Serena Chow Fisher walked away from their Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant, Marlena, the chefs’ subsequent project is now open.
A partnership with the Bay Area’s well-regarded Hi Neighbor Restaurant Group, it’s a tasting menu-driven endeavor in the Fillmore District called 7 Adams. Like Marlena, which was an homage to David Fisher’s restaurateur mother, it’s a nod to his childhood in upstate New York. The family’s home address was 7 Adams St.
The seasonal, California-focused menu is structured with two fixed courses followed by a pasta course and a main, each of which allows patrons several options. From the outset, diners will find comforting, autumnal fare, like red kabocha squash ravioli with confit lobster mushrooms and toasted sunflower seed pesto or roasted black cod in a mussel butter sauce with saffron and trout roe. There are also plenty of accents from the briny deep, some considerably humbler than buttery, luxurious black cod.
“I love the ocean. I like the flavor that seaweed gives off to the dishes because it just pairs so well,” David Fisher told The Standard, adding that one of the sous chefs sourced a recipe from a recent trip to Thailand that involves roasting kombu, a type of algae.
Seasoning it with rice vinegar, Fisher said, brings out its greatness.
“It allows the seaweed to talk a little bit,” he said. “So really, it's just this explosive flavor that's also a little bit subtle. That's why I really like it.”
Marlena won the Fishers widespread acclaim because it insisted on technical excellence yet remained approachable. Bernal Heights is one of San Francisco’s quintessential family-centric neighborhoods, and Marlena was a place to get a high-quality meal while also learning the names of people’s children and dogs.
While 7 Adams is not Marlena 2.0, the same drive is there. A Michelin rating was and is the goal—but only if the experience is within people’s reach.
“I've always thought that there's this misconception that to do Michelin, it has to be a $300 price point,” Serena Chow Fisher said. “And I think there's always been this disassociation. People think that just because something’s affordable, it means it's not as good. And that has never been the case.”
Further, a reaction is growing against interminable, 12-course dinners that can leave people squirming, and the Fishers want no part of them. Consequently, 7 Adams’ opening five-course tasting menu is $87—certainly not chump change, but considerably more affordable than some of the city’s loftier extravagances, which can easily run to $500 or more per person.
Because 7 Adams’ kitchen sets the earlier courses, they can be shared by the table, making for a kind of family-style/tasting menu hybrid.
Hi Neighbor built its reputation on the same principle of accessible hospitality. The Vault, one of the group’s higher-end restaurants, is a steakhouse tucked under a Downtown skyscraper complex, but nearby Trestle puts out an elegant prix fixe for only $42. If Hi Neighbor’s restaurants were divisions of General Motors, Trestle would be Pontiac—fun and sporty. The Vault would be a Buick, refined and traditional.
“This is going to be the Cadillac of the restaurants,” says Hi Neighbor’s Ryan Cole, who, along with the Fishers, is a partner. “We also personally invested a lot into this. We got to choose everything we wanted.”
The Fishers—and Cole—were also personally invested in Marlena, which brought a lot of joy to a lot of people during the pandemic. Disputes with the landlord grew beyond the team’s red line, and they announced their departure in late June. Marlena closed shortly after, and 300 Precita Ave. now houses a separate restaurant called Foliage—which, oddly, retains Marlena’s website.
That’s all in the past, but the Fishers went back even further in the past to create 7 Adams, whose homey, wood-filled interior Serena Chow Fisher describes as a “warm hug.” It takes its cues from David’s piney childhood home and Serena’s childhood dinner table.
“As a child, my parents always expected us to be eating as a family, every single dinnertime. So the family-style entree is kind of like our way of talking and sitting over a table,” she said. “I think it's really allowed us to show who we are in a way that we never really had the freedom to do before.”
Astrid Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org