Welcome to The Greats, a sequence on the eating places across the nation that outline their cities. Right here now, a take a look at one of many Nice’s signature dishes, the salad dressing from House of Prime Rib in San Francisco.
The hustle and bustle by no means fairly peters out at San Francisco’s iconic House of Prime Rib, a landmark since its opening in 1949. Of the litany of issues the restaurant is known for — an inside charmingly locked in time; heaping, glistening cuts of prime rib; geneous pours of cocktails that include sidecars of only a bit extra of every drink— one of the vital well-known components of the expertise can also be one of the vital sudden: the salad.
The salad’s arrival at a diner’s desk is each the primary indication to a newcomer that this restaurant expertise goes to be one thing completely different and a reassuring reminder to returning followers that every part they know and love in regards to the place continues to be intact. Sitting gleaming on prime of a cart or facet desk is a gigantic container of ice, and nestled into that ice is a powerful glass bowl stuffed with iceberg, romaine, and watercress lettuces on the base, with chopped egg, pimento, and candy beets blended in.
A fork, chilled to an artic chilly, is dramatically provided to every diner. Then, the server provides the bowl a whir earlier than pouring the dressing onto the salad from a dressing boat, elevating their arm up and down so the diner can see the regular stream of salad dressing coating the greens. What the diner receives is a quick, refreshing begin to a nostalgic meal, cloaked in that candy, creamy dressing. All mentioned and accomplished, it’s a mesmerizing expertise.
The dressing, although, is a narrative of its personal, one which begins far earlier than the salad arrives at a desk.
When House of Prime Rib briefly resumed indoor eating final summer season when San Francisco’s restaurant restrictions first loosened up, the massive information was that the restaurant was going to wish an additional two weeks to arrange to reopen — principally due to the salad dressing.
“What it is is that we need to make a yeast-based fermented base, and that takes at least a week to ferment,” longtime proprietor Joe Betz says. “After you have the base, then we mix in the rest of the ingredients from the canola oil to the egg yolk. You also have vinegar and sherry — we use apple cider vinegar instead of regular vinegar, and then add sherry to it.” Along with this, one of many different main components that goes into the dressing that offers it its signature style is one other housemade ingredient, the HOPR season salt.
That fermented base, although, is basically what separates this dressing from so many others. Betz, although, is coy about what else goes into the fermented base. “It’s a secret, but I can tell you that it’s five ingredients,” he says. “When you taste the dressing you taste something where you quite don’t know what it is, but you know it’s good.”
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Since Betz took over the restaurant in 1985, he’s modified little, if something, about the way in which the salad is ready. It’s nonetheless composed of the identical actual elements that it has all the time contained, all the way down to the forms of lettuces and origin of the elements, just like the candy beets from Oregon. (Many a diner has initially mistaken these beets, chopped into skinny strips, for chunks of uncooked beef — maybe not shocking given the beef-heavy nature of the restaurant.)
Through the pandemic, House of Prime Rib provided takeout for the primary time in its historical past, and diners had been pleasantly stunned to find that not solely did the meal include all it usually did — salad, prime rib, and sides, sans the bonus slice of prime rib provided whereas eating indoors — but in addition that the salad got here with a full bottle of the dressing, even when the diner was solely getting takeout for one or two individuals.
Betz says bottles of the salad dressing, emblazoned with the restaurant’s emblem, are additionally on the market on their very own ought to anybody wish to convey a bottle house, load some ice right into a container, and spin their very own salad to drizzle as little — or as a lot — as their coronary heart wishes.
House of Prime Rib has lately as soon as once more reopened for eating, however as all the time, reservations are at a premium and booked out for months. The bottle of salad dressing is out there instantly.
Noah Cho is a author and instructor primarily based out of Oakland, California. Discover him on Twitter and Instagram @noahreservation.
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