One Market a great choice for all occasions 

One Market, a big, dressy, downtown restaurant with a dramatically visible kitchen and clubby barroom, gets its energy from its location — at the edge of the Financial District within sight of the Ferry Building.

Chef/partner Mark Dommen and longtime pastry chef Patti Dellamonica-Bauler wheel carts across the esplanade to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to load up on produce and cheeses. Business lunchers pack the airy, light-filled dining room midday and mob the bar after work. But my favorite meal at One Market is the quieter dinner, when the multi-level dining room glows romantically and the under-lit palms along the Embarcadero become part of the decor.

One Market’s chef is no stranger to San Francisco’s cooking culture. He got his start here with Hubert Keller at Fleur de Lys; refined his technique in New York with Gary Kunz, among others, and opened Julia’s Kitchen at Copia in Napa, where he cooked food straight from the surrounding gardens.

One of the most exciting aspects of One Market is the big rotisserie in the open kitchen where glistening chickens turn over a wood fire. Juicy and delicately smoky, the chickens ($14.50 at lunch /$19.75 at dinner) can be accompanied with farmers market side dishes ($5.95), like delicious sweet and sour red cabbage with apples; tiny brussels sprouts with bacon; roasted fingerling potatoes; and naturally sweet roasted carrots. These vegetables, a highlight of any One Market meal, come in smart white porcelain squares, yet they are farmhouse simple, as close as you can come to eating from a kitchen garden in the city.

No one would confuse Dommen’s deconstructed bacon and egg salad ($12.50) — hunks of butter-tender blanched pork belly, a poached organic egg, a pile of frisee, sauteed hedgehog mushrooms, a cider reduction — with home cooking, but the flavors and textures are so lush, and mingle so intimately, they deliver similar satisfaction. Braised beef cheeks ($25.50), sexy, gelatinous and rich; pancetta-braceletted scallops with tiny melting slices of fingerling potatoes and bracing, herbal, green sauce ($26), and moist, bacon-wrapped, spit-roasted pork loin in natural jus ($25.50), all seduce.

It’s worth yelling over the din at lunch to eat Dungeness crab cakes ($16.50/$25.50), balls of hand- picked fresh crab, barely adhering, barely warm, on a square plate painted with a dramatic swatch of bright yellow saffron mayonnaise — a stunning dish. So is the lunchtime-only persimmon and mache salad ($10.50) with splashes of color from pomegranate, pistachios and ribbons of shaved fennel. It tastes as lovely as it looks.

Desserts ($9) are not for sissies. They’re rich, sweet and American.

If you’re a sundae fan, leave room for house-made soft serve ice cream with your choice of toppings. Or, have a signature One Market mini-dessert ($5), like chocolate toffee almond crunch cake, or Brad Ogden’s butterscotch pudding.

Part of the Lark Creek restaurant family, One Market has always maintained its own identity. It does share a pricy, all-American wine list with the other restaurants, but also offers some great bargains: a $19.95 two-course lunch; and during the January Dine about Town promotion, a three-course dinner for $31.95 which includes two of my favorites — scallops or pork.

The next time you’re showing someone the city, celebrating an event, or just treating yourself to an evening of truly fine dining, One Market will reward your splurge.

ONE MARKET

Location: 1 Market St., San Francisco

Contact: (415) 777-5577 or www.onemarket.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; 5:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday

Price range: Starters $9.75 to $12.50; main courses $14.50 (lunch) to $28 (dinner)

Recommended dishes: Bacon and egg salad, crab cakes, beef cheeks, rotisserie chicken and pork loin, farmers market sides

Credit cards: All major

Reservations: Recommended

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Patricia Unterman

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