Firefly Restaurant, Noe Valley, SF
Past the genteel bustle of Noe Valley's main drag, nestled in the quiet calm of the more residential part of the neighborhood, a gem of a restaurant glows in the night. Firefly Restaurant has been a local darling since 1993, and for good reason.
Warm and homey, walking into Firefly is like entering an enchanted cocoon of good energy. The lighting is soft, the décor eclectic yet elegant, and the staff is genuinely welcoming and knowledgeable.
A labor of love for 17 years running, Firefly was originally opened by Brad Levy and Veva Edelson. As their story goes,
"Both shared the dream of opening a restaurant where the food was great, the service attentive, and the atmosphere magical, where the employees were interesting and kind people, who were encouraged to be themselves and honestly offer a great dining experience. They dreamed of a restaurant where the customers felt like they were at a friend’s house for dinner and that friend just happened to be a great cook."
Firefly whimsy and enchantment
With this idealistic vision in mind, Firefly set out to become just that. Brad resuscitated the ancient cooking equipment they inherited from the space's previous owners, and Veva put her artist's eye to work, decorating the walls with her whimsical paintings, and hanging billowing panels of white cloth from the ceiling. Between the golden lighting and the elegantly draped ceiling, I felt for a second like I was a guest at an opulent feast, in some exotic desert locale where camels awaited outside in the still night. My Arabian Nights reverie broke just in time for our first course.
Cured Sardines with Zucchini Pickles, Tiny Salad, Butter Bean Purée and Toasted Baguette
Firefly's menu is wonderfully inventive and changes frequently according to what's in season. Chef de cuisine Lucian Prellwitz succeeds in elevating comforting and familiar dishes with vibrant flavors and gourmet finesse.
Fried Asparagus and Spring Onions with Nasturtiums and Sorrel Pesto
The crostini of Cured Sardines Butter Bean Purée was fresh and well-composed, and our colorful fritto misto of Fried Asparagus and Spring Onions with Naturtiums was light and crispy, with the sweet flavor of the veggies shining through.
Braised Lamb Paprikash with Spaetzle, Turnips and Their Greens and Crème Fraîche
Our favorite dish of the evening was the Braised Lamb Paprikash with Spaetzle, which featured the most luxurious, swoon-worthy sauce ever. Buttery, rich, and savory, my mouth is watering even thinking about it. So good, we requested another basket of bread just to sop it all up. A traditional Hungarian stew made with paprika-seasoned lamb, the dish was hearty and flavorful. The lamb was braised until the meat was juicy, tender, and without any gaminess, and the spaetzle did its job of soaking up all that amazing sauce.
La Caudrina Moscato d’Asti, Romano Dogliotti
Unfortunately, we were too stuffed with spaetzle sauce to have room for any of pastry chef Debbie Hughes's lovely desserts. However, we were able to find some room in the nooks and crannies to end on a sweet note with some dessert wine.
We lingered over our glasses of La Caudrina Moscato d’Asti (a new favorite now, floral but too sweet), reluctant to break the spell that Firefly had cast upon us. I'm already looking forward to our next visit to this glowing gem of a restaurant.
On my list to try next time are the signature Shrimp and Sea Scallop Potstickers with Sesame Soy Dipping Sauce (on the menu since Day 1), and the Rustic Wild Mushroom and Chard Lasagna with Tomato and Béchamel Sauces, Smoked Gouda and Herb Salad, which had me ogling our neighbor's table with envy. Oh, and a mental note to save some room for dessert, which sounded really seasonal and spectacular. I'm starting to see why the regulars keep coming back again and again…
4288 24th Street
(between Diamond St & Douglass St)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Prix Fix Menu Sun-Thurs ($36): Any Appetizer, Entrée, and Dessert