It was only a matter of time before chef Max Mackinnon ditched the East Coast to return to his California roots.
“It’s such a great place to be if you’re passionate about food and wine,” says the Los Angeles native, who has taken the toque at Nob Hill’s Mason Pacific. Following a fire last spring, the restaurant owners used the reopening as an opportunity to invite Mackinnon, 30, to S.F. The move is the latest addition to an impressive résumé, including a James Beard “Best New Restaurant” nomination when he was just a 26-year-old chef-owner at Pistou in Burlington, Vt. (Not to mention stints at Copenhagen’s famed Restaurant Relae and, most recently, Rose’s Luxury in D.C.)
This pedigree shines on Mason Pacific’s menu, filled with inventive celebrations of local ingredients, from the humble carrot (paired with a curry puree and chilled and cured mussels) to supple scallop crudo (graced with green beans, avocado and bergamot mint). Mackinnon’s housemade bread and butter alone deserve their own course, but the lamb, sourced from San Leandro’s Schmitz Ranch, is fast becoming his trademark: traditionally braised, picked off the bone, then pressed overnight, before getting a crisp glaze in lamb jus prior to serving, it is rich and tender, almost chocolaty sweet, yet savory, and easily devoured. “More than wanting people to go home thinking about the chef and the food, I want people to leave here looking forward to coming back,” says Mackinnon. 1358 Mason St., S.F., 415‑374-7185. masonpacific.com
Written by Jessica Ritz and Schuyler Bailey.
PHOTOS: Luke Beard.