Having cut her teeth in some of the Bay Area’s most noted kitchens like Manresa, chef Kim Alter has launched her first solo project inside an understated space in San Francisco’s booming Hays Valley. Nightbird, named for Alter’s love of owls, features fittingly dreamlike walls by local decorative artist Caroline Lizarraga, and intimate lighting by Oakland’s Hammers and Heels.
 
By now seasonal local produce has become not a drawing card but an expected minimum in high-end restaurants, and the 38-seat eatery easily clears this bar with its prix-fixe menu that completely transforms each week. Because ingredients take the centre stage here, the menu simply states the name of the item, such as lobster, heart of palm or chanterelle. Those building blocks turn up as dishes like tender squab with crispy skin and raw beets, or heirloom tomato salad flavoured with dashi – as well as freshly baked bread that changes each day, presented in a burlap pocket.
 
While there, be sure to duck into the adjoining Linden Room, a gold-lit cocktail bar seating fewer than a dozen patrons at a time, for a tipple like the Marina Greens, a basil vodka-based concoction, stealthily healthy with carrot, apple, and kale. You are, after all, in California.