Fresh Ground

Baker & Banker's chefs pine for herbs and spices

Near Japantown, the pepper is popping.

Lori Baker and Jeff Banker–the pastry chef and chef, respectively, of the new Baker & Banker–boast admirable pedigrees, having worked at such restaurants as Postrio, Delfina and ACME Chophouse.

The duo's seasonal cuisine is distinctly Bay Area; the unabashed obsession with herbs and spices, though, is wholly theirs.

A fall vegetable tempura is fortified with whole leaves of minty shiso. Steaks are basted with rosemary-and-thyme butter. Duck breast is cured with ground coriander, fennel seed, bay leaf and clove, then finished with a reduction of red wine and port that's been laced with Lampung peppercorns and star anise.

The source of most of Baker and Banker's impeccable dried herbs and spices: Le Sanctuaire, the by-appointment-only cookshop in Union Square with some of the finest herbs and spices in the country.

In addition to their transformative effect on the savory menu, those herbs and spices also trip gracefully across the dessert menu: Whole pieces of musky mace (the sheath that forms around nutmeg) infuse pumpkin-seed-brittle ice cream; perfect for holiday entertaining, pink peppercorns stud the shortbread (click here to download the recipe) served with Baker's sorbet.

The neglected workhorses of the kitchen have never had it so good.

Baker & Banker, 1701 Octavia St. (at Bush St.); 415-351-2500 or bakerandbanker.com