Green Magic

The surprising herb appearing at Wayfare Tavern

There is a lot of brawn at Wayfare Tavern, the stylized new downtown restaurant from celebrity chef Tyler Florence.

The stunning interior whispers of a Barbary Coast gentlemen's club, and the enormous menu teems with forceful dishes like smoked pork chops, mac 'n' cheese and potted foie gras.

So we were flabbergasted–and delighted–to discover that most well-mannered of herbs, tarragon, featured on multiple plates.

When queried about the herb's ubiquity, Florence explained: "The freshness of tarragon always reminds me of summer."

Fair enough. The herb's anise bite courses through the vinaigrette coating a salad of Bolinas greens with corn and fried shallots ($12), and suffuses the béarnaise sauce pooled beneath Dungeness crab-topped steak and eggs ($25).

Whole leaves of tarragon add fresh kick to an heirloom tomato salad ($12) with black-eyed peas, and to the local high-summer classic, watermelon salad ($11).

For the version at Wayfare Tavern, the fruit is vacuum-sealed so the flesh condenses. It's then served with Kalamata olives, fennel and ricotta salata (click here to download the recipe). Our streamlined adaptation is a terrific balm for summer heat waves.

The tarragon transforms the salad, providing its special breed of assertive herbaceousness that, if pressed, you might even call brawny.

Wayfare Tavern, 558 Sacramento St. (bet. Montgomery and Sansome sts.); 415-772-9060 or wayfaretavern.com