Bistro on a Hill

A restaurant at one with its neighborhood

Mason Pacific feels like a café at the end of the world, as if the oceans had finally swallowed up all of San Francisco except Nob Hill.

There are few bistros in the steep blocks around it, and none so handsome. So, three weeks into its run, the place draws in a broad swath of the hilly neighborhood. Young professionals gather in the wooded and windowed bar, while white-haired women in tailored casual wear conduct cross-table chats in the formal dining room.

Chef Sean McTiernan has cooked at Taillevent in Paris as well as at Delfina, and his small, exceedingly eclectic menu gives nods to both the refined and the rustic.

Don't muck about in the middle ground with pastas or bland beef tartare ($14).

Instead, go high, with his fussy, terrific halibut ($26), its surface covered in browned breadcrumbs, encircled with sautéed cauliflower grated to the size of rice grains.

Or aim low, with a bowl of potato skins ($5), feathery-crisp and scented with rosemary, which you pluck from beneath a drift of Parmesan microcurls.

Considering you're on the slopes of Nob Hill, the chips will pair beautifully not with Coke but with glasses of Lieu Dit's jaunty 2011 Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($12).