TBD Restaurant SoMa AQ Chef Mark Liberman | Tasting Table San Francisco

AQ's new spot, TBD, is all aflame

The best dishes you eat at TBD may look like they've spent a little too long over the flames.

Thick lines of char stripe plancha-roasted carrots ($12), their centers sweet and almost custardy, which are tossed with sprouted lentils and passionfruit-brown butter sauce. Melted butter pools in the nooks of black-edged Josey Baker bread ($6), each smoky bite punctuated by the briny pop of sea grapes.

The fire that Mark Liberman and his cooks are cooking over is hardly invisible: It climbs up the back of the open kitchen, scenting the air with woodsmoke.

Toast with house-made butter and seaweed

The AQ chef's menu is divvied up into roasted, smoked, grilled and seared–different sections of the hearth's cast iron apparatus.

The food, not to mention the mood, comes off as more casual than at its sister restaurant. "The food is purer," Liberman says of his minimalist approach to seasoning the meats and vegetables destined for the hearth, though he jokes, "it's still complicated to some people."

Dining room, left, and roasted carrots

He's referring to unpredictable jolts of imagination: clams ($18) with cabbage that has been roasted over the embers and injected with dashi, or the barbecue-esque tomato sauce and sprouted fenugreek that accompany Andouille sausage ($18) that has been smoked high over the flames.

TBD is, quite figuratively, on fire.