Stone Cold

This Russian Hill bistro believes in the lush life

Stones Throw has a secret aptitude for opulence.

You wouldn't know it from the vibe at the new neighborhood bistro, with its stripped-down walls and tables, wryly worded drinks list, or the flocks of Russian Hill homeowners pecking and flitting around the bar.

Chef Jason Halverson, last at Michael Mina, sneaks lavish touches into his menu of drinking snacks and small and large plates.

You'd expect a main like duck ($28) to be rich, and it is–a crisp-skinned and pink-centered breast and ridiculously juicy thigh are served with black rice infused with duck stock. It's more surprising in dishes like braised octopus ($15), which has been finished on the grill for maximum smokiness and covered in flecks of chorizo. The texture of the meat resembles just-pounded mochi.

Some dishes–potato puffs with cauliflower mousse, a deconstructed lemon meringue pie–are almost too rich to enjoy.

Halverson's seafood hits the right balance: quenelles of Dungeness crab salad ($8) bound with artichoke aioli and served with nutty artichoke chips, say, or house-made squid ink conchiglie ($15) with mussels and clams tossed in more butter than you'd find on a slice of Josey Baker toast.

That's to its credit, of course.