Executive chef Jason Fox in the kitchen at La Bande. (Photo/Merrissa Humble)
Executive chef Jason Fox in the kitchen at La Bande. (Photo/Merrissa Humble)

Another Jewish chef joins the Spanish tapas revolution

Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

Within a few minutes of beginning my interview with chef Jason Fox, we were talking about tongue.

As it turns out, Fox, whose previous restaurant Commonwealth earned a Michelin star, has always loved chopped liver and pickled tongue from his family’s frequent forays to the Lower East Side from their home in Marlboro, New Jersey, where he was raised Conservative.

“It depends on where you come from what’s normal and not,” he said. “I like weird things. It’s one of the most used muscles in the body, and because of that, there’s a lot of flavor in it as well.”

He still considers it “the perfect meat.”


“It makes for the perfect braise,” he said. “It has that network of collagen and fat that goes through. It’s like nature’s hot dog. When you braise it, it stays soft and tender. The distribution of fat and collagen makes it one of the best-eating muscles.”

Fox tends to use a lot of offal in his cooking, which some might attribute to his exposure at a young age to such a Jewish delicacy.

Fox is the latest Jewish chef to helm a Spanish restaurant, this time at La Bande, part of the Proper Hotel. Others include Red Door, opened by chef Adam Rosenblum in May of this year, which we wrote about then, Canela, owned by chef Mat Schuster, which we wrote about in 2018., and El Lopo, which we wrote about in 2019; it’s owned by Daniel Azarkman and has a new Jewish chef, Matt Smith. There was also Thirsty Bear, owned by Ron Silberstein (who was the owner and brewer but not the chef), which served tapas and recently closed after 25 years.

Interior of La Bande on Market Street. (Photo/Alina Tyulyu)
Interior of La Bande on Market Street. (Photo/Alina Tyulyu)

While Fox worked as a dishwasher as a teenager, his interest in cooking didn’t really develop until college, where he began hosting dinner parties.

“After college, I did some marketing business-y type jobs, but I got bored and wanted to do something more creative,” he said.

Now 48, he never went to culinary school. “I just started working in restaurants, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit, so I’ve gained inspiration from that, and just by working in kitchens,” he said.

In addition to La Bande, Fox is the executive chef for two other restaurants that are also part of the Proper Hotel — Villon, which is fine dining, and Charmaine’s Rooftop, which serves bar food.

La Bande was a coffeeshop pre-pandemic, and when Fox came on after leaving Commonwealth, he and the management spoke about what it could be.

“The space has this cool, European feel to it,” he said. “And I had long wanted to open a Spanish restaurant.”

In the summer of 2019, Fox went to Barcelona on a research trip. He’s been there frequently, as one of his brothers has lived there for 25 years.

He is greatly inspired by Spanish food, he said. “One night we’d go to some temple of modern gastronomy, and I’d think ‘that’s awesome, that’s what I want to do,’ and then the next night we’d go to some rustic, very casual tapas place, and I’d think ‘this is what I want to do,’” he said.

La Bande's avocado toast with smoked salmon. (Photo/Alina Tyulyu)
La Bande’s avocado toast with smoked salmon. (Photo/Alina Tyulyu)

Everything was moving along with the launch. “By February of 2020, we were getting ready to open and did our first photo shoot,” he said. But of course, that didn’t happen.

“There was such a pause in between,” he said, putting it lightly. And even when it could open, it’s a small space, not at all conducive to social distancing.

La Bande finally opened in September.

Fox describes his style as “using high-quality ingredients, simply prepared, but highly seasoned,  and food that I like to eat.”

He makes a number of sausages and charcuterie in house, and loves the Spanish food of Moorish influence. “I love the North African spices and seasonings, that add both spice and sweetness,” he said.

While we were able to try many of the dishes — and they were all outstanding — one of our favorites was something completely unexpected: an eggplant tart. Its very name almost did it a disservice; the eggplant’s texture was so silky, with a perfectly crispy tart shell. It is one of those dishes that on the surface seems so simple, but clearly requires so much technique.

Other standouts included halibut cheeks cooked a la plancha, salt-cod croquettes, crispy cauliflower and a Spanish almond cake. And while we didn’t try it, we were tempted by the avocado toast with smoked salmon on top.

The menu is divided into cold and warm tapas; bites; on the plancha (a Spanish style of cooking on a hot griddle), conservas (preserved fish), charcuterie, cheeses and dessert.

As many restaurants are doing now, there is also a market section for items to be enjoyed at home; we were sent home with house-spiced almonds, house-made fennel crackers, tuna fillets packed in olive oil and more.

La Bande, 1100 Market St., S.F., is on the edge of the Tenderloin and has valet parking as part of the hotel. As with all San Francisco restaurants, vaccination status is being checked at the door.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."