Chef Jason Halverson welcomes you to The Vault Steakhouse, where every dinner is a special occasion
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE DURING SUMMER! THOUGH we are still dealing with remnants of the pandemic, summer magically dispels that! When The Vault Steakhouse opened, I found myself going back time and again with family and friends because of its delicious food and exceptional service. Recently, I had the utmost pleasure to meet Jason Halverson, the culinary wizard behind The Vault Steakhouse and The Vault Garden, who turned out to be a really cool guy. Although Chef Halverson, who is also a partner of Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group, describes himself as a “fun guy,” when it comes to food, he brings serious eats to the table.
Under his belt—or, should we say, under his chef’s coat—includes working with a few of the best chefs in some of San Francisco’s most revered kitchens. At Roland Passot at La Folie, one of the historic 4-star restaurants in San Francisco, Halverson developed a strong foundation in French/California cuisine, while understanding the needs and tastes of his guests in the charming Russian Hill neighborhood.
As an up-and-coming talent ascending the ranks of San Francisco’s culinary scene, Chef Halverson was offered the opportunity to work with Chris L’Hommedieu at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square at Michael Mina. Halverson was an integral team member contributing to the restaurant’s garnering two Michelin stars. As his career progressed, he moved on in 2010 to open Michael Mina at 252 California Street and continued to grow his talent and skills under Ron Siegel, ultimately becoming Siegel’s executive sous chef before leaving to start Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group with a young, dynamic crew of other Mina Group alumnae: Ryan Cole and Tai Ricci. In 2015, shortly after establishing Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group, Halverson was named Eater’s Best Chef in San Francisco.
Rooted in the culture and discipline of these award-winning kitchens with an appreciation for simply prepared, California-centric cuisine, Halverson strives to provide consistently craveworthy food in an environment that matches his personality. He currently brings this playful energy and delectable cuisine to the kitchens at the fast-growing Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group, which includes The Vault Garden, The Vault Steakhouse, The Madrigal and Trestle in San Francisco and MAMA in Oakland. These restaurants center on high quality food, a convivial atmosphere, and an elevated level of service.
The recipes that Halverson shared with Haute Living are from The Vault Steakhouse, a clubby restaurant space located in the original bank vault of the historic 555 California St. building in downtown San Francisco. The Vault offers classic steakhouse cuts with creative sides, thoughtful tableside touches and an extensive cocktail program, whiskey selection and wine list. Diners will find everything they love about a great steakhouse but with simple, delicious, modern-day touches.
HL: If you make a meal to impress, what would you make and for whom? JH: The people I love cooking for most are friends and family, even if I’m trying to impress. What’s common is preparing what I enjoy eating. I’d start with the simplest preparation of oysters, and, if we’re feeling bougie or I really need to impress, we’re having some caviar. It doesn’t stop there: meat and potatoes make people weirdly happy, and I’m all for people’s happiness.
Slow-roasted prime rib or a beautifully roasted rack of lamb with a simple preparation of potatoes, crushed and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, sel gris, and chives.
HL: Share a chef “secret” for home cooks. JH: Use an acid when seasoning your food. Most home cooks will season their food with salt, pepper, herbs, and spices, but generally forget acid. Vinegar, citrus, wine, and some alcohol will help the seasoning process and make the flavors of your food stand out. A little goes a long way, but finding that balance in acid always makes food pop. On suitable dishes, it makes me salivate, wanting another bite. Also, don’t be afraid of using more oil and butter than what seems “normal.” Adding just a little more oil to a pan to cook or finish a sauce or adding just a little more butter than what you expected can help with the quality of your dishes.
HL: What are your five top ingredients to cook a great steak? JH: Five? When cooking a great steak, quality of ingredients and simplicity in preparation reign supreme. Pick your favorite cut— mine is ribeye—and find the best quality you can. I prefer a thicker cut which gives me a little more time to get a nice sear on my steak. I also make sure I have a very hot pan. At home, I have my go-to cast iron pan: once it gets hot, it stays hot. I use a nice, coarse salt and a thick grind of black pepper (season liberally). Also, after I get a nice sear on my steak, I do like to baste the meat using a nice butter and a few aromatics, like garlic, shallot, and thyme.
HL: Who are the guinea pig taste testers for your new creations and why?
JH: The guinea pigs are usually my chef team or trusted members of the staff at The Vault Steakhouse and The Vault Garden. They do a great job of giving feedback. They take everything into account, focusing a lot on the seasoning, textures, and if it solves what we’re trying to accomplish.
They’re way more critical than anyone else can be, so when it’s good, it can feel like the highest of achievements, and when it’s bad … utterly disheartening. HL: Any future aspirations? JH: One big aspiration is to open more restaurants with Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group and give our talented staff an outlet to grow. I can’t begin to describe how fortunate we are to have amazing people in our company, and I want them to be able to grow with us to be their most successful selves.
HL: What are the top three restaurants you enjoy on your days off? JH: That’s such a hard question to answer: there are so many great restaurants; but restaurants that I consistently enjoy in San Francisco on my days off are the following: 1. Monsieur Benjamin. I love everything about the food: it’s what I like to eat, and the service there is top-notch. It’s comforting and exciting, all at the same time. 2. Cotogna. There are not enough good words to describe Cotogna. 3. El Burrito Express. My favorite taqueria: this is controversial in the Bay Area, but I’m willing to get into a verbal altercation over this statement. 4. House of Prime Rib. Bonus! No explanation is needed.
“More butter! Everything tastes a little better with more butter. The same applies to cheese..”
— JASON HALVERSON
Serves 6-8 Recipe courtesy of The Vault Steakhouse
• 18 each West Coast oysters or choose your favorite raw oyster
• 18 each prawns, poached and peeled
• 2 pounds Dungeness crab legs
• 2 each 1.5-pound lobsters, steamed
• 18 each pink bay scallops, shucked and cleaned
Boozy Cocktail Sauce
• 1 cup ketchup
• 2 tablespoon lemon juice
• 2 tablespoon minced shallots
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• ¼ cup prepared horseradish
• 1 teaspoon Tabasco
• ½ cup Dijon mustard
• ½ cup crème fraiche
• ¼ cup aioli or mayonnaise
• 1 pinch kosher salt
Red Wine & Tarragon Mignonette
• ¼ cup minced shallots
• ½ cup red wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
• 1 sprig tarragon
• ¼ cup Sprite
To make the cocktail sauce
1. Combine ketchup, lemon juice, minced shallots, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce in a mixing bowl. Mix well.
2. Add half of each: prepared horseradish and Tabasco. Mix well. Taste, and if more spice is desired, add the remaining horseradish and Tabasco.
3. Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the dijonaise
1. Combine Dijon mustard, crème fraîche, and aioli in a mixing bowl and mix well. Season with kosher salt.
2. Refrigerate in an air-tight container. Serve chilled.
To make the red wine mignonette
1. Combine the red wine vinegar, minced shallot, black pepper, and tarragon in a bowl. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve, allowing the flavors to meld.
2. Just before serving, add the Sprite.
1. Place your prepared sauces into sauce ramekins.
2. Arrange the prepared shellfish over iced trays.
Herb Roasted Prime Rib
Serves 8-10 Recipe courtesy of The Vault Steakhouse
Ask your butcher to help you prepare your prime rib. If you ask nicely, they’ll often “French” the roast, which is cleaning the bones to be slightly exposed, offering your guests a great presentation. The butcher will also truss the roast, helping hold the roast together in a uniform shape and size, which is great for presentation, but more important for the meat to cook through consistently.
• 11 pounds bone-in prime rib, tied (ask your butcher)
• 3 pounds soft butter
• ½ cup minced shallot
• ¼ cup minced garlic
• ¼ cup picked thyme
• ¼ cup minced rosemary
• ¼ cup kosher salt
• 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
• 1 cup crème fraîche
• ½ cup aioli or mayonnaise
• ½ cup prepared horseradish
• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• 1 pinch ground white pepper
Red Wine Jus
• 1 pound beef trim, medium dice
• 2 tablespoon canola oil
• 1 cup medium diced carrot
• 1 cup medium diced celery
• 2 cups medium diced onion
• 2 cups red wine
• ½ bunch thyme
• 2 sprigs parsley
• 1 head of garlic, split in half
• 1 tablespoon black peppercorn
• 2 quarts veal demi-glacé
To make the herb roasted prime rib
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Combine the butter, minced herbs, shallot, garlic, salt, and pepper into a mixing bowl and mix well. Rub the herb butter all over the trussed prime rib. Place the roast onto a roasting rack inside a roasting pan.
3. Place the roast into the hot oven, using the heat to sear the outside. Allow cooking at this high temperature for about 12-15 minutes. Lower the temperature down to 300 degree Fahrenheit and cook until the internal temperature reaches 122 degrees
Fahrenheit, approximately 110 to 125 minutes.
4. Once the internal temperature has been reached, pull the roast out of the oven and allow it to rest for approximately 20 to 25 minutes before serving.
To make horseradish cream
1. Combine all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir, mixing all the ingredients together well.
2. Chill in the refrigerator, allowing the flavors to come together.
To make the red wine jus
1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the oil and beef trim. Stir occasionally, allowing the beef to brown on all sides in the pan. Once the beef is brown, add in the diced mirepoix, allowing it to brown as well.
2. Once vegetables are brown, add in the wine and allow to come to a boil. Once the liquid comes to a boil, add in the remainder of your ingredients, allow it to come to a boil, and lower the heat to medium-low.
3. Let the sauce cook for about 45 minutes, skimming off any impurities that rise to the top.
4. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve the sauce until ready to use.
1. Bring your red wine jus back to a boil.
2. Cut the strings off your prime rib. Using a large knife, cut the meat off the bone. Slice the beef into its desired thickness. (I’m a huge fan of the thin slice, English cut.)
3. Serve with hot jus and horseradish cream.
Olive Oil Crushed Potatoes
Recipe courtesy of The Vault Steakhouse
This is an easy preparation of potatoes that always seems to please. A great recipe when entertaining. Sel gris is a coarse salt that adds texture to this dish, but if it’s not available, choose another coarse salt like sea salt or Maldon salt. Another trick to these potatoes is that, instead of crushing them with a fork, you can also push the cooked potatoes through a cooling rack and then begin the seasoning process.
“In life, you’re put into situations that you can control and situations you cannot control. Make the best of the things you can control and try not to worry about the ones that you can’t. Hopefully, all the things in your control keep you out of situations that you cannot.”
— JASON HALVERSON
• 3 pounds fingerling potatoes
• 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 4 tablespoons minced shallots
• ¼ cup minced chives
• Sel gris to taste
1. Cook the potatoes in a large pot, starting with cold, salted water.
Over high heat, bring the potatoes to a boil. Once cooked through (a knife should easily pierce and release the potato), strain the water.
2. While the potatoes are hot, place them in a large bowl and lightly crush them with a large fork. While crushing, slowly add the olive oil. Season with the sel gris.
3. Once the potatoes are seasoned with olive oil and salt, finish the mixture with the minced shallots and chives.
Black Truffle Mac & Cheese
Serves 6 Recipe courtesy of The Vault Steakhouse
This is a classic dish that uses great pasta, some beautiful cheese, and truffle (black or white) to make an out-of-this-world dish. To make it extra decadent, add freshly cooked lobster meat.
• 1 pound fresh conchigliette (small shell) pasta
• ½ cup unsalted butter
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 4 tablespoons minced shallots
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
• 4 cups whole milk
• ¾ cup finely shredded sharp white cheddar, preferably Fiscalini
• ½ cup finely shredded fontina cheese
• ¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped black truffles, preferably fresh
• 1 tablespoon black truffle oil
• 2 tablespoons finely minced chives
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 tablespoon black truffle butter
• 1 teaspoon minced garlic
• 1 cup fresh, untoasted breadcrumbs
• 2 tablespoons finely minced chives
To make the cheese sauce
1. In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until foamy.
2. Add the garlic and shallots and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until soft, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the flour and stir to combine.
4. Reduce heat to low and cook the flour mixture for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Whisk in the milk, stirring well to ensure there are no lumps of flour.
6. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the milk starts to thicken, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
7. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheeses.
8. Continue to stir until the cheeses are fully melted.
9. Keep warm.
To make the breadcrumbs
1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and the truffle butter.
2. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic.
3. Cook gently until softened and fragrant, stirring frequently.
4. Add the breadcrumbs and toast in the butter until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Add the chives and stir to combine.
6. Keep warm.
1. Cook the pasta to al dente in a large pot of boiling, salted water.
2. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to combine.
3. Add the chopped black truffles, truffle oil, and minced chives. Mix well.
4. Divide the macaroni and cheese between six warm bowls and top liberally with the warm toasted breadcrumbs.