Introducing The Vault-SF’s Luxe New Downtown Dining Destination

The Vault’s bar

Photo Credit: Kevin McCullough

When restauranteur Ryan Cole announced that he would be closing his beloved eatery, Stone’s Throw, last fall, the food industry was immediately saddened. However, with the bad news came good: Cole and his team were working on an exciting new project. “It was a tough decision,” Cole recently told Haute Living. “The space was very old, and we were able to do a lot of great things with it, and it did a lot for us.”

A carrot dish

The Hyde Street building was due for a complete update and seismic retrofit—a project that Cole and his team didn’t want to tackle. It was time to move on to bigger and better opportunities. “Honestly the thing that made closing Stone’s Throw the easiest was that we had another project that we were working on, and we had an opportunity to take our entire staff, so it’s like you lose the location, but you’re not losing the essence of the people,” Cole says.

Scallops, togarashi, radish, and lemon

Photo Credit: Kevin McCullough

The venture he is referring to is The Vault, a brand new fine dining destination in downtown San Francisco. Although Cole’s restaurant group runs three other establishments, The Vault is their most significant and ambitious project to date. Aptly named, the eatery is located at 555 California Street in a space that used to house the Bank of America’s actual vault. Vornado Realty, who owns the building, approached Cole about two years ago. “They’re like ‘Hey we have this old bank vault space that isn’t being used, and we want to put a restaurant in it.’ And I was like ‘That sounds awesome!’” Cole remembers.

The Vault

Photo Credit: Kevin McCullough

With room for 215 guests, The Vault is spacious, sultry, and subterranean. Guests walk into a large bar and lounge area outfitted in dark colors, rich details, and remnants of its past—vintage safety deposit boxes hold the bar’s alcohol and a mural of the vault’s door is in the lounge. The massive dining room is glamorous and features velvet chairs and leather booths. “You are going to feel like you’re in the lap of luxury because you won’t feel crammed in and you won’t feel rushed out,” Cole says of the purposefully large dining room. “As a result, the menu reflects the design and the bar. Everything makes you want to be there. It’s a very sexy and appealing restaurant.”

Steak tartare and housemade Parker rolls

Photo Credit: The Vault

The menu is as enticing as the decor. Chef Robin Song turns classic American dishes—beef tartare, lobster salad, tortellini, pork chops—into upscale modern variations that are beautifully presented and delicious to eat. For example, the tartar comes with smoked egg yolk, the lobster salad is made with green garlic aioli and preserved lemon, the tortellini is rye pasta stuffed with Comté and chanterelle mushrooms, and the pork chop is served atop a strawberry sofrito.

A martini

Photo Credit: The Vault

Unlike most fine dining restaurants that have opened recently, The Vault is not offering a tasting menu. “I think that isn’t necessarily what the people in the downtown market are looking for,” Cole says. “The higher end you get, the more wiggle room people want. We’re targeting the audience of bankers, finance, lawyers, tech and convention, and they need flexibility, so we wanted to make an approachable menu.” A raw bar, seasonal farm-fresh vegetable dishes, and cheeseburger prove there is something for everyone on the menu.

Spring peas with avocado, fresh mozzarella and yuzu kosho

Photo Credit: Kevin McCullough

Cole has a keen understanding of the market and is confident that The Vault will attract old and new customers. “It’s not about forcing the unique, bizarre, creative onto people,” he says. “It’s about understanding how to do things simply, but refined. People are looking for that sense of refinement and that touch of luxury.” Having a superb staff is also crucial to the success of any restaurant, and Cole points out that his team is kind, dedicated, and hardworking.

Milk chocolate cremeux, honey comb, sheep’s milk, strawberry, and bee pollen

Photo Credit: Kevin McCullough

“What ties it all together is our sense of neighborhood and hospitality,” he says. “What’s unique about us is we can take a restaurant that’s going to be the most fine-dining of anything we’ve done, and we hire the right staff who are going to make you feel warm and welcome, who are not going to have any pretension. We want to get to know you. We want to know your likes, your dislikes. We want to know who you are, why you came to see us. We want to be your friend. That’s why we were successful for the last five years in our neighborhood spots—because we took the time as an entire staff to get to know our clientele. I don’t think it’s any different at The Vault.”