Rich Table 3rd Visit — San Francisco (7/2019)

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I hadn’t been to Rich Table in 5 years. Back then, it was a Michelin Gourmand recommended restaurant. Since then, it has been awarded a Michelin star (in 2018 and 2019). It remains a casual, neighborhood establishment. I managed to secure a reservation on a Monday night through Resy. One can also show up right at opening to try and secure a seat at the bar. Otherwise, without advanced planning, it can be difficult to book a prime-time seat for dinner.
Their format remains the same, with several small bites and a la carte items available. They offer a Chef’s Picks tasting menu as well, which must be taken by the whole table if selected. Since I was dining solo, it was an easy choice to go with the tasting menu.

They have added Seedlip non-alcoholic cocktails to their line-up. To start, I ordered Seedlip No. 1, which used Garden Seedlip, shiso, and lime.
As before, for the start of the meal, they bring out a selection of small bites. However, instead of bringing out individual plates for each, they arranged them for me on one large platter: sardine fish and chip with horseradish crème fraîche; warm heirloom tomato with cod, Caesar dressing and aged Parmesan cheese; caviar with Pommes (potato) Dauphine and crème fraiche; buttermilk panna cotta with pomegranate purée (just slightly sweet), sesame seeds and soy oil; dried porcini dusted doughnut with raclette; and Grassy Bar (CA) oyster with a porcini mignonette.

One bite was brought to the table separately: Oliver’s beef dumpling with yogurt, chive oil and chives. The dough seemed a bit too thick and chewy, but the filling was tasty.
I ordered the second Seedlip cocktail. Seedlip Spice, with Earl Grey and soda.

The first course after all the small bites was a halibut tostada. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the photo. It was topped with Serrano cheese, salsa verde, guacamole, and a melon Pico de Gallo. It was a nice combination of sweet, spicy, creamy and crunchy.
The next dish was the scallion pancake, served with corn, pole beans, soy dressing and a side of corn gratin (cheesy and slightly spicy).
The pasta course was the tonnarelli pasta with sea urchin in the sauce and kombu. This was prepared perfectly and was full of umami.

The final savory course from the menu was the 21-day old rib-eye, served with Padrón pepper and crispy potatoes on top.

Before dessert came, I wanted to order the duck confit steamed bun as an additional request. It was served with cucumber and hoisin plum sauce. I was slightly disappointed in the texture of the duck, as it looked more like a hash than what confit traditionally looks like.

For the full write-up, click here.

Eight Tables by George Chen — San Francisco (6/2019)

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Eight Tables by George Chen is a fine-dining Chinese tasting menu experience. The offer 3 menu options: 10- course and Chef’s Table 12-course menus are available Tuesday-Saturday; 7-course menu available Tuesday through Thursday. The experience takes its inspiration from Chinese chateaux dining, which represented the highest form of Chinese dining. Reservations can be made through OpenTable. I was able to secure a Chef’s Table seat (one seating a night), which is in the kitchen.
The restaurant is located just off Columbus Ave. and Vallejo St. down a gated alley in the North Beach/Chinatown area. There is valet parking attendant who lets you in, verifies your reservation and escorts you to the elevator that takes you to the restaurant. Upon arrival, you are given a hot towel to refresh oneself before being take to the table.

It turned out that I was the only one being seated in the kitchen for the evening. They told me I could get up and walk around the kitchen as I wished.

I was offered the wine list and beverage menus. In addition to wine pairings, they have by-the glass wines, bottles, large format bottles, cocktails and (after I asked) tea pairings.

I decided to order the Seedlip Citrus cocktail called Golden Slippers to start off. As part of the Chef’s Table menu, I was offered champagne. They rolled out the ice bucket with 4 options on ice. They selected to serve the Perrier-Jouet Blason rosé champagne NV. It was a very good choice.

The first course was a beautiful representation of nine essential flavors of Chinese cuisine. This was also a nice means to awaken one’s palate for the meal experience. From the top left: sweet was a jujube date with rice flour and stuffed with longan; salty was confit of rice with fish stock and poached abalone on top; sour was grilled pineapple with sweet and sour sauce and crispy pork skin with fat. From the middle left: bitter was summer squash with sesame, pumpkin seeds and mushrooms; tingly with sancho peppercorn, taro root and A5 wagyu beef fat; spicy was a tart with bell pepper, chicken, and chili oil. From the bottom left: aromatic was grains, tofu, nori and aromatic herbs; fresh was a scallop rosette; and smoked was a smoked smelt.
I opted for the tea pairings to have with my meal. The first of four was Dragonwell green tea.

The next course was called Four Happiness Caviar Dumpling. It was a dumpling wrapper mixed with beetroot around a filling of shrimp mousseline. The four toppings were Russian osetra golden caviar, trout roe, Day boat scallop, and Alaska sea urchin. Garnishes included micro-herbs and pickled root vegetables. I was provided with a hot towel for cleanup afterwards.
The next course, called Barbeque ‘Shao Kao’ featured 3 distinct components: Ibérico ham char siu, Kaluga caviar on crispy duck skin placed on a shrimp chip, and a suckling pig sandwich with white bread and pickled onion. To refresh the palate in between, the middle of the plate had Meyer lemon jelly and figs glazed with rose hips syrup.

This dish was Upside-down sizzling rice soup. Poached lobster topped the rice, and they poured lobster broth at the table. The garnishes included a little bottarga (salted and cured fish roe) and sea grapes. The flavor profile seemed a little flat, as I was anticipating more of a lobster flavor.The next tea pairing presented was oolong tea.The next dish was called The 8 Immortals. It was a totally vegetarian presentation, arranged to depict the Chinese character for 8. This was made up with winter melon, Ogo seagrass, taro, grilled radishes, black summer truffles, Romanesco broccoli, toasted figs, morels, snow pea shoots, and a yam mousse dusted with beetroot powder. Atop the center were shiitake mushrooms, battered and caramelized (sweet and super chewy in a good way for texture). The sauces on the platter were sweet and then spicy at the finish. Accompanying the dish in a bowl were spinach dumplings (like gnocchi) that were dressed with a slightly spiced chive sauce.

For the full write-up, click here.

The Musket Room — New York City (6/2019)

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The Musket Room is a restaurant that I ran across in a newsletter listing of ‘must try’ places in New York City. It is located just off of Spring St., in the NoHo/Little Italy areas. The restaurant uses Resy for booking services and has been awarded one Michelin star. The theme for the cuisine is New Zealand, and they offer a short story and long story versions of tasting menus. They describe themselves as a modern take on homestyle New Zealand cooking. The opening page of the menu introduces their concept, and the subsequent pages show the current seasonally-based short and long menu options, as well as a shorter 3-course, diner’s choice option.

I chose the long story (of course). I also talked to the sommelier about a glass of wine. Since the “Man O’ War” did not specify a grape, I had to ask (plus, it had some age to it, which always interests me, particularly for whites). She described it as a uniquely flavored blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. That was good enough for me.

Powhiri (Welcome)
The long story starts out with a few small bites . From the right: pea with lemon aioli, white and green asparagus tart, corned beef croquette topped with smoked cheese. This was a tasty start for the palate.

Kaimoana (Fruit of the Sea)
The next presentation was raw East Coast oysters with yuzu mignonette and trout roe. There was a little dry ice or liquid nitrogen for effect and to keep things cold.

The next dish featured raw diver scallops with a dashi gel, aged soy sauce, and Asian pears. This was finished with horseradish yogurt snow at the table (and more dry ice or liquid nitrogen for effect).

This Kaluga caviar tart was filled with layers of confit egg jam, chives, Greek yogurt, and shallots, and topped with gold leaf. The tart shell was thin but firm. The flavors were very nice together, very much mimicking the flavors of having caviar the traditional way (except for no toast points).
They provided a rehydrated towelette to help with finger cleanup.

The last Kaimoana dish was freshwater crayfish (koura), pickled ramps, fresh watercress and finished with warm watercress soup at the table. The flavors didn’t come forward much for me, and there was a strange saltiness to it.

Papatùànuku (Fruit of the Land)
The bread was a smoked Hangi sourdough. Hangi is the Màori term for cooking in a pit with hot rocks or other material. To go with the bread, I was served a house-made tiki-shaped cultured butter with sea salt, smoked ricotta cheese with citrus olive oil, and chicken liver mousse with fried rosemary. This was all very good.

For the full write-up, click here.

040 at Intersect by Lexus — New York City (6/2019)

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The restaurant at Intersect at Lexus appeared in an email listing some interesting places to dine in New York City. The restaurant is located upstairs in a Meatpacking District building used by Lexus as a center for artistic and cultural expression. It’s one of three centers around the world that they operate, and this one is the first with a fine dining restaurant. The restaurant is run in collaboration with the Union Square Hospitality Group. Their intent is to rotate chefs every 4-6 months. For this current iteration, the chef (Sergio Barroso) is from Madrid and operates a restaurant called 040 in Santiago, Chile. Reservations are made through Resy.
I was told that no silverware would be used with the meal.

They have a counter which overlooks the large kitchen area. I was seated at one end of it.

The White Rioja I selected to have with dinner was a Rioja by region only, I was told that the grapes used were not the typical ones used. It was very different and a nice accompaniment with the meal.
The first bite was an ossobuco-style shank dumpling with quail egg and ponzu gel. A smoked beef broth was in the pot and meant to be consumed afterward.

The next presentation was salmon sashimi marinated in the Peruvian ceviche sauce called leche de tigre (charcoal oil, fish stock, citrus and spices) and truffle oil. The center was garlic ice cream on a stick with wasabi balsamic and fried almonds underneath. On the side, there was a little avocado wasabi. This was a mellow blend of savory flavors, with the almonds providing nice texture.
The next course was inspired by the beach. Chilled mussels and octopus rested in a bed of cotton candy. I was told to wrap it up with the cotton candy like a taco to eat. It was sweet and then spicy. The Bloody Mary chaser to the was to cleanse the palate at the end.

This small roll was formed with a beet-marinated daikon radish strip. Inside at the bottom was a creamy paella made with Italian rice, layered with Hamachi and miso mayonnaise. This was topped with red puffed rice. This was a small and tasty bite.
The next course soon followed. It was a new addition to the menu. The Hamachi nigiri ha d puffed red rice at the bottom. The Hamachi belly was topped with salmon roe.

The next dish was a beef and pork bun with a Spanish pepitoria sauce. This sprayed with a yuzu vinaigrette at the counter that added a light flavor contrast. This was very hot to hold, but fine inside to eat.
The next course was potato gnocchi with Romesco sauce, pork belly, lemon pit puree, pickled daikon, and chili.

For the full write-up, click here.

Atomix 2nd Visit — New York City (6/2019)

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Atomix is still a relatively new restaurant on the scene. Even though they recently were awarded a Michelin star, I was hoping that after my first visit in March, their menu would still be evolving as the seasons changed. I enjoyed the first experience enough even with its flaws that I wanted to see what they would do with a late spring/early summer menu. Since I had planned a visit to New York well in advance, I was able to secure a reservation through Tock right when seats were released for the date and time I wanted (Reservations are released a month at a time on the first day of the prior month and are pre-paid). Diners are seated around a U-shaped counter which encloses the beverage preparation area.
The chef spent time at Jungsik, New York’s 2-star Michelin Korean fine dining restaurant. Atomix presents a seasonal, Korean cuisine-inspired tasting menu. They offer wine pairings with their courses. However, I opted to start the meal with their house-made Magnolia kombucha and then asked them to serve teas from their list as appropriate.

While I was considering the beverage options, I was offered as a small bite soon after being seating. It was white shrimp tartare with pine nuts and fermented white asparagus.

The next small bite was smoked trout roe and rice in a seaweed cracker wrap.
I started off with Magnolia kombucha as a beverage.
As before, each course is preceded by presentation of a card that provided the name of the Korean course. The art on the cards for this menu had the Korean symbols for each course depicted abstractly on one side. Each card listed the principle ingredients followed by discussions covering the history of using the specific ingredients, the sources, the preparation methods, and/or general comments about the menu and the research involved for its creation. Finally, the creator of the serving dish is listed.

The first course was a soup featuring firefly squid seasoned with mirin (sweet rice wine) and Yondu (a seasoning derived from simmered vegetables). With it was fermented chickpea with squid, beech mushroom and more mirin and Yondu. At the counter, they finished with squid soup (a squid dashi seasoned with dried anchovy, garlic, scallions and mirin).

For the full write-up, click here.

For the write-up from the first visit, click here.

The Clove Club 8th Visit — London (5/2019)

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As a change of pace, and because of my flight schedule, I made a dinner reservation at The Clove Club instead of the usual lunch visit. In terms of the food, it is generally the same as the long lunch menu on the weekends. I was at the bar for the meal. The differences were that I had to go through a lighting change as the evening progressed and dinner reservations are prepaid when the reservation is made.

Before starting in with the non-alcoholic pairings, I ordered a glass of the South African Chenin Blanc to go with the small bites.
The experience started off with a melon granita with ham gelée, charcoal cream, elderflowers and gazpacho reduction. This was a refreshing beginning.

The next bite was spider crab tart with elderflower hollandaise and devil spices. On the side was a trout belly tartare with crème fraiche and Sancho pepper.
The next bite was the familiar (and always good) buttermilk fried chicken with pine needle salt.

Also served very warm was the mushroom haggis bun with cider vinegar.
The first menu course was a salad of biodynamic vegetables with a dressing of turnip milk and sesame.
To start the beverage pairing, they served white peony tea made with softened water.

The next beverage was fresh cucumber juice seasoned with mustard seed shrub.
The next course was lightly hay-smoked river trout, toasted almonds, watercress, and ossetra caviar.

The beverage for the next course was chamomile with a little smoked lemon and verjus.

For this course, we start off with Scottish langoustine, served with morels and asparagus.
This was soon followed by ancient proto-grains noodles from Orkney with langoustine broth. This had an especially good flavor.

For the full write-up, click here.