Californios 2nd Visit — San Francisco (12/2019)

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After my first visit to Californios, I decided I wanted to come back relatively soon to see what a second meal experience would be like.  Often, it’s the second visit that determines whether I like a restaurant or not because there is less novelty on a return, and I can get a sense of how consistent the experiences can be.  Since it’s local to me, I just had to fit it into a time where their availability matched my non-travel times.  This visit took place about a month after the first visit.

The experience started off again with a glass of a Spanish Pinot noir rosé cava made using the méthode champenoise.

The first presentation was again a small glass of pineapple juice with cinnamon and mint.

Additionally, I ordered a glass of sparkling non-alcoholic Riesling juice to go with dinner.

The food presentations started off with four small snacks:  puffed amaranth cracker with black lime and guajillo (dried mirasol chili)  powder, Toma cheese mousse, and beets; masa harina from Venezuela arepa with persimmon and calabaza squash, black bean; trout roe on top of butternut squash croquette with parsnip and jalapeño salsa, purple masa tostada with smoked trout, winter citrus, horseradish yogurt and fermented daikon.

Next was a chilapita made with squid ink and purple masa tart shell and filled with octopus ceviche and finished with a celery and mint espuma.

The next bite was a purple infladita (corn puff) topped with torched sweet Hokkaido sea urchin, cilantro blossom, white soy glaze, and filled with guajillo chileatole (corn pudding salsa)

This layered dish was a bacalao that starts at the bottom with potato confit. Additional layers were salted black cod, chives and Meyer lemon mousse, and avocado mousse topped with first press olive oil and pickled jalapeño.

For the upcoming taco bar, I was provided with escabeches of ley limes, pickled carrots, and lime-marinated onions. 

The first taco was representative of the Yucatán.  Berkshire pork was barbequed in the style of Cochinita Pibil with hoja santa crema, apple and pickled onions.  The pork was moist, tender and very tasty.

For the full write-up, click here.

Californios — San Francisco (11/2019)

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Californios is a relatively small tasting menu restaurant presenting Mexican-inspired cuisine, which makes it a bit unique.  I have not run across many tasting menus that present flavors from Mexico.  There are 6-8 tables (depending upon the configuration) as well as a six-seat counter. The restaurant has earned two Michelin stars and is booked via Tock.com, with reservations pre-paid upon booking that covers the food, service and taxes.

Soon after being seated, I was poured a glass of rosé cava courtesy of the house.

They have wines by the glass, as well as a full bottle list.  They also offer teas.

As part of the start of the menu, they presented a small glass of pineapple aguafresca made with a little mint. 

Next, some snacks were brought out to offer an introduction to the breadth and heritage of the cuisine prepared by the restaurant.  Starting from the bottom left:  Black barley chicharrons, whipped goat cheese and habanero pepper salsa; arepa (Venezuelan corncake made with harina) topped with whipped avocado and fresh and fermented radishes, rockfish with pickled fennel aioli and American white sturgeon caviar; taquito made with Peruvian purple masa, smoked trout mousse, fire-roasted carrot and dill.

To go with dinner, we chose a Dewey Cabernet Franc-Pinot Noir blend.

The next presentation was a chilapita – a squid ink and black Peruvian masa tart shell filled with an octopus ceviche, tomato, lemon juice and cucumber and finished with cucumber espuma.

We continued with a Peruvian heirloom masa tostada.  On top was sweet Hokkaido sea urchin (lightly torched), cilantro blossom and a filling of chile and Guajillo Chileatole (a thick corn mixture).  I wasn’t sure why the uni needed to be torched (as shown) except for the visuals – it tasted the same as if raw to me, which was fine.

Next was a sope made with sweet potato and heirloom masa with Xikil Pak (pumpkin seed dip), summer herb greens, candied pepitas, tomatillos, and preserved Meyer lemon.

Afterwards, we were presented with escabeches for two of the dishes to come:  fermented carrots, lime-pickled onions, and salsa verde (tomatillos, avocados and salsa).

For the full write-up, click here.

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.

Atelier Crenn 2nd Visit — San Francisco (9/2016)

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I had visited Atelier Crenn almost exactly three years ago. Dominique Crenn’s story was the subject of an episode of Chef’s table on Netflix, and that prompted me to go back for a visit. I liked my first experience very much, so I was looking forward to my return. They changed from using OpenTable.com to Resy as their booking system. I was able to secure an early seating for a Friday dinner a few weeks in advance.

As before, there was no menu, just a poem, with each line referencing a course. The wine list format was different in that all the by-the-glass choices for the whole meal were on one page. Now, it was compartmentalized into a more familiar format. I went with the Chassagne-Montrachet Chardonnay this time, which I thought was among the better Montrachets that I have tried.

There was still a longer selection of half-bottles than usually seen.

The meal started off with the traditional (for here) apple cider inside a delicate cocoa butter shell topped with a little crème de cassis.

Soon after, a very delicate preparation of potato dusted with seaweed with a little maple butter was presented.

Along with the potato was Hokkaido uni with golden Osetra caviar with ginger and carrot curd. This had a touch of sweetness to it.

For the full write-up, click here.

Mosu — San Francisco (3/2016)

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Mosu is a restaurant that just opened in San Francisco.  I got word of it from a newsletter I get.  The pedigree of the chef (including time at The French Landry and Benu), and the proposed tasting menu of Asian-inspired dishes caught my interest.  They are located on Fillmore St. very near the intersection with Geary.  Reservations are made via the Resy.com website. The restaurant is not well-marked on the outside.

The restaurant only seats 18 people total.  Downstairs, there was a table for 4 and two two-tops.  The rest of the seating was upstairs on a loft level (curtained and walled off).

Upon arrival, they offered a glass of Champagne, which was very good.  The tasting menu was already on the table, as was the wine list.  I liked their wine selections as they had two Meursaults on it.  Unfortunately, they were by the bottle, so I had to “settle” for the French white Burgundy by the glass.

The first snack was grilled burdock bark, served with house-cultured butter, fermented kombu, and lightly pickled sancho (pepper) berries stuck on the underside.  The bark was like a cracker and sweet.

For the full write-up, click here.

Rich Table 2nd Visit — San Francisco (4/2015)

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I had tried the tasting menu at Rich Table 3 months ago and enjoyed it.  Now that the season was starting to change, I thought it would be a good time to go back and see what might be different.  I did not have a reservation this time, but I went to the restaurant just prior to its opening time on a Saturday in hopes of securing a walk-up seat at the bar.  There were only a few people ahead of me when I arrived, so I easily made it in and picked a spot at the end of the bar.  The rest of the bar area did not fill up right away, but within a half-hour, all seats were taken.

Some of the items listed on the menu had changed.  Some of the items that looked the same were being served with different ingredients.

For my wine for the evening, I selected a glass of the Chablis this time.

Last time, when I was seated at a table, there was a little wait before the snacks started to arrive.  And when they did, they were presented all at once.  Perhaps because I was at the bar this time, the snacks were brought as they were ready.

For the full write-up, click here.

Rich Table — San Francisco (1/2015)

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Rich Table has made a name for itself in San Francisco in a relatively short time.  It can be hard to secure a reservation.  A lot of folks show up early for a seat at the bar to dine.  The first time I went there a year or so ago, that was how I had a chance to try their food.  They have since garnered a Michelin Bib designation.  And a recent review by a local food critic talked about a tasting menu experience, which I did not recall them having before.  So, I managed to secure an early dinner reservation one recent Friday evening.

In addition to the bar seating, there are several small tables and a large community table.  Reservations can be made via Opentable.com.

Their drinks menu offers a wide variety of beverage choices.  I went with a glass of the 2011 French Chardonnay.

The food menu focuses on local ingredients and innovative combinations and presentations, which are what attracted me to the restaurant.  I didn’t know exactly what would be covered by the tasting menu.  I was hoping that at least some of the items would be taken from the standard menu, which is how it turned out.

For the full write-up, click here.

Quince 2nd Visit — San Francisco (1/2015)

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I first visited Quince a little over three years ago.  Since then, they recently remodeled and earned an additional Michelin star (for a total of two).  Some friends had visited within the last few months, so I was interested in going back some time.  Coincidently, some other friends wanted to go, so we managed to find a reservation in late January to go.  In its current iteration, the restaurant has gone to just a tasting menu format with options for the standard menu or garden menu (greater emphasis on vegetables).  Both menus were the same price and the same length.

To start off, I went with a glass of the white Burgundy, which I enjoyed with several courses. My friends brought a nice Papapietro Perry Russian River Pinot Noir that took me to the end of the meal.

For the full write-up, click here.

Dinner Lab SF — San Francisco (3/2014)

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I finally signed up for my first San Francisco Dinner Lab event.  I attended my first event in LA in November.  The ones in SF started in January, but the dates never worked or the menu was not appealing enough until this one.  On the original announcement, it appeared they were going to do 2 or three seatings.  When it opened up, I went for the first seating at 7:30pm.  Subsequently, it appeared they didn’t get enough sign-ups for later seatings, so there was only one that was done.

A few days before, I received an email asking for any food allergies.  On the day before the event, I received the address.   It was to be in a building that turned out to be a Sports Basement store.  When I arrived, I thought it might be right on the floor with all the merchandise.  It turns out there was a room downstairs.  I checked in at the door and then was told how to get to the dining area.  I was checked in again there.  Unlike, in LA, I did not have to sign anything, including a waiver of liability.

For the full write-up, click here.