Archive for the ‘ Restaurant ’ Category

A Glimpse of Quince

I can barely remember even a glimpse of San Francisco’s James Beard Award-winning restaurant Quince, for I arrived thoroughly inebriated for our dinner reservation. Although my photographs and mostly illegible notes suggest that I did indeed have a meal there, this review should probably be taken with a margarita glass full of salt…

Porcini Mushroom, Five Tastes and Textures

Apparently the first course I ordered was the Porcini Mushroom appetizer. According to the menu, there should be five distinct representations of porcini mushroom, but I only discerned the following in my inebriation…
tasting notes:
crisp mushrooms
savory mushroom broth
mint seems out-of-place
rating: 4
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tortelloni, taleggio cheese, green garlic, chanterelle mushroom and summer truffle

According to my notes, my second course was the Fagotelli with Maine Lobster, English Peas, and Nasturtium. However, I seemingly photographed my neighbor’s tortellloni dish instead of mine…
tasting notes:
savory lobster broth
peas are a bit overcooked but fresh
lobster is fresh and sweet
fagotelli is chewy
rating: 4
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sonoma Liberty Duck, Bing Cherry with Campari-Black Pepper Sauce

The third course was the Sonoma Liberty Duck. My notes become severely illegible by this point…
tasting notes:
succulent greens
texture of duck is tough and chewy
Bing cherries are sweet
the sauce is also sweet
rating: 3.5

Artisanal Cheeses

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I remember receiving the cheese selection for my dessert course, but I have no memory of actually eating it. From stories I’ve been told the next day, I heard the grim fate of the cheese…

Mignardises

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I don’t remember these at all…
tasting notes:
I don’t know
rating: ?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Note: ratings are given on a range from 0 – 6,

where 0 indicates God Awful — 3 indicates Humanly Mundane — 6 indicates Deliciously Evil

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Danke Gary Danko

Although we flew in from Texas and arrived early to our 5:30pm dinner reservation at Gary Danko, our friend from San Jose managed to make it only a mere 45 minutes late. While our friend was “fashionably late”, we fashionably drank and started without her…

Tomato and Zucchini Soup with Cumin Yoghurt

The amuse bouche came unexpectedly, with repeated instructions to eat while still warm. I mention that the instructions were repeated, as our fashionably late friend was reprimanded for being late in eating the soup…

tasting notes:

nice smooth texture

cumin scent comes through

little chunks of zucchini offers added texture

rating: 4.5

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Seared Ahi Tuna with Avocado, Nori, Enoki Mushrooms and Lemon Soy Dressing

First course was a Seared Ahi Tuna presented in the shape of a butterfly…
tasting notes:
lemony/savory dressing
tuna has perfect texture
pickled ginger is nice addition
avocado only adds creaminess
nori doesn’t add anything
missing something…
rating: 3.5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras, Mushroom, and Quinoa, Braised Artichokes, Peas, Proscuitto, and Olive Butter

Second course was the Quail…
tasting notes:
very moist, the legs pull apart very easily
quail is also very well seasoned and nicely browned
artichokes pair nicely with the quail
pea shoots taste and smell like vietnamese water spinach
mushroom, foie gras, quinoa stuffing adds earthiness
rating: 5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Roasted Pork Belly and Tenderloin with Potato Ramp Puree, Cauliflower, Fava Beans and Maple Cider Glaze

Someone else ordered this Pork Belly dish…
tasting notes:
pork belly texture was fatty
tenderloin texture was a bit stringy
rating: 3.5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lemon Souffle Cake with Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta and Raspberry Sorbet

Dessert course included this lemon souffle cake…
tasting notes:
lemon tartness on top of cake
fluffy souffle cake underneath
cold raspberry sorbet adds temperature element and more tartness
panna cotta is creamy instead of gelatinous
rating: 4.5

Selection of Farmhouse and Artisanal Cheeses presented tableside

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The majority of the table chose the cheese course for dessert and opted for a slice of every available cheese…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: ratings are given on a range from 0 – 6,

where 0 indicates God Awful — 3 indicates Humanly Mundane — 6 indicates Deliciously Evil

Benu does Bene

While researching restaurants in San Francisco, we came across a restaurant by the name of Benu. One glance at their sample menu caused ample confusion; we didn’t understand half of the menu… so of course we knew we had to try it! However, by the time we dined at Benu, to our dismay the menu had changed and not a single item seemed foreign anymore. Seemed a pity, until we actually tasted the food…

Cherry Blossom Granita, Cultured Yoghurt, Pistachio

The amuse bouche arrived to cleanse our palate…
tasting notes:
clean, fresh
yoghurt supplies tanginess
granita is COLD, cannot discern anything beyond that
pistachio offers a modest crunch
rating: 3.5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wild Sockeye, Crispy Potato, Pickled Ramp, Button Mushroom, Nasturtium

First course arrived with the Wild Sockeye Salmon. Though quite not the fan of salmon, I required a predominantly seafood tasting menu to compensate for a rather large lunch that same day. Luckily, I was not disappointed…
tasting notes:
the dish smells fishy, but doesn’t taste fishy
salmon has incredibly moist texture
pickled ramp is mild yet flavorful
crispy potato is perfectly crisp, quite outstanding
button mushrooms are perfectly cooked but doesn’t lend much to the dish
rating: 4.5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lobster, Wood Ear Mushrooms, Peas, Baby Corn, XO Sauce

The second course arrived with the Lobster…

tasting notes:
very clean tastes
very spring fresh
lobster supplies firm gelatinous structure
XO sauce offers chili ginger flavor
rating: 4
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Duck, Preserved Plum, Turnip, Mustard Greens

The third course arrived with the Duck…
tasting notes:
duck tastes gamey and chewy
mustard greens look more like bok choy, and taste bland accordingly
sweet globs of plum sauce
rating: 3
Almond Brioche, Apricot, Buttercream, Osmanthus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dessert course arrived with an Almond Brioche…

tasting notes:
brioche offers a perfect combination of fried/moist textures
apricot short tower does not offer any intense flavors
gelee adds different texture
buttercream is just so CREAMY
rating: 4.5

 

 

 

 

Note: ratings are given on a range from 0 – 6,

where 0 indicates God Awful — 3 indicates Humanly Mundane — 6 indicates Deliciously Evil

It’s Rabbit Season at Saison

Our latest travels brought us to San Francisco’s Saison, whose chef Joshua Skenes coincidentally just made Food and Wine magazine’s list of Best New Chefs of 2011.  The restaurant offers only a set menu, which listed rabbit as the main entrée for the night.  I have no qualms on eating cute furry little animals, but I have never enjoyed the often rubbery texture of rabbit in my past (several) experiences.  So with dread, I hopped into the set menu before me… 

 

Flatbread Cracker

 
Not exactly an amuse bouche, but this small dish (along with a side of osetra caviar) came by compliments of the chef. 

tasting notes:

  • flatbread cracker adds nice crunch
  • creme fraiche adds subtle tartness
  • onions add bite

rating:  3.5

 

 

 

 

Canape 1 - Oyster

 
First course on the menu was a round of canapes.  The first of the three canapes offered was an Oyster…

tasting notes:

  • meaty
  • briny
  • smooth
  • dill/grass adds pungent flavor, in a good way

rating:  4

 

 

 

 

Canape 2 - Parsnip

 The second of the three canapes offered was a Parsnip Puree with Parsnip Foam topped with a Parsnip Chip…

tasting notes:

  • salmon roe adds POP! POP! POP!
  • parsnip adds subtle sweetness
  • egg yolk layer adds congealed texture (I’m not a fan of eggs)
  • parsnip chip adds crunch

rating:  3

  •  

 

 

 

Canape 3 - Radish

 
The third of the three canapes offered was a Radish…

tasting notes:

  • crunch, crunch
  • that radish aftertaste (very strong)
  • nasturtium honey adds subtle sweetness

rating:  2.5

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Spot Prawn

 
Second course on the menu was Wild Spot Prawn, where the tail was cold sashimi style and the head was flash fried hot.  Although the entire prawn is edible (head to tail), I had to abstain from eating the head as I am allergic to shrimp shells….

tasting notes:

  • crunchy yet gelatinous
  • clean, fresh
  • yellow tomato granita and gelee add subtle required acidity

rating:  3.5

 

 

 

 

Brassicas

 
Third course on the menu was Brassicas, which consisted of dehydrated brassicas (savoy cabbage, spinach, broccoli rabe) reconstituted with a bonito broth.  The entire brassicas ingredients are used; if not seen in the dish, the brassicas stems and such were used in the bonito broth…

tasting notes:

  • inherent brassicas/broccoli flavor
  • toasted crunch from barley, faro, and still-dehydrated brassicas

    savory bonito broth melds the dish together

rating:  4.5

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Crustaceans

The fourth course on the menu offered sea urchin and crab in a crustacean broth with Meyer lemon foam…

 tasting notes:

  • sea urchin has smooth texture
  • crab has shredded texture
  • crustacean broth is a bit oily, but has good seafood flavor
  • tarragon went unnoticed thankfully (I hate tarragon)

rating:  4

 

  

 

Pasternack's Rabbit

 
The fifth course on the menu was that dreaded rabbit dish.  To my surprise, the rabbit texture was not rubbery at all.  Great thanks to Chef Skenes for finally changing my mind on what rabbits have to offer!  Funny enough, this dish is topped with the dandelion greens, chervil, and other leafage that was offered to the rabbit before it was killed…
 

tasting notes:

succulent rabbit, in two forms

savory rabbit jus

barely overcooked peas add freshness

rating:  5

 

 

 

Lou Bergier Pichin

 
The sixth course on the menu was a soft cow’s milk cheese wrapped in brioche and coated in honey…

tasting notes:

  • creamy brie-like cheese
  • sweet brioche
  • sticky honeycomb adds more sweetness

rating:  6

 

 

 

 

 

Preserve Lemon 1:7

 The seventh course on the menu was lemon probably done seven ways…

tasting notes:

  • creamy lemon custard is a bit salty in some spots
  • lemon gelee and lemon foam add more lemon flavor
  • chrysanthemum adds slightly grassy flavor (unwanted)
  • missing something…

rating:  4

 

 

 

 

Milk Chocolate

 The eighth course on the menu was a milk chocolate dessert.  This probably won’t be a fair review as I personally hate milk chocolate…

tasting notes:

  • chocolate
  • salty
  • RYE wafers?  WHY?!!??  Blah!

rating:  1

 

 

 

 

Popcorn Ice Cream

 Though not on the official set menu, the last dessert was a scoop of popcorn ice cream…

tasting notes:

  • popcorn flavor
  • ice cream
  • not much else to say

rating:  3.5

 

 

 

 

 

Note:  ratings are given on a range from 0 – 6,

where 0 indicates God Awful — 3 indicates Humanly Mundane — 6 indicates Deliciously Evil

Succulent

Farm to table South American restaurant El Arbol in Austin, Texas blew me away this past weekend. It has been awhile since I’ve experienced a meal where EVERY dish was amazing and El Arbol’s Chef Chad Dolezal manages to do just that. Not only did each dish have the perfect degree of tenderness, the flavors were superb. The oak wood grill is evident in the flavor of each dish and brings a smoky tinge to each dish. This is definitely on my list of places to return when back in Austin!

The Pulpo a la Parrilla had the perfect tenderness and managed to avoid the pitfalls of having a rubbery texture that is so often found with octopus. It was quite delicious with just a hint of spicy. The Pulpo sat upon a crunchy slice of  charred fennel and a slice of soft potato amidst a tasty salmorra (a smoky tomato and garlic sauce).

Pulpo a la Parrilla

Pulpo a la Parrilla: Oak grilled octopus, charred fennel, roasted potato, salmorra.

 

This was my first time experiencing Anticucho de Corazón, beef heart, and I was beyond impressed by the tenderness and smoky flavors. Dipping the thinly sliced beef in the tangy balsamic vinegar and with a piece of the caramelized red onion led to the perfect bite which was just awesome goodness dancing in my mouth. It tasted best when straight off the grill, but I was pleasantly surprised that the flavors still remained as tasty even after it cooled down.

Anticucho de Corazon

Anticucho de Corazón: Oak grilled beef heart, red onion, balsamic reduction, chili oil.

 

Whomever discovered that fish and chorizo taste amazing together needs a Nobel prize! Mero con Patatas a la Riojana, a crispy grouper that was perfectly flaky and juicy with a blue-cheese type sauce atop it which melted into the fish itself. The potato and chorizo combination was spicy and crunchy, like it had been cooked in a cast iron skillet and then scraped out to provide that perfect crust.

Mero con Patatas a la Riojana

Mero con Patatas a la Riojana: Grilled gulf grouper, potato, spanish chorizo, pickled fennel, fava.

 

The fat on the Falda de Cerdo is caramelized goodness and in combination with the tender meat and sweet reduction, led to very satisfactory melting of flavors in my mouth. The risotto had nice earthy flavors that complemented the pork belly well.

Falda de Cerdo

Falda de Cerdo: Braised richardson farms pork belly, membrillo compote, sweet potato risotto, baby arugula.

 

The rare grilled Ojo de Bife was just an absolutely amazingly tender piece of meat which had a smoky savory flavor in combination with the chimichurri sauce . And just plain big.

Ojo de Bife

Ojo de Bife: 14oz eye of rib eye, USDA prime, aged 40 days.

 

Even the Repollitos de Bruselas where tasty! Tasty and crispy brussel sprouts with a hint of lemon. The burnt leaves were my favorite.

Repollitos de Bruselas

Repollitos de Bruselas: Fried brussel sprout, lemon juice, aioli.

Sublime

The French Laundry, Chef’s Tasting Menu, 3 July 2010

The proverbial French Laundry clip

Salmon Cornets

Cauliflower “Panna Cotta”

Moulard Duck “Foie Gras Au Torchon”

Tartare of Japanese Bluefin Tuna

"Pinces De Homard Pochées Au Beurre Doux"

All Day-Braised Salmon Creek Farms Pork Belly

Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Saddle

"Pecorino Crosta Nera"

Royal Blenheim Apricot Sorbet

"Pane Di Ricotta Alla Griglia"

Peanut Butter and Jelly Tart

Mignardises

Mignardises

Ravishing

Cádiz – El Aljibe

Foie de oca y pato con mermelada de tomate

Foie de oca