Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco Restaurants’

Quince Restaurant, San Francisco

Posted 11 May 2011 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

Michael Tusk is an experienced professional chef who, for a multitude of reasons, deserves the James Beard award he won two nights ago (best chef Pacific). Perhaps it’s the Italian inspired menu at Quince or the tremendous wine offerings or the outstanding décor and artwork in the restaurant or the well-heeled staff that gracefully provides service or the cool-cat bartenders who are quick with a joke and loose with a pour. To me all these aspects of Quince make it worthy of the accolades but the key inspiration is chef Tusk and his food.

I am sitting at the very end of the bar at Quince contemplating whether to grab a table and settle in or have a few courses and then head out into the sea of fantastic restaurants that make San Francisco such an outrageous food city. One of the bartenders senses my indecision and suggests that I take on a five course tasting menu and a flight of wines right at the bar. Good idea, I am not in the mood to sit at a table, nor in the mood to wander off into the Jackson Square neighborhood where Quince is located. My bartender is a real pro and our conversation continues comfortably.

The kitchen at Quince is located right up against the street in a two storey glass storefront. At night the kitchen radiates light and bustles with activity. Cooks in dark blue bibbed aprons work facing the street just on the other side of the glass. Chef Tusk stands at the far side of the hot kitchens island suite, back to the street expediting. Work in this kitchen flows smoothly.

My five course menu includes turbot, pasta with sea urchin roe, lobster with sun-choke and Dungeness crab. Tusk is known for his inventive pasta preparations and his heavy Italian influence. His menu is extremely seasonal and local and not overly modernistic in technique. While observing the kitchen from the  curb I noticed lots of old-school copper in use, traditional techniques being executed, and plenty of olive oil and butter being used. Chef Tusk’s time with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse comes through in his cooking. He handles seafood adeptly and my culinary experience is excellent.


Twice Baked Dungeness Crab and Oyster Souffle, Salsify and Red Endive Salad


Caramelle of Lobster and Sunchoke


Mancini Artisan Spaghetti, Sea Urchin, Fennel and Controne Chile


Turbot, Stuffed Artichoke, Artichoke Puree, Carrot and Red Onion


Meyer Lemon Tartlet, Meringue, Confit and Caramel


Financier, Chocolate, Blood Orange Gelee

470 Pacific Ave.

San Francisco, CA 94133

The Slanted Door, San Francisco

Posted 23 Apr 2011 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

It’s lunch-time at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and The Slanted Door is jamming. As a professional chef, I love a busy well run restaurant and Slanted Door is a perfect case study. I arrive without a reservation curious about the culinary arts offered and am escorted to the bar and given a perfect seat from which to view the entire restaurant. Servers are on the run, the bar is packed, and everyone is eating. The Slanted Door is pulsating with energy and I can see everything.

The wall of glass that serves as the north-east facing side of the restaurant looks out over the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. It is a beautiful sunny day and the telephone operator who sits just opposite the window at a booth by the main entrance is constantly busy taking calls while the host at the front door steadily seats arriving guests. Boy, this place is busy. At one table of four there’s a group of “business types” in suits wrapping up a late lunch. Two tables over there’s a group of three moms and kids in carriages deep in discussion and multiple two-tops with couples of all types scattered about.

The bartender approaches, I order an Anchor Porter and the Uni appetizer to get things started. She smiles and floats away returning with my cold beer and a glass just a few seconds later. Service is crisp, friendly, and professional. This is a big restaurant in a fantastic location. There are roughly 150 seats in the main dining room plus additional seating at the bar and patio. What a perfect size for a successful restaurant.  Slanted Door must be a gold-mine.

Chef Charles Phan, the mind behind The Slanted Door’s modern Vietnamese cuisine, owns several other restaurants in San Francisco. Phan was recognized as a James Beard Award Outstanding Chef finalist in 2010 and is a semi-finalist for the same award this year. His approach to Vietnamese flavors with an American sensibility paired with pristine ingredients and a knack for simple, homes style presentations has allowed his reputation in the bay area to grow along with his business fortunes.

The Uni arrives and my mouth starts to water. Fresh from the Monterey bay, the bright orange roe is sushi fresh with a sweet lightly salty aroma. I can’t wait for the first bite.


Wild California Uni with Avocado, Cucumber, and Black Tobiko Roe.

Absolutely perfect, Sushi fresh, rich and sweet with a wonderful complimentary fattiness from the avocado, a crisp snap from the cucumber and a well composed contrast in color and flavor from the granular and salty Tobiko roe.


 Wood Oven Roasted Manila Clams with Thai Basil, Crispy Pork Belly and Fresh Chilies

 Excellent flavor, the Clams are perfectly cooked and served steaming hot in an earthenware dish. The Pork belly is crisp but would have been better if it was braised or cooked sous vide prior to crisping (it wasn’t cooked to the point of falling apart like I prefer).


Caramelized Catfish Claypot with Cilantro, Ginger and Thai Chilies

Although this dish doesn’t look as nice as the others, it was fantastic. Catfish and Basa are key fish species in Vietnam and Phan handles this dish masterfully. He uses skin-on catfish steaks in this dish and steams them with the cilantro, ginger, chilies.

Grass Fed Anderson Ranch Lamb Sirloin with Spring Onions and Red Chilies

When I ordered this item, I thought that the Lamb Sirloin would come out whole in a 3-5 ounce portion but the lamb was cut into strips and stir-fried instead. It was a very good dish but not as nice as the catfish.

The Slanted Door

1 Ferry Building #3

San Francisco, CA 94111   

tel 415.861.8032

RN74 San Francisco: The Michael Mina Restaurant Empire

Posted 19 Mar 2011 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

In 2010 RN74 received a “Best New Restaurant” nomination from the James Beard foundation in 2010. I had an opportunity to join three friends at the restaurant for a dinner recently and we had a fantastic experience. The restaurant is hip with a dynamic and good looking clientele and I love the large railway station sign used to market wine and wine prices at the end of the large dining room.

Michael Mina’s RN74has received reviews that range from average to exceptional since opening in 2009. This year Gayot named Mina the 2011 best restaurateur in the USA. With 18 restaurants and a team of corporate chefs and executives, Mina is truly a restaurateur and entrepreneur and an emerging foodservice powerhouse. I predict that 2011 will be a year of growth and expansion of Mina and many in the foodservice industry are aware the he plans to leverage RN74 as a growth concept in major metropolitan markets in the US with the second unit opening in Seattle this month.

We dined at RN74 to investigate the food, service and wine ( a major attraction at RN74).  The food was outstanding with several items rising to the level of sublime. As the name indicates RN74 is a wine focused restaurant. RN74 refers to Route Nationale 74 (route des grand crus), the main roadway that runs through Burgundy France. The name carries a theme that fits the restaurant and its personnel well. Chef Jason Berthold is a wine lover, has studied wine making while working at the French Laundry in Yountville California and is the ideal chef for the concept. His food is thoughtful, well executed, simple and delicious.

#1 Foie Gras Pavee with Avocado, Huckelberry, Pickled Onion and Brioche

Berthold created a fantastic starter in this item. The Foie Gras mousse is absolutely perfect. It’s light, rich and clean in flavor. The mouth-feel is creamy smooth and full of great foie gras flavor. He tops the mousse with a delicious duck gelee that melts in your mouth and offers an explosion of savory flavor. I wouldn’t have thought of serving this with an avocado mousse since the foie gras is itself so rich and creamy but the addition of the avocado  (which is slightly acidic) is perfect. Add the pickled onions for deeper acidity and the huckleberry compote for sweetness and the whole dish comes together like a well written symphony. Berthold finishes the dish with a generous halved slice of toasted brioche. By the way, Berthold is serving some serious bread at RN74. The brioche was inspiring and the sourdough absolutely perfect.

#2 Sauteed Sea Scallop, Kumquats, Salted Almond, Winter Radish, Saffron Croquette, and Petit Lettuces

This entrée portion was a bit large as a second course but I am on a seafood kick and loved the presentation and always order scallops when they are offered. These sushi grade scallops were seared perfectly and rare in the middle. When Kumquats are served, I worry that they will overpower and ruin a dish but these were thinly sliced and offered a subtle, citrusy bitterness that enhanced and offset the sweetness of the scallops nicely.


 #3 Loup de Mer et Cochon , Pork Cheek Ragout, Glazed Pork Belly, Lentils DePuy, Melted Leeks and Madras Curry

I love the idea of serving sea bass with pork and this is a wonderful interpretation. The sea bass fillets are seared with the skin on and served on a bed of delicious savory lentils. A generous quenelle of melted leeks is served next to a gorgeous slab of pork belly topped with a browned tourne potato. The madras curry sauce (more of a pork glace scented with madras curry) is poured tableside.

#4 Bittersweet Chocolate Cream, Spiced Pears, Cocoa Nibs Streusel, Marzipan Ice Cream

After a wonderful first two courses washed with delicious Pinot Noir by Au Bon Climat “Le Bon Climat” Cuvee RN74, Santa Maria Valley 2008, a final tasting of something chocolate was in order. This dish was technical and executed well. The pears were juicy and tender. However, the best part of the dish was the cocoa nib streusel and the marzipan ice cream.

301 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
Tel: 415.543.7474


Baccalone: Tasty Salted Pig Parts

Posted 12 Feb 2011 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends, Travel


It’s close to noon time and I am running late. A light but steady delicious San Francisco rain is drizzling as I make my way down Market Street through the center of the city. My first visit here was in 1985 and it was raining that day too and each time it rains in this city I am reminded of that first wonderful trip. We made the run from Lake Tahoe in a beat up Chevy Caprice, landed in San Francisco for a series of eating experiences and, later that night, pushed south to Santa Cruz and slept in the car near the beach stomachs full and sated. I ate my way through the city for the first time then, the experience new and electric, and I plan to do it again this time. The sweet San Francisco rain comforts me and gives me life as the Ferry Building comes into view.

Chris Cosentino and Aaron Sanchez

At present, I have less than an hour to get to Chris Cosentino’s Baccalone to try some “Tasty Salted Pig Parts”. As you know from prior blog entries, I really, really love tasty salted pig parts and I love that there’s a retro garde manger movement taking hold in America. Baccalone is a manifestation of this movement as are some of the other examples I have written about like Cochon Butcher in New Orleans and il Mondo Vecchio in Denver. John Kowalski author of the new and outstanding “The Art of Charcuterie” has given further momentum to the movement and provides one of the best explanations of the production of dry, semi-dry, and fermented sausages. That a book of this quality has just been released in 2011 is further evidence of my prediction of the expansion of the art.

As these thoughts cross my mind my mouth starts to water. I have less than an hour before I have to return to the conference I am attending so I pick up the pace while traversing The Embarcadero to the Ferry building marketplace. The Ferry Building is a destination resort for food lovers. You can always tell whether you are in a city dedicated to good food by the types of markets and foodstuffs sold and this building and its farmers market is the center of gravity in San Francisco. Although the Ferry Building is packed with world class restaurants and food boutiques, what attracts me the most is that it is home to CUESA, the “Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture” and a food with integrity philosophy that more communities should mirror.  Three days per week the building comes to life as the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, a market full of certified farmers selling local farmstead products, attracts food lovers from across the city.


Inside the building, there are multiple shops and food retailers that follow a less stringent set of standards but still carry a tremendous food ethic. Baccalone is one of those shops and as I enter the building, it comes into view directly across the hall to the right of the main entrance. With a large arched storefront leading to a retail space that includes a three door curing cabinet (for those tasty pig parts), chilled case with vacuum packaged terrines, sausages, and pates, and a large display of dry cured sausages wrapped in brown paper, Baccalone has a artisan feel to it. I approach the curing cabinets and peer in. There are nearly a dozen varieties of salumi hanging at 70% humidity and several are dusted white in full bacterial bloom. I take notice of a beautiful batch of Nduja spreadable salami on display and I start to crave a taste. Another case is loaded with tasty little links of Capacollo.


To the right of the curing case there’s a large display of additional charcuterie including vacuum packed slabs of pate de Campagna and silky white chunks of Lardo. One of my favorites on display in the case is Cosentino’s Ciccioli terrine. He prepares this classic garlic and rosemary flavored terrine by braising pig parts with skin and fat and pressing them into a mold. The package on display in the store clearly shows layers of pork skin and fat bound in braised meat with natural gelatin. Next to the Ciccioli there’s a fresh Coppa di Testa head cheese and a beautiful Sanguinaccio pork blood sausage. I have to restrain myself from loading up my basket.

Retro Garde Manger

Curious about the dry cured and fermented products on display I pick out a package of Orange and Wild Fennel Salame and a Salame Pepato; dry cured salami with pepper. At the counter I also grab one of Cosentino’s famous mixed salumi cones and devour it while paying for the rest of the items I have picked out.  Time is running out now so I head for the exit smiling with delight. It was a good visit even though it was short. The staff at Baccalone was friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate. The product on display was fantastic and I plan to cut into the two Salame when I get back to my room tonight.


Mixed Saumi Cone: A daily snack!



  Orange and Wild Fennel Salame: One per package, firm, lighly sweet, mild salt and very mild orange and fennel notes.



 Salame Pepato: One per package, beautiful fermentation, great deep pork flavor with hints of pepper and spice.

Ferry Building Marketplace
Shop 21
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 433-6500