Toque of San Francisco January 2011
The ever changing San Francisco dining scene continues to amaze us. Just when we thought that there were enough quality Steak Houses, Restaurateur JC Chen and Executive Chef Jeffrey Stout raise the bar by opening Alexander’s Steakhouse, which is an American steakhouse with Japanese influences. We were immediately impressed as we entered by the dramatic upscale design. There is a three-tiered dining space, exposed brick walls, wine racks, skylights, contemporary light fixtures, banquette seating, custom Japanese shoji screens, colorful floral arrangements, an exhibition kitchen and a separate bar area.
We started with some fabulous signature cocktails including their Green Dragon, which is made with Square One Cucumber Vodka, Stirrings Apple Liqueur, fresh juiced Granny Smith apples, wasabi oil and a rim of black sea salt. This cocktail was crisp, perfectly balanced and the black sea salt was definitely fun. The starters that we loved were the Beef Sashimi “Surf and Turf” with crab and the six pack Hamachi Shots with truffled Ponzu sauce, chili, avocado, frizzled ginger and cilantro greens. The variety of textures in the Hamachi Shot were very complimentary and quite flavorful. The entrees that we really enjoyed included a perfectly prepared 28 day Dry Aged Certified Angus Prime corn fed Porterhouse which came with rosemary pisou and fabulous roasted garlic and the smoked Jidori Chicken Tobanyaki which was served piping hot cooked in miso ginger sauce which had the consistency of a wonderful broth and served with amazing beets. We see why they are so proud of the dish! They also feature A5 Grade Japanese Kobe Beef, which we must try on our next visit. We must also mention the superior service, as the professional and knowledgeable wait staff was there but not there.
The international wine list is overseen by Eric Entrikin who is one of only 105 Master Sommeliers in the United States . The wines that were paired with our dinner included the 2009 Husch Mendocino Chenin Blanc, 2009 , the J Vineyards California Pinot Gris, the 2007 St. Clement Napa Valley Piping Merlot and the 2009 Maipe Andean Culture Torrontes. We enjoyed both of our desserts. The Dark Dimensions featured chocolate which was not too rich and the Tropic Thunder mango sorbet with sticky rice was excellent. Espressos and their signature Cotton Candy were the perfect finish to a great dinner. We won’t be surprised when you hear it called Alexander’sThe Great… Steakhouse! The attention to every detail was superior and we look forward to returning soon.
Yountville in the Napa Valley continues to be the center of the universe for fine dining in California . A new contender for world class wine country cuisine, Bardessono, opened in 2008 with talented veteran Executive ChefSean O’Toole and Sous Chef Roger Eggleston. They use the best fresh, sustainable, organic ingredients most of which comes from their own garden, local purveyors, and the farmers market where they go twice weekly. Bardessono is located in the center of town just one block off of Washington Street and has a 62 Room Luxury Hotel, Spa and Restaurant. The complex exudes Napa Valley charm and has also received the Platinum LEED rating for their Green Program since it is 70% solar and uses geothermal wells for heating and cooling. The entire property is non- smoking which is great for those who want to breathe clean air or are hypo allergenic.
As we entered, on this cozy rainy night, we could see that their festive Holiday lights were already up. We were escorted to our table next to the windows which gave us a view of the outdoor courtyard which has a lovely lit water pool. We appreciated that the tables were nicely spaced which made dining more private and so civilized. We started out with signature Cocktails. The Cosmopolitan made with fresh lime juice was perfectly tart which is just how we like it. We also enjoyed their Moscow Mule, which was made with Vodka, fresh ginger, mint and California sparkling wine. Both were an excellent way to settle in as we looked at the menu and listened to light jazz in the back ground. The menu offers flexibility as it is set up by categories which are Field & Forest, Ocean and Pasture & Range and features both appetizer or entrée sized portions with options for a Six Course Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings.
Sparking water and a Warm Bread Basket with Bouchon Bakery epi baguettes, Della Fattoria Petaluma organic Meyer lemon rosemary and whole wheat breads were soon at our table. Our first course consisted of Tomales Bay Oysters on the half shell, with lemon and mignonette. They tasted cold, fresh and so luscious. The La Quercia Organic Prosciutto with Ed George figs and sherry honey gastrique was also fabulous. Next, we enjoyed the Hale Farms Apple Salad with heirloom apples, Haas avocados, Orchard Farm lamb’s lettuce and Meyer lemon vinaigrette dressing which tasted very fresh and healthy. The Star Route Farm Beet Salad with burrata cheese, pistachio, argula, sherry vinegar and grilled bread was also delightful and was the best Beet salad we had to date.
Our next course was delicious Little Farm Potato Gnocchi with red kuri squash, golden chanterelle mushrooms, lardon, and parmigiano reggiano and from the White Truffle Menu the Vialone Nano which was dwarf risotto with parmigiano reggiano organico, mascarpone, white truffle, regina extra virgin olive oil. After enjoying this dish we understand why truffles are the rage. The entrees were both exceptional. The Liberty Farm Duck with Hale Farm apple, radish, Sonoma coast matsutake mushroom, artisan foie gras and cider jus was luscious. The Marin Sun Farm grass fed Beef filet was exquisite and very different from most grass fed beef. It was extremely tender with the perfect consistency. The accompaniments were also spectacular consisting of short rib stuffed artichoke, crushed little farm laratte potatoes and beef jus.
There is an extensive Wine List which features many organic, sustainable and biodynamic wines from California and around the world. We ordered wines by the glass and enjoyed the 2007 Hartwell Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from Carneros which paired perfectly with our starters and the 2006 Rocca Family Bad Boy Red from Yountville which paired perfectly with our entrees. Our desserts were both wonderful as well. The K & J Farm Pear Soup consisted of delicious Bartlett pear vanilla soup with beignets and Hill Family Farm verbena sorbet. We were also impressed by the Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with tongan vanilla caramel, carmel ice cream and fleur de sel which was served molton hot. A Blue Bottle Coffee double espresso was the perfect finish to our delicious dinner.
Bardessono Restaurant is definitely a World Class dining destination and will rightly have stars in the future! They have created elegant cuisine using artisan ingredients that made our taste buds come to life! We were delighted by the incredible freshness of the food and the simplicity with which it was prepared. The ingredients selected for each dish were extremely complimentary and never overpowered the main focus of the food. This was truly a delightful dining experience!
There are several quaint towns on the Peninsula that are perfect for shopping and dining. Menlo Park is one such town that has both upscale shops and some excellent restaurants. Left Bank Brasserie is a perfect restaurant for this stylish, yet non pretentious town. They recently brought in Executive Chef Brendy Monsada and gave him the opportunity to go beyond the standard French Bistro fare and include his own dishes that feature South of France Provencal flavors with California influences using fresh, local and sustainable ingredients. The stylish décor and upbeat atmosphere exudes lively French Brasserie. We particularly loved the large French Parisian Posters, high ceilings, stunning lighting, beautiful floor with diamond inset tiles and our comfortable booth, which was so cozy and allowed us to sit up high, There is a semi exhibition kitchen, separate Bar area with Bar Dining/Menu and a TV for sports fans. There is also a private dining room upstairs with a full view of the main dining area.
Left Bank Brasserie has both a full bar which features classic and contemporary cocktails and an extensive Wine List with French and California Wines by the glass or bottle. We enjoyed a Mes Antibes cocktail which was made with French Grey Goose vodka, pomegranate juice and lime and was quite tart and a Grey Goose Cosmopolitan which was delightful, as we perused the menu. Organic breads made with French countryside recipes by Bay Bread and Pellegrino sparkling water were soon at our table and we settled in and awaited our appetizers.
The Encornet Farcis calamari filled with house made fennel sausage, tomato savory herb sauce and fennel salad was fabulous!! We particularly loved the delicious sauce. You must have the Chicken Liver Mousse with black truffles, fruit compote, radishes, mustard, and toast points. Another excellent choice, for those who like goat cheese, is the Tart Aux Figues which is made with a thin tart crust, Redwood Hill Farm goat cheese, figs, cured ham and arugula. The Escargot En Persillade which was baked escargot in pernod garlic butter was fabulous. The Steak Tartare made with chopped natural Bassian Farms beef, capers, shallots, Dijon mustard, dressing, and a quail egg was the best we had ever tasted as the flavors of the meat came thru and were not masked! A glass of 2009 Kunde “ Magnolia Lane ”, Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc which was light and had grapefruit notes was the perfect pairing for our appetizers. We always appreciate when the wine is served a small carafe, allowing you to pour when ready and give you portion control.
The entrees were both excellent. We loved the Truite A L’Oseille which was a steamed Rainbow Trout with sorrel sauce, fennel confit, olive oil and mushrooms fricassee which was light and healthy. The Jarret D’Agneau was a fabulous braised Lamb Shank with dry lime, tumeric spice in a lentil and chickpea stew. Quite luscious! The 2007 Textbook Vineyards “Fin de Journee” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley was dense, had a deep color and paired perfectly. We ordered Double Espressos and asked for assistance choosing desserts. We were told that the Chocolate Mousse with chocolate ganache and the Profiteroles made with three cream puffs, French vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce were the most popular. We loved them both as they were not too sweet and you are able to pour your own chocolate sauce on the Profiteroles which is so wonderful!
We really enjoyed our dinner at the Left Bank Brasserie in Menlo Park . The cuisine was delicious, the décor was lovely, the service was attentive and the prices were very reasonable. We did not try some of their most popular offerings like their
Soupe A L’Oignon Gratinee, Moules Frites or Brasserie Steak Frites which will make us return soon.
Left Bank Brasserie
Berkeley is a very sophisticated dining town and new restaurants have to be better than just good to make it! When we heard that the space on 4 th Street was open again we hoped for the best because of the past turnover.
We were pleased to hear that Zut! had hired successful and accomplished Executive Chef Jim Wimborough who is a graduate of The California Culinary Academy and has great local experience. As we entered the newly renovated space, we could tell that the vibe was more welcoming than previously. We were seated in the center of the main dining room where we could see the stylish bar which has custom Cast-Glass shelves and a zinc top. The side dining room is surrounded by wonderful murals and a shade which covers the skylight to enhance the mood in the early evening. There is a small outdoor patio and a semi-exhibition kitchen with a wood fire grill and rotisserie all creating a wonderful ambience.
We ordered cocktails to start as we looked at the focused menu. As we drank our Maltese Cocktail made with Ketel One Vodka, grapefruit, lemon, mint and Ouzo and a Cosmopolitan made with fresh lime juice we made some decisions about what to taste with the help of our friendly and professional server Jed. The starters that we enjoyed included the Stuffed Local Squid with chorizo, mint, garlic and lemon spicy, the Lamb Meatballs with smashed avocado and pecorino which had an excellent tomato sauce and the Crispy Smelts with lemon and garlic. Next, we had a delicious unique Farm Egg & Sausage Pizza made with fresh mozzarella, gypsy peppers and early girl sweet tomatoes. One doesn’t normally think of eggs on pizza but here it really worked!
The Wine List features Southern European and California Wines and with our entrees we enjoyed the 2009 Longboard Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc and the 2008 Domaine Arlaud Burgundy Pinot Noir. Our entrees were both suburb! The Whole Petrale Sole with summer radish, ruby grapefruit vinaigrette and sautéed spigariello greens was one of the best fish entrees we have had all year. The Heritage Farms Pork Rotisserie with roasted mission figs, polenta and parmesan was excellent. The pork was very succulent and tender enhanced with flavors created by the rotisserie. The dessert that we really enjoyed was the silky and tasty Muscovado Pot De Crème which was a whole wheat hazelnut sable caramel with a great burnt flavor. An Espresso, Amaro Montenegro Bitters and a Carpano Antica Vermouth which were recommended by Bar Manager, Michael Petrilli, was the perfect finish to an outstanding dining experience.
Berkeley is a foodie town and to survive a restaurant must reach certain heights. Zut! has the right stuff to please with excellent cuisine made with locally sourced and sustainable ingredients, stylish décor created by local Berkeley craftsmen and artists and a friendly vibe. You may wonder the origin of the name? Zut was the beloved Dog of the original builders many years ago. If you request… they will show you his cute picture. Zut alors is also a mild French expletive. As we left we heard a train whistle in the background and all we could think of was Zut! was damn good!
Downtown Oakland ’s “Restaurant Row” is a hotspot for upscale dining. It is hard to believe that Ozumo Oakland which led the way to help revitalize this area has been open for almost two years now. This impressive and stylish restaurant features a Sushi Bar, Robata Grill, a beautiful Bar with a D.J.in the evening, and a Sake Lounge with the largest “By the Glass” Premium Sake selection in the United States. Executive Chef Yo Matsuzaki has raised the level for Japanese cuisine in the Bay Area with his creative and traditional dishes.
We started out our dinner with Voss Sparkling Water and warm Edamame Japanese style beans. Megu, our professional server, encouraged us to pair Sake with each course which sounded great and we let her make the selections for us. The first course which we always enjoy was traditional Miso Soup. Next, we tried the Hanabi which was a wonderful appetizer of Hamachi with avocado in warm garlic, jalapeno ponzu. It was cut extremely thin and had very complimentary flavors. The Masumi Arabashiri Nama Sake (unpasturized sake) paired perfectly!
Our next course was flavorful Futago “twins” Washu Flatloin beef on spinach from Snake River Farms in Idaho known for their American Kobe Beef. The Sushi and Sashimi course was fabulous as well! We particularly enjoyed the JP Saba Mackerel, Botenabi Sweet Prawns and the Sake Salmon. The white ginger, wasabi and low sodium soy sauce were all a cut above as accompaniments. The Masumi Karakuchi Kipon Sake paired perfectly.
Our next course was the Kushi Platter Robata Grill skewers which included salmon, beef, chicken, prawns and grilled corn served with sweet onion butter. The Japanese Sumi charcoals for high heat and fast cooking sealed in all the flavorful juices. The Wakatake Daiginjo Sake paired perfectly. Warm towels were a nice touch, as we relaxed and anticipated our dessert which was Dark Chocolate Fondue. The Belgian chocolate was rich and subtle, not too sweet and we loved the tasty cake and fresh fruit which included liche, raspberries and strawberries. The Toki Meki “Love at first Sight” Sake paired perfectly.
Ozumo is currently featuring a four course Prix Fixe dinner menu with multiple choices for only $35.00, Happy Hour from 4:00PM-8:00PM including specials for Golden State Warrior home games and has Valet parking in the evening. We really enjoyed our fabulous meal, the attention to detail, beautiful atmosphere and the professional friendly staff. What could be better!
Potrero Hill continues to add interesting affordable restaurants and is a fun dining destination. Papito which opened recently serves Organic Mexican Cuisine made with fresh local ingredients and was the perfect casual restaurant for dining outside on a warm San Francisco night.
We started out with their spicy Sopa Azteca which is a traditional soup made with crispy tortilla strips , avocado, guajillo pepper rings, queso fresco and crème fraiche. A squeeze of fresh lime complimented the wonderful spice. Next, we enjoyed the fresh and flavorful Tomate y Nopal heirloom tomato salad with cactus, cotija cheese, cilantro pistou and crispy red onions. The cactus was a delightful addition to this salad. Another tasty treat was the Elote Asado, which is grilled corn with Mexican mayo, homemade chili salt, lime, and queso cotija. We really loved the Papito Tacos made with La Palma corn organic tortillas. We had four different tacos including the Carne Asada grilled skirt steak made with avocado, caramelized onions, char early girl tomato salsa, salsa roja and French radish , the Carrnitas de pato duck confit carnitas with house made pickles, habanero peppers and mint, tamarind sauce , the Camaron Costeno marinated shrimp a la plancha with garlic chile de arbol, avocado, cilantro, red onions, mango pico de gallo and the Bajataco with negra modelo batter , deep fried rock cod, chipotle remoulade and purple cabbage slaw. Two Tacos per person were perfect because they are very generous and so delicious!
The wines that we enjoyed were the 2008 Vina Cartin Albarino, Rias Baixas , Spain and the 2007 R & B Sauvignon Blanc, North Coast We ended our meal with fabulous Churros with chocolate sauce and Espresso.
Papito is a fun, friendly, casual restaurant that is very reasonably priced where you can enjoy fresh, tasty Mexican cuisine and enjoy outdoor dining.
It was a warm October Saturday night and The San Francisco Giants were in the process of winning the 2010 World Series. Even though they had just lost to Texas , we decided to go out to dinner and took a short ten minute drive down Lakeville Highway to Papa’s Taverna which is on the shores of the Petaluma River in Gilardi’s Marina . We recently met the new owners, Glynnis and Theodoros “Ted” Papageorgacopoulos, and sampled their traditional Moussaka at “The Taste of Petaluma” and were looking forward to trying more of their Authentic Greek Cuisine and enjoying the Greek entertainment. You can order from the full menu in either their main dining room which overlooks the Petaluma River or the Bar/Dining Room which is where the musicians and dancers perform on weekends. We opted to dine where we could enjoy the entertainment which included Live Greek Music played by Yanni and Yorgo. Glynnis sang a number of beautiful songs in Greek and has a lovely voice. Ted also played the piano and the evening would not be authentic without Belly Dancing by Lula.
We started our evening by ordering Specialty Cocktails. You must have their fabulous Greek Bomb made with Metaxa Ouzo which will get you in the mood to dine and dance! We decided to try a few appetizers and found them all to be delicious and authentic. The Octopus was fabulous, the Dolmas which are rolled grape leaves filled with rice and spices were tasty and the lightly breaded Fried Calamari was excellent. We also enjoyed The 3 Dips which were Tzatkis (cucumber), Skordalia (potato) and Hummus which came with freshly made Pita bread. Next, we had the large Zorba’s Salad made with iceberg lettuce, feta dressing and olives.
The entrees were all quite hearty portions. We particularly enjoyed the Lamb Shank which was served with fabulous rice and seasonal vegetables. We also enjoyed both Pastitsio, Greek Lasagna with noodles and fabulous spices and Moussaka, Greek Vegetable and Meat Lasagna. Pinot Grigio and IPA Beer were the perfect drinks to go with our meals. Joanna Tsamoudakis, our delightful server, suggested two traditional Greek desserts, Bougatsa and Baklava. Bougatsa is warm custard rolled in philo dough and takes ten minutes to prepare, so we ordered it right after our entrees. It was amazing! Baklava is always a treat.
We really enjoyed our evening at Papa’s Taverna. The Greek cuisine was authentic and tasty. The Ouzo got us in the mood for fun. The entertainment and Belly Dancing were delightful and very sweet. We felt like we were transported to Greece with Nia Vardolos in one of her movies “My Life in Ruins” where we were recapturing our Kefi (Greek for Mojo) and found that dancing was the best therapy. Papa’s Taverna makes you feel like you are at a Greek family wedding and you will find yourself Dancing and saying Opa!
Open for Lunch & Dinner
We realized that it was the celebration of Mexican Independence Bicentennial on September 16th and thought it would be appropriate to dine at a Mexican Restaurant! Recently, while we were at Blackhawk Plaza we noticed a new Mexican Restaurant COA and decided to try it. It was a warm evening and the atmosphere was quite festive in the dining room, bar area and on the patio. We were seated in the center of the main dining room with a view of the patio and water feature which runs through the plaza. The staff was very friendly and we started with signature Margaritas, as we perused the menu. We enjoyed the Casa Noble “Single Barrel” Martini made with COA’s signature tequila, lime and agave, and the Cadillac Margarita made with corazon reposado tequila, lime, agave nectar and Grand Marnier as well as the Anejo Margarita made with pueblo viejo anejo tequila, fresh lime and agave nectar.
We enjoyed sampling the appetizers and our favorites were the Spicy Ahi Tostaditas made with fresh Ahi tuna, serrano, and chipotle peppers, avocado, and mango vinaigrette and the Carnitas Quesadilla made with smoked cheddar cheese, pickled onions, and avocado-tomatillo puree. The steaming Fajitas had tasty Tequila Marinated Mexican White Shrimp, New Mexico Chicken Breast, sautéed peppers, nopales, tomatoes, red onions, portabella mushrooms and was served with Mexican rice, frijoles charros, warm flour tortillas, salsa fresca and sour cream .Our entrees were equally tasty. The Pork Chili Verde was excellent and was made with very tender braised pork shoulder, salsa verde, nopales, poblanos and cilantro pesto rice. The delicious Rock Shrimp Chili Relleno is a large corn meal crusted fire roasted poblano chili with shrimp and Mexican cheeses. The Chili Relleno remained very fresh with the corm meal crust unlike the traditional style which can become too moist.
We loved our desserts. The Pastel de Tres Leches is yellow sponge cake layered with rum, tres leches, fresh strawberry mousse and lemon jelly. It was very light with amazing flavors…quite a treat! We also recommend the House Made Churros which are made to order and served warm with rum scented horchata and salted cajeta anglaise sauce. If you can’t finish them you can always take some home for breakfast. They are also a must!
COA is a great choice for Mexican cuisine and they also have a full bar featuring a great selection of 100% Blue Agave Tequila including Blanco, Reposado, Anejo and Extra Anjo Tequilas. It’s lovely in the evening at Blackhawk Plaza with the lake setting and the ducks. It’s also a nice spot for lunch. Viva Mexico and Viva COA!
We must mention a few other fine and fun dining experiences we enjoyed this fall.
We dined at Momo’s which is right across the street from A T & T Park www.Momos.com where we watched the first game of the World Series. It was a fabulous time as the Giants won and the crowd was thrilled! We enjoyed excellent Oysters Rockefeller made with apple wood bacon, spinach and Pernod, delicious Momo’s Louis Salad with Dungeness Crab, a tasty Apple Tart Tatin with vanilla bean ice cream and warm caramel sauce for dessert. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc paired perfectly with our food.
McCormick and Kuleto’s www.McCormickandSchmicks.com in historic Ghirardelli Square was our choice for Thanksgiving Day Dinner. We always love the food, fantastic San Francisco Bay view and friendly staff as well as the comfy booths on the second level. We felt right at home there and started with fresh, chilled Humboldt Bay Kumamoto Oysters. Our main course was their very reasonable $18.95 Turkey Dinner. The juicy white meat turkey dried cranberry and sweet Italian Stuffing, fresh vegetables pan gravy, and cranberry sauce was delicious and quite filling. For dessert we enjoyed their tasty traditional Pumpkin Pie. Morgan Sauvignon Blanc paired perfectly with our excellent dinner. We were surprised to learn that not everyone eats turkey, as only 30% of the meals they serve on Thanksgiving are Turkey dinners.
Earlier in the year we had a fabulous dinner at Skool www.Skoolsf.com and were glad to hear that they were now serving Brunch and knew we needed to go back to Skool! A spicy Yukari Bloody May with red shiso spiced tomato juice, Russian Standard Vodka, garnished with a celery stick, pickled shisito pepper and a kelp salted rim was the perfect Brunch beverage. The Chef’s Choice, Shigoku, Wilapa Bay and Washington Oysters, was a great way to get started. Next, we had their delicious Fennel Marinated Scottish Salmon appetizer with cucumber, Ikura roe, micro greens, crème fraiche and mint oil. We also enjoyed the piping hot Carrot Soup. Our main courses were both excellent. The wonderful French Toast which consisted of sliced brioche bread with blueberry mascarpone, syrup and fresh fruit was light and luscious, yet not too rich. The Crab Benedict made with Dungeness Crab, living Upland Cress, Yuzu whole grain mustard, poached free range egg and Yuzu hollandaise sauce was also fabulous! The dessert that we enjoyed with our Illy double espressos was their Espresso Panna Cotta which was served with chocolate ginger espresso sauce. We will have to come back again soon, as we noticed that they have Detention Hall Happy Hour. We guess it pays to be bad!
We know that they allegedly hate critics and we run the risk of being outed but we must say that Max’s Diner in downtown Oakland www.maxsworld.com has the Best Matzo Ball Soup in the Bay Area. The 10 th Ann ual San Francisco Dine About Town is scheduled for January 15 th-31 st , 2011. www.onlyinSanFrancisco.com
Happy New Year to all!!
Until we eat again…………
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