Toque of San Francisco Spring 2008
San Francisco has some great casual and friendly neighborhood restaurants. We found one in the Lower Haight called Metro Kathmandu. They serve excellent Nepalese cuisine with an Indian influence prepared by their talented Executive Chef Vishnu Chuddar. We spoke with owner Roshan KC who told us how pleased he was with the reception they have gotten from the locals who continued to return again and again. We started by ordering the Crab Steamed Momo which is a tasty crab dumpling mixed with curry onion, garlic and ginger served with a tomato chutney.
Another fabulous dish is the Smoked Lamb which is quite spicy and is tossed with mustard oil, ginger and garlic. We loved both of our entrees. The Shrimp Masala was cooked perfectly with creamy butter tomato sauce and the Lamb Kabab was delicious grilled boneless lamb that was marinated with curry garlic and ginger. Be sure to have the Roti which is their thin whole wheat flat bread and the Dal which is mixed lentils cooked Kathmandu style. We also enjoyed our Dessert which was a satisfying Warm Carrot Cake.
There’s a new spot for fresh and raw seafood in Berkeley on Telegraph near Ashby called Maritime East. They have a full bar and we were pleased to see that they had one of our favorite cocktails the White Out which is made with Citron Vodka, Cointreau , white cranberry juice and lime. We started our dining experience by ordering from their Raw Bar. We loved the fresh Oysters especially the Fanny Bay, Marin Miyagi and Kusshi Petite. The Little Neck clams were also a treat. Next we had a pizza from their wood burning oven. It was a Shaved Bonito, Carmelized Onions and Capers Pizza. When it arrived at out table the thin sliced tuna looked as if it was dancing on top of this wonderful gourmet pizza. They also make a fabulous Dukkah Spiced Flat Bread with Maldon Sea Salt which you must try.
The Dungeness Crab Gratinee was our next delicious course which was tart and spicy with julianne black Arkansas apples , blood orange and avocado. Definitely have the Seafood Chowder with clams, mussels, fish, potato, and bacon and leek cream. It was not too rich and very tasty. For those who want something other than the fresh fish entrees try the Herb Brined Grilled Pork Chop with creamed greens, Yukon celery root gratin and quince which was very tasty. Save room for dessert as you will love the Miniature Coconut Pie.Late night diners will appreciate that Co-Owners Mark Mitcheltree and Vadim Vozmitsel serve the full menu until 1 AM on weekends .We knew the food would be good having dined at their Maritime Café in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights but our expectations were exceeded so much so that we’ve already been back and brought some friends too.
Palo Alto now has a new restaurant to serve the discerning diners on the Penninsula called Shokolaat. It was recently opened by Executive Chef/ Owner Shekoh Moossavi and Pastry Chef/ Owner Mark Ainsworth and serves Contemporary European Cuisine in a modern, sleek and inviting atmosphere. We started with one of their specialty cocktails; the Persian Fling Martini which is made with Hanger One vodka, orange blossom, and fresh squeezed lemon juice and topped with Champagne. The appetizer that we really enjoyed was a Salad of Baby Greens and Micro Herbs with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette, Maldon Sea Salt Crusted Pomegranate Pate De Fruit. It was truly wonderful. Next we had the Carmelized Scallops with a Porcini Mushroom Leek Stew which was a taste sensation. You must try their soups. We loved the Orange Scented Cauliflower Soup with Orange Blossom Caviar. The Entrees are very gourmet. We enjoyed both the Poached Lobster Ravioli and the Australian Rack of Lamb. Save room for coffee and their specialty Chocolate Plate with daily selections of their fine chocolates.
Berkeley has a new restaurant that is casual and cozy and has a small focused menu serving New American Cuisine with Mediterranean influences. It is so cute inside you feel like you are away for the weekend in Carmel or Mendocino. Chef Justin Sconce and Chef Heidi DiPippo have been chefs at other restaurants in the Bay Area and are pleased to have a restaurant of their own where they could create fresh and healthy cuisine. We were happy to see Prosecco Brut on the wine list as this Italian Sparkling Wine has supplanted Sauvignon Blanc as our drink of choice. The starter that we loved was the Charcuterie plate which included Chicken Liver Mousse, Iowa Prosciutto, House Made Bacon, Mild Coppa and Accoutrements. It was fabulous.
The Parmesan Soufflé with little gems, walnuts and beet vinaigrette was light and delicious as well. Our Entrees were equally tasty. The Braised Lamb Shoulder served with Anson Mills polenta, spinach, savory and mint bread crumbs and the Cannelloni with mushrooms, smoked Mozzarella, truffle fonduta and salsa verde were both heavenly and very gourmet. Our favorite dessert was the scrumptious Homemade Pear and Mandarin Sorbets with Pistachio Lime cookies. We truly felt we were away for the weekend in this rustic, homey restaurant that even has a fireplace in Dining room. It was fun to sit at the intimate Zinc topped bar where we could see into the kitchen. It felt like we were at a Chef’s table while enjoying a hearty and healthy dinner.
Pan Asian Cuisine is all the rage in San Francisco and we were happy to dine at a new restaurant called Unicorn in the Financial District that was opened recently by Proprietor Kiet Troung who is originally from Saigon, Vietnam. The starter that we really enjoyed was the Albino Roll with Dungeness crab meat and scallops in a fabulous Ponzu sauce. The Tuna Ceviche Salad with green mango, lotus rootlets and basil-nuoc mam salsa was delicious as well. The Entrees that we enjoyed were the Giant Sea Scallops in coconut Wasabi cream which was served with tasty asparagus spears and the Australian Lamb Chop which was very tender and had a fabulous flavor. We also loved the tasty Black Coconut rice side dish. You must have the Ginger Pear poached in Port with Cinnamon Passion fruit sorbet. This excellent dessert tasted just like fresh ginger snaps. Mr. Coffee Café Americano was the perfect finish to our delightful reasonably priced dining experience.
We love Italian Cuisine and had heard many good things about a restaurant in downtown Geyserville called Taverna Santi that we wanted to dine at. Their Executive Chef Dino Bugica spent years in Pisa, Italy honing his skills working in award wining restaurants where he learned the art of Italian cooking, butchery, wine making and charcuterie. At Taverna Santi he now creates seasonal menus using fresh and local produce and sustainable fish and meats along with his house made Pastas, Olives and Gelato. Our first course was their special Antipasti, the Affettati Nostrali which is Dino and Franco’s daily selection of house cured Salumi. The delicious Salumi included their Award Winning Gentile Salami, Lardo, Pancetta and Prosciutto which are all from corn fed pork from Mendocino’s Potter Valley.
The taste was great and the presentation was truly art. Our next course was the Pepato di Cozze which is Sautéed P. E. I. mussels with black pepper, white wine, garlic, oregano, Skipstone Ranch extra virgin olive oil and garlic crostone. The mussels were delicious and there is a fabulous broth so save some extra bread for dipping. Next we enjoyed some wine that we brought from tasting earlier in the day. Corkage is reasonable and they were very accommodating. Earlier in the day we ventured up Dry Creek Road and found the beautiful Ferrari-Camano Winery where we bought their fruity and lively Fume Blanc. It paired perfectly with the next course which was the Insulate which was a lovely Butter leaf lettuce salad with roasted local Bosc pears, Medjool dates, and Gorgonzola vinaigrette. It was truly an exquisite salad. The Primi, the pasta course was our next treat. We loved the Risotto con Granchio e Radicchio. This was a Vialone Nano risotto with Dungeness crab, rock shrimp, Rosso di Verona radicchio, chives and white wine. The risotto was delicate and the seafood was fresh and flavorful. The Entrée or Secondi as it is called that we loved was the Bistecca alla Griglia. It was a Rib-Eye steak with a mountain of gorgonzola and watercress insalatina on top and delicious garlic rosemary patate fritte. This naturally raised grass fed steak was prepared perfectly medium rare and was flavorfully a carnivores delight. The 2002 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a great choice from the wine list that will pair perfectly with this great steak. The dessert that we enjoyed was called Affogato Corretto. It consisted of warm espresso poured over vanilla gelato with sambucca infused whipped cream and was just amazing! We lingered awhile longer and had excellent espressos and cappuccinos which were the perfect finish to a great dinner. We were quite pleased with our dining experience at Taverna Santi. The Italian cuisine was excellent, the wine list was impressive, the service was professional, knowledgeable, and helpful and the décor was warm and pleasing. Proprietor Doug Swett is also planning to open another restaurant called Diavola a few doors down from Taverna Santi soon. Geyserville with its lovely vineyard setting is known as the Heart of the Wine Country and Taverna Santi with its excellent Italian Cuisine is its Soul.
The whimsical oversized teak rocking chairs on the front porch of the Valley Ford Hotel were a good indicator of the sweet and sincere hospitality that we were about to experience at Rocker Oysterfeller’s Kitchen & Saloon. Established in 1864 and recently renovated and reopened by Proprietor Shona Campbell and Proprietor / Executive Chef Brandon Guenther the hotel and restaurant/saloon have become a welcome addition to the small town of Valley Ford which is in the picturesque rolling hills of west Sonoma County. We entered through the saloon area and were warmly greeted by the hostess who escorted us to our table. The small dining room which seats about fifty is country comfortable with candles on the tables, nicely finished hardwood floors and interesting local art on the walls. Alysia who was our server soon arrived to offer us drinks and tell us about the specials. We always appreciate when a restaurant has a full bar and ordered Grey Goose Martinis to get our appetites going while we perused the menu. Warm corn and jalapeno biscuits were then brought to our table. They were so good that we asked for more.
We began our dining experience with the Daily Cheese Plate. We chose three cheeses, the Cowgirl Creamery Pierce Point., Bellwether Farms Crecenza and the Point Reyes Blue from the six available local offerings of goat, sheep and cow cheeses. They were served with quince, Bloomfield Bees Wild Honey, and candied pecans. The fresh local cheeses were all delicious and worked for us well as a starter rather than after the entrée as some prefer. Next we had the Steamed Manila Clams with white wine, garlic butter and fennel broth. The clams were fresh tasting and the broth was very aromatic and lively because of the herbs. Drakes Bay oysters were our next course. Naturally we had to have their signature oysters, the Rocker Oysterfellers which were six oysters with arugula, bacon, cream cheese and a corn bread crust. We loved this combination especially the unique crunchy texture which was a new oyster taste sensation for us. A round of Oysters on the Half Shell with lemon-honey-jalapeno mignonette was more traditional as they were raw and chilled but also tasted delicious as well.
Our next course was the Baby Arugula Salad which has local estate apple cut two ways including sliced and julienne style. The candied pecans, Point Reyes Blue Cheese and excellent dressing made it light and refreshing. We loved this salad so much that when asked to bring a salad to Christmas dinner a few days later made our version of it and got rave reviews as well. The Entrees are all large rancher size portions. Our favorite was the Seared Sea Scallops with roasted beans, parsnips, new potatoes and bacon leek dressing. The scallops were cooked perfectly and tasted fabulous. Another entrée that we loved was the Coriander Crusted Lamb Chops with sweet potato dumplings, walnuts, and brussel sprouts. The lamb was cooked pink as requested and the vegetables were superior. We also ordered one of the side dishes. We were glad that we chose the Braised Greens from their garden which added to these delicious dinners.
The Wine List features mostly small production Sonoma County Wines and has a nice selection of over a dozen wines by the glass. We enjoyed the Sparkling Alexander Valley Roederer Estates Brut NV which paired perfectly with the oysters and the 2002 Sonoma Coast Wild Hog Vista Table Mountain Valley Cabernet which paired well with the Lamb Chops. As ever we were pretty full but couldn’t resist having dessert. We enjoyed and quickly devoured both of our choices. The Honey & Pineapple upside-down cake and the Sorghum Spice Cake with candied quince and bourbon whipped cream were house made and were quite tasty. A round of Taylor Made organic French Roast Coffee was the perfect finish to a great meal.
Don’t let the whimsical name fool you. Rocker Oysterfeller’s is serious about serving the sophisticated cuisine that West Sonoma County demands. Diners who are locals, travelers, transplants from San Francisco and those with weekend homes in the area will all appreciate the quality of the fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable ingredients that are used to create the excellent hearty cuisine. As we left we went through the Saloon where we saw a sophisticated and friendly crowd both dining and drinking. It is said that when you eat oysters, sometimes you find a Pearl. We think we found one here and look forward to our next visit perhaps for Sunday Brunch or one of their Wine Maker Dinners.
New Orleans’s is definitely back as we could see from the crowds around the French Quarter on the Tuesday night before Fat Tuesday. We decided to dine at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse where we were in good company as there was a full house in both the restaurant and bar area including some local celebrities like Mayor Ray Nagin. We started out with the pan Seared Jumbo Scallops served with orange and Creole mustard aioli and frisse red onion salad which was a terrific appetizer. Next we enjoyed the fresh McIlhenny Oysters which are Masa fried P & J oysters served with Chipotle Tabasco cream sauce. Prime US Mid-Western Aged Beef Steaks with a New Orleans touch are the specialty and we had two of the best we had tasted in a long time. The Barbecue Rib Eye Steak is USDA prime 14 oz. grilled over an open flame, topped with Abita beer barbecue shrimp and finished with roasted garlic mashed potatoes served with a touch of Creole butter and was just fabulous. The other excellent steak was the House Filet 8 oz served with creamed spinach and Pontalba potatoes topped with masa flash fried Louisiana oysters and finished with béarnaise sauce. They were both cooked medium rare as ordered and had a New Orleans’ taste. It was nice that Executive Chef Jack Martinez and Owner Dickie Brennan stopped by to say hello and see if we were enjoying our dinner which of course we were. Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse is a must when you are in New Orleans.
Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse
Until we eat again…………
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