|Toque of San Francisco Fall 2008
Carol & Joe Davis
San Francisco’s Dining Scene continues to grow and evolve and the perfect example is the newly opened Urban Tavern. This “Gastropub’s” décor is stylish and casual with comfortable booths, cushions with a modern edgy flair, huge mirrors on the walls which make the room more expansive, a communal table and a lovely marble bar. There is also a dramatic Horse Sculpture by Arizona artist Doug Owen which has been appropriately named Urban. Chef Laurent Manrique, Chris Condy and Donna Scala created this restaurant which features Mediterranean Cuisine. The Executive Chef is Patrick Kehler. He was trained at the CIA in NY and was chef de cuisine at Aqua for many years. We spoke to Patrick who told us how excited he was about this new challenge. He radiated enthusiasm about his passion of being a chef!
We started our dining experience with a refreshing Urban Tavern Signature Cocktail. The Summer Mellon Cocktail made with Skyy Vodka, honeydew melon, cucumber, lime, sugar and basil, helped us settle in. We perused the menu and ordered some appetizers. We loved the Cazuela which is clams, chorizo, fingerling potatoes and Piquillo Peppers. The spice from the Chorizo perfectly complimented the clams with just the right amount of spice and it was really tasty! Next, we had the Duck Prosciutto with melon, endive and pink peppercorn vinaigrette which was thinly sliced and delicious. Another fabulous appetizer is the Marinated Calamari with salted watermelon, tomatoes and herb vinaigrette. It was unique sweet and salty, very fascinating. You must have the Cold Tomato Crab Soup. It was served with a generous portion of fresh crab and was better than any spicy gazpacho you’ve ever had. The entrees were just as fabulous as the appetizers. We loved the Beef Daube Catalane Casserole. The beef was tender, delicious and juicy. The Halibut was another excellent entrée. It was marinated and seasoned with olive oil and came with our choice of a Lime and Herb Mousseline Sauce. All the sides came in casserole dishes as well. We loved the Spinach Parmesan Gratin, the Mushrooms with garlic and herbs as well as the very creamy Mashed Potatoes.
Pierre Johansson helped us by pairing wines with our starter and entrée courses. We enjoyed the 2006 Sanford and Benedict Vineyard, Clendenen Santa Maria Riesling which was perfect with the appetizers and the 2004 Cafaro Napa Valley Merlot which was rich in color, flavorful, and heartier than most Merlots and perfect with the beef. The desserts are all oversized and perfect for sharing. We loved the Brioche Perdues with roasted fruit and crème fraiche as well as the Peach Melba with poached peaches, almonds vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. Espresso was the perfect finish to an excellent, well paced dinner. We left feeling that we had found our new favorite Downtown San Francisco restaurant! Urban Tavern is a perfect place for Eating, Meeting, and Drinking and is also convenient to San Francisco’s Theatre District.
There’s a new exciting Restaurant in Burlingame called Brio Restorante which serves Seasonal Italian Cuisine. It was recently opened in the historic 1917 railroad station by veteran San Francisco Restaurateur Pino Spinoso who was born in Venosa, Italy. Chef Fabio Flagiello originally from Trieste, Italy joined the team and has a wealth of culinary experience since he has lived and worked in various countries around the world. He told us that knew he wanted to be a chef by the age of 9 and was encouraged to live his dream by his supportive parents. They told him that being a chef was hard work but that if he enjoyed it, he’d do fine!
We perused the menu and ordered Prossecco Italian Sparkling wine from the Wine List which features wines from both Italy and California and settled in at our comfortable table to see what Brio Restorante had to offer. We started out our multi course dinner by sharing their tasty Signature Antipasto Plate which included salumi, grana, padano, grilled vegetables, peperonata, and bagna with a cauda dip. Next, we enjoyed fabulous Grilled Prawns with Asparagus, arugula, pears, cherry tomato, truffle percorino and white balsamic. We loved the Heirloom Tomato trio of panzanella salad, lobster ravioli and zebra green tomato gazpacho. Another excellent dish was the Seared Tuna with black sesame and poppy seed, mango salsa, arugula and infused basil oil. We really enjoyed our next course which was the House Made Pasta, a luscious Fettuccine ai Porcini e Tartufo. The Grilled Lamb Chop with honey carrot puree, frutta mustarda, broccoli raab and mashed potatoes was perfectly prepared. The desserts were excellent. We particularly enjoyed the Vanilla Pot De Crème with strawberries, Blackberries and a strawberry sauce and the Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Gelato. Espresso and Passito Di Sicilia, Nativo dessert wine were a perfect finish to a delicious dinner. Brio Restorante is a great reason to go to Burlingame from anywhere in the Bay Area.
We recently returned to dine at Pres a Vi in the Presidio as we knew that Executive Chef Kelly Degala had added entrée size main courses to the small plate menu. The restaurant and Wine Bar has a sophisticated décor, casual atmosphere and a fabulous view of the Golden Gate and the Palace of Fine Arts. We ordered wine from their extensive by the glass wine list and soon were brought too tempting house made breads which were warm and worth trying a little taste of each type. The Global Cuisine features seasonal, fresh, local and sustainable ingredients.
We started out with a delicious Beet Salad with red and yellow beets, baby arugula, Cypress Grove “Bermuda Triangle” chevre and excellent sherry vinaigrette. Next, we enjoyed the soup of the day which was a delicious Sweet Corn Bisque. A favorite appetizer that was just as good as on our previous visit was the steamed Duck Buns with Peking duck confit, hoisin, watercress and cilantro. The Monterey Calamari which is sautéed with fresh artichokes, lime garlic Toy tomatoes is served in a luscious sauce and is another favorite of regular diners! There is a good reason that they added larger Main Courses, as we loved both of our Entrees. The Grilled Grass Fed Rib Eye Steak was a delicious Herb marinated Uruguayan 10 oz. rib eye served with fingerling potatoes, cippollini onions, Villa Manodori cherry balsamic and dolce gorgonzola. It was incredibly tender and delicious. The Joullian Carmel Valley 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon paired perfectly. We also loved the Hawaiian Mahi Mahi entrée which was served with baby bok choy, Hawaiian hearts of palm, Thai red curry sauce, papaya mint relish and sweet basil. The sauce was very spicy just like we like it. The Desserts were also delicious. With our espresso we enjoyed the Chocolate Cherry Brioche Tart. It was a divinely decadent custard soaked brioche with marshmallow, earl grey tea ice cream and English toffee. Pres a Vi just keeps getting better and better!
Pres a Vi
We were pleased to be invited to and attend Momo’s 10th Anniversary Party which was a Thank You to all of their loyal customers and showcased their food and updated décor.
As we entered, we were warmly greeted by Restaurateur/Chef Peter Osborne who was as gracious as ever. We could tell that he is extremely proud of his accomplishment. He took a chance on the South Beach- Ball Park neighborhood before it was developed and his efforts have paid off. We’ve dined there many times over the past ten years and have found the American Cuisine and service to be consistently excellent! The Cocktails and Champagne were abundant at the party as was a fabulous buffet. We loved all of the food which included Momo’s Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders, Hickory Smoked Baby Back Ribs, Jumbo Prawns, Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Pizza, Idaho smoked trout and much more. Congratulations to Momo’s!!!
We’ve always liked going to the quaint neighborhood known as Potrero Hill and recently found a small intimate restaurant that we really enjoyed called Baraka. Executive Chef Chad Newton serves Mediterranean Cuisine with California sensibilities using locally sourced and seasonally fresh ingredients for his creative and adventurous menu. We started our dining experience by ordering a bottle of Pellegrino and some interesting wines by the glass from their wine list including Segura Viudas Brut Reservea Cava from Spain which was an excellent sparkling wine and 2004 Provence Merlot from Napa which was big and bold.
Warm and delicious house made salted bread was soon delivered to our table and we were excited to begin our dining adventure at Baraka. The Appetizers that we loved were the Albacore Crudo with micro celery, pickled grapes, rye salt and whole grain mustard cream and the Seared Octopus which was delicious. It was pounded and marinated in wine. Next we had the Pole Bean Salad with marinated cherry tomatoes, smoked sea salt, crispy shallots and a dill crème fraiche. The beans were locally sourced from Blue House Farms in Pescadero. Our favorite Entrée was the Halibut which was slowly oven baked and came with a Fennel puree, warm tomato and bread salad, basil and romesco. This entrée inspired us to try slow baking Halibut at home which turned out almost as well as at Baraka. The Cherry Sorbet dessert from Ciao Bella was a spectacular finish to a great dinner. Baraka’s excellent cuisine is worthy of a ride to Potrero Hill. Chef Chad Newton does an excellent job and is very enthusiastic about this cuisine which shines through!
There’s a new Mexican Restaurant in Jack London Square, Oakland called Cocina Poblana where they serve Fine Mexican Cuisine. Their bar is stocked with over 280 High End Tequilas and they use 100% Agave Tequila for their house/well drinks. We loved their signature Avocado Margaritas. We spoke with Chef/Owner Lito Saldana who told us that their home style cooking was inspired by family recipes from Puebla and Jalisco.
We loved the Quesadillas Vegetarianas which consisted of two corn tortillas cut in half with Mexican and Jack Cheeses and rajas con crema served with salsa. We also loved the Camarones al Chipolte which was Chipotle and queso fresco spicy Jumbo prawns sautéed in Chardonnay garlic and mushrooms with a creamy Chipolte sauce. Save room for dessert as the Postre Pastel Tres Leches was a fabulous strawberry cake made with three milks. You’ll be glad you went to Cocina Poblana for Margaritas at the bar or dinner in the dining room!
We had heard that The Olema Farm House Restaurant had a new Seasonal menu created by Executive Chef Gary King and were interested to try it. The Starters that we really enjoyed included the fresh, local Oysters. We had all types including Hog Island Oysters served three ways , grilled with herbed garlic butter, tangy citrus Barbeque sauce and fried with tarter sauce and Marin Miyagi Oysters from the Cove Mussel Company served raw on the half shell with classic cucumber mignonette. The oysters were all fabulous. Next, we shared an order of Coconut Prawn Skewers with sweet and an excellent spicy dipping sauce and a wedge of lemon. It was interesting that the prawns tasted equally well with just the lemon as with the wonderful spicy sauce. Another must have appetizer is the Crab Quesadilla with mango salsa and mixed greens. It was delicious! Our next course was Soup and Salad. We were very impressed by both the Farm House Salad with dried cranberries which was tossed with garlic vinaigrette and the Soup of the day which was a deliciously luscious Heirloom Tomato Minestrone.
Our favorite entrée was the huge slow roasted Ranch Cut Prime Rib. It was prepared perfectly rare as ordered and served with au jus, mashed potatoes and local market vegetables which consisted of Brussels sprouts, broccoli, peppers and carrots. The creamed horseradish was a perfect compliment to this great Prime Rib dinner. Our other favorite entrée was the Niman Ranch Porterhouse Pork Chop. We loved the orange-horseradish glaze and the terrific warmed wild rice citrus salad as well as the seasonal vegetables. Save room for the Desserts as they were all fantastic. We especially loved the Chocolate Mousse Cake. It had a delicious dark chocolate cookie crust and was layered with rich chocolate mousse and topped with whipped cream and shaved chocolate. The Berry Crisp with Three Twins Organic Vanilla Ice Cream was also delicious. One of our dining assistants remarked that this was the type of dessert with its crisp topping that reminded her of one her Grandma used to make. The Bread Pudding was also fabulous. It was made with banana, blueberry and strawberry and was also served with Three Twins Organic Vanilla Ice Cream. The Wine List has a good selection of Napa Valley and Sonoma County wines to choose from. We enjoyed the Bridgeway Cabernet which paired well with the Prime Rib and Pork Chop. We had a delicious, well paced dinner and look forward to coming back soon!
The Olema Farm House Restaurant and Bar
Until we eat again…….."
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