SF RNM election night party: Prix fixe menu, $30 for three courses, $26 if you have proof that you voted.
Today's review roundup includes: Tartare, Ritz-Carlton Dining Room, Olema Inn.
SF Weekly Meredith Brody reviews Tartare (550 Washington; 415-434-3100):
. . . We were led to a table for two along the banquette and began perusing the deceptively short menu. I say "deceptively" because, although there were only 18 dishes with brief descriptions, the imaginary tastings they set off in my brain -- the part that decides what I'll be eating -- were complex. The menu has four categories: "raw and rare," comprising five tartares; "naked and natural," including two carpaccios, oysters, and a salad; "simply soup," with four offerings; and "old and new," five entrees. Classic hand-cut beef tartare -- well, the mind thinks it knows what that will be, but even if you've had numerous tartares, and I have, I've never had one with habanero-infused sesame oil, plums, and mint before. King salmon tartare with house-ground banana curry? Carpaccio of opakapaka with orange oil and toasted cumin? And the "simply soups" weren't simple at all: How about a garlic parsley bisque with black mussel flan?
Olema Inn makes diners feel that that they've enjoyed a reprieve from the rigors of urban life, without sacrificing the quality of food that a city has to offer.
. . . The soup was an ethereal yet deep-flavored cream of corn, with a dusting of smoky paprika and a knot of boned pork sparerib meat, infused with ginger, in its center. The cream of corn was genius on its own, and didn't quite seem to need the chewy meat, even as an interesting textural contrast.
The tuna tartare was a fresh take on a dish that has become a cliché -- heated with peppers, cooled with mint, and sweetened with diced plums. Chester adored it, as he did the ostrich tartare, wittily served in what I thought was an exceptionally thick-walled oval soup bowl, which turned out to be an actual ostrich egg shell. The beefy meat was well served by its chunky Roquefort vinaigrette and cracked pink peppercorns: a crunchy and creamy dish.
SF Examiner Patricia Unterman reviews Ritz-Carlton Dining Room (600 Stockton St.; 415-296-7465):
Traditionally, hotel dining rooms have suffered a bad rap for overpriced, fancy but soulless institutional cooking. The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, however, is one of the best high-end restaurants in The City. Run almost like an independent -- except that it's subsidized by the hotel -- the Dining Room offers a $68 three-course menu with lots of choices, augmented by little surprises sent out by the kitchen.
Recently, after seven successful years, Sylvain Portay left the Dining Room and Ron Siegel moved over from Masa's to succeed him. Siegel became an international celebrity a few years ago by defeating the "Iron Chef" on Japanese, and then American, television. Now he offers Japanese-inspired dishes on the Dining Room menu and weaves Japanese ingredients into non-Asian dishes as well. Though you'll find plenty of western luxury items like caviar and foie gras, Siegel does some fairly austere presentations featuring Japanese luxury ingredients like coveted matsutake mushrooms and toro, the rich foie gras-like belly meat of the highest-grade yellowfin tuna.
SF Chronicle Michael Bauer revisits the Olema Inn (10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Olema; 415-663-9559):
Vigil's food is the star. The chef takes one of West Marin's most important products -- oysters -- and spotlights them with eight different toppings ($14 for eight), four raw and four cooked. They're simply some of the best around, whether you choose the Flying Fish Roe version, with a Sauvignon Blanc mignonette, fresh scallions and tobiko; a la Russe, with caviar and a cool lemon cream fraiche; Royale, with lemon bearnaise and crisp shallots; or Dizzy, with warm bacon, garlic, fennel and the crunch of warm bread crumbs.
His seasonal menu consists of four salads, five appetizers and seven large plates, including a nightly fish special such as Kajiki ($23), a line- caught marlin from Hawaii. The rich meaty medallion sits atop a blend of fresh runner beans and strings of onions, thickened with flakes of crab and surrounded by a ring of pepper sauce with the smoky nuances of a well-made romesco.
. . . Olema Inn makes diners feel that that they've enjoyed a reprieve from the rigors of urban life, without sacrificing the quality of food that a city has to offer.
SF Niman Ranch's fall Lamb Ranch Tour and picnic lunch is scheduled for Sunday, November 7th. The tour will be in Rio Vista, about an hour and half from San Francisco. They'll also be visiting California Vegetable Specialties, the "premier endive producer in the country." If you are interested in attending or would like more information, send them an email.
If you've been to SFO recently, you probably noticed that almost all the terminals are in the midst of major renovations and construction in their food service areas (part of the airport's "food and beverage upgrade program"), which means the pickings are slimmer than ever. Your best bet for pre-security checkpoint eats is the International Terminal North Food Court, conveniently located between the BART/AirTrain connection and the United domestic terminal. Some of the restaurants located in the food court include Lori's Diner, Fung Lum (Chinese), Willow Street Woodfired Pizza, and Ebisu (Japanese).
Pictured above is a bowl of kimchi ramen I recently enjoyed at Ebisu's SFO location. Ebisu's original location at 9th Avenue and Irving is one of the more popular sushi restaurants in the city, known for its fresh fish and inventive rolls. The SFO location has a small sushi bar and a full menu of your standard Japanese fare. Certainly worth considering if you're at SFO and find yourself hungry and eager for something other than your typical airport food.
1283 Ninth Avenue
Ebisu, SFO International Terminal
NYC: The NYTimes explores the dining options that will be available at the new MoMA. "The art and the food are utterly complementary," said Glenn D. Lowry, the museum's director. "The better the food, the more intense the museum experience."
NYC: You've gotta love Cynthia Kilian's Smackdown!
Per Se vs. Cafe Gray: "Cafe Gray, because patience has a limit."
Beard Papa's vs. Krispy Kreme: "Who's your sugar daddy? Beard Papa's."
Masa vs. Alain Ducasse at Essex House: "When money is no object, our money (better yet, someone else's) is on Masa."