Don't post often but read plenty of these and figured I'd drop a note for those that might appreciate it re: Winterland Restaurant that opened about 10 days ago in the spot that used to house Julia's (2101 Sutter St.). If you are looking for excellent food without the stuffy surrounding, and want some pleasant surprises, I suggest you try out Winterland.
Been twice since the opening (including the second night) and had two excellent meals. First time just two of us, second time five. The chef (i forget his name) cooked at the Flying Saucer years ago (and rumor has it that chef Albert from there helped consult on this) before he moved on to stints in NYC at Daniel and at El Bulli in Spain - if you know any of these restaurants, then you will appreciate the resume.
But onto the food. First visit included a shrimp carpaccio and "chicken wings and eel" as appetizers. The shrimp is akin to "ama-ebi" or sweet shrimp (uncooked), beatifully arranged and expertly sliced, with a bit of caviar as accent. The chicken wings were boneless pieces with a slightly grilled firmness but tender centers and were arranged between equally sized pieces of eel with a light brushing of sweet sauce on the top (but not the sushi-bar standard).
Main course for me was sweetbreads and the g-friend had a piece of cod like no other I've tasted - it just melted in your mouth and yet had a beautifully crispy grilled top.
Dessert was a "french-toast"-like cake (?) with sorbet that was exquisite.
Second visit was even better (we were slightly plaqued by slow service the first time although a group of 18 that was seated at the same time did not help I am sure). An amuse-bouche of "beet chili" which was the consistency of a light jello and included a small round of goat-cheese on the top - really refreshing and tangy. Skate wing, more chicken wings (but no eel this time), artichoke soup w/ duck confit, cuttlefish risotto w/ green pea emulsion for apps. Pork belly, ribeye steak, lamb, halibut with vanilla bean and more cod for the g-friend (she couldn't resist). I could happily write more, but I don't want to ruin the surprises for you.
Entrees are between $22 and $29, wine list is well-stocked and reasonably priced and there's a good-sized bar if you want to sit there and try a bite before diving into the seated experience (I hear the bar menu has razor clams which I am dying to try). Space is modern-ish but warm (deep reds and dark tables and chairs). Our waiter was very personable on both visits. The menu changed between my 1st and 2nd visits so I assume they are still trying to get the right mix (also, the manager told me that, in at least one case, they were not able to get ingredients to their satisfaction - my loss, as it was the frog's leg app. that I saw on my first visit and wanted to try).
Full disclosure: I know the guy that created the wine list (ex-Hayes & Vine, Silks and Bruno's - worked at Flying Saucer way back when which is his connection to the chef). His recommendations of a Terre Rouge Enigma (Rhone style wte) and Ch. de Montmirail Vacquerays (Rhone red) were spot on - both under $40.
Of course for you old-timers, the name "Winterland" may have different connotations - but I promise that this one will have your toes tapping as well.
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