We had a really wonderful evening here on the 2nd night of our' fab. Cal. foodie vaca.'
We also learned that evening that the owners (the talented Bay Bread consortium) have sold Cortez to a loyal customer/restauranteur who plans to keep his talented chef, menu, et al.( They also recently sold their Chez Nous; citing a wish to focus on La Boulangerie and their other bakeries)
First of all, i just LOVE the room. Pat Kuleto again. Its a warm nod to Piet Mondrian with its black framing and modular wall squares of primary reds, blues, etc. and its enchanting hanging lamps like opalescent Mondrian salmon eggs . (I think Kuleto might just have a thing with ceiling lights and eggs; Postrio people will tell you that the fascinating ceiling lamps there are supposed to suggest giant ovaries.). Lighting is low; it's a long narrow room with a comfortable room- length banquette and one row of tables down the middle. The open kitchen is in the back of the room. It's a very civilized space ; diners appear very upscale (like the prices) and crazy- loud it is not.
Presentation is artistic ; some portions are a bit on the 'oh my Precious' side, but there are many interesting flirt-tastes and unusual components, and it's all built on a solid French foundation.Prices are reasonable: small plates are mostly in the low $teens; entrees are $25- $29.
Hamachi Daily Chef's Crudo
Foie gras in a jar with Kumquat marmalade and country levain [FINALLY a chef who recognizes that brioche is far too rich to accompany foie gras (like whipped cream on ice cream)]
Farro (done risotto style) with grilled baby leeks and honey glazed garlic ( my fav. dish of the dinner) [* Ubuntu had nothing that even came close to the success of this plate*]
Citrus baked Sablefish(Black Cod) with black trumpet ragout and ginger bonito froth
Fennel glazed Duck breast with caramelized anise puree and ginger
Seared Japanese octopus and scallops with Lemon Artichoke Puree
Green Olive Ice Cream
The revelation of the evening was the Black Garlic cloves that punctuated the Chef's Crudo. It was so sweet and soft and rich and tasted like it had been aged in balsamic, but in fact it is a special low heat/long time prep. involving nothing but the garlic.
Chef Seth had an amazingly generous spirit; explaining and sharing info on many of the dishes.
Service was near perfect. Our friendly knowledgeable waitress was attentive but not fawning.
We arrived and departed with a glow. It might even have been opalescent......