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Birthday dinner at Rubicon

nja | Mar 7, 2005 01:09 PM

On Friday night I was a treated to a birthday dinner at Rubicon. It just so happened that we ended up ordering seafood and fowl. The overall impression I got is that seafood dishes at Rubicon tend to be complexly seasoned, while the fowl dishes were simply prepared to allow the meat to dominate. Perhaps this is intentional for the purposes of wine matching.

We started with glasses of Louis Roederer Champagne and a tasty amuse of salmon tartare on a cucumber slice. We also ordered the steelhead caviar ceviche, which came in a small stemless glass. The house-cured caviar was great, but the other ceviche ingredients (I recall celery and radish, but there was a lot more) didn't come together well. It was enjoyable, but I wouldn't order it again. Went well with the champagne at least.

For starters I had the Charcouterie of Duck, which was excellent. Firm pate, creamy whipped liver, and proscuitto served over cress, all delicious. Little piles of minced beats provided sweet, but not too sweet, breaks from the richness. The only downside is that the dish came with only one small toast, which was not nearly enough. Luckily Erika had given up chips for lent, so I ended up using the paper-thin fried potatoes from her dish to eat the rest of mine. The highlight of Erika's appetizer, Yellowfin Tuna, Raw & Preserved, was the cumin crème fraîche. We were both doubtful of it, but ended up greatly enjoying the cumin flavor.

For mains, I had the squab, which was simply divine. It was absolutely the best squab I've ever had, probably the best poulty I've ever eaten, and ranks within the top tier of pieces of animal flesh I have ever consumed. The tender texture, the doneness, the just above room temperature, the thin layer of fat, the crispy and gently seasoned skin were all just perfect. The dish also came with a little pile of shaved vegetables, the star being outrageously good slices of cauliflower that had soaked up the squab jus. I called the polenta on the side "polenta flavored cream," because it was really more dairy than corn. Erika's salmon was crusted with nuts and seasoned with an Indian palatte of spices. It came with whipped butternut squash. The few bites I had seemed good enough, but it just couldn't compete with the squab.

Instead of dessert we ordered a cheese plate to finish with the rest of our wine. This was an excellent selection of well-aged cheeses. I recall a Camemert-like cheese, Bleu de Gex, aged Gouda, a chevre, and Tallegio. All were good, but I was most impressed by the Tallegio. It had a dry, crunchy bloom which was so much better than the soft, almost slimy exterior I've always found in cheese stores. Our server then brought out two little sweets, a wedge of candied citrus and a tiny chocolate mousse tart.

For wine we had the Champagne and after speaking with Larry Stone, a bottle of 1998 Lafarge Volnay Clos des Chenes. The wine was a bit tannic out of the glass, but didn't take long to soften and open up. It had great body that stood up against the richness of the duck and squab. Later in the evening I had the chance to speak to Stone again. I got his advice on how long I should keep a few of the bottles in my cellar, and he gave me tips on a few Burgundies that he considers some of the best buys on the market today.

I can't say how much the total was as the final bill was hidden from my view. But the menu on their website seems up to date.

All in all, a great meal. The duck, squab, Champagne, Volnay, and conversation with Larry Stone made for a wonderful evening. I would return.

-Nick

Link: http://www.sfrubicon.com/index.html

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