I was in S.F. this weekend for a wedding that conveniently took place on Friday. That left us a prime Saturday night dinner to fend for. We had the concierge call and were able to get a reservation for four at Chez Panisse. Will wonders never cease...
We were with two friends who live in New York, food lovers both, one of whom works in the food biz.
Seated promptly, gracious service throughout, (dare I say PROFESSIONAL service, excellent moderately priced wine selections paired perfectly with our meal. Our waitress was very knowledgeable about wine and when she heard we loved burgandies she steered us away from the original pairing to a perfect match for palette and food.
For the record, the wine list is no longer strictly French.
Aperitif: a little dry prosecco with lemon peel
The lemon peel made a big difference.
Salad: raw porcini mushrooms, shaved white asparagus, excellent reggiano, and a little parsley. Served with a marinated anchovy on a crisp toast.
Divine. The best salad I have had in years. Delicate. Flavorful. Perfection. Everyone was in awe. Nothing else in the meal came close to this.
Pasta: Fava bean ravioli in a light mint sauce.
Very light, pleasant, delicate pasta. A few sturdy unmashed beans in the filling.
Main course: cured duck with juniper berries, spring potatoes
Very nice. A small portion of a braised duck leg which had been expertly crisped, plus a breast which was served more towards medium. Deeply flavorful duck, a sauce a little too close to goo. I haven't had duck breast this well done in a while and I quite enjoyed it. I might cook mine more in the future.
Buckwheat crepes (misspelled on the menu) with sautéed fresh sweet cherries and a little lemon cream.
Again, very light, deeply comforting. The buckwheat crepes were a nice change, much earthier than regular flour.
The bill for four with tip (service charge is set) was $500. The pre fix was $75. We all agreed that we felt like we got a great meal for the price.
As it happens our New York friend was less impressed. She had expected to dine with the culinary gods and felt (with the exception of the salad) that it was all just very good.
Personally, I don't think that dining with the gods is the point of Chez Panisse. And if I lived in San Francisco, I would wait an hour in line to get the Monday menu.