Last night four of us dined at SF's newest hot spot, Cortez. The restaurant is adjacent to the modern lobby of the Hotel Adagio and is the creation of the same group that did Chez Nous, Bay Breads, La Petit Robert, etc.
DECOR AND COCKTAILS
As the first to arrive I had time to enjoy a cocktail at the bar and take in the decor. The interior is a blend of 80's mod and refined SF. The saturn-like mobiles hanging from the ceiling were an interesting match with the brown cork-covered pillars. As a fan of Campari I jumped on the Americano cocktail, a combination of Campari, sweet vermouth, soda, and orange wedge. Another member of the group found the Mango Caipirinha drink to be quite sweet. It was a mixture of Cachaca (a type of rum), mango puree, fresh lime, and sugar.
IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Popcorn was available at the bar and at first I wasn't interested. But as the wait for my fellow diners drew on, I had a handful. Surprise, it was coated with an essence of rosemary. I ate the whole bowl. The attention to detail continued as we were served cucumber infused water and famous Bay Bread in a sack that Cortez himself might have carried.
While researching the restaurant online prior to the visit I was excited to see Cline Mouvedre offered. This is a great food wine and would be perfect for the small plates concept. Unfortunately they had taken it off the list and were out of a couple others. The server told me they are currently revamping the wine list. She talked me into an Austrian red instead! It was the ZWEIGELT RESERVE, WALTER GLATZER, CARNUNTUM, AUSTRIA, 1998. This was also a bargain at $28! The wine was exciting and a perfect match with many of our dishes. Definitely not a boring red, lots going on from start to finish. Tasted like a spicy Zin with a few Merlot smoothings.
I had the pleasure of ordering for the table. Here goes:
1. Foie gras terrine, chunky orange & herbes de Provence Marmelade, grilled brioche and organic country bread($13) - I been so used to having this seared lately it was nice to try it cold. It can be described as the richest butter in the world with a nice smoky taste being spread on brioche with the hint of sweet from the Marmelade. B+
2. Chopped Ahi tuna with shaved fennel, herbs & shallot oil, hot crostini with garlic parsley butter($9) - The fennel and herbs sounded like they might overpower the fish but they were actually quite subduded letting the shiny fish play a central role. The fennel was the perfect background and could have been even a hint stronger. B/B+
3. Poached halibut, crispy shallots, raw and roasted artichokes with vanilla-saffron sauce (2 orders at $10 each) - This was my favorite. The halibut was poached to a butter soft texture but retained nice flavor. The sauce was heavier on the vanilla and light on the saffron, but worked well. The crispy shallots were incredible! The artichoke two ways was nice in its raw form but the cooked puree was undecipherable. A
4. Sautéed brocolini, chili, garlic olive oil, toasted pine nuts ($6) - Kind of mushy brocolini but nice with the chili heat. B-
5. Fries with harissa and zaatar spiced mayonnaises ($5) - Fries were very fresh with good flavor and salting. Sauces good if you like mayo (i don't). B
6. Date & mint crusted Niman ranch rack of lamb, garlic chive purée, cumin scented carrots ($15) - This dish was very popular at the table. I found it to be under-cooked, but otherwise a great coating with a very nice sauce. Didn't tast much date but the hint of mint was perfect with the garlic heat. The inside was still alive and needed 30 more seconds on the grill. I would like an order of the cumin carrots on their own. B+
In writing this report I just realized that I also ordered Smoked trout, frisée, apple and avocado salad with warm fingerling potatoes, beure blanc & mustard ($8) and it was never brought to the table! I'll have to check the receipt. :)
1. Sugar & Spice Beignets, Valhrona chocolate fondue ($7) - Everyone loved these. Fresh out of the fryer and perfectly sweetened with nice cinnamon taste. Split decision on whether they were better with or without the chocolate. I liked them without. The table shared to shots of the House Made Vanilla-Milk Liqueur with these. It was like an adult vanilla milkshake. Very tasty and a good pairing. A
2. Warm coconut cannelés on roasted pineapple with Vanilla ice cream ($8) - Ordered this based on the canneles with crem anglaise I enjoyed so much at Chez Nous. The coconut and pineapple simply distracted from the incredible canneles in my mind. I would rather have just on their own. B
Service was very accomadating and unobtrusive. Seems to be gettting harder to find these days so that was refreshing. The consistency is what stood out to me here. Everything was at least good with many being very good. A reasonably priced nice meal could easily be had at Cortez with proper ordering. People in to portions need to be aware that they are quite small. In the end, I look forward to returning to Cortez and exploring other parts of the menu. Chow!