My wife and I went out for dinner at Winterland Friday night. We were both very happy with the dinner - the food was excellent. The chef combined all those different foam techniques with just solid food.
Service was not amazing but definitely solid. It seemed better than the earlier reports I saw. The vibe overall is interesting with the addition of the lounge at the front. I've been to Cortez, which seemed to be a hip bar with good food. Winterland seemed more to be a good restaurant that also wants to have a hip bar. Both are good.
Report is below:
Amuse bouche: This was a beet emulsion/foam/mousse that was piped over some goat cheese. Balsamic vinegar was drizzled over. The goat cheese was a little strong for the beets, but it was excellent. We scraped the plates.
1st course: My wife likes raw fish, so she has the octopus carpaccio (one of the crudo). It was a little overflavored with smoked paprika but still awesome. I had oysters - especially good with an olive oil sauce that had little pieces of grapefruit in it. Nice sour taste with the oysters.
2nd course: We had mackerel tartare and the crab/spinach "gnocchi." Mackerel tartare was really excellent, definitely equal to great sashimi. There was some pickled radish on top - nice presentation and food. The gnocchi were superb, kind of a dumpling lightly sauteed with some green sauce and a delicious seafood broth with tapioca pearls in it. The broth was like a solid, dense bouillibaise. This chef really seemed to know how to mix in tastes from around the world without overwhelming you.
3rd course. My wife had the branzino/cuttlefish dish with sea urchin emulsion. Wow, it was good - a huge dish with all kinds of tastes - even enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon, a yakitori staple at Japanese restaurants. Nice mixing of cuisines - you could see how well Spanish tastes match with Japanese in the choice of the arroz negro underneath the fish. I had the tart of sunchoke puree over hen of the wood mushrooms. Again, excellent - you had to think a bit about what was in the dish.
Dessert: We were both surprised at how good the desserts were. One was kabocha mousse (or something) with porcini ice cream. It was sort of Iron Chef-like to have the porcini ice cream, delicions. I had a chocoate savarin flourless cake with hoji-cha ice cream - the roasted brown tea.
Wine: We both had glasses of the De Sante Sauvignon Blanc, and it was great with the seafood dinner. The service was a little slow on the drinks, but there was one waiter who seemed to pull it all together.
Overall: The total meal before tip was less than $175, and I thought it was great value for the quality of food. The food was inventive but not overly cute.
I really enjoyed the meal there and would recommend it. The room is a bit crowded, and the atmosphere can get loud, but I really felt that the chef put some originality and thinking into the food. With the current prices, it seemed like a bargain.