When Im traveling, I often dont take photographs during peak experiences because I dont want the camera to come between me and the event itself, dont want an obsession with documentation to become the memory and in that spirit, I didnt take notes at my 37th birthday dinner at Woodwards Garden last night. So, what I can share with you this morning is more an impressionistic afterglow of the place, rather than a Meyer lemon-by-peppercorn crust-by-melted shallot encyclopedic account of the menu.
Woodwards Garden is named after a famous garden that existed at Mission and Duboce 130 years ago, but theres nothing garden-like about the restaurants décor or location. A corner slice of industrial warehouse, the concrete walls are painted palest avocado, the only decoration being a funky cut crystal chandelier and crimson velvet drapes against a back wall (in what I took to be the "new" room, which for those of you who have been to the original space, is roughly the same size, still very intimate).
Unlike neighboring Butterfly, Woodwards Garden was quiet, lively with reverent diners, but not packed with hipsters making a scene...which at 37 was more than fine with me. Service was low-key and friendly, unhurried and unobtrusive. The romance of this place is all about the food, about tasting ambrosia under a freeway.
We started with a butternut squash and mascarpone ravioli that truly made me swoon. We could have stopped there and Id have been happy. It was, as our seven-year-old daughter likes to say, "totally flavor-blasted." We also had smoked trout bruchetta that was utterly lovely, but didnt knock my socks off like the ravioli. I chose the lamb stew and my husband, the pinenut-stuffed swordfish. Both were totally, totally favor-blasted -- blasted in the Mediterranean/Californian way from the inside out. My stew came floating in polenta and horseradish cream, with caramelized-beyond-words carrots and pearl onions, baby spinach, tender green beans. Servings were so generous, we couldnt clean our plates, and thus had no room for desert. A terrible shame. Another time. ($107 including tip and two glasses of wine.)