Friday, July 23, 2010

Luce San Francisco

I married well. Not money- but rich. Rich in tradition, rich in love, rich in interest. I also married into a foodie family. Whenever my BIL Rodney from NYC get together with us we try to find a new and fun place to go and have a foodie experience.

On the drive into the city for dinner last night my MIL gave me an article in the NY times about an ice cream store in the Mission district that makes unusual -to say the least with lots of meat and liquor items- ice cream flavors that they wanted to try this weekend. We were discussing how Chris Cosentino was trying to make a foie gras flavored vodka. Obviously not your usual driving conversation

We were emailing each other months before he came out to visit this time as to where we wanted to try. Chef Dominique Crenn's Luce in San Francisco had just earned their first Michelin star and we wanted to try it out. It is on corner of Howard and 4th avenue inside the Intercontinental Hotel. (Just around the corner from the Mission and 5th Avenue garage-hint for parking)

They have a tasting menu which we decided to try and it did not disapppoint. It started with an amuse bouche of corn soup with a whimsical popcorn in the center and basil oil.

The courses are laid out from sun rise to sunset. The "Dawn" course was Kumomoto oysters with beet and passion fruit. It was served on a long bed of salt which was visully stunning and the passion fruit was surprisingly good with the fresh sea flavor of the oyster and lingered nicely on my tongue. This was paired with an australian wine Leng's Cooter Riesling which was really nice. (I am usually the designated driver so only get to taste a teeny sip- but would like to have had a whole glass of this.)

This is followed by "Soil". Summer vegetable garden with parsnip and carrot puree- with baby beets, marinated carrots, squashes, and crunchy bits of "soil" that my kids would have loved.

"Herb's garden" was for me the biggest surprise. Celery leaf sorbet- which was amazing on top of roasted quinoa- did I hear that right? - little bits of crunchy goodness- I had one of those- I have to try to make this at home-moments with this one. Sorrel chips were to die for.

The "Wilderness" course was rare venison, bulgur wheat, kumquat and cranberry salad. It was perfect, tender, flavorful without any gaminess at all- althought the curly toast on the side seemed more showy then necessary.

This was Coconut snow- shaved frozen coconut milk- really clean and refreshing- but alas just one big spoonful.

The "Sea" course was Lobster tail and foie gras on israeli couscous and sea urchin foam. So absolutely delicious- I would not change this dish in any way- although I could have eaten three of these because I have such a great appetite- the portions were quite generous for a tasting menu.

The "Farm " course was Beef cheeks with gigantic beans, chantrelle mushrooms,, citrus salad with rhubarb foam and watercress.

It was really tender and incredibly rich. The ESCA cabernet souvignon paired with it was really well balanced and cut the richness really nicely- the little I had to taste- the designated driver thing does get to you at these delicious moments...

The " Winter sky" that followed was hard to photograph in all its whiteness. Pineapple tapioca, lychee gelee, goat cheese, macaroon and coconut foam in a white dish.

The "Fromage" was Epoisse- a really stinky soft cheese- the kind that this adopted family just loves- served with mojave raisin clusters, kumquats in honey over hazelnut soil served on a long slate "plate".
The last serving was chocolate on chocolate on chocolate. Even the white thing in the center was cocoa nibs ice cream which despite its whiteness had chocolate essence. It was all served with little dollops of passion fruit puree. Not my favorite (because- gasp!- I am not a big chocolate fan) but still a decent end to a spectacular meal.

The tasting menu was $85 per person with wine pairing extra but for what you get and great service not bad at all compared to other places where I had less than stellar service and food for much more.

I think it is unfortunate that this fine restaurant is attached to the Intercontinental hotel. As a destination restaurant for a leisurely meal with good company, I thought it was fantastic. The service was great. When we arrived my MIL mentioned that the seat she had was too well air conditioned and they promptly responded to adjust it. It was somewhat empty for such a great restaurant and I had read widely mixed reviews so had some reservations before I went. If you are traveling and looking for a quick inexpensive meal this would not fit your bill and I can see why some people did not rate it so well. There were many single diners who seemed to be enjoying their meal though and I, myself, certainly would not hesitate going there again- even with my finicky eating friends.

I had a lot of friends ask about other places I have been to and I really enjoy new and sometimes what many would think "odd" tasting and eating experiences. Some of these places I write about may not be a place that suits everyone but I think Luce's menu is fun, perfectly executed, and although some combinations are unusual I think it would still be pleasing to most people- unless you have issues with foie gras but I am sure they can accomodate you. I would give Luce a hearty Lynda thumbs up- WAY UP!

1 comment:

Marisa said...

If you want to go again, I'll go with you! I went to an "Outstanding in the Field" dinner with Dominique Crenn and it was delicious. You can see the pictures from our dinner on my facebook page.

I wanted to lick the photos you posted.