December 5, 2008

My last two meals in San Francisco

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Today's my last full day in San Francisco. Time for just two more proper meals here before heading home. As I have finally finished taking inventory of my wine collection here, I am left with a day of relaxation.

And what better way to start the day than having lunch at Boulevard, Nancy Oakes' place down by the Embarcadero? The restaurant seemed popular with the public, garnering high ratings with Zagat and is also the proud recipient of a Michelin star.

I started with a glass of 2007 Barrel 27 High on the Hog, a Rhone-blend with Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. The wine was a bit cold so the nose was very light, with only a bit of oak and lemon. Sweet and hot on the palate with a bitter, long finish. Not very impressed.

I had a little trouble deciding on the starter, but in the end I settled on pan seared Monterey calamari - stuffed with jambalaya rice, crispy tentacles, lemon aioli, gumbo sauce. I like the idea of stuffed calamari, especially when there's a Cajun twist. I was not disappointed. The calamari was nicely pan-fried on the outside, with nice flavors of smoky sausage and peppers coming through. The gumbo sauce added a nice, subtle touch. The deep-fried tentacles were wonderful. Off to a good start.

The pan roasted local ling cod - wild rice & erbette chard, fondant orange cauliflower with herb bread crumbs, Sherry beurre blanc was also nicely done. The tender flesh had just enough flavor on the outside, and sits on a bed of yummy wild rice. The heavy flavor of the erbette chard stood out from the rice. The cauliflowers were interesting, as the topping is very similar to the herb sauce one finds in escargot Bourguignon.

I am stuffed and decide to pass on dessert. Good thing I was going to be walking around for the rest of the afternoon! But I'm real glad I was able to sample the creations by Nancy Oakes.

Dinner was a totally different experience altogether. At around 8pm I decided to head for dinner at Bistro Boudin, which is just around my hotel. I had passed by yesterday and know that it's part of a huge operation run by Boudin Bakery, and it got decent reviews on Zagat. I decided to try out a couple of seafood dishes while enjoying some of San Francisco's famous sourdough French bread.

I knew things weren't gonna be good right from the get-go. Despite the restaurant being less than half full, the woman at the reception told me that "only very large tables were available", and that I'd have to wait. She suggested that I sit at the bar and watch TV while I eat.  I initially thought that they had closed an entire section to make it easier on themselves, but found 2 diners sitting in a booth. I smile and agree to the suggestion, but I am upset at the treatment.  This got worse as a family of 4 walked in and was immediately seated at a table.

I'm at Fisherman's Wharf, so I go local and make it a Dungeness crab evening. Started wih Dungeness crab cake with roasted corn salad and whole grain mustard-lemongrass aioli. The crab cake was pretty big, and tasted alright. The addition of mustard was interesting. The corn salad was refreshing and provided a good balance to the savory crab.

Here we have another problem. Before I was finished with the crab cake, the waiter brought the main course over. He sensed that I was not quite happy, and took it back to the kitchen after I asked him to wait for 5 minutes. So the comments I saw on the Zagat's website are true - the service is all about rushing you through your meal and getting you out the door. My pasta was sent back to the kitchen, where the cook added a bit more sauce and sautéed it again. And it showed - the texture was off.

And what was it that I ordered? Why, it's the Dungeness crab “mac and cheese” - aged Vermont cheddar cheese, cream and freshly picked Dungeness crab. Well, "mac and cheese" is a bit of a misnomer, because they actually used rigatoni. The tubes were a bit too large for my taste. But the chunks of sweet crab meat were nice. Unfortunately the sauce was a bit dry thanks to being reheated.

The huge glass of 2005 Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc I got was way too cold, and showed nothing in the nose.

Yes, it is nice to be able to smell the bread baking downstairs. But would I go back to Boudin for mediocre food and poor service?


Anonymous said...

I do sympathise with your experience at Boudin's but, you know, local SF foodies and those of us who visit SF on a regular basis avoid dining at Fisherman's Wharf like a plague! But if you do happen to be in the neighborhood again the next time, I'd suggest Scoma's.

Anonymous said...

You must be joking about Scoma. It is just another tourist trap.


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