Archive for November, 2007

Ubuntu (Napa, CA) – Vegetables not Vegetarian

“We’re not offering a philosophy of “no meat”, rather, we are celebrating what comes from the gardens, what shows up at the door, and our relationships with farms in Napa.”
– Jeremy Fox on Ubuntu’s web site

I’ve written before that the Bay Area dining scene can be frustrating. Everyone pays homage to our better-than-average ingredients, mostly vegetable, but when was the last time you had a vegetable dish that wasn’t a salad? Can you recall when a vegetable dish really left an impact? If you read A Few Reservations and her quest for vegetarian fare, it’s disheartening to read how vegetables are still an afterthought in too many restaurants. How can chefs and restaurants make a claim to the ingredients without exploring them to their limits?

Ubuntu (Napa) - Autumn Tart Float
Autumn Tart Float

Julot-les-pinceaux, on his trip to the Bay Area, posed a great challenge to me – he wanted to have lunch, or dinner, at some place uniquely California; specifically, the Bay Area. Manresa, the easy choice, was already on his itinerary. The French Laundry can not be booked on a moment’s notice. Quince, Bay Area in spirit, was booked. My Coi review didn’t excite him and Aqua, with its hodge-podge of unseasonal ingredients and non-local fare, defied his culinary sensibilities. Where were we to eat?

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Kappa (SF) – Good not Great

The Chowhounders say it’s the best Japanese in the city (San Francisco.) Given the abysmal state of Japanese cuisine in the city, it’s certainly possible. However, don’t kid yourself into thinking this might be a hidden treasure ala Urasawa (LA) or Sugiyama (NYC.) It’s not.

Kappa is a mom & pop shop, hidden behind an unmarked door in Japantown, with 10 seats at the counter or so. There is a menu but I went with the omakase option. The meal was good, but it wasn’t as refined as the best. The “koriyori” menu followed a similar pattern to my Sugiyama meal – starters, appetizers, sashimi, meat, and broth – generally speaking. Each taste is designed to showcase a flavor, or nuance, some dishes yielding to others; but, despite the valiant attempt, the limitations of the cooking or ingredients often spoke loudest.

Halibut w/ Ankimo sauce – a very strong start, fish had a nice dousing of vinegar while the ankimo accents provided a lush mouth-feel.
Kappa (San Francisco) - Halibut w/ Ankimo sauce

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Quince (SF) – The Best Yet

When Michelin released its one star ratings for San Francisco, the results were all over the map. Some picks were confounding at best – One Market, Rubicon, and Sushi Ran, to name a few. Others were appropriate – Chez Panisse, Coi, Farmhouse Inn, and Gary Danko. And then there was Quince – the odd man out.

It’s the best restaurant in San Francisco right now 1 and it probably deserves two stars. Italian is at its heart with French flourishes. The ingredients are mostly local, though there can be some egregious exceptions such as single origin grain spaghetti from Italy, but they are always seasonal. The difference between Quince and the rest of the city is its attention to detail. It is careful and refined, with nary a mis-step.

This meal was prepared by Chef Michael Tusk – no allergies and we were off.
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The Meals of Others

Unfortunately, I can’t eat everywhere all of the time.

These are a few elusive meals that I long to try but circumstances or timing have prevented me from enjoying. I envy the writers below for the meals they’ve eaten:

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