Tag Archives: french
Phew, it’s been a while since I last wrote. I had been so busy the past couple of weeks: went to Napa, came back to SF, went to Boston for my Harvard interview, came back to SF, went to the Twitter holiday party with Yufei, and add to that work, house chores, Christmas shopping… But more on all of that later. This post is dedicated to the highly anticipated dinner at the French Laundry! Before actually talking about the dinner, I will say that I am very happy to be accepted at all 3 dental schools I had interviewed at (NYU, UCSF, and UoP), so I did earned my meal!
Yufei and I drove to Napa on the afternoon 2 Sundays ago. Our dinner reservation was at 5:45, so we had a couple of hours to walk around and explore downtown Napa a little bit before that. When we decided to drive to the restaurant, it was nearly dark. I kind of wish that we could have seen everything when it was still light out, but that’s winter for you. Still, the garden area looked quite charming in the twilight.
The restaurant itself was in a two-story building. We were greeted and seated in a table in the corner of the first floor.
As you can see, we were one of the first guests to arrive, but the dining room filled up to capacity as the night progressed. We were given the menus for the night: the chef’s tasting and the tasting of vegetables, both 9 courses. The wine list was on an iPad. We both decided to go for the chef’s tasting, but with a few substitutions for Yufei since he doesn’t eat shellfish. There were also a couple of courses that had a choice, but all the alternatives had a pretty hefty supplement, so we skipped on that even though it would have provided even more variety.
We got 2 glasses of sparkling wine to start, and waited for the amuse-bouches to arrive. They were the same ones we had at Per Se, the the gruyere cheese gougeres and the salmon cornets.
Both were delicious and just as I remembered them, though I wouldn’t mind having them more frequently than every 2 years! Soon after, our first courses arrive. I was so excited about the legendary oysters and pearls, a sabayon of tapioca pearls, oysters, and white sturgeon caviar. I had seen countless photos of this dish and I was finally about to experience it in person! The dish was much smaller than I had anticipated (I guess pictures can be deceiving after all); the center of the dish where the food was was around 2 inches in diameter.
The small size of the dish added to the delicateness of it, as did the tiny mother of pearl spoon provided to eat it. I really loved this dish. It was delicate yet rich, and all the flavors worked together perfectly. Yufei got the first course from the vegetable menu since he doesn’t eat oysters. It was a parsnip velouté with banana, pecans, and served with a spoon coated in maple syrup. I tried it and it was really good!
After the first course, we were presented with 2 different butters and several types of bread.
How cute is the little beehive-shaped butter? After the bread came the second course, salad of fuyu persimmmon with radicchio, broccolini, and red walnut.
I guess the persimmon was meant to be exotic, but as a Chinese it really wasn’t, haha. I enjoyed the dish but didn’t find anything too special about it. Next came the seafood courses. First, a sautéed fillet of Mediterranean lubina, with petit radish, edamame, ginger, and a scallion and matsutake mushroom porridge.
It was also kind of Asian-inspired, as with the persimmon salad, and it was quite good. The next course was lobster, so Yufei got another substitute, another fish course, this time a sturgeon.
I tried a bite of it and I was a big fan. It was very flavorful and meaty and delicious! I went with the original lobster course, the sweet butter-poached Maine lobster with grapefruit, sunchoke, fennel, and hazelnut.
The dish actually kind of reminded me of the lobster dish I had at Eleven Madison Park, maybe because they both had fennel in it? Anyway, another great dish! We barely ever go to seafood restaurants and I think the last time I had lobster WAS at EMP so I definitely enjoyed this yummy crustacean! The fifth course was the Four Story Hill Farm poularde with bacon, chestnuts, yam, and brussel sprouts.
This was another favorite dish of the night. The meat was very flavorful and juicy and I love chestnuts! Next came another meat course, the Elysian Fields Farm lamb ribeye, with carrot, petit onions, Tokyo turnip, peppercress, and naverin sauce.
It was a pretty good dish. At that time I was getting a bit tired of all the meat, and I’m not a huge fan of big pieces of red meat in the first place, so I don’t think I enjoyed this dish as much as Yufei did. We were getting pretty full, and that was the last meat course, so we decided to take a little break from the food and take a walk outside. They had a beautiful Christmas tree in the garden, so we took some photos by it.
(As you can see, I went with dress #1 from my poll earlier and I was very happy with it! #1 won out but a slim margin but I think it was a good choice. A friend said on my Facebook that the lace collar would look better in photos, and she was right!)
And here is the famous blue door (in terrible lighting):
After our little walk, we came back inside and continued our gastronomical adventure. Next came a cheese course, the reblochon, served with russet potato “gnocchi à la Parisienne,” celery branch, pruneaux d’agen, and black winter truffles.
It was a good transition course from the savory main courses to the desserts, which came next. The first dessert was a blood orange “mimosa” with champagne granité, brown sugar streusel, and fresh cream sherbet.
It was very light and refreshing, a good palate cleanser I suppose, before the final dessert. There were again 2 choices for this course, so Yufei got the chocolate torte, with Pearson Farm pecans, cinnamon whip, and banana ice cream.
I got the other choice, the bakewell tarte, with Rome beauty apple compote, pain de gêne, and toasted oat glace.
Both desserts were simple yet well done, a solid end to the meal. Except it wasn’t really the end, since there were still a couple more things! First we were brought this gorgeous wooden box full of housemade chocolates in a variety of flavors (passionfruit, coconut, salted caramel, etc.) and we could pick as many as we wanted. And then – the part I was really excited about – coffee and doughnuts! I loved the little cinnamon and sugar dusted doughnut balls and the cappuccino semifreddo so much at Per Se that I wanted to make sure we get them at the end of our meal here, so I asked our server at the very beginning to bring them to us. They were just as good as the first time I had them!
They also brought us a bowl of macadamia nuts, but we were so full at this point that we only ate a couple. They offered to bag them up for us to take home and we gladly accepted.
We were also given a little tins of shortbread cookies, as well the copies of the menu (with my personalized message of “congratulations Wendan” at the top) before we left. There was another beautiful Christmas tree in the reception area, so Yufei and I took one final photo in front of it before leaving for the night.
It was definitely a memorable meal and night! It was the most money we had ever spent on a meal, and maybe it wasn’t the wisest financial decision to spend half a paycheck on a meal when I’ll be neck-deep in student loans very soon, but I’m glad that we had the chance to experience the French Laundry. So lots of thanks to Yufei for an amazing dinner that I won’t ever forget.
P.S.: Since we had eaten at Per Se before the French Laundry, it was inevitable that I was making some comparisons during dinner. The quality of the food and service was comparable at both places, as expected. And it’s not really fair to compare a 5-course lunch to a 9-course dinner, but we were very satisfied with both meals. Overall I feel like Per Se had more of a modern and open feel, while the French Laundry felt more homey and intimate. Part of this probably had to do with the time of the day we ate and the lighting in the room (daylight vs. candles), but the different atmospheres were definitely also a part of the different visions for the 2 restaurants.
Oh dear, I’d been putting off reviewing all the restaurants we’ve been to in SF and now there’s too many racked up! So I will just do a few of the more memorable meals here.
I made a reservation there for Yufei’s birthday back in August. Yufei loves steak and Yelp helped me find this place. It’s on the top floor of the Marines’ Club building and there were excellent views of downtown SF. Very reasonable prices for the food and service. Very classy place – they had a live piano player! There were mostly older patrons though, but I guess that was expected. Good place for a special occasion dinner.
2. Slanted Door
A modern Vietnamese restaurant. I’d been wanting to come to this place since I found out about it during my SF visit last summer (I went to their sister restaurant Out The Door last year). We were at the Ferry Building one afternoon and decided to have an early dinner there. There was a line as soon as they opened for dinner, but we got a table pretty quickly. I liked the space a lot, very modern and simple with plenty of sunlight from the windows looking out into the ocean.
We got a couple of cocktails to start, which were both pretty good. (The pink girly one is Yufei’s. It’a actually hilarious how more often than not te drinks he order end up looking girlier than mine.)
For food, we got the daikon rice cakes for appetizer. They were pretty good, nothing too special for $14 though.
I got their famous cellophane noodles with dungeness crab for my entree. It was really delicious! A really simple dish but done well.
Yufei got the stir fried chicken with cashews, walnuts, and raisons. It sounded boring but actually was very good. The chicken was nice and crispy and the nuts and raisons complemented the meat well.
Overall a good meal but really a little too expensive for what you get.
A little French Bistro not too far from where we live. Yufei went there for brunch with a friend of his and said that it was really good, so we went again for brunch a few weeks ago. We sat in the back garden, which was nice (if on a nice day). Those tall umbrella things are actually heaters, which was very necessary for the cool SF summer.
We got a bottle of sparkling lemonade to share. Yufei ordered the Un, Deux, Trois: 1 buttermilk pancake, 2 eggs, and 3 strips of bacon. I got one of their many eggs benedict specials, the La Mer, which was served with dungeness crab and avocados (as you can see, I really like crab!).
My dish was really good. Eggs and crab and avocados and Hollandaise sauce sound really rich together, but it was just right and not too much. I love eggs benedicts and would love to come back and try some of their other varieties!
That’s all for now! Now I have a question for anyone who’s been to SF: are there any good, cheap Korean restaurants in the city? Like a bibimbap under $13? We’ve been to a couple but they were really pricey. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by 4 years of Mill back in college. Anyways, if anyone knows, let me know!
Wow, this post is way overdue! Since we’ve moved to SF, Yufei and I have not had a shortage of food outings. On weeknights when I work late and have no time to cook dinner, we usually just go to one of the neighborhood restaurants a few blocks away. We sure are glad that we live in the Lower Haight, with a ton of restaurants and bars within walking distance. Some of our favorites include Sushi Raw for Japanese, Wonderland for Chinese, Axum Cafe for Ethiopian, Tandoor on Haight for Indian, Chilli Cha Cha for Thai, Greenburger’s for burgers, and Danny Coyles for drinks. There are still a few places around we have yet to try, but we’re definitely happy with the amount and variety of food options near our apartment!
One of the fancier but still close to us restaurants that I really love is L’Ardoise. It’s a cute and cozy little French bistro that has great food, excellent service, and wonderful ambiance. We’ve been there twice now and have an awesome time both times. Not sure if you can tell from this photo, but it’s quite a small restaurant, with lots of rich, red decor, resulting in a very French, very intimate atmosphere.
Now the food. The first time we went, we ordered their appetizer special, which was a delicious salad with spinach, green beans, goat cheese, walnuts, and I forget what else.
Yufei got the filet mignon and I got the duck confit for our main courses, and both were really good. The only thing was that my duck was a little bit too salty, and I wasn’t sure if it was just that one night or not.
We also had the creme brulee for dessert and it was one of the best I’ve ever had! I had to resist the temptation to lick the dish.
Last time we went we shared a butter lettuce salad, and ordered the hanger steak (for Yufei) and coq au vin (for me). Again the food was wonderful! And of course we had to get dessert again. Yufei opted for the flourless chocolate cake and I was intrigued by the floating island. I’d never heard of it before, but the waitress told me it was made of meringue floating on creme anglaise served with caramel sauce and fresh strawberries. Sold! It was so light and sweet, and beautifully presented too.
Another great thing about L’Ardoise is their bread. I swear they have some kind of bread monitor, and every time our bread basket is even half empty, a server would sweep by and replace it with a fresh, full one. And they do this throughout the meal!
I have a few more restaurants around SF I want to review, and I thought about lumping them all into one post, but I think they deserve their own posts. So look forward to more of our food adventures!
Late start again to day 4 of our Montreal adventure. We decided to get bagels for breakfast/lunch at Fairmount Bagel.
I had an everything bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon and half a sesame bagel with just cream cheese, and both were delicious! Less dense and fluffier than New York bagels! After stuffing our faces with bagels, we took the subway to Parc Jean-Drapeau, on Île Sainte-Hélène. Here’s us (in increasing heights!) in front of the Biosphère, a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller:
We spent some time enjoying the beautiful sunshine in the park, then took the subway to Old Montreal.
It was late afternoon by then, and Yufei and I split from the group to get dinner on our own. It was still quite early so we grabbed a drink from a bar and also went to the liquor store to get a bottle of wine, as the restaurant we chose was BYOB. O’Thym, our pick for dinner, is a cute little French place tucked away in the corner of a quiet street. It was warm and welcoming inside; I especially liked the chalkboard menus on the walls and the simple lights.
The service was very friendly and the food was wonderful. I liked pretty much everything I ate/drank! We got complimentary soups to start (and of course lots of bread), and I got a grilled vegetable and goat cheese salad, which was very good:
Yufei got a rabbit liver appetizer (how adventurous!) which he enjoyed as well. We then each got a palate cleanser of lemon sorbet and vodka, which was delicious!
The highlight of my meal was my main course of duck Magret, so good!
We shared a molten chocolate cake for dessert – a wonderful way to end the meal and the night!
Last Friday, Yufei and I headed to Nougatine at Jean-Georges for lunch. We sat by the window where it’s bright and airy just the way I like and readied ourselves for a 3-course meal! I got the tuna tartare with avocado and radish for my appetizer, which had been lauded by countless Yelp reviews and my friend who recommended the restaurant to me in the first place, and it was as good as everyone says!
Yufei chose the butternut squash soup with mushrooms, which was also delicious and creamy and excellent for bread-dipping.
For my main course, I got the black bass with spaghetti squash in a sesame broth with chili oil. It was also very very good. The skin was nice and crispy, and the sesame and chili gave the dish a punch of flavor. I didn’t realize it but both of my first 2 courses are quite Asian inspired!
Yufei got the cheeseburger for his main course, since that was the only red meat option on the menu (sorry honey!).
And for dessert, I got the pineapple upside down cake with basil ice cream and Yufei got the warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Both were delicious!
Another great lunch! I must say I’m quite liking the lunch option at pricier restaurants!
Lunch at Tbar Steak & Lounge
Yufei and I decided to get lunch here before Restaurant Week ended! Tbar was a cute little place on the UES with lots of green in its decor which I loved. Highlights from the meal:
My cauliflower soup:
My Irish grilled salmon:
Yufei’s fillet mignon:
Desserts – chocolate mousse for Yufei and and banana parfait for me. The banana parfait was amazing! Definitely the best part of the meal:
Overall it was good experience, but I don’t know if I’d come back it it weren’t Restaurant Week. Although if I’m ever in the neighborhood, I would consider dropping by just for the banana parfait!
Brunch at Le Monde
A French restaurant near campus with really great brunch food (their dinner is okay but not as good as brunch in my opinion). I had an eggs Benedict and Yufei had the country breakfast:
Dinner at Gente
I had a voucher for Gente so we decided to go there for an early celebration for our 40 month anniversary and Valentine’s Day. The voucher was for a 4 course meal with wine pairings, which was great. We both got the tasting plate to start, which included a mini pizza, bruschetta, sliced beets, buffalo mozzarella, tomato and aged parmigiano:
And it came with prosecco:
Next came the pasta, and I got the shrimp and asparagus risotto and Yufei got Kobe meatballs with angel hair pasta (pictures weren’t so great so I won’t post them), and they were paired with pinot grigio.
Then for the entree, I got the sea bass and Yufei got the veal Milanese. This was my least favorite course; kind of wish I had gotten a chicken dish instead. But the Sangiovese chianti it was paired with was delicious.
And lastly, for dessert, I got the tiramisu and Yufei got the pineapple carpaccio with blood orange sorbet:
Overall great meal – loved the wines, the food was good, the dessert was excellent!
Monday, August 1, 2011
Morning: Went to Twitter with Yufei and had breakfast there, which consisted of a delicious bagel (it was Bagel Monday!) topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon and tomatoes and cucumbers, and some fruit and yogurt. Then I went shopping downtown for a few hours, before coming back for lunch at Twitter (I’m such a moocher). Seriously, this places is awesome.
Afternoon: Lounged around and then met Yufei for dinner at Tandoori Mahal. We got chicken samosas, rice, naan, chicken tikka masala, and lamb korma, and it was all delicious!
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Morning: Slept in, had leftovers for lunch.
Afternoon: Went to the Cartoon Art Museum, which had exhibits on Archie, The Green Lantern, and the art of Howl, as well as a permanent exhibit on the history and progression of cartoons and comics.
It was a nice little museum, plus it was pay-what-you-want day, so it was definitely worth the visit! They had a nice little gift shop too, with some pretty cool stuff local comic artists too.
And a starter of spicy mini chicken drumsticks. For our entrees, I got the individual sized paella and Yufei got the grilled sirloin:
I was a huge fan of my paella, while Yufei’s steak was just okay. We finished off by sharing a warm chocolate molten cake, which was so good! Overall a great meal, our server was very nice, and I really liked the place!
We came back after dinner and decided to watch a movie at home. We ended up seeing The Adjustment Bureau, which I had high expectations for since I found the premise fascinating and it got pretty good reviews. But we were both disappointed by the movie. For me, I just felt like I kept expecting it to get this point that would just blow my mind, and it just never got there and all of sudden it was over. Oh well, there goes an hour and a half of my life.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Morning: I walked over to the School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific to check it out. The walk was pretty much uphill the whole way, which caused me to take way longer than the predicted time on Google Maps. Anyways, the school was really nice, and I even talked with one of the admissions people. The only thing is that they want me to take more biology labs (ugh). Sigh… we’ll see. My walk back was decidedly more pleasant, offering me views like this:
And I got lunch at Gallery Cafe, half a block from Yufei’s place. Cute little neighbourhood cafe.
Afternoon: Tired from my morning walk, I just took it easy until dinner time. We met up at Passion Cafe, a nice French bistro in a pretty sketchy part of town. We got a grilled chicken salad, Yufei got a burger, and I had a calamari.
The salad was great, Yufei liked his burger, but my calamari was a little bit over-fried. Regrettably, we didn’t really order anything French, although our waiter did have a discernible French accent and that’s always a good sign. Perhaps next time!
After dinner, we went to a nearby theater to see Cowboys & Aliens, which I found to be okay, and Yufei loved it (of course, since it was his pick – my turn the next night!).
Thursday, August 4, 211
Morning: Umm… I don’t think I did anything.
Afternoon: Another day in SF, another dental school visit. This time, I decided to check out the Dental School at UCSF. UCSF consist only of graduate schools in the health sciences, and it is located in a cold, windy, misty part of town. The campus is considerably bigger than Pacific since the dental school is kind of lumped together with everything else, so I couldn’t really see much. But I did talk to admissions and got some info. Gosh, this dental school business is getting pretty serious!
For dinner, I met up with a friend from Columbia who lives and is interning in the city. We went to the Ferry Building:
After dinner I met up with Yufei to go see my movie of choice: Crazy, Stupid, Love. It was one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen in a while. The cast was amazing, and they all gave great performances – what a refreshing role for Steve Carell! Really pleasantly surprised by him. There seemed to be too many story lines in the movie at one point, but they were all brought together in an unexpected, hilarious yet heartbreaking twist (honest haven’t laughed that hard in a theater in a while). A realistic look at love that is at times funny, at times agonizing, but ultimately heartwarming and optimistic – highly recommended!
Friday, August 5, 2011
Morning: Not much until lunch, which I had at Out the Door at Westfield Center, one of 3 locations for the less formal eateries spawned from The Slanted Door. I started with a half portion of the spring rolls with a really yummy peanut sauce:
And for my main I got the stir-fried rice noodles with chicken:
It was good but somewhat unremarkable, which is probably no unexpected for such a simple dish. Anyways, pretty good meal!
After lunch, I walked over to the Asian Art Museum, where they were having a special exhibit on Bali, which was completely worth the extra $5. It was a beautiful and fascinating display of Balinese art, rituals, and performance, as exemplified by this amazingly intricate and elaborate offering made from rice dough, called a Sarad:
I didn’t realize how big the museum was and spent too much time in the Bali exhibit, and had to rush through the rest of it before they closed. But it was really quite a nice museum! I wish I had planned to spend more time there.
To celebrate the end of the work week, Yufei and I went down to Pier 39 to embark on the Happy Hour on the Bay Cruise from Blue and Gold Fleet! They had some snacks and a bar where you get one free drink – and I think I finally look past 21 since I didn’t get carded, ha! It was unfortunately too foggy out to go to the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz, so we headed the other way and went past the Bay Bridge and AT&T Park instead.
The cruise lasted an hour and a half and was pretty fun, but afterwards we were still hungry so we headed to In-N-Out for burgers! Being in NYC exposed us to a lot of debate over Shake Shack vs. In-N-Out, so we had to try for ourselves! Granted, I’ve never really had a freshly made burger from Shake Shake before, only a somewhat small and unimpressive one in a take-out bag that’s probably not the best for judging. But the burgers at In-N-Out were decently sized, freshly made, and the value is excellent! The fries were just average though.
I wish they had more topping choices (like bacon!), but at just over $2 for a burger, you can’t complain. But I think Five Guys still wins overall for quality and variety and huge servings of good fries (and free peanuts!). And for best value, M2M still has a special place in my heart. (Wow, I cannot believe I just wrote this much reviewing burgers! This is all Yufei’s fault).
So this wraps up the work week! A special weekend post coming up!