Tuesday, April 7, 2009

San Francisco Treat, Part II

San Francisco has such fantastic fine dining that we couldn't leave without sampling something special, even with our shorter-than-24-hour-long trip.

And, as Mr. Monkey exclaimed, "It's almost your birthday!" Indeed.

We went to Masa's.
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Amuse bouche of chilled pea soup and a Gruyère cheese puff. I liked the puff more than the soup. I've decided I'm not a pea person.
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Focaccia and brioche.
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Our nine-course dégustation featured dishes for the gentleman and dishes for the lady. In Monkey terms, this meant tasting 18 different things!

California white sturgeon caviar with Yukon gold potato blinis, Kendall Farms crème fraîche, and baby greens.
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What a way to start! The warm fluffiness of the blinis paired wonderfully with the cool creaminess and bursting little bubbles. A true party in your mouth.

Black River Farms Siberia osetra with with mustard rabe panna cotta and Sierra Beauty apple glaze.
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Pop, pop, pop go the caviar in your mouth. But really I wanted more blinis.

I liked the pretty iridescent caviar spoons.
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Garden radish salad with icicle, flambeau, and Easter egg radishes, red wine vinegar crème fraîche, and German radish top puree.
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Hearts of palm salad with young coconut, baby cilantro, coconut jelly, Medjool date vinaigrette, and black sesame.
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While cool and refreshing, we agreed that this was the one throwaway course of the night. Well-executed and beautiful, but really just rabbit food filler.

Pan-seared Sea of Cortez diver scallop with wilted fava bean leaves, Gilfeather turnips, and applewood smoked bacon foam.
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Now we're talking. Golden and perfect. Big. Tender. The foam gave a great smokiness that didn't overpower. The fava bean leaves rocked.

Sweet butter-poached Maine lobster with Yukon potato terrine, pickled red pearl onions, and herbed crème fraîche.
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Yummers nummers. Really good quality lobster.

Australian Hiramasa shabu shabu with Maitake mushrooms, kanzuri oil, dashi broth, and daikon radish sprouts.
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An homage to OutKast -- so fresh, so clean. This yellowtail was like buttah.

Extra virgin olive oil poached filet of halibut with broccoli romanesco, golden raisins, Spanish capers, vadouvan curry emulsion.
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The simplicity of this dish impressed me. Fish done right. Oh so right.

Pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras with melted spring onion, fig-coffee-chocolate sauce, and baby celery.
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Oh. Em. Eff. Gee. To die for. Super rich. Exceedingly decadent. Basically the opposite of the preceding fish course. I wanted to eat 20 of these.

Chilled Hudson Valley foie gras au torchon with pickled fennel bulb, anise seed shortbread, warm hibiscus tea, and petite licorice.
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Not as mind-blowing as its partner, but, as a jamaica lover, how could I not like this? The foie gras was on a cookie floating in a pool of jamaica! Fun!

Sauteed breast of Paine Farms squab with Périgord truffles, English peas, Peruvian potatoes, and squab jus.
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I dig tiny fowl. So small and tender and cute. I love you, little squab.

Rillette de phaison
-- a ragoût of fava beans and Périgord truffles, sunchoke puree, and squab jus.
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Anything in rillette form is almost guaranteed to be tasty. A pheasant rillette? Swooooon. Toasty on the outside and so juicy and shreddy and salty and yummy on the inside.

Roasted ribeye and crispy rillette of Elysian Fields Farm lamb, panisse cake, black trumpet mushrooms, tempura-fried squash blossom, and lamb jus.
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Strong. Solid. And...more rillette! Me loves the rillette. Yes, I do. The panisse was pretty incredible, too.

Grilled calotte of prime beef ribeye, Belgian endive farcie aux l'ail printemps, black pearl barley, reggiano-parmesan aged sherry vinegar sauce.
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A damn good piece of steak. That's all I've got.

Page Mandarin sorbet with ginger jus.
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Grapefruit sorbet, basil ice, and mint gelée.
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Ice, ice, baby. Too cold. Too cold. Word to your mother.

Fleur de sel caramel bon-bon, petit s'more, chocolate marquis, chocolate-apricot shortbread.
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Mr. Monkey ate most of this chocolate overload. He seemed to like it. The few nibbles I had were tasty enough.

Cabernet-poached pear galette, Roquefort cheese foam, toasted walnut cream, Neapolitan ice cream sandwich.
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Notwithstanding the birthday candle on the chocolate extravaganza, I demolished this latter dessert. My first bite of the galette puzzled me. I didn't know if I liked the strong bleu cheese taste. But my confusion subsided quickly as I inhaled the dish. Loved it.

This is Masa's version of choose-your-own adventure. You are presented with a cart with more sweets than you can shake a stick at. You pick what you like. You get it on a silver platter.
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You leave very satisfied but not crazy bloated like Violet Beauregarde.
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I think this may have been the first time we experienced a tasting menu that didn't make us feel like we needed to be wheeled out of the restaurant.

Mr. Monkey attributed this to Chef Short's confidence in his food -- it's so good that you will be thrilled with your meal, even with the seemingly small but truly perfect portions. I felt great even as I gorged on my last macaron.

A dinner well done, Masa's!


  1. Very nice! Did you take a menu home? If not kudos on your great memorization of every course!

  2. You had me at bacon foam. Then I saw the macaroons and gasped because I demolished some of these last night: http://www.flickr.com/photos/exploreandeat/3423045906/

  3. OMG that is a lot of courses!

    Loved all of the pop culture references.

  4. I feel stuffed after seeing all those yummy photos.

    Also, a party in your mouth is always a good thing.

  5. Tiny food makes me hungry.


  6. This post makes me weep and gives me hope in all humanity. That is all.

  7. this is AMAZING.

    the "gentleman" and "lady" courses would have totally excited me too, for the same reason as you: more food to taste!

  8. You're just building my excitement for my San Fran trip with this post. Wow that food looks great.

  9. Everything looks absolutely delish. I want to lick the screen.

  10. Those are some pretty dishes. Great review! Nothing better than a well executed tasting menu... :)

  11. wonderful meal!!!! i have been finding the better the food the least bloated i feel when i leave.

  12. Welcome to SF! I'm so glad you're enjoying yourself and that food looks AMAZING! Haven't had the pleasure to check the place out yet but will definitely keep it in mind for our next special occasion!

  13. it was so funny bumping into you two at sfo! like bumping into celebrities i have been admiring from afar. sounds like you had a fantastic time. my sf posts won't make it to my blog for a while, it seems, since i'm still back in february! sf had beautiful weather that weekend, though!

  14. Did you get to choose whether you wanted to be the gentleman or the lady?

  15. I'm with Swank. How do you remember all that stuff? I've eaten with you enough times to know you don't take notes or menus. You're a culinary genius!

  16. I can't believe how pretty everything was! Granted, I didn't know about 85% of the names of the food but it sounded TDF.

  17. I think it's true that taste is really knowing where to stop. sounds delish!

  18. this is so much better than rice-a-roni. nice photos!

    pass the peas my way. and the mushrooms.

  19. What an effing beautiful dinner. Your pictures definitely do the food justice. And I also like the multiple birthday dinners - my kind of gal! ;)

    We're trying to go somewhere ridiculous for my 30th. I'm really hoping it works out... will keep you posted.

  20. I get a slight twinge when I say the name of that restaurant.

    How do you remember everything you eat when you dine at fancy places? My list and descriptions would have looked waaay different.

  21. Ohh I didn't realize you had gone here too. It was soo good, wasn't it?
    Man I can't wait to have a full force tasting menu like you did!

  22. Ahh I'm so excited! Masas is where I had my very first tsating menu ... it set the bar for tasting menus super high.


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