These are three restaurants I recently reviewed for www.chowbaby.com. What a great gig! I get to eat incredible food in amazing settings and best of all--they pay me!
There is a spot on the Mendocino Coast called Stevenswood Spa Resort (or the Restaurant at Stevenswood; 8211 North Highway One; (707) 937-2810; www.Stevenswood.com) that serves some incredible contemporary American cuisine that is both inspired and creative, using the best fresh and local ingredients you'll find anywhere in Northern California. This secluded, tranquil resort and spa is amazing all by itself; but when you throw this amazing restaurant into the mix, you get a very unique and exciting place. They've won a ton of awards, such as the James Beard Recognition award and the Top 40 Restaurants in the Bay Area recognition from Zagat. The other night when we were there, we had some incredible dishes, including a Akvavit Cured Gravlax Tartare (with Russian Sevruga Caviar, Cucumber, Red Onion, Mustard Dill Sauce and a Caper Emulsion); a Dungeness Crab Martini (with Asparagus and Avocado Mousse); a Wild Chantrelle Risotto (Topped with Truffles, Fresh Rosemary and Local Porcini); a Duck Confit Ravioli (with Micro Greens and a Port Reduction) and a Warm Lobster Salad (with Endive, Butter Lettuce and a Champagne Beurre Blanc). Everything was superlative, and the service was excellent. All in all, we had a great experience at the Restaurant at Stevenswood.
Restaurant Sent Sovi (14583 Big Basin Way in Saratoga; (408) 867-3110; www.sentsovi.com) serves Seasonal French Californian cuisine that is really outstanding. I've had French Californian food in the past that seemed too complex and featured so many flavors that it ended up being confusing and simply didn't work. But, at Sent Sovi, celebrity Super-Chef/Owner Josiah Slone (see photo) has created a menu that is balanced and simple. Good chefs don't see a need to show off and will let the food do their talking for them. Inexperienced chefs seem to want to show off their skills all the time and will combine 10-15 ingredients in an entree that would have been just as good with 3 or 4. The other night at Sent Sovi, we had the Grand Tasting Menu for $125 each. The Tasting menus change daily, based on market availablity and the whims of the kitchen. It was outstanding. First, we had a Arugula, Fennel, Avocado and Kumquat Salad with a Tarragon Vinaigrette with Parmesan Flakes; an Intermezzo course of Blueberry Sorbet in Champagne; For our entree we had a Porcini Rubbed Niman Ranch Pork Chop with Rosti Potatoes and Sautéed Greens; and for dessert, we sampled several items, including a Strawberry Soup with Burnt Italian Meringue and Candied Walnuts. The service was exceptional and the experience sublime. We love Sent Sovi!
The Grand Cafe (501 Geary Street, San Francisco (415) 292-0101;www.grandcafe-sf.com) is a French-California brasserie featuring contemporary French cuisine influenced by earthy seasonal flavors using strictly local, fresh ingredients. The service was more than adequate, the portions are generous (unlike many top-rated restaurants) and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. My fiancée hates loud places and the Grand Cafe is quiet and relaxing. The menu at Grand is full of seafood, roasted meats, great salads and amazing desserts. We had a truly unforgettable meal there recently. Once in a while, we visit a restaurant that provides a flawless experience, and Grand pulled it off in a big way. Some of the more memorable things we ate included the Pancetta Wrapped Scallops with sweet corn and cherry tomatoes; Escargot Baked in Hazelnut Chartreuse Butter; an incredible bowl of "Moules Frites," which consists of mussels steamed in Sauvignon Blanc with garlic and herbs, accompanied by some of the best French fries you'll ever have; a sublime Onion Soup Gratinee with enough cheese to spike your cholesterol level a couple hundred points; a Beef Bourguignon with braised short ribs, baby vegetables horseradish puree with lemon and parsley, and finally--a "Grand Cassoulet," with crisp duck confit, garlic sausage, braised lamb and garlic roasted marrow beans. If you love food, the Grand Cafe is Nirvana.