Liberty Farms Duck Breast with Braised Bacon Bok Choy, Caramelized Turnips, Santa Rosa Plums and Candied Ginger; Hamachi Sashimi with Roasted Beet and Cucumber Salad; Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs with Horseradish Potato Puree and Herb Salad
Occupation: Social Work Supervisor
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Jardinière
Reviewed Jardinière: Sunday, September 17, 2006
Upon first approach to this Hayes Valley brick building, one is met with graciously large glass and wooden double doors. Valet parking is available, but on Sunday evening, unnecessary, as the streets are clear of parked cars. A matinee at the nearby opera is long over, and the diners from there are also gone.
We told the host we were early, and would be having drinks at the bar before our 8pm reservation. I requested that we be seated ringside upstairs, facing the piano. The hosts were very accommodating and friendly.
At the bar, where seating is in an oval, the atmosphere is elegant and attractive. Bar lights are stained glass shaded lamps; the service area is in the center of the bar, with a view of the sweeping metal staircase and curved, metal railings. There is a sophisticated atmosphere to the main floor, reminiscent of 1930-40’s New York nightclubs, shown in movies of that era. There are exposed brick walls, several impressionistic paintings, wall sconces, and window drapes of a red wine color, which support the warmth of the interior. One hears the piano throughout the restaurant. Music is nightly, usually a contemporary jazz, which is great.
While at the bar, we recognized a celebrity of international acclaim, seated next to me. We chatted and had a very fun experience talking with her. (A very exciting aspect of this sophisticated dining experience.)
At our table upstairs, we were aware that although all the tables filled up, we never felt intruded upon by the presence of other diners. The server was able to help with wine pairing and was friendly, efficient, and did not hover. Due to the lower ceilings upstairs, there is more of an intimate feeling than dining on the main floor. We never felt rushed, as if they “needed our
Plates” in the kitchen.
The scallop appetizer was fantastic with its seared crust, yet tender and sweet inside, on a bed of parsley sauce with green onions. The Vouvray, which was mellow with a little taste of fruit, went very well with the scallops. The sourdough rolls and sweet butter were warm when they were brought to the table before the meal. My main course, the duck, was cooked rare, with fabulous bits of ginger, plum, and potatoes exploding with complementary tastes. The Pinot Noir with its rich flavor went well with my companion’s short ribs, which were richly bursting with flavor of the Cabernet-infused sauce. Each bite was a delight.
The portions were quite sufficient, certainly not the typical French restaurant joke of three peas rolling around on a large empty plate.
For dessert we chose the chocolate mousse, which arrived on a plate sandwiched between two almond macaroons. Although they did not resemble any macaroon I’d previously seen, it was delicious. The mousse and the almond sherbet and the fresh raspberries offered great taste contrasts. As I had informed the hosts when we arrived, that we were celebrating my companion’s birthday, the kitchen had written her name and “happy birthday” in chocolate on the plate. A delightful treat. The decaf coffee was fresh, hot, and rich; a great companion to the dessert.
Although pricey, this restaurant is a very special treat and a great place for a dinner to linger and savor over, and to be remembered.
Favorite Restaurant: Esperpento
Reviewed Jardinière: Saturday, September 16, 2006
Our party of four arrived at Jardinière a bit early for our 7:30 reservation, but we were shown right to comfortable booth up stairs. The restaurant is beautifully decorated in dark colors, and the tables were elegantly set. The background music provided by a piano player was very nice, but not intrusive. It is not what I would consider a quiet restaurant, but the noise level allowed for normal conversation without feeling like you had to whisper to be polite or shout to be heard. The hostess was quick to offer menus and a wine menu, as the waiter immediately appeared to ask if we had any questions or time constraints for our dinner (the opera is nearby). We had no constraints and took some time to look over the menu. We all agreed that the way to sample the offerings of such an elegant restaurant was to choose the chef’s six-course tasting menu.
We knew we were in for a real treat as the first course arrived among a flurry of servers. A detailed explanation was given about the sashimi of hamachi on a cucumber salad. It included several slices of very fresh hamachi on a salad of roasted tiny beets and thinly sliced cucumbers. It was dressed with a light lemony dressing and topped with caviar. The caviar added a salty taste to the dish that rounded it out perfectly.
Next we were offered a dish of perfectly poached halibut with calamari and Manila clams. The halibut sat nestled in a small amount of tomato broth on top of the shelling beans (like fava beans), olives, peeled halved cherry tomatoes, and ringed by tiny clams in the shell. It was like a miniature cioppino with a very small amount of broth. It was delicious and had us convinced that we had made the right choice to have the tasting menu.
After the second dish they started to appear in pairs. The rabbit coarse and had rabbit prepared two ways. One was simple rillettes served on a thin piece of toast. It was light and delicious. Served on the same plate was a roasted saddle of rabbit that had been tied and stuffed with herbs and roasted. It was great served on a bed of roasted figs and caramelized onions. The whole plate had wonderful thyme jus drizzled around it. Two of our group almost did not get the tasting menu because it had the rabbit coarse (both were not fans of rabbit). They were happy once they tasted the rabbit!
Last among the entrée courses was a duo of beef again served on the same plate. On one side there were slices of rare New York steak served with chanterelle mushrooms and bordelaise sauce. It was savory and very nicely prepared. On the other side of the plate there was the boneless short rib served on creamed nettles. The nettles were a nice accompaniment to the braised rib meat that was cooked tender enough to eat with a fork.
The cheese course was a bit of a let down. It was a single cheese that was very fragrant. There was a musty flavor that did not go well with the more subtle flavors of the rest of the meal. I like strong cheeses, but this one was not my favorite.
Lastly, they served Asian pear and shiso with yuzu gelée and ginger sorbet. The sorbet was busting with ginger flavor, slightly sweet and went perfectly with the gelée. The Asian pears were sliced very thinly and also complemented the sorbet quite well. The shiso was a little hard to eat in this setting. The texture did not complement the sorbet and pears as well as a regular mint might have. All in all it was a very good dessert.
The evening at Jardinière was wonderful and lasted over two hours. It is the mark of a truly great restaurant when after two hours you look at your watch and wonder how you could have been sitting there that long. The service was impeccable and the meal could not have been more perfectly paced. It is a great place for a special occasion, or for a special night out with friends.
Occupation: Architectural Administrator
Favorite Restaurant: Trattoria La Siciliana
Reviewed Jardinière: Friday, September 15, 2006
Our reservation was at 6:15 on a Friday evening, and I requested a balcony seat in order to view the restaurant as a whole. My dining partner and I arrived a little early at 5:30! We promptly sat at the bar and engaged ourselves in the most wonderful conversation with the bartender, Danni, who served our cocktails. Michael recommended the house favorites and we began to scan the menu.
My dining partner ordered the tasting menu with wine pairings, and I ordered the house specialty Duck Confit and New York Steak. Then the show began. Eugeneo the Sommelier came over to talk about the wines we would be lucky enough to pair with our meal. He incorporated stories of small families in Italian vineyards, who made their wines by hand. Michael was very attentive and explained each and every delectable course. The Tombo Tuna tartare with caviar, baby beets, cucumber, and crème fraîche was so mouthwatering I was jealous that I could only have one bite. Yet I was lucky enough to sample their salmon tartare with fresh edamame, which made all the difference, the textures blended in a way I had never been introduced to. My dining partner’s favorite item was the halibut, her reaction was moist, moist, moist. As for me I can’t decide between the perfectly rare New York steak or the cheese. I love the cheese course here and was even granted permission to enter the cheese cave, which contained Traci Jardinière’s favorites.
Even though the evening came with a higher price tag than I would normally spend (over $120 per person), I plan on returning to Jardinière to chat with the bartenders, enjoy the knowledge of Eugeneo the wine sommelier, and eat from the daily changing menu time and time again. It is a true dining experience.