Thursday, March 11, 2010
Chez Panisse – San Francisco
Founded by Alice Waters, Chez Panisse has been around since 1971. The idea behind the restaurant was to make it as though you were dining at a friend’s place, with special care given to every dish. Each plate always created with top-notch quality, organic and seasonal ingredients. The push to eat well using local products goes far beyond her restaurant. Alice Waters works with youth in schools to promote healthy eating and how to grow and prepare the meals at home. She is the first of her kind and has inspired many chefs and people around the world to improve the way they cook and eat. A truly amazing woman to say the least.
Chez Panisse came highly recommended not only by our favourite little black book, but also a trusted source and friend. Perhaps I expected too much, but the food did not meet my expectations at all.
We decided to make a reservation before leaving Ottawa to ensure we were able to get in. They were booked solid the entire time we were in San Francisco, every night except our last. What a wonderful way to spend your last night in a city, dining at a renowned restaurant. We hopped on the BART and made our way out to Berkley.
The menu is a set one, prix fixe at $75 per person for a 4-course meal (prices change depending on the evening). Luckily they allow you to bring your own wine, so we did, our delicious Ceja Cab Sauvignon that we picked up the day before. Corking fee is $25.
The first course arrived, green asparagus and blood orange salad with olives and hazelnuts. This was a nice, fresh dish. The toasted hazelnuts and olives added flavour, but overall, lacked heavily in the wow-department.
Roasted Maine scallops with watercress soup and olio nuovo came next. I commented on how nicely the scallops were cooked as I desperately tried to find something exciting about this dish. That was it.
The last of the savoury was grilled rack, loin, and leg of James Ranch lamb with chanterelle mushrooms, sweet pea, fava bean, fava bean shoot, and escarole ragout. The lamb was cooked the way we enjoy it, red and juicy, but again, nothing exceptional. I’ve had much tastier lamb in my own kitchen at home.
Maybe the dessert will blow us away, we hoped. The Meyer lemon soufflé was ok.
I hate to be negative about such a highly-regarded restaurant but the food was just plain ordinary. My husband’s exact words were, “It’s a restaurant you’d bring your grandmother to”. Even the staff are so efficient and do their job so perfectly they’re almost robot-like. Everything was nicely cooked, but the plates lacked personality, flavour and excitement. For some, this is perfect. For me, I’d prefer to spend the money on a more impressive and unique medley of . ingredients.
Besides our overall disappointment, we had a great time. Our wine was amazing, and well, I got challenged to write this review.