Sunday Brunch at the Carnelian Room

by foodhoe on December 3, 2008

555 California Street, San Francisco, CA | 415.433.7500 | website

The Carnelian Room is perched up high near the top of the Bank of America Building, offering kick ass views and a seriously fine Sunday brunch.   We took an express elevator that zipped us up 52 gravity defying floors, causing my ears to pop, then floated gently to a stop.  The doors opened to a dimly lit lobby with dark paneled walls where we were greeted by a receptionist, who summoned the maitre’d.  He seated us next to the window where we enjoyed a very nice view of the Transamerica Pyramid, Coit Tower and Alcatraz in the background.  We were immediately surrounded by staff who brought us water, champagne, orange juice, coffee – whatever we wanted… 

The dining room is big and formal.  In the center is a beautiful display of breads, buns, rolls, muffins, pastries and cookies, fresh fruit plates placed artfully throughout along with a variety of cheese platters.  It was laden with stuff, each time I passed it, something else caught my eye.  Near this was a duo playing Tuck and Patti/Windham Hill style guitar and vocals.  They were very good, but we were a little too close to the speakers. 

My favorite was the Asian section offering sushi and dimsum with a view of the Bay Bridge…

The sushi platter was an assortment of favorites including salmon, maguro, unagi and hamachi nigiri along with California rolls and tempura rolls.  Everything looked really fresh.

Under the white linen napkin was an assortment of steaming dimsum including pork siu mai (with the grated carrot on top, not fish roe), shrimp dumplings (har gow) and potstickers.  They had every possible condiment: wasabi, hot mustard, chili sauce, soy sauce and vinegar.

Further down were a variety of hot food stations, here is the omelette station where you can pick out the various items you want included in your omelette.

Mr. K had the chef whip up a spinach, mushroom and cheese omelette that he thought was the best he ever had…  Everything was cooked perfectly and with a light touch, so the eggs were fluffy and tender.

As far as I’m concerned, they have the perfect salad bar – one section includes antipasto with slices of salami, sopresseta and spicy pepperoni, cheese, olives, roasted peppers and marinated artichoke hearts.

And next to that was a simple salad bar that offered a small but excellent selection of items including romaine hearts and a mix of spring lettuces, then a spread of anchovy, lemon and shaved parmesan to make a nice Caesar, or toasted pine nuts or croutons and a variety of nuts and fruits for those who like the addition of….

My first plate was a hodge podge of salad, cheese and sliced salumi.

They also had a seafood area with huge tender prawns served with cocktail sauce and fresh lemon

And next to that was a smoked salmon station with two types of salmon, capers, pickled onion, thinly sliced cucumber and toast points.

There were cups of crab salad served over slices of apple

At the rear was the spread of hot entrees, bacon, sausage, a breakfast fritata, a station with juicy prime rib and more chafing dishes with roasted vegetables, fish in a cream sauce and more…

I couldn’t resist and tried the prime rib which was juicy and very good, they had a creamy horseradish sauce and aujus on the side.  Can you tell I’m being a protein star?

Mmmm, my slice of prime rib was succulent and juicy, sliced thin and Mr. K coveted this greatly even though moments before he proclaimed that he was stuffed and finished…  He went back and was served a 3 inch slab of the end piece.  It was at this moment that we believe that Mr. K broke his stomach, but that’s a whole ‘nother story

Now I will briefly point out that there was a large selection of sweets, including Banana Cake with thick layers of cream cheese frosting, Chocolate torte, pumpkin cheesecake, white cake with fluffy frosting and fresh strawberry slices.

There was a fellow at a flambe station making Cherries Jubilee or Bananas Foster

And this fantastic Chocolate fountain with a cascades of melted chocolate to dip in small squares of rice krispy treats, marshmallows or fresh fruit… you could dip cake, prime rib, shrimp or petit four if it pleases you!

And so we ate until we could eat no more…  This epic feasting does cost a pretty penny at $59 a person, but I was feeling no pain after several glasses of sparkling wine and my wallet was buoyed with the $100 gift certificate from my fine friend and frequent dining partner JT who just loves this place and generously likes to spread this love to her friends.  Afterwards we walked through Chinatown in search of oolong tea in order that all of that grease and fat be removed from our bodies.  This is an old wives tale I know, but it was fun anyways to squeeze through the mobs and look at all the strange and interesting shops and markets.

Carnelian Room on Urbanspoon

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa December 3, 2008 at 1:21 pm

That view is stunning and the food looks damn good!




Single Guy Chef December 3, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve gone to a buffet brunch, but that looks exciting. A smorgasbord to shoot photos, huh? The view looks great too. I wonder if they’ll let you sit there for hours just grazing and looking at the views? Even though the prime rib looks good, I’m wondering if they had any other interesting alternative entrees like chicken or fish?

Single Guy Chefs last blog post..Travel Dish: Axel Kitchen (Buenos Aires)


Gastronomer December 3, 2008 at 3:15 pm

WONDERFUL!! Decadent Sunday brunch spreads are one of the best things in life! I always have trouble pacing myself during these feasts. I gorge on raw bar offerings and am stuffed by the time dessert rolls around. I’m glad you paced yourself well 🙂

Gastronomers last blog post..Fulfilled – Los Angeles (Beverly Hills)


Chubbypanda December 4, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Wow. That’s a fantastic spread. What was the dim sum like? I’m usually leery of dim sum at buffets. Sushi too. All that sitting out can’t be good for them.

Chubbypandas last blog post..Green House – Gardena, CA [Eating]


grace December 5, 2008 at 7:19 am

lovely views…both the grub and the bay. brunch rules, and that’s all there is to it. 🙂


foodhoe December 5, 2008 at 10:21 am

Rosa, indeed it was like heaven
Single Guy, they did have both chicken and fish, a pasta cooked to order station, and given the high prices there were tables available, so you really could just sit there for hours drinking champagne without a care in the world…
Gastronomer, I haven’t been to a really decadent one in a while and it was the best!
CP, the dimsum wasn’t as fresh as the stuff in the bamboo baskets at Koi Palace, but they were kept warm and covered. I agree with that sitting around stuff, but everything seemed freshly set out. Maybe we got there at the right time!
Grace, yes it was a fine time indeed.


jenna@ blooming tea May 5, 2011 at 4:09 am

Wow, A great buffet brunch with a scenic view like that? it’s like in heaven.


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