300 Grove St (between Franklin St & Gough St), SF, CA 94102 | 415.861.5555 | www.jardiniere.com
Mondays must be a hard sell in the restaurant business, as many places aren’t even open. I like the enterprising spirit of restaurants who are offering something different, be it a guest chef at fish and farm or Sebo, or special discounts on wine at Maverick or Greens.
What you should do is plan your special occasion dinner for Monday because Jardiniere recently introduced a Monday Night Prix Fixe which features dishes from a different region of the world each week. For $45, you get a three-course meal and a wine pairing for each dish! The executive chef Traci Des Jardins has an impressive background that you can read about here, but for some reason the fact that she helped open the long closed favorite restaurant Elka, strikes my fancy. Fellow food blogger, Single Guy Ben from Cooking with the Single Guy, sent me the above link which I read and re-read and then double checked with a little online research to confirm it really was a 3-course meal including wine! I enthusiastically responded and we met there last week for the Tuscan Dinner.
I came here once before for a rushed meal before a show and I remember being very impressed (details are completely lacking, I know… but it was some years ago). The dining room was recently renovated and shows the hand of Pat Kuleto who also designed Farallon, Kuletos, Sens, (back when it was Splendido), Fog City Diner, Boulevard , Epic Roasthouse and Waterbar. It feels clubby and sophisticated with crisp white linen tablecloths and gleaming silverware. You can see the single guy in the picture above also taking pictures of the lovely table settings…
Dining with another food blogger is good because we know how much better food looks in natural light, so Ben made early reservations and we were able to get a nice booth by a bright window. A good thing about the tasting menu is that we are all served the same thing, so we didn’t have to wait for each other to photograph our food. I think that is why eventually people stop wanting to eat with me because I’m a camera nazi and everyone has to wait to eat until I take the damn picture!
Tomato, Porcini and Bread Soup (Acquacotta), served with a glass of Casamatta Bianco, Vermentino, Toscana, Italy 2007. The soup was robust and brothy, vibrant with tomato and full of interesting textures. A piece of toasted bread nestled at the bottom of the bowl and the thick crust retained a satisfying crunch, adding textural contrast along with some thinly sliced celery and chewy roasted tomato. It was topped with pungent greens that were at times distracting. The soup grew on me, at first bite I thought it tasted like something I could make, but after a few more sips into the bowl, I had to admit that it was much more complex and delicious than anything I’d ever made!
Porchetta of Suckling Pig, Farro, Braised Greens and Salsa Verde served with a glass of Ajello, Nero d’Avola “Majus” Sicily, Italy 2005. It was a nice glass of red wine, but I thought our server showed us a different bottle… ahhh well, one glass and I’ve forgotten the details… shhh I copied the wines from the online menu… I looked up Porchetta and all this time I’ve been saying it por-CHET-ta but apparently it is pronounced por-KET-ta. Regardless of how it sounds, this was fabulous. It was a thick slab, much larger than my hand and had the most delicious crispy skin you could ever imagine. The meat was tender and run through with rich veins of fat and there were jiggling and gelatinous pockets of fat nestled along the layer of thick crispy skin. It was served over sauteed chard with faro and some spring vegetables and the salsa verde added a bright and lively kick to every delicious bite.
For dessert we enjoyed an Espresso Flan with Candied Almonds and Frothed Almond Milk Caffé en Forchetta. Have I mentioned that I have a deep and very biased opinion about froth because it really looks like the piles of goo that my cats cough up… For me, it isn’t visually appealing because it looks like it might be slimey, but this was not the case. I actually found myself scooping up the froth, which evaporated in my mouth leaving a light creamy wake down the tastebud trail… The candied almonds were crunchy and sticky, adding depth to the rich and creamy flan. This was very good.
The D’Ancona Passito de Pantelleria, Pantelleria, Italy 2004 was served in dainty glasses and the amber liquid was sweet but not overly so, it was a nice way to end the meal.
I enjoyed the meal at Jardiniere which is included in the Chronicle 100, our local newspaper’s guide to the top 100 restaurants in the area, where it is described as a special occasion destination that is festive and expensive. The bar feels very urbane and while you can order from the full menu at the bar, the lounge menu has some interesting items ranging from oysters on the half shell ($3.50 each), pommes frite (8), shrimp fritters (13), crab sliders (18), duck meatballs (12) to osetra caviar (149) – dang… no kidding about it being expensive… I’d return for the Monday Prix Fixe which offers an incredible and very affordable dining experience! Our server mentioned that they serve only the tasting menu on Monday along with the bar menu (ie stuff from the regular menu is not served).
Read about Single Guy’s post here.