Eating at RN74

by foodhoe on June 2, 2009

Millenium Tower, 301 Mission St (@Beale), SF, CA | 415.543.7474 | website | @twitter

The 60-story  Millenium Tower is pretty hard to miss, but Michael Mina’s newish wine bar/restaurant RN74 which is located at the base of it, is marked only by the two amber globes to illuminate the entrance. The name RN74 refers to a highway running through the Burgundy region in France, which sounds like a code name for an illicit substance.   The names of the location brought together sound like the perfect setting for a blockbuster movie.  I really liked the display of antique lanterns which made me feel like I was entering a Moroccan bazaar.

I met Ben, who pens the delicious food blog, Cooking with the Single Guy for dinner, you can read what he thought about dinner by clicking here.  He suggested this place because he likes to check out the new and buzzworthy spots.  The interior has the sleek feel of a streamlined railroad station, with subway tiles and menus of the wines posted like destination-boards lining the walls.  At the far end is the Last Call Wine Board showing last bottle deals on a whizbang Italian device that is updated periodically with a cascade of clatters as certain bottles of wine rotate off the list and new ones are added.

Rn74 is Mina’s 16th location in the U.S. and it’s worthwhile to note that chef Jason Berthold, former sous chef at French Laundry who also helped open Keller’s Per Se in NY, is also a winemaker, a rarity to be sure – a perfect pairing for a winebar.  According to the website, they have a wine director, four sommeliers, the kitchen includes 25 cooks and 30 servers on the floor for the dining room that seats 75.  The wine list alone is over 80 pages long with many  and they offer over 50 different wines by the glass.  We decided to order by the glass which was probably a mistake because I noticed that the glass size was diminutive compared to the big balloons we saw at the nearby table that was ordering bottles (although all of the glassware is Reidel).

I ordered one item from the Bar menu, which is generally frowned upon, but I begged and cajoled with no intention of being denied the Sea Urchin Carbonara (14).  It was delicious, but there was only a single urchin perched on top of the bowl of noodles, and that was largely overwhelmed by the strong flavor of the grilled bacon.  I did get one good sweet and briney taste of the sea, when I carefully placed my half of the sea urchin onto a bite of pasta, but that was it… otherwise it tasted like carbonara pasta.  Hello, we’d like more urchin on the urchin pasta please.

From there, we stayed with the regular menu which is broken into First courses of nine items ranging from $11 for a salad to $22 for a Fois Gras Terrine, seven Second Courses from $24 to $31 and 4 anytime sides that are $9 each (the maitake mushroom tempura caught my eye). The next dish was Pork Belly and Manila Clams (16) in the most delicious broth flavored with smoked paprika.  The pork belly was well cooked, crispy on the meaty bits and the fatty parts melted in my mouth like custard.  But that broth was complex and brightly flavored with spring garlic, smoked paprika and parsley.  I shamelessly dunked my bread in and was loathe to let the server remove the plate until I had just about wiped it clean.

Next was the Agnolotti (16)  served with chunks of globe artichokes, arugula leaves, piquillo pepper, and topped with castelmagno cheese.  This was fantastic, my favorite dish of the night.

The plump pillows were filled with creamy Italian yellow cornmeal and rich mascarpone cheese.

Single Guy had the Liberty Farm Duck Cassoulet (27) served over barley with shiitake mushrooms, carrots, spinach and green garlic.  He gave me a bite of the duck which was still searingly hot along with a bit of the ethereally crispy skin and a chewy square of sausage.

I had Herb-roasted Lamb Loin (31) served over braised shank, morel mushrooms, fava beans, tokyo turnips and fresh tarragon.  The platter probably measured 20 inches across, and underneath the thick slices of tenderloin were piles of succulent braised shank.  The combination of the fava beans and morels with the roasted sweet turnips was a seasonal delight.  All of the  dishes were presented in a simple, uncomplicated manner – more like a bistro than fancy restaurant very unlike the wizardry that I remembered at Michael Mina.

I was stuffed and declined to order dessert, but of course helped the Single Guy finish off the White Sesame Pot de Creme with stewed cherries and topped with a big crispy sugar coated triangle of Bugnes Lyonnais Pastry.  I really liked the pot de creme but I didn’t think went very well with the tart cherries, which were meaty and sour and overpowered the delicate nutty flavor of the sesame.

We received a final treat of these little bites, muffinettes?  Tiny bite sized buttery morsels  with a tart sticky topping and dusted with powdered sugar.

We wondered though, whether we felt that the restaurant really was more casual and relaxed and more affordable.  Throughout the evening we kept getting interrupted by people checking in with us and the bustle going on around us gave the impression of hectic activity that was anything but relaxing.  And our tab came to roughly $100 each, for a nice dinner with a glass of wine.  Next time though, I’d like to check out the bar area where I hear they have a $40,000 Enomatic machine that can keep 32 wines fresh using inert argon gas and a pneumatic tasting bar.  It’s too bad that early feedback caused them to increase the serving size while doubling the prices because now I think I’d be happier ordering off of the smaller sized plates from the bar menu.  I suppose that power wine drinkers who can afford to spend $2k on a bottle of wine won’t be complaining about the price jump…

RN74 on Urbanspoon

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