Ok, I’ll admit it, Wakuriya only hit our radar after it received its first Michelin star. I have a horrible fault of usually turning a blind eye (with a few exceptions) to anything south of San Francisco, preferring to focus on wine country or Oakland/ Berkeley instead. DD had tried to get reservations before, but had called too late for a birthday dinner.
We wish we had gotten to Wakuriya sooner. I’d go every month if we could.
flour+water had been popular right out of the gate, spurred by a buzz going even before it opened - with Chef Thomas McNaughton boasting a resume listing La Folie, Quince and Gary Danko; a number of stages at Michelin-starred establishments in Europe, including an artisinal pasta apprenticeship: "...basically Tom and a bunch of old ladies with rolling pins..." according to David White, one of the partners at f+w.
DD and I have been jonesing to go back to flour+water but trying to get a decent online reservation in advance lately has been quite difficult. On 98% of my attempts, I've usually encountered nothing earlier before 10pm. Once in a while, if I looked out far enough, I’d spot a listing for 9:15 or 9:30pm. For a Tuesday or Wednesday. Sheesh! They opened in May of 2009, and 2 months thereafter garnered 3 stars from The Chronicle’s Michael Bauer. Accolades followed from the other local food press, and soon there was even a blurb in the New York Times. The restaurant purportedly holds back 1/2 of their seats for walk-ins, but we've been hesitant to try this tactic, not being from the immediate neighbourhood.
NYC in late 2009 was a great trip. I'm jonesing to go again, perhaps sometime next year when I hope to also make it to another favourite eating-town, Chicago. As I've mentioned before, our trip to New York had turned into a bacchanalia of eating and drinking - would that our bellies were bigger, or that I had a higher tolerance for alcohol. 5 days and 4 nights just wasn't enough to make a dent. Momofuku Ssam Bar was indeed a highlight, and one of the dishes that struck me the most for its beauty and delicacy was the cured Hamachi crudo dish.
Saison’s website proclaims that there is no dress code, and urges folks to “come as you are.” While the food is elevated, there’s a nice dichotomy between the white-tablecloth cuisine and the service and warmth of the staff. We had finally made it - after a couple of years and one pop-up when Chef Skenes was away.
How to describe Saison with words of praise that have already been said in a style far better than mine? DD and I had a wonderful meal here, full of beautiful and delicious moments. Sometimes, it might be better to just let the food speak for itself.
DD and I visited New York in December of 2009. He was there for work, I was there to tag along, partially working remotely as well. We also turned the trip into a bar-hopping and salacious dining extravaganza. During our 5 days there, we managed to sample 3 of David Chang’s eateries: Momofuku Ssam Bar, Noodle Bar, and Milk Bar, though I have to admit that the visit to Milk Bar was just a cursory walk-through - we had been lunching at the Ssam Bar next door, and could not pass up a visit to peek at sweets. I don’t much recall what we had at Milk Bar if anything as I was too full from our decadent lunch.
I’d only been to Ad Hoc once, and that was for a brunch some years ago. The brunch was a tiny bit of a disappointment. I thought too many sweet things were served – the meal started with doughnuts and ended with a banana split; the savoury course consisted of ham, eggs and potato rosli. That probably would have more than satisfied and delighted those with a sweet tooth but I’m definitely one who craves the savoury in the mornings. For those not familiar with Ad Hoc, it serves one 4-course meal 5 days a week, a different menu each night, and brunch on Sundays. They are known for their Monday Night Fried Chicken Dinners.
You’ve got to respect and honor a chef who, so entranced by the offerings of his sous for family dinners, opens up another restaurant just to highlight their cooking. Nopa’s been a favourite of ours for some time, serving great, well-executed, responsibly-sourced and sustainable food, fantastic cocktails; a bright and airy convivial space that boasts a gorgeous mural by local artist Brian Barneclo… my personal favourite is their hefty pork chop, brined just so, about an inch thick, well-marbled, hugely taking up the size of the serving platter… but that’s for another post.
Of late, I've been able to resist temporary temptations. For over a year since it opened, I made scant little effort to get to Plum until I heard visiting Southern chef Sean Brock was coming to town and would be cooking special dinners at Coi and Daniel Patterson's outpost in the East Bay... I hastily made sure we had a spot then. The same applied for Saison. In all fairness, we had been trying to get here since Chef Josh Skenes was only doing 2 dinners a week in the Stable Cafe space - we'd make reservations and then have to cancel them. But this week, we stuck to our Wednesday 9pm timeslot for Smith@Saison - Chef Jeremy Fox's 4-day installment while Skenes is off accepting his shiny Best New Chef award at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.