Saturday, September 6, 2008
Thanks to the friendly posters at Chowhound, I made my way to Boulevard in San Francisco Friday night for a special and wonderful meal. Their web page says this about Boulevard:
"Chef Nancy Oakes is San Francisco's most beloved chef. Since its opening in 1993,
Boulevard has been hailed as one of the best restaurants in San Francisco.
Created in partnership with designer Pat Kuleto, the elegant, yet warm and welcoming
interior of Boulevard is the essence of the Belle Epoque style. It is a glorious setting for Chef Oakes hearty, flavorful, beautiful cuisine. American regional flavors, French influenced style, enthralling design, form the entire experience at Boulevard. Located in the heart of the San Francisco's revived waterfront area, the historic Audiffred Building is the ideal home for Boulevard."
I apologize for the sub-par photos in this review, I couldn't find the charger for my camera's batteries, and took all these pics on my iPhone. The interior of Boulevard is so stunning, I took loads of photos. Unfortunately, due to the soft lighting and lack of contrast in the decor, most of these were worthless. And they don't really do justice to the beautiful food either. In most cases without photos, I might not bother with a review. But this meal was so delicious, so satisfying, so artful, I couldn't let it pass by without thorough commentary.
We arrived early and started with a martini at the bar. If this was as fabulous as reputed, I wanted an opportunity to soak in the feel of the restaurant before eating. I cannot say enough about the beauty of the interior. From the brick vaulted ceilings, to the sparkling peacock in the mosaic tiles in the floor, the atmosphere is celebratory yet comfortable. There are several places to dine. In the front which has a brasserie feel, the rear which is a more formal dining room, and at the counter in front of the kitchen watching the food assemblage. I adored the look of these cozy love seats nestled against the windows facing the restaurant. Ideal for people watching.
We chose these cute dime store ice-cream counter stools in front of the kitchen and watched the cooks' every move.
The person who was the most fun to watch was the expediter. He got his paws on nearly every dish that came through the kitchen. It was wonderful to see the beautiful array of dishes passing through on their way toward patrons' tastebuds.
We tried to share out appetizers. We really did. But it turns out we ordered correctly because we were both most enamored with our own choices. I chose the roasted stuffed calamari. The tubes were stuffed with ingredients classic to a Manhattan clam chowder, clams, potatoes, onions and bacon. Upon serving, a broth resembling that from a Manhattan chowder was poured on top. Not enough to cover the squid, just enough for it to take a shallow dip. I wish the picture did the russet red broth justice. Le sigh. I loved this. LOVED.
D ordered the highly recommended golden beet and fresh goat cheese ravioli. These were huge and looked more like dumplings. They were covered generously in shaved summer truffle and roast hazelnut. I didn't think the flavors stood out strongly enough from one another in this dish. But apparently it is highly popular, and D thought it was awesome.
We both ordered fish for mains. Here, the kitchen puts the final touches on OUR plates. How cool is that?
I had a halibut served over summer squash risotto with roast chanterelle mushrooms. On the side were two beautiful squash blossoms stuffed with brandade, battered and lightly fried. Nom.
D ordered the black cod with lobster mushrooms and shrimp served over a yellow corn nage. On the plate was the much dreaded and feared foam, but this time it was used to good effect. It tasted like it was made from the broth of a thick chicken noodle soup, and added some lovely flavor to the dish.
I had read somewhere on the internet that desserts here are a force to be reckoned with, so D ordered a beautiful individual chocolate ganache cake with bourbon ice cream. He said it was good.
I busied myself with one slice of a firm goat cheese. I love seeing what restaurants pair with cheese courses. This was a winner. On my plate was a small square of honeycomb (my favorite paring), apricot jam (so lush), whole wheat bread slices and a little bunch of baby grapes. They look and tasted like baby concords, but I am not sure.
I will definitely want to be eating here next time I am in town.