Monday, January 28, 2008

Dining room at Ritz Carlton San Francisco

Ron Siegel is one of my favorite chefs since he used to work at Charles. My other favorite chef Melissa Perello (used to work at 5th floor) calls him her mentor.
After hearing rumors (not confirmed by restaurant nor him – still in negotiation) about Ron leaving Ritz and going to Myth, I had to go there for his tasting menu before his departure. I think if he does a tasting menu at Myth, it would be much more casual since they are supposed to be keeping their theme.

I really like Ron's cooking style. My culinary style is similar to his for:

1. He uses high quality fresh local in season ingredients.
2. His flavoring composition is very graceful. All the ingredients are in harmony.
3. Very neat and interesting presentation. Reminds me of Japanese kaisekiryori style. Using potion sizes of 1, 3, and 5.
4. Good flow of courses and theme

On 1/18/2008 I had his tasting menu with the wine pairing. I was very happy with most of his dishes but there were a few things I would change.

Before the first course: Empanadas stuffed with cranberry beans and truffle. They were warm and great flavor combination. Instead of my usual choice Champagne, I had a cocktail to start. I like the way Ritz serves mixed drink such as Rum & Coke or Gin & Tonic. They bring Soft drink and liquor separately in little carafes to be mixed at the table.

Course 1: Nantucket Bay Scallop ~ dashi gelee, watermelon radish ~ The scallops were fresh and cooked perfectly – browned on all sides and a little rare inside. Good dashi (I think he used bonito broth with soy sauce) to complement the scallops.

Course 2: Quail Egg 64 ~ golden osetra caviar, croutons, cedar smoke ~ I think he slow cooked the quail eggs in lower temperature hot water. Japanese call this egg cooking method "Onsen tamago". The temperature of the hot water is supposed to be between 60 to 65 degrees Celsius (140 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit). I think that is why Ron called this dish Quail 64. I think this composition was brilliant. Real cedar smoke was coming out of the dish below. One problem I had with this dish was he cooked the quail egg too long. The consistency of the egg was not custardy…

Course 3: Blue Fin Tuna Sashimi ~ avocado, Dungeness crab, oyster plant, golden osetra caviar ~ Out of all the tuna variety, I only eat Blue Fin as Sashimi. I believe blue fin has depth in flavor without being acidic like other tuna, so I was very happy with his ingredient choice. At first I thought there were too much going on with the dish but all went well together. However, there were a few fundamental problems. The avocados he used were not ripe and the same ingredient (caviar) served in previous course was repeated in this dish. Avocado is not in season right now and if it was hard to get a nice one, then he shouldn't have used them. It is always the best to use in season ingredients and especially the chef's tasting menus should always reflect the seasonal ingredients. To pair, we had Gruner Veltliner, Rotes Tor, Federspiel, Franz Hirtzberger, Wachau, Austria 2006. It was lovely wine with floral nose but dry finish. No oak aroma. Very nice choice for this dish.

Course 4: Diver Sea Scallop ~ golden enoki mushroom, carrot reduction infused with candy cap mushroom ~ Good thick fresh scallop cooked perfectly. I think the candy cap mushrooms were a little overpowering.
Wine to pair was Confini, Lis Neris, Friuli, Italy 2005. Very interesting mixture of grapes. The wine had sweet aroma of Riesling and went well with the sweetness of candy cap.

Course 5: Maine Lobster ~ red topedo onions, daikon, musquee de provence squash, black truffle lobster sauce ~ This is one of Ron's signature dishes and I was very excited to taste it. Lobster was perfectly cooked in butter and still had nice tight raw texture. You can see Ron Siegel preparing Lobster poached in butter on YouTube. Only thing was I did prefer a little more saltiness to this dish. Another complain I had was that the dish was served with a wrong fish knife. The lobster was too big to eat in one bite and was very hard to cut with the knife. Vire-Clesse, Domaine de la Bongran, Jean Thevenet, Burgundy 2002 was great wine to pair with this delicate dish.

Course 6: Hot Foie Gras ~ Pickled huckleberries, spice bread, apple reduction infused with longpeppe ~ This dish was cooked in the way I like. I think the best way to serve Foie Gras is to slice it into a medallion of 1.5cm – 2.5cm thickness, sear both sides, keep the inside rare and serve it with fruit reduction to balance it with sweetness and acidity. I really enjoyed this dish but I didn't quite understand why the chef served this dish with spice bread. I think the allspices in the bread were overpowering and I felt the dish was complete without the side of spice bread. I was also unhappy that the server destroyed the presentation when he was bringing over the dish and the foie gras slid into the apple reduction and was not on top of the crouton. It was paired with Riesling, Auslese, Saarburger Rausch, Zilliken, Mosel, Germany 1983. The sweetness of the wine went well with the fattiness of foie gras.

Course 7: Crispy Chicken ~ Cilantro puree, persimmon and cucumber compote, heart of palm ~ It had right amount of salt. Good texture of persimmon and cucumber (I think persimmon is off the season now though..) to contrast with crispiness of the chicken. Pairing wine was Chateau Gigognan, Vigne du Regent, Chateauneuf-du-pape, Rhone 2004. Rhone style wine is one of my favorite and I was very happy with this choice.

Course 8: Veal Tenderloin ~ sweetbread medallion, lentils, winter vegetables, madeira sauce ~ Sweetbread (cow thyroid) is one of my favorite ingredient. They were perfectly prepared but I was too full to finish this dish. It was paired with very nice Alexander valley Cab -Lancaster Estate,2003.

Course 9: Blood Orange Sorbet ~ Mint cloud, Satsuma ~ It was very refreshing.

Course 10: Cheese tray The one I loved most were Sottocenere, Veneto, Italy with Ash, Spice and Truffle Cow's milk cheese. Wine paired with cheese were Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Domaine de Durban, Rhone 2004. It had beautiful aroma of Muscat grape with sweet yet clean finish.

Ending: Fire candy, White chocolate, Dolce de Leche cheesecake and Beignets. They were all tasty.

I was very happy to find out that they serve REAL Japanese Kobe Wagyu beef ( )
They had great wine list including my favorite winery Jarvis. They had Jarvis Melot 2002, Cab Franc 2000 and Chardonnay 2004.

I think the chef Ron Siegel was not putting his 100% to this meal. Maybe he was too busy negotiating a deal with Myth...

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