Acquerello

Back in the day when my parents were young and hip and lived in Nob Hill, they came to Acquerello quite often. Since those days, Acquerello has steadily improved in food quality and reputation – and has become one of the best fine dining restaurants in San Francisco. (Comparable to Gary Danko, but by no means equatable.)

The restaurant is quite formal. Jacket is requried, and they refer to themselves as a “special occasion restaurant.” I was worried about taking photos inside, but was assured that it would only be a problem if I was distracting other diners. Given that the table next to us was a large, loud table yelling in Cantonese, I had no problem pulling out my camera for a few quick snaps.

Three complimentary starters:IMG_3622IMG_3626IMG_3627

 

 

IMG_3634Ahi tuna crudo, grapes, pickled Santa Rosa plums, rosemary, black olive, and tonnato sauceIMG_3633Frog Hollow peaches with burrata, rhubarb, black sesame, and basil

IMG_3630Snake River Farms beef tartare, onion soubise, white celery, and Balsamic pearl onionsIMG_3641Cuttlefish ‘tagliatelle’ with capers, chili flakes, lobster,and agrettiIMG_3639Smoked potato gnocchi with prosciutto, confited summer truffle, chive,and ParmesanIMG_3638Acquerello risotto with Brentwood corn, Tiger prawns, pancetta,and Calabrian chiliIMG_3648Grimaud Farms air chilled duck breast, beets, black pepper crumb, hibiscus and blackberriesIMG_3643Maine lobster tail with smoked butter, Brentwood corn custard, confit tomato,and tarragonIMG_3654Bourbon-caramel semifreddo, Amaretti crust, chocolate, and caramel sauceIMG_3656Complimentary desserts to finish off our meal.IMG_3657And a box of biscotti to take home. The biscotti were beyond delicious – quite different and wetter in texture than those I am used to (like my dad’s famous biscotti).

Overall, Acquerello was a fine dining experience. Every dish we had incorporated new flavors and was prepared to perfection. Surprisingly, I found the complimentary dishes to be more exciting and well-prepared than some of the dishes ordered from the menu. Contrary to some previous reports on Acquerello, we also found our dessert to be delightful. We were hesitant to order any dessert, given how full we were, but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of pastry.

Acquerello was an experience I would do over again no question, as long as I am not the one paying.

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Beijing Bites: DaDong Roast Duck

As a child, I was notoriously picky. My main sources of nutrition were bread, pasta, peanut butter, and duck. While everything else I ate in moderation, I could inhale duck. Duck confit, duck rillette, roasted duck, duck ragu, any kind of duck. Naturally, I am pleased to be in Beijing, where the Peking duck is plentiful.

My roommates and I had all planned to go to DaDong Roast Duck as one of our (and perhaps only) large, luxurious dining out experiences in Beijing. DaDong is known for their lean Peking duck and they have many branches in Beijing. We went to the brand new location next to the Workers’ Stadium. The duck was delicious, the décor extravagantly modern, the dining experience enjoyable, and the price surprisingly not that steep (PianYi!).

I should note, however, that I recently had Peking Duck at another less-established, more inexpensive restaurant in Beijing where I found the dishes to be slightly superior to DaDong’s. Stay posted.

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Braised Eggplant. In China, instead of saying “cheese” when you take photos, people say “QieZi,” meaning eggplant.

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Sautéed Duck Liver. This was our attempt to be adventurous, exotic, and authentic. The duck liver was actually good. The musty flavor was at a minimum. My one complaint is that I am pretty sure that the eggplant and duck liver were cooked in the same sauce, which made this part of the meal less exciting and enjoyable.

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Complimentary duck soup. A flavorful, simple broth.

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It is said that a DaDong Duck Carver can cut a single duck into 100 pieces.

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Peking Duck accoutrements – scallions, plum sauce, cucumber, pickles, ginger, sugar, and melon.

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Our pancakes.

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DUCK!

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everything.

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One of the many assembled pancakes I consumed. The potential combinations are plentiful. Some experimenting was necessary to find my favorite.

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Complimentary lychees. They pour water into the dry ice below right before they serve it. I am still debating as to whether this has any real effect on the lychees or if it is just for show.

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And a complimentary persimmon ice dessert. The wood-like candies on top were delicious ginger candies, and the dessert was topped with burnt sugar.

The check came out to be about $35 each for two people (and we ordered for three). I had expected to pay much more. We had a good amount of leftovers that they nicely wrapped up for us to take home. I left pleased.

 

DaDong Roast Duck (Gongti/Worker’s Stadium location)

Workers’ Stadium East Gate, Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang district

朝阳区工人 体育场东门

Nopa

Nopa is one of those restaurants whose name feels like it is constantly being thrown around in San Francisco. Even if you’ve never been or don’t even know what style cuisine they serve, if you live in San Francisco, chances are you have at least heard the name.

When my mom told me we had reservations during the one week I was back for Thanksgiving, I immediately got even more excited to return home. As I churned through the final weeks and days of school before Thanksgiving break, Nopa began to represent to me everything and everything food-related that I missed about San Francisco and home. With all of these ideas and expectations running through my mind, I am surprised that Nopa managed to meet my expectations. The dinner was tasty, though the dishes ranged from those phenomenally great to those that were just good. The ambiance and design of the restaurant alone, however, I think are worth a visit and the price of the meal.

A note – one thing I kind of loved about Nopa were the more quirky dishes on their menu, though they may not be everyone’s cup of tea. A young couple sitting next to us  did not love the dishes that we lovingly devoured . While everyone may not agree, having complex dishes that involve peculiar ingredients like duck gizzard feels distinctly San Francisco to me, and I loved it.

Josh @ Nopa, perusing the scene

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Grass fed Hamburger – probably, almost definitely the juiciest burger I have ever tasted. (Sorry, Dad, your freshly-ground burgers are almost as good.)

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Piggy platter – trotter terrine, smoked ternderloin and liver mousse.

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Avocado salad, pickled beets, clementine, almonds, and sesame seeds.

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Fried Sardines with Romesco.

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Grilled Bread, Duck Gizzard Confit, carrot hummus, pickled jalapeño and persimmon.

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Flatbread of spicy fennel sausage, butternut squash, olives and crescenza.

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Country Pork chop, potatoes, brussel sprouts, mustard and grapes. The pork chop was divinely moist (extraordinarily) and my dad is to this day still speculating as to how they created it.

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Seared duck breast, sauerkraut, carrots, golden raisins and wild arugula.

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Morrocan vegetable tagine, toasted almonds, lemon yogurt.

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I ran a 5k the next morning. If that is what I have to do to stay alive and eat meals like this every day, consider it a done deal.

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