This is the ninth post in the West Coast! A Week in San Francisco and Sonoma Series. Other posts in this series include Sonoma Starlight at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend – Taste of Sonoma 2015, Glen Ellen Star Sonoma, Sante Restaurant at the Fairmont Mission Inn & Spa, Russian River Brewing Company, Kin Khao Thai Eatery, Exploring San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace, and Burma Superstar.
Quince is a place that’s perfect for that really special, celebratory meal.
The restaurant has won numerous awards and has been honored in numbers of “top restaurants” lists. It is one of nine restaurants in the Bay area to receive four stars from the San Francisco Chronicle. It has two coveted Michelin Stars. It is also frequently named in a variety of lists, such as The Daily Meal’s “101 Best Restaurants in America” or Black Ink Magazines’s “100 Top Restaurants in the World.”
Owners Michael and Lindsay Tusk recently closed the restaurant for two months to remodel the space. Inspired by their travels to Japan, they incorporated Japanese-style dark wood partitions. The main dining room is now lit by an impressive, 250-pound glass chandelier. A huge flower arrangement in the center adds additional flair and elegance. Columnist Michael Bauer from the San Francisco Chronicle even asserted that the dining space is the most elegant one in the Bay area, if not the entire U.S.
It’s easy to see why we were curious about this place. We finally booked a dinner at Quince during the week of our wedding anniversary.
The menu has two different types of tasting menus. The Garden Menu is almost completely vegetarian, with only one optional fish course near the end. The Quince Menu is more protein-focused, and includes several courses of seafood, poultry, and red meat. Both tasting menus cost $198, plus an additional $150 for wine pairing.
We decided to order once of each. Bryan ordered the wine pairing as well. I did not, because I am a lightweight.
They wheeled over a champagne cart soon after we sat down, tempting us to buying a bottle of champagne. Since we were celebrating, Bryan decided to order the Krug, knowing it was one of my favorite champagnes. We appreciated that they told us the prices of all the bottles up front. They also offered half bottles, which was nice.
Cheers! Happy 14th anniversary!
We began with a series of amuse bouche that came served on long skewers.
On the left: deep-fried avocado with cilantro blossoms. On the right, pickled garlic scapes financier with citrus.
In the middle was a radish “dumpling” of sorts (reminded me of Cantonese shumai in terms of shape!) filled with crab and citrus “caviar”.
In another bowl, we enjoyed smoked curried salmon.
My first official course from the Garden Menu was Goat’s Milk, a goat’s milk cheese that was layered with Asian pear, roasted beets, peaches, and a buckwheat rye crisp. It was fantastic! The goat’s milk was creamy and rich, like ricotta. The fruit added a lovely tart balance and I loved the crisp. It was perfect.
On the Quince Menu, Bryan started with Black River Russian Caviar which came with burrata, French breakfast radish, and “caroselli”, an Italian cucumber. This was phenomenal too. There’s an option to order a Golden Osetra Caviar panna cotta instead (supplement $75) for this course (which we did not do). The server indicated to us that the preparation for the Black River Russian Caviar was more creative and arguably more interesting.
The second course in the Garden Menu was the “Lobster Roll”, a pastry roll filled with lobster mushrooms, pickled Dutch celery, celeriac, and wild mushrooms. This was really flavorful and I loved it. The mushrooms gave the dish a deep, earthy flavor.
The next course on the Quince Menu was Tomato, a dish of local tomatoes, gorgeously creamy Hokkaido uni, seaweed, cucumbers, and a refreshing shiso sorbet. This was a fantastic dish and paired really well with the wine.
The server made a mistake in describing the dish to us, telling us that the uni was from Kyoto. When we acted really surprised, he went back to check, and corrected his statement.
The third course on the Garden Menu was a Piquillo Pepper stuffed with artichoke, olives, and cheese. On top, fried zucchini flowers completed the dish. This was a solid dish. It was hearty, creamy, and surprisingly much “heavier” than Bryan’s third course (see below).
The third course on the Quince Menu was Carentais Melon, a chilled blended soup made from blended melon (similar to cantaloupe) with fennel granita (ice), almond cream, and prosciutto wrapped artfully around a chicarron (pork rind) stick. The soup was sweet, yet balanced by the prosciutto. The almond notes from the soup worked well with the sherry pairing.
And then, they served the bread, which was gorgeously crusty, warm, and all around fantastic. It was served with buffalo milk butter, which was quite good.
The fourth course on the Garden Menu was the Tortellini, tiny delicate dumplings filled with black truffles and celeriac. It was phenomenal. I loved the flavorful broth, and Bryan really appreciated the caramelized onion notes.
The tortellini was served alongside with a pickled turnips and radish, fennel greens, and mushroom salad. The server recommended that we start with the tortellini and finish with the salad.
The fourth course on the Quince Menu was Abalone, which was served with matsutake mushrooms, savoy cabbage, and black garlic. The flavors were definitely Asian and I wondered whether there was soy or vinegar. All in all, the texture of the abalone was good and overall the flavors were tasty.
The fifth course on the Garden Menu was simply called Farm Egg. It consisted of a tempura-fried chicken egg, served with haricot verte (French style green beans), shelling beans, poblano peppers, and chanterelle mushrooms. It was a nice dish, though I actually found this course quite borderline salty.
Then, it was time for our optional course, a simple Risotto ($45) made with prawns, mushrooms, and saffron. The texture was perfect: the rice was al dente yet the dish was creamy. We could taste each individual grain. Unfortunately, this made me quite full and I was ready to stop at this point, even though I had many more courses coming!
The fifth course on the Garden Menu was a delicious Pasta Fagioli, which actually turned out to be vivid green wild nettle tortellini, served with pan fried coco bianco beans and Parmesan from Vacche Rosse, the highest grade of Parmesan in Italy.
It comes from a particular breed of cow called the red cow (Reggiana), which was the traditional type of cow used to make Parmesan Reggiano before farmers switched over to black and white cows, which produce more. The tortellini was amazing. I loved the perfect al dente texture, and the creamy, cheesy center was excellent.
The fifth course on the Quince Menu was Tagliolini “Carbomare”, a pasta carbonara made with squid, gaper clam, a quail egg, and agretti, a bright Italian leafy green.
Finally, the server picked up a stick that looked like a piece of charcoal. In was, in fact, squid ink cured egg yolk!
He then shaved it onto the dish.
Overall, the dish was very good, with perfectly al dente noodles and a rich, creamy yolk-based sauce. It was not too salty, which was nice.
They then brought out a delicious, freshly baked honey bread with fennel pollen and fleur de sel. It was super soft, buttery, sweet, and reminded me of brioche.
The sixth course on the Garden Menu was a choice between a Japanese eggplant or Black Cod (not vegetarian!). It was a hard choice, but I went with the eggplant partly because it was vegetarian, but also partly because the server highly recommended it.
The presentation was impressive. Out came a hot metal bowl with glowing charcoal on the bottom, “grilling” the eggplant right at the table.
The eggplant came served over sesame cous cous, dry farmed tomato sauce, bread crumbs, mint, and deep fried onions. There was also the harissa.
I especially enjoyed the deep, smoky eggplant (which was creamy in the middle!) and the flavorful Mediterranean spices. It was very good.
The sixth course on the Quince Menu, Phil Paine’s Squab, was no less impressive. First, the server brought out a huge cast iron pot with the squab that had been roasted over hay.
We could still smell the smoke from the hay. The server then whisked the pot away, back into the kitchen.
The hay-roasted squab came back, neatly cut up, served with brown turkey fig and a wild mushroom sauce. The squab was cooked a perfect medium rare and definitely had an intense, gamey flavor (which Bryan loved).
The final savory course on the Quince Menu was Cinta Senese Pork, or pork prepared three ways with black eyed peas, eggplant, and okra. The Cinta Senese is a breed of pig from Siena, Tuscany known for its rich flavors and tenderness. This pork came from Acorn Ranch, the first U.S. ranch to raise this breed of Italian pigs.
On the plate, there was coppa (pork shoulder), sausage wrapped in eggplant, and pork belly. Bryan thought the dish was phenomenal, and even hazarded to say it was the best pork he had ever had (!). The coppa (pictured in front) was his favorite. It was ridiculously soft yet had a strong, smokey pork flavor.
And then it was time for dessert.
The first dessert on the Garden Menu was Watermelon, a light, palate-cleansing dessert that consisted of Greek yogurt, tomato, watermelon, lemon verbena, and candied orange peels.
The first dessert on the Quince menu was Blackberry, a port mousse served with sweet corn ice cream, elderflower, and blackberries.
Next on the Quince menu was Concord Grape, served with cocoa nibs, sesame, and dulcey chocolate ice cream.
The second dessert on the Garden Menu was Kashiwase Farm Peach Melba, cranberry filling, meringue coating, raspberry sorbet, and vanilla.
Finally, we both enjoyed a delicious Mille Feuille (thousand layers) made with layers of pastry and marscapone cheese. It was quite good and not too sweet!
And that’s not anywhere close to the end. Next they wheeled out a very impressive dessert cart. You could choose as little or as much as you wanted to try. It was like a candy store on wheels!
I tried a canelle, a fruit tarte, a cute little almond cream puff, and some fantastic candied dry fruit. Everything was really good.
Bryan had some chemex coffee.
I enjoyed some excellent herbal tea.
They invited us to a tour of the kitchen, which was really fun.
Isn’t it so clean?
Blame nobody. Expect nothing. Do something.
All in all, we were impressed with the quality of the food, service, and overall experience at Quince. The overall tone of the place is formal and elegant. All the servers were very pleasant. If you really enjoy feeling pampered in an elegant, beautiful setting with top-notch food and good service, you’ll enjoy Quince a lot.
Quince San Francisco
470 Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133