starry-eyed at Quince

A big anniversary calls for a big celebration. Jay and I deliberated over where we should dine for our five year landmark, considering famous names and classic establishments before arriving at a very special place: Quince. Michael and Lindsay Tusk’s French-Italian restaurant is on the rise; it is one of only two San Francisco restaurants to be recognized by luxury group Relais & Chateaux and nabbed its second Michelin star in 2014. More impressive, however, was the endorsement by my dear friend and fine-dining expert, A, who used the following descriptors:

  • amazing
  • intimate
  • sexy
  • charming
  • magical
  • the perfect setting.

Reservation booked.

Jay and I pulled up to the gorgeous, ivy-covered restaurant fifteen minutes early. No matter — the hosts had memorized our reservation and took our coats and seated us immediately. We sat at a table in the center of the room, sharing a booth with another couple. The placement afforded me a view of the gorgeous space: vaulted ceilings, tasteful modern art, chic upholstery. The atmosphere struck the perfect balance between bustling and hushed: not so loud that it felt overstimulating, nor so quiet that it felt museum-like. Swanky.

After a few minutes, a careful orchestra of servers began dropping by our table at perfectly spaced intervals. There was never a lull or off-moment throughout the dinner, as if there was an omniscient presence anticipating and attending to our every need. I suppose this is what defines a fine-dining experience — not just fantastically creative food, but also cohesive, finely-tuned service. A girl could get used to this type of pampering!

I’m sure, however, that you’re more interested in the dishes themselves than the manner in which they were served. At the suggestion of A, we ordered the seasonal “Winter” tasting menu and an excellent bottle of Arneis white wine recommended by our sommelier. The five courses were sublime — but before we get to those, I must pay homage to some pretty stunning amuse-bouches.

These crisps came out almost immediately after we sat down. The deep golden ones were fragrant with turmeric and cumin, while the light blond versions reminded me of my mom’s lightly flavored shrimp crackers.

To be quite honest, I’m not entirely sure what these tasty little saucers were. My best (unglamorous) guess: mini-tarts of shortbread crust filled with herbed cream cheese. The pinwheels, which I suspect were dehydrated persimmon, were delicious.

Similarly, the composition of these amuse-bouches were generally lost on me. From what I can remember, left to right: a raspberry gelée; toasted nori cracker; a cake with mascarpone cream cheese and candied orange; and puffed rice with an egg yolk-like center.

Yes, I was that person taking photos of my bread. These baked goods, however, were perfection in carbohydrate form. I especially loved the dinner roll, at left, sprinkled with Maldon sea salt.

On to the main event(s)!

Bagna cauda, winter vegetable “crudo e cotto.” This savory warm dip, served atop an assortment of raw and roasted vegetables, was pure and showcased its ingredients beautifully. Jay’s favorite.

Maine lobster, parsnip, pistachio, quatre èpices. We both enjoyed this course, although the puree nearly ruined the dish for Jay; he thought its sweetness, reminiscent of a lemon glaze, was off-putting. I didn’t share this, and thought the entirety delicious.

Caramellemarina di chioggia squash, black garlic, hazelnut. Jay approved of the al-dente pasta but would’ve preferred less homogeneous textures. I, on the other hand, loved how the flavors melded together (and how the dish is named after its candy shape — adorable).

Black cod, iberico ham, leek, celeriac. The incredibly flaky fish was the perfect milky foil to the salty, savory ham. Wonderful.

This off-menu, lovely hazelnut panna cotta came out afterward to cleanse our palates.

Hamada farms citrus, kishu mandarin, yuzu, créme fraîche. This perfectly seasonal dish was a lovely, fresh close to our meal — but, alas, the goodness was far from over. Not a minute after the dessert appeared, our server brought a chocolate mousse to the table in honor of our anniversary. Having taken note of my unabashed photographing, she also offered to take a picture of us behind celebratory candle! “Right up my alley,” Jay proclaimed after we blew out the flame and slid our spoons into the silky slice.

We finished the meal with complimentary mignardises, from top to bottom: marshmallow of unidentified flavor; red fruit gelée; coconut macaroon; (what I believe was pistachio) meringue; butter sable; and chocolate-cherry thumbprint cookie. The restaurant also provided us with a bottle of dessert liqueur to pour and savor at our pleasure.

At the very end of the meal, our lead waitress presented us with a copy of the menu, which had been personalized. I found it inexpressibly charming that they’d misspelled my name “Julio,” and decided against informing them of the mistake. Quince also sent us on our way with cups of wonderful drinking chocolate, which, along with the memories of our meal, kept us warm the entire way home.

And to my love, Jay: happy anniversary! So profoundly grateful for these last few years with you, boo.

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3 thoughts on “starry-eyed at Quince

  1. Pingback: dinner at chez Jay | yours julie

  2. Pingback: crappy photos of classy food at Cotogna | yours julie

  3. Pingback: best bites of 2014 | yours, julie

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