November was a great month for dining around the Bay Area, and I want to praise a few special dishes served in some exciting surroundings. We made a run for Absinthe after the opera last week and were charmed to pieces by an authentic version of earthy coq au vin, partnered by opulent breads and finished with plates of époisses and bleu de Basque with sliced Bosc pear. The cheese plates were pretty but alas, the cheeses were not served at room temp.
The various dining rooms of this popular Hayes Street brasserie offer a Belle époque ambience complete with copper-topped tables, leather banquettes and antique mirrors. A gorgeous crowd was exploring the high life, San Francisco style, the night we dined. While I still prefer Jardiniere or the venerable Hayes Street Grill, Absinthe was a glamorous alternative. . . .
A recent dinner at Oswald just off Pacific Avenue provided a spectacular entree of seared New Zealand venison, cooked very rare. The generous portion of venison was sauced with a brilliant pomegranate reduction and served on a hash of roasted carrots, turnips and potatoes. Truly a stunning late autumn creation. . . .
And dinner last week at Avanti starred two of chef Ben Sims’ best creations. The first was a salad of haricots vert, arugula, buffalo mozzarella and ripe figs dusted with toasted almonds. Let that sink in for a minute. An entree of Niman Ranch lamb sirloin – intensely flavorful – arrived with nutty roast fingerlings, romano beans and fennel. Again the season brilliantly organized on a single plate.