Had a good dinner tonight at the busy and swanky Farallon just off of Union Square. It was quite packed but I suppose it's par for a Saturday night. I'm sure everyone has a pretty good idea of the beautiful underwater themed decor, so I'm not going into details here.
Foodwise, the dishes are more or less as good as I remember them and pretty much as pricey (entrees around $29). You might be able to get similar quality at Cosmopolitan Cafe or Cobalt Tavern, at 3/4 the price, but you won't get the beautiful interiors, and that's what we knowingly paid for. On whole, I decided that it an acceptable deal. Your mileage may vary.
Shared 2 dozen crisp, fresh oysters for appetizers, of which six were topped with caviar (oysters farallon). Great flavor, especially since it's been a while since I've had oysters.
Also had a bite of the scallop from the scallop and foie gras appetizer. It was well cooked, with a nice springy texture and a faint touch of scallop-sweetness.
The lobster bisque was rich and delicate at the same time. Nice creaminess, and a well tuned lobster flavor.
For entrees, the wild bass with clams was fine. fish was juicy and tender, and there were nice flavor complements from the tomato based sauce, as well as grilled tomatoes, and sauteed squash and zucchinis. It came with two long slices of toasted baguette covered in a pink cream sauce. Good but not excellent.
I thought the skate wing stuffed with prawns was better. The skate was delicate and silky and the minced prawns had great flavor. Also in attendance were light, crunchy lobster mushrooms. Only complaint was that the dish appeared a bit over salted. But I liked it a lot.
I had a fragrant cashew tart surrounded by the thick goo of caramel sauce for dessert. The richness was offset a little by the accompanying poached pear,whose softness also countered the nutty crunch of the tart.
The valrhona chocolate tart was deeply, seductively rich as expected, and almost overwhelming, but the incredible chocolate flavor, tinged with a baritone bitterness, was quite irresistable. On the side is a scoop of chocolate ice cream (light in comparison to the tart) sitting on a leaf of white chocolate. Quite a delight for a chocolate lover.
I liked this place, despite the hefty price tag. Service was efficient but easygoing and on the whole, I enjoyed the (albeit pricey) meal. I certainly would not mind going back if I need that extra something from the fabulous dining room for a special occasion, but if all I'm after is food alone, I know there are better deals elsewhere. I'll certainly remember to ask for a table in the back, where the room is less crowded than the front area near the bar.
SF Weekly makes pointed reference to the "precarious position of SF's showier restaurants" read Farallon,Boulevard and Aqua. There was a line to get in on a Saturday nite? The Pool Room in back is the only place to dine at Flon-the bar area and balcony are cluttered,crowded and busy.
re: Conrad Dobler
Here's a link to my earlier post on Azie and LuLu emptiness.
Don't think Azie has lowered prices enough to get people in the door. We had the sampler mentioned at the new price and it's still hard to justify. I also noticed that the Chron article didn't say anything about Denton leaving, haven't gotten any confirmation of that yet.
re: Duke Dee
I'm not sure there was a line to get, but virtually every table was taken (this was when we walked in at 6:45pm) and when we left about 8ish.
The front area with the bar was packed as you describe, and there were people lined up along the walls even. I did notice a few people walk in, ask for a table and were told there weren't any, in the 5 or minutes while we were waiting for our table at the front.
re: Melanie Wong
Thanks for chiming in. I've never had a wine with Pinot Meunier (in fact I've never heard of the grape till today). Could you tell me more about this grape and its characteristics? And is the "Perennial" a standard kind of blend made only by Flowers or is it more common? (I was going to get a sauvignon blanc but picked this instead because I've never seen it before and was quite curious.)
Pinot Meunier or simply Meunier ("miller") doesn't appear on many wine labels. A mutation of Pinot Noir, it is most widely planted in the cool Champagne region of France where it is part of the three variety blend, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, used to make the local sparkler. It is desireable because it buds later (lessening frost damage) and ripens earlier (less harvest risk) than Pinot Noir. The character it adds to the sparkling wine blend is a fresh fruitiness and approachability in its youth.
Expansion of plantings in California was driven principally by those producers who wanted to reproduce the classic blend of Champagne in Carneros, Russian River Valley or Anderson Valley. With the current glut of sparkling wine, more of it is being made into still wine either bottled on its own or as an extender. Some that come to mind are made by Handley, Domaine Chandon and Bonny Doon.
Meunier is also well established in Australia and the odd bottle will be imported to these shores. In Germany it's known as Schwarzriesling and used to make quaffable rosés.
Meunier is lighter in pigment than Pinot Noir and yields light colored red wines, although I recall a vintage of Bonny Doon (from VanderKamp vineyard fruit) that was very deeply colored. It has a bit higher acidity than Pinot Noir and, while pleasant and refreshing, lacks the complexity and ability to be a complete wine on its own.
"Perennial" is an unusual blend because it uses Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is often described as not having an affinity for blending, and certainly not to be used as a minor component. However, these purists overlook the long history (before stricter controls were introduced) of blending Syrah into Burgundy or today's current blends of Gamay with Pinot Noir, Gris with Noir, or adding Teinturier to Burgundy.
While Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir are commonly blended to make blanc de noir types of sparkling wine, the blend in a red still wine is not common. Adding Zinfandel as an interloper to the mix is even further afield.