Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Dec 3, 2001 03:25 PM

Loved the Martini House

  • l

We decided to treat ourselves to a night out, not worrying about $$ or any expectations. Why not eat at the newest restaurant in the valley? We did, and loved it.

The Martini House is gorgeous. The minute we walked towards the front, we knew something interesting was ahead. It had been raining on & off so the evening air was crisp and the restaurant "glowed".

We were seated immediately after pleasant greetings by all. You are made to feel welcome and at ease. We had this great table right in front of the fireplace. It was a cush Victorian loveseat with beautiful tapestry pillows to lean against and an oblong marble table with Reidel glassware. Wow. The wine list took us 20 minutes to read through. It is extremely informative, with wines listed in every order & title imaginable.
The Sommelier was available to assist as soon as we looked up from the book. She is very charming and helpful. We settled on a glass of Reverdy Sancerre & Roussanne. With dinner, we had a bottle of '99 St.Joseph "Offerus". Perfect Syrah.

For dinner we started with the Handkerchief Pasta with Braised Wild Mushrooms and a beautiful plate of Grilled Treviso with Goat Cheese. Both perfect.
Entree's were an awesome Crispy Skin Salmon Fillet over Savoy-sour Cabbage. We also had Seared Mahi-Mahi with Creamed Spinach & Saffron Poached Mussels. Both excellent. Not one thing could be improved on. Todd Humphries is on the mark and this early in the game, he's a genius. It's so difficult to orchestrate perfection from a new kitchen & staff. He did it.
Dessert was a scrumptious persimmon Pudding and a beautifully composed Cheese Plate (you select 3 out of 6 or more). I could go on & on in detail but just really wanted to share the jest of a wonderful dining experience. Lastly, Michael Ouellette is one the most charming hosts you will ever encounter in a dining room. He manages to stop by each table to inquire of ones' needs, thoughts or share a story or two. He's
well known, well liked and deserving of success.
Pat Kuleto's design is pure art. He is a master.

Between the opening of Copia and now the Martini House, this valley is launching into a new venue of quality verses quantity (no more Italian Restaurants, pleezzzzz!)

Enjoy! And come see for yourself, don't take my word for it! Reservations recommended.

Happy Holidays!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. m
    Melanie Wong

    Great post, Lucy! The food sounds delicate and ethereal. Was your lady sommelier gracious and dark-haired? I'd heard that my wine pal Lisa Minucci had left the Del Monte Lodge to join Martini House but I haven't had time to call her yet.

    Would that be Michael Oeulette of Blockheadia Ringnosia zin fame?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Actually, to my mind, the menu sounds good but very heavy--all that meat and meat products!Still curious to check it out--but probably not with my vegetarian b-friend. Wish it was more veg-friendly!

      1. re: dixieday
        Melanie Wong

        Do you consider seafood "meat"? Otherwise, I see no mention of meat in Lucy's post. Animal, perhaps, but...

        1. re: Melanie Wong


          I took a look at the menu I brought home with me that night, compliments of the hostess. Out of 7 starters, 2 are totally vegetarian (that Handkerchief Pasta was beautiful . . . perfect cream ratio, not over-done). There's 2 other seafood starts and the soup was vegetarian. For the Entree's, out of 8 items, 3 were seafood. I can guarantee knowing the people running the kitchen and the floor, you would have no problem asking for and being wonderfully surprised by a total vegetarian plate. If you do so, take my advice and let it be the chef's choice. These guys are talented.
          'Hope you make it in there! happy Holidays!

          1. re: Lucy Gore

            Well, my partner doesn't consider seafood to be vegetarian--I was just commenting that besides that pasta, there would be little for him to eat off the menu. On the menu that I saw, it looked like the bulk of the dishes were on the hefty side--venison, sweetbreads, foie gras, pork chops, veal cheeks with veal trotters, mahi mahi with creamed spinach and mussels, steak with potatoes, even the salmon comes with bacon lardons! Perhaps the actual menu is different from the one in the press kit. I'm not saying the food wouldn't be fabulous--I hope it is. I was just pointing out that Melanie's reaction--that the food sounded "delicate"-- seemed off-base to me, based on my reading of the menu.

            1. re: Dixieday

              Now I'm going over board with all these posts and sounding like a darn right cheer leader for this place. I apologize!

              Melanie was right with her usage of the word "delicate". In sharing personal thoughts on the Martini House menu with a few other chef friends, that is also a word one used to discribe their feelings. Everything we had that night was melt-in-your-mouth perfect. I understand a Vegetarians situation when faced with a menu that is concentrated with regional meats & seafoods. I must say, it is Winter, after-all, and this menu is definitely acknowledging such. The Salmon would not have been the same without the Bacon Lardons. There's sophisticated flavor-layering going on in this kitchen and these guys are excited about what they are doing. You can taste it. If you look closely at the menu, which is the same as you have, there's a huge array of vegetables being assembled with each dish (ever had a caramelized brussel sprout?) A vegetarian would have no problem having an awesome meal at this restaurant, I can guarantee that. Coming from a kitchens point of view, it's a welcome request and extremely easy, especially with such imaginative ingredients as these guys have to work with. I wish you a great meal there!

              1. re: Lucy Gore

                Haven't been to Martini House, but heard a funny story about hazardous placement of second floor tables next to metal railings where objects (i.e. food, wine bottles, glasses, knives) could potentially drop onto those seated at the bar below! Anyone notice this?

                1. re: gourmandise

                  I have to add one last post for the Martini House.

                  Where a great dining event has transpired into the "Restaurant Ethic's in Vegetarian/Vegan Dining" to "Potential Hazard's of Lower Dining-level Bars", sorry to say it just leaves me feeling "why bother".

                  If there are potential issues in post topics that either conflict with lifestyle norms or rumor, please just start a new post. There's audience for everything.

                  The Martini House is what it is. Go there and hopefully have as great a time as we had.

                  Bon Appetit!

            2. re: Lucy Gore

              No doubt true most good restaurateurs and chefs would accommodate any customer request, but many feel awkward asking for special favors (in a very typical upscale "we aim to please" Italian restaurant in NYC, my sister-in-law announced she'd go hide out in the bathroom if we asked the kitchen for a lobster fra diavolo which didn't happen to be on the menu!).

              In this day and age and this area, I'm always startled if I don't find thoughtful vegetarian offerings on menus. What do others think?

        2. re: Melanie Wong
          Christine Vallejo

          Michael Ouellette also was with Mustards for eons, no? Glad to hear that The Martini House is open but the restaurant it replaced was a wonderful place for lunch - Spring Street.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Hey Melanie.

            Yes on both questions. I'm not postive on Lisa though I think I remember that/her name in the wine list and on the menu. She matches your discription to the T and she's awesome. She mentioned she was originally from the east coast and just recently moved up to Napa from the Bay Area. And Michael is Blockheadia Ringnosii. I've carried his Zin's for years and they are a favorite. His wonderful personality shows through in his wines. I think this restaurant will become a locals favorite up here. The bar downstairs was full of folks I recognized through the valley, all grining ear to ear.