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Winterland closing!!

After a couple of recent raves about Winterland I was checking out their website. Under news, was the following:

Restaurant will be
closing for regular
business as of
July 15, 2006.

We would like to
thank all of our
guests for their
support, and our
employees for
making it all

Arrgh! I guess I'd better get there fast!

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  1. wow they must have had a horrible buisiness model, and/or absolutely no buisiness. didn't they open just a year ago? i guess i better get there fast too, but now im worried about a decline in quality because it doesn't matter any more.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Lord Griffin

      I'd say, no business. This has had the most wide open reservation book, if you look at Opentable. I had dinner there last week for the first time and had contemplated returning this weekend just to experience more of the chef's creative flow. My dinner companion was text-messaging a friend in Barcelona while we were eating, he was so jazzed by the food! On Wednesday, there were only three other tables occupied the whole time we were there (8 to 11pm). What a shame.

      Paul H on Winterland -


      1. re: Melanie Wong

        To add more details to my comments above, here's the photo of three of the courses I had two weeks ago with my friend Andy.


        Andy described the food as very intelligent and thoughtful. I've been very impressed with the attention paid to texture and incorporating a variety of cooking techniques on one plate. Even more impressive is the chef's use of salt and pepper, employing a distinct and different type for various dishes for color and texture, as well as taste. The repetoire of peppers and chilis incorporated into the cuisine was worthy of a doctoral dissertation! They added an extra note of spicy excitement without ever crossing the line into the hot zone. Much has been said about the chef's use of foams, but for me, the use of salt and pepper was his signature.

        The amuse was similar to what's being served this week except that the jelly was made with white wine and not lime. It was a more gentle contrast to the cold melon soup. When we tasted the careful balance and the tingle of the togarashi peppers, we knew we were in for something special.

        We split the spotted prawn crudo that others have mentioned. One of the service flaws is that despite this dish being served in a bowl with a fairly deep gazpacho-tomato water pool, no spoon is offered. We had to ask for the proper utensil. The delicate flavors of the tomato water was my favorite part of this dish, and it's a shame that so many other guests probably didn't sip these juices for lack of a spoon.

        That night, there was an appetizer and an entree that featured sea urchin sauces along with asparagus. I decided to order them together as a study of the two ingredients after confirming with our server that the two sauces were not identical.

        Dusted with coarse dried flakes of red pepper and tiny hollow rings of green chives, the spears of sweet white asparagus were crowned with deep-fried duck tongues. The sea urchin emulsion was airy and delicate, whispering the taste of pristinely fresh uni. Andy reached for a spear, eating it out of hand, and commented on the firm rigidity while being cooked all the way through. The tender-crisp texture was exactly on point.

        My entree was ocean trout topped with grilled cuttlefish and wild asparagus and two sauces. The black one painted on the plate was squid ink, tasting deeply briny and sharp in tone. The light orange one was the sea urchin foam, this time more concentrated in sea urchin flavor and enriched with some dairy for a luxuriously creamy texture. The cuttlefish and ocean trout were grilled beautifuly, especially the crispy smoky skin. The succulent moistness of the barely cooked through fish filet, the crackly skin, and the chewy tenderness of the cuttlefish slivers combined for a symphony of meaty textures against the silkiness of the sea urchin foam. Again, the choice of sea salt and the grating of fresh black pepper added the master's finishing touch to this dish.

        The smokiness and carmelization of the carefully grilling combined beautifully with the 1993 Rene Engel "Les Brulee" Premier Cru Vosne-Romanee red burgundy I'd brought. We sent the last third of the bottle to the kitchen with our compliments to the chef. He then sent out a complimentary intermezzo, roasted fig and beeswax ice cream with a banyuls reduction, described here - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        For dessert, I had the chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and olive oil ice cream. The bittersweet South American tone to the chocolate almost made it seem savory.

      2. re: Lord Griffin

        "but now im worried about a decline in quality because it doesn't matter any more."

        When I heard rumors about Daniel Humm leaving, I rushed to Campton Place and had one of the best meals I have ever eaten. If the quality had declined any, I must have missed a H*ll of a trancendental culinary experience!

        The folks at Winterland are professionals, and the food will get your attention. There's nothing to be gained by worrying about quality, and much to be lost by not visiting this unique place while you still have the chance.

      3. So sad. Man, this really upsets me. Is it a combination of this culinarily complacent town and its lame one paper/one critic mentality or what? Sheesh...will be there this next week, for sure.
        At the very least, let's hope this doesn't scare the talented chef out of here.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jason

          The location is pretty central (near fillmore and geary) and they have valet. It is walking distance from a bunch of places on fillmore which are doing well. The food was splendid. It is really a shame. Bauer did miss the boat on that one (1.5 stars for the food, what was he thinking!). What a shame.

        2. So sad. That location is forever doomed.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Offal Lover

            That's what I'm thinking. That is just an AWFUL location and combined with a restaurant that is doing creative, though delicious things, it was a difficult sell. This has not been a kind location to restaurants, IIRC.

            1. re: rworange

              Yes...location, location, location. I have been wanting to get there, but it just is not an area that is on my dining radar. A true shame.

          2. SO SO SO bummed. I am just glad that I was able to extricate myself from the SF "usual" top spots to taste some of the amazingly inspired dishes coming out of this kitchen. The staff, chef, and owner were all incredibly nice people. This really is a loss. I have to think that the location has something to do with it. People just won't cab/drive/bus to the Western Addition/Japantown even if the food is some of the best in the City.



            1. Here's a thought: they are open for private parties until Sept. 1. If enough of us got together, we could do a chowdown. If interested, email me at sfchaddictATgmailDOTcom. I am sure alot of us regret not getting there sooner. We could have a great dinner....

              1. We just got back from dinner there tonight. It was our first visit, and I'm very sorry I hadn't gone earlier. The food was excellent, from the amuse (melon gazpacho with lime cream), to the inspired poached organic egg, and the paper thin octopus appetizer (intriguing: it was like eating jamon serrano fat), the main courses (we had rib eye, lamb, and Berkshire pork belly!), and dessert--everything was perfectly cooked, and carefully thought out.

                I'm with Jeni Bean in being extremely disappointed that another gem is being lost. I hope the chef stays in the Bay Area--I love the wealth of local produce, but I am so very, very tired of the usual stuff. SF desperately needs someone like Vernon Morales who can do much more than just grill good stuff in summer and braise it in winter!

                5 Replies
                1. re: pilinut

                  Thanks for the report, Pia. Can you say more about the poached organic egg? Was it cooked sous vide and how was it served? Can you also give some more details about dessert? Thanks!

                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    The poached egg is golden and richly yolked, cooked perfectly to a round softness that was amazingly liquid but not thinly runny - I can't do that. This is an island edged with tiny golden chanterells, a creamy hollandaise souffle, and the paper-thin jamon serrano (we were at an earlier seating and enjoyed the same starters).
                    The octopus is stupendous; transparently thin, with the smokiness of the paprika, it actually melts on the tongue - and you would have your camera in hand for this presentation of overlapping thinly sliced purple-tinged white octopus (like the scales of a fish) and framed with tiny gems of orange-yellow diced mango topped with a bright green bud of sea bean. We need you to capture this in a digital album!

                    To finish: tiny cups of panna cotta, a gem of peanut brittle and a taste of dulce de membrillo

                    1. re: Cynsa

                      Thank you, Cynsa! You did a better job describing it than I would. (And I was sure we were at a really good restaurant when I saw you there! I was wondering if any other hounds were going to show up, too.)

                      I have to agree, the poached egg was a wonder--infinitely better than "poached egg" could possibly sound. I have no idea if it was cooked sous vide, but in the dim light I could not see where the eggwhite left of and the potato mousse began.

                      Dessert was a caramelized brioche pain perdu with a dollop of brown butter ice cream and drops of meyer lemon marmalade, each one topped with a couple of leaves of thyme--a touch which made the flavor combinations go from excellent to sublime.

                      Carb lover, I'm sure you'd love the place. You will not regret the effort!

                      1. re: pilinut

                        I've been eating appetizers here about every other week for the past six months. Enamored with the short-ribs, my boyfriend asked if they were cooked sous vide and the waiter's response was that practically the entire menu is cooked sous vide... Funny that I've never bothered to sit and eat a full dinner (prefering the bar and its menu). Now I'll have to go one last time just for dinner.... <snif>

                        1. re: pilinut

                          I just got back from dinner at Winterland. I followed the recommendations here and was really happy with my choices: in particular, I probably wouldn't have ordered the octopus if I hadn't read about it here, and it was amazing -- my favorite of the three crudos. The carmelized brioche, with its crisp brulee-like crust, made me swoon, especially with the meyer lemon marmalade that brought it from the brink of being too sweet.

                          I don't remember anyone else mentioning it, but in addition to the amuse and the final sweet treat, we also got a "pre-dessert": white miso soup with finely diced white peach and four drops of "jus" that appeared to be made from ground cocoa beans with no added sweetener. It was a wonderful symphony of salty, fruity and roasted/toastd/bitter. In fact, all three of the extra courses were truly "amusing to the mouth."

                  2. Yikes! I just went for dinner last night (my first time) without knowing and really enjoyed it -- was planning on writing it up in my blog. Winterland is participating in the Visa promotion, so you can get 4 courses for $55 (a $10 savings off their normal 4-course offering). Basically you can select any 4 courses from the menu which is a good deal if you order the right items.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: PekoePeony

                      Hmmm, even more incentive to go back now before it closes. Can you tell us what you ordered?

                      1. re: PekoePeony

                        Do you have to ask for the $55 promotion or is it on the menu somewhere? I always find it awkward to ask, somehow.

                        1. re: PekoePeony

                          How does this work, can you request this menu deal? Will it not work if I don't use a Visa card?

                          1. re: Maya

                            When the hostess gave us our menus I just asked about the "Visa promotion" menu. She explained it (any two dishes from the crudo and starter sections of the menu, and any entree and dessert) and then told us we should mention it to our waitress when we were placing our order. However, when our waitress arrived she said the hostess had already mentioned it to her. It wasn't awkward at all, and in fact, they have the cards promoting the event on the hostess stand, so it's not something they're trying to hide. And we got all the extras with the meal: an amuse bouche, a "pre-dessert" and a "post-dessert" -- all delicious.

                            I have no idea what would happen if you tried to pay without a Visa. I think it would be rude to put them in that position, since they're offering such a great deal.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Just wondering if it is something I should even ask about given the fact I don't have a Visa card.

                              1. re: Maya

                                Maya, I was there last night too at a different table. When our bill was presented by our server, we were charged the regular price of $65 for 4 courses. We asked the owner about this when he walked by our table, and he said that the discount would be applied when we gave him a Visa card as a form of payment.

                                1. re: Maya

                                  Following up on Melanie:

                                  Since we had discussed it with our waitress when we ordered, our bill came with the discounted price. I suppose we could have tried to other means of payment at that point, but I think we were all planning to use our Visa cards anyway.

                                  Presumably you could use any card with a Visa logo, even a debit/check card.

                                  1. re: Maya

                                    We discussed it with our waiter as well, but he was considerably less competent than the two female servers who waited on me at my prior visit. This is but one example of the various service gaffes. We were comped one dish for the first delay dur to server error, then the owner waived corkage on two bottles of wine when he apologized for the second delay by the kitchen. I still liked the food alot.

                                    We were the last ones to leave, after 12:30pm, due to the long wait for our desserts. Chef Morales came out from the kitchen and I had a chance to chat with him a bit. I complimented him on the duck tongues (I've had two of his dishes) and that he DEBONES them. He said he buys them on Clement St. from a Chinese butcher shop. First he poaches them, then the piece of cartilage slips out easily. Then he deep-fries them using a light rice flour-based tempura batter.

                                    I asked if he might extend the closing date another week since they've been so popular and busy in these last days. He laughed and said it was too late, as he'd already purchased his airline ticket to fly home to Nicaragua. He's looking forward to napping in a hammock and taking it easy.

                                    As far as future plans, he didn't disclose any. He said that he would like to stay in the area if possible. He'd like to have a smaller and more casual restaurant serving the same style of food.

                                    1. re: Maya

                                      Replying to Melanie again:

                                      Yeah, there were some longish gaps in the service, but our waitress and the woman who seated us (not the woman at the door, but the one who took our cocktail orders) were both competent as well as warm and friendly. Our waitress explained the delay in getting the desserts out: some of the staff has already moved on; they only had one person handling all the desserts, and at least during the earlier part of the evening, the line cooks were too busy to give him a hand. Her descriptions of what goes on in the kitchen were wonderful as well -- a couple of times she remarked that it looked like a science lab, and when she served my octopus, she said the chef used tweezers to arrange the tiny sea beans on the small cubes of mango circling the plate. That was one of several points during the evening when I wished for chopsticks.

                                      1. re: Maya

                                        Well, we went last night, used a visa, and it ended up not being taken off the bill even though we had mentioned it at the beginning of our meal. We didn't notice until too late because they also erroneously charged us for dessert, which was part of the 4-course deal, and we were dealing with that.

                                        Despite all that, we _really_ liked the food and space, and it's a real shame that this place is closing. However, the service is very spotty - very good at some times, neglectful at other times. Our server had to apologize 4 times for various issues. It does make me wonder if that, along with the location, is what doomed this place.

                                        1. re: Maya

                                          I'm not sure its fair to ding them about service three days before they are closing. The kitchen is clearly understaffed this week for the volume of last-hurrah business they have been getting.

                                          1. re: Maya

                                            I would agree, but I've been there on 2 other occasions and service was similar.

                                    2. I think I went the same night as pilinut since I had some of the same items -- I was the one with the camera :)

                                      I posted some photos on my blog, will finish it later:


                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: PekoePeony

                                        I enjoyed your subtle shooting from my vantage point and thank you for your excellent photos. (thanks also for correcting my error - my DH did identify the raspberry fruit pate that I mistook for a quince paste.) You have also satisfied my curiosity about the grilled sardines, the pork belly and the ocean trout; the carmelized brioche and the olive oil ice cream with the warm chocolate cake! Our entrees were the Ribeye and Bellweather lamb.
                                        Can I borrow a Pen? was my pre-dinner drink, cacha├ža-cream-cassis-it was yumminess exemplified, better than a milkshake. The evening's menu was well covered by 'Hounds on a Saturday Night.

                                        1. re: PekoePeony

                                          Yes, I think I saw you a couple of tables to our left, on the long banquette : )

                                          That softshelled crab looks delicious!

                                          If you were there at 7:30. . . and we got there at 8:30, and we both left past 10:30--the service was definitely slow. The only downside to the restaurant was wait in between courses, which seems to indicate they could handle just one seating per table, two max. I wonder if that is a cause or an effect of their closing : (

                                          1. re: pilinut

                                            Cynsa, your cocktail sounds divine! I guess I ordered poorly :) How did you like your lamb? We were thinking we should have ordered that instead of the ocean trout.

                                            Yes, we arrived at 7.30 but didn't leave til 10.30, and we didn't linger at all. The first two courses were served with good pacing, but around 8.30-9pm things really started slowing down, with our entrees and desserts taking a very long time to arrive.

                                            1. re: PekoePeony

                                              We were seated at 7pm and were on our way by 9pm... Since I am the lamb lover in the family, I was delighted with the 3 cuts, each-individual and on its own merit, offering constrasts in textures and flavors; I loved this dish... and, the DH enjoyed his Ribeye!

                                              Meet us in the bar at 5 pm on Friday - just to try the "Can I Borrow a Pen?" ...and the bar menu...open call to CHs

                                              1. re: Cynsa

                                                Cynsa and Meatball, we are meeting Friday but I think 5PM is too early. The website says the place opens at 5:30! Chowfun might join us.

                                        2. Can anyone comment as to the service at Winterland in recent months?

                                          The one time we went, it was rather abysmal, which is why we never went back.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: Gastronomie

                                            We went twice, neither time was the service "good." Always seemed very slow even when they weren't all that busy. After the second time we didn't go back.

                                            1. re: Gastronomie

                                              mmm... the one time i went, the restaurant was completely emtpy except for one other table - and service wasn't necessarily speedy. We waited a reasonable amount of time for our dishes -- our waitress seemed so cheerful and bubbly though, that it seemed a bit out of place in the "dead" room. She was also, ahem, busting out of her shirt. My friend was going to say something, but we saw so little of her - we didn't really get the chance.

                                              1. re: chefinthecity

                                                All this talk of Winterland, and of course I had to give it a try last night. My first agreement is with the previous hounds - about the slow service. Our waitress was great, really fantastic, but the service was slow and badly timed with gaps so long that even though we were in a good mood for a leisurely meal, boredom and frustration started to build up and by the time we eventually received our mains, even I was starting to get grumpy about it and even mentioned the problem to the owner who delivered our entree plates. It almost seemed daft to do so, since it is closing anyway, but as I was almost on the verge of walking out to go get pizza, I made a friendly, gentle, polite remark to him about the speed of service. As I expected he would, he told us it was because they were overstretched with the reservations they have been getting (no doubt due in part to this board) and that if it had normally been this busy, they would never have had to have closed at all.

                                                If the restaurant was not actually closing at this point, I would be hard pushed to go back again, however, simply because of the slowness - possibly one of the slowest I have ever encountered. We actually took the trouble to call them to let them know we would be a few minutes late for our 8.30 res. As it turns out we were less than 10 minutes late. We were told our table would be just a few minutes, but were then left with further explanation, at the bar, for over half an hour. When we were shown to our table, we were left another 15 minutes or more with empty drinks glasses, with no one coming to attend to us. I think they should have had the foresight to apologize or at least explain the extended waiting times we endured. It wasn't til an hour after we arrived that we found ourselves actually ordering any food.

                                                When she eventually came to serve us, our waitress was sweet, charming and knowledgeable and she guided us through the menu answering our numerous questions and being sassy enough to give us an opinion on which dishes she preferred.

                                                I wanted the tasting menu but since my dining partner is loath to eat 2 courses sometimes, let alone four, and they wouldn't let just me do it, I had to go a la carte and forgo the extra amuse treats.

                                                Because of Ruth Lafler's enthusiasm for the Octopus, I chose that to start and I was delighted. It was beautifully presented on a rectangular plate. Thin, round disks of tender octopus all exactly the same size were overlapped to give a fish scale effect and then dusted with paprika. Delicious and light. Around the edge of plate tiny cubes of mango were tipped with a sliver of salty seabean. I loved the sweet/salty combination and think these two ingredients would be worth investigating further as the basis of a refreshing summer salad. (Did I see seabeans somewhere in the ferry building - Far West Funghi?, or was that some other unusual vegetable?)

                                                There are two sides to my personality. The one that wants to try something that sounds delicious and yummy and a dead cert for me like the egg appetizer mentioned previously in this thread, and the other side that wants to challenge myself and try something new. The latter won out on this occasion and I found myself (eventually, after a lengthy wait, of course) with a bowl of duck tongue and crayfish fricasse, cranberry beans and horseradish foam. Next time I would take the egg. This dish wasnt bad, but neither did it rock my boat. The duck tongues, who I were a little scared about, ended up tasting of nothing except the soggy tempura batter in which they were presented in. They had practically no substance or strength of flavour. The personality of the cray fish were lost in the stew of cranberry beans. The foam only came into its own at the end when i tried it by itself and then got the subtle measure of its horseradish flavour.

                                                My dining partner had a green bean and artichoke salad with a creme fraiche dressing. The plentiful beans were excellent, but the carpaccio of artichoke on top were unfortunatley browned and a little chemical tasting.

                                                After a really tedious break in the programme they finally brought us our food. I have to disagree with Joan who didn't like the lamb. It was absolutely one of the best lambs I have ever tasted. It saved the day for me and all the frustrations about our long wait melted away when I tasted it. The lamb is cut into thin slices and then towered up to form a cube of meat. They balance the amount of meat to fat just perfectly. They then cook the lamb very slowly sous vide until it is most incredibly tender, moist and full of true strong lamb flavour (so difficult to find these days). I was in lamby-lamb heaven. They give two of these amply-sized lamb cubes, each of them topped with a crispy envelope of lamb sausage. The sausage was fine, but it was the meat which really knocked my socks off.
                                                The accompanying fig and tomato jam was good but the chickpea cake was the one duff thing on the plate, and remained the only thing left on said plate when the rest was licked clean. This lamb alone made the whole experience worth it for me. Was there meant to be vanilla on my lamb? I don't recall it but vaguely seem to remember mention of it.

                                                Partner had the rib eye and was pretty happy even though he is not such an adventurous eater generally. The spice in the cherry sauce was enough to lift it from being a sauce too sweet for him and I was relieved.

                                                We were brought the complimentary dessert. Described as a pot de creme with a coffee mousse, in my book it was just coffe foam in a tiny cup. I really dont care much for coffee and this was strong so this offering was lost on me. A little sliver of peanut brittle (ok) was balanced on a raspberry pate de fruits which was my favourite of the three.

                                                If it was going to stay open, I think I would eat at the bar next time. I love eating, but dining can be tiresome.

                                                1. re: Sixy

                                                  I'm glad I steered you right on the octopus!

                                                  From what I read the service was always slow, and the fact that they're short staffed (more business, and some people have already left for new jobs) had exacerbated that problem. I think to do food this intricate is time consuming, and they probably never had enough staff to get orders out quickly, nor could they afford a kitchen staff that big at this price point. IIRC, French Laundry has about a one-one ratio of kitchen staff to seats. Even the little amuses are intricate. We had a "pre-dessert" (as well as a "post-dessert") that was made from white miso soup with a tiny dice of white peaches (I can't imagine dicing something as soft as a peach that small) and carefully placed drops of unsweetened chocolate jus. It wasn't something they just slapped in a bowl as a throw away!

                                                  1. re: Sixy

                                                    I had great service at Winterland two nights ago, but I know that the service at the restaurant has always been somewhat uneven. Sam, I'm sorry that you didn't have a chance to order a dessert; the Caramelized Brioche with Brown Sugar Ice Cream is absolutely fantastic. So much so, in fact, that I just may have to drop into the restaurant tonight for one last order!

                                                    1. re: San Francisco Gourmet

                                                      The brioche was the one dessert we did NOT order at my tablel and I'm tempted to return tonight too. Also feeling that I need to have the wonderful poached egg one more time.

                                                      There's a chow happy hour organized by Cynsa starting at 5:30pm if you'd like to share. (G)

                                                      1. re: San Francisco Gourmet

                                                        after all those hours, fred's patience and even mine was worn one notch too far to stay for dessert, much as I would have loved to try it because of all the raves.

                                                        we should try and recreate it at home? I will look to you for a detailed description.

                                                      2. re: Sixy

                                                        Hi there, it wasn't so much that I didn't like the lamb -- I did -- but was looking for perhaps a bit more contrast in the flavors on the plate. Actually, I've missed Bellwether Farms lamb greatly -- I used to be able to buy it directly from Cindy Callahan at the Ferry Plaza Market in the early days and it truly is exceptional meat.

                                                        Far West Funghi indeed does have seabeans from time to time.