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Jul 14, 2006 05:01 AM

Winterland Report - July 13th

Had a farewell dinner at Winterland tonight. I really think that Winterland is an amazing restaurant for SF - truly innovative tasty food at great prices. It's sad that SF cannot make this restaurant a success. I prefer it to many more expensive, crowded restaurants - I hope the chef stays in the area. Here's the food.

Amouse bouche:
Canteloupe soup: cold melon soup with a lemon foam. They added togarashi spice for a little heat. Cooling, refreshing, and spicy at the same time.

First course:
Shrimp ceviche: almost a gazpacho with a tomato sauce base - on top of the sauce was watermelon and avocado pieces, topped by the shrimp ceviche. The shrimp was firm and not "over-cooked" - a perfet summer starter.

Octopus carpacccio: Excellent as always - better than the one we had at Ame - smoked paprika is the key

Second course:
Grilled sardines and pears: perfectly grilled sardines with thinly grilled pear slices. Mache was served with some salt and some kind of sesame paste dressing lightly splattered on. Wow, simple and complex. The sardines were moist and tasted of the sea

Tuna tartare: The bottom of the place was a thin slice of raw tuna, almost like a mousse on the bottom. Encircling it was anchovy paste, a deep umami taste. tuna tartare was on top of the tuna carpaccio with a sorbet of red peppers. perfectly tasting of pepper and very clean-tasting. Also, there was some kind of fig, pepper marmalade as well. Classic Winterland.

Third course:
Squid ink risotto: firm rice with soft, tasty squid in it. covered with a sea urchin foam. the taste was a bit strong and dense, but the seafood was perfectly cooked.

Scallops: Scallops were a bit overcooked, but the sauce was amazing. Some mix of butter, ginger, lemon grass, and citrus. matched perfectly with the scallops. Also, there was a mix of snow peas etc cut up. Solid entree - strong tastes without being overpowering

Chocolate cake with olive oil ice cream: maldon salt was on the chocolate to accentuate the taste, and the ice cream oozed olive oil. The desserts at Winterland have always shines - this one was excellent

Fig, goat cheese mousse, honeycomb ice cream: not as good as the chocolate cake but still excellent

Parting gift: some coffee mousse with a raspberry jelly.

Wow, I've been interested every time I went to winterland. It feels like the restaurant needs to go much more high-end to get the people to go there somehow. Wherever that chef goes, you should eat his food - imaginative and excellent. Sad to see it go.

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  1. We were also there this evening and everything was very good to excellent, although the absolute, shockingly interesting standouts were the amuse and complimentary dessert.

    The creme in our melon (yellow watermelon) gazpacho was lime, not lemon and an amazing counter point to the soup with its little garnish of hot spice.

    I went for the poached egg, etc. dish that others have raved about here, and agree with their assessment. My friend had a corn soup over crabmeat and huitlacoche, which he said was excellent and successfully avoided overwhelming the delicate crab flavor.

    My entree was one of the less successful dishes. A stuffed lamb breast with sausage stuffed crispy pillows, onion jam and an overly thick chick pea panisse was good enough, but didn't live up to the rest of the meal.

    I also had the goat cheese mousse and figs which is as described by the the original poster.

    The little complimentary dessert wasn't so much a mousse as a lighter than air cold coffee foam, served with a small jelly and ground almond wafer. Very nice. The bitterness of the coffee, which would have been too much in a heavier dessert, was just right with the little sweets.

    I'm not sure how being more upscale would help this place. It really is the question of location in my opinion. It's a mostly residential area with little foot traffic and not much to bring anyone across town or keep them there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Joan Kureczka

      This is what confuses me -- I moved to this very neighborhood six months ago from Fairfield/Suisin. I love the neighborhood; we've got the Kabuki theatre, the whole stretch of Fillmore with its shops and after-dinner joints for drinks like Harry's or Bittersweet, as well as the Boom Boom Room, the Fillmore, and the weird Ethiopean restaurant for live jazz. There is lots to do in the neighborhood which makes me curious what brings folks to OTHER neighborhoods in San Francisco that I have yet to experience?

      I indicated on another post that I never got around to eating entrees at Winterland; only appetizers. But also in the neighborhood of similar ilk is Bushe-Tei, Cafe Kati, Chez Nous, and more. I'm just beginning to experience all that Japantown and Fillmore has to offer and eating out twice a week, I still have only scratched the surface of what is within walking distance to me...

    2. I was there tonight too, but since I only just got home after the 2.5 hour, slightly overlong endurance meal, (we didnt even take the chef's menu, just one crudo + 2 courses each) and I don't quite agree with all of the comments posted above, I think it will have to wait til tomorrow before I compose my thoughts thoroughly and post them here.

      1. It looks like last night was Chowhound night at Winterland. I was there with three friends. We were there from 8 until 12:30 and we weren't the last.

        Winterland is slowly winding down. When I was there three weeks ago, they were offering a seven-course chef's tasting menu, but that is no longer available. We made up for the lack of the seven course menu by trying to share tastes of everything we ordered, which included:

        Octopus Carpaccio / smoked paprika, mango, sea beans
        Monterey Spotted Prawn Ceviche / watermelon gazpacho, avacado, basil oil (went great with some gewurztraminer)
        Roasted White Corn Soup / dungeness crab, vanilla oil, huitlacoche
        Grilled Sardines / asian pear, hazelnut, mache
        Crayfishh & Duck Tounge Fricassee / cranberry beans, sea beans, horseradish jus
        "Angles on Horseback" / suckling pig galette, fried beausoleil oysters, serranno ham jus
        Squid Ink Risotto / cuttlefish, shrimp, sea urchin emulsion
        Roasted Berkshire Pork Chop / broiled peach, amaranth, black pepper jus
        Ribeye Tataki Marinated in Miso and Grilled / roasted fingerling potato, bing cherry, wild mushrooms
        Bellwether Farms Lamb Breast & B'stilla / tomato & fig marmalade, chickpea panisse, vanilla jus

        Then we had six desserts for four people:

        Caramelized Brioche / vanilla & meyer lemon marmalade, brown butter ice cream (this was super-duper delicious!!!)
        Creamy Tapioca & Green Tea Sabayon / roasted apricot sorbet, lychee
        Cherry Clafoutis / almond paste, cherry blossom, cherry stone ice cream
        Warm Chocolate Cake / laudemio olive oil ice cream, chocolate ganache, salt maldon (olive oil ice cream... WOW)
        Mission Fig & Goat Cheese Mousse / beeswax ice cream, fresh pinenuts
        Selection of Artisinal Cheeses / with condiments and walnut bread.

        Since this was a last-hurrah dinner we also brought along and enjoyed some wines:
        Krug Grand Cuvee Champagne (375)
        1995 Roussanne from Alban vineyard
        2002 Zind-Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Gewurztraminer
        1998 Bonnes Mares
        1990 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape
        1988 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey (375)

        10 Replies
        1. re: Paul H

          I saw you guys, drinking your wine!

          I wrote my review in the other Winterland thread.

          1. re: Sixy

            The wine came in handy for passing the long waits between courses! GREAT food, though. I'm thoroughly bummed about the closing.

          2. re: Paul H

            When we were there on Wednesday we had the caramelized Brioche and it was one of the best desserts I have ever had. The bite of cherry clafoutis I had was also excellent. We talked the waitress into bringing us "side orders" of the apricot sorbet and olive oil ice cream, and they were both delicious.

            I went back and read the Bauer review, and I did agree with him on one thing: not a fan of "vanilla jus" on meat -- in the bite I had of my sister's lamb it was overstrong and cloying. I was glad I'd stuck to the chowhound recs and gotten the pork.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I guess I must be the odd one out in LOVE-ing the lamb then.
              Being a Brit I was brought up on flavoursome lamb.
              I know that lamb is only slowly increasing in popularity here in the US and in most instances it seems to be a fairly bland version of the meat that is presented for consumption.

              Winterland's version totally bowled me over, am I the lone non-dissenting voice? I couldnt even detect any vanilla in the jus, but i was concentrating more on the meat itself which I found so good, come to think of it I probably wasn't even pairing it with the sauce as i ate it because I was simply revelling in the purity of the lamb taste.

              1. re: Sixy


                I only got a taste of the lamb, but I agree, it was stupendous. A lamb breast is a very hard piece of meat to turn into culinary gold, and cooking it sou vide, and layering it up with fat was inspired. It was full of flavor, and the texture was a perfect melt-in-your mouth tenderness.

                1. re: Paul H

                  I ordered the lamb dish too on Wednesday. The lamb breast and chickpea were the only parts of that one that I liked. The breast was not sliced and laminated, that's the natural texture of lamb breast: silky thin sheaves of muscle layered with fat and connective tissue that melts away with slow cooking. I didn't have a particular objection to the vanilla jus since most of it was lacquered on the plate and stayed stuck there. The b'stilla pillows got soggy before I got to them. I had asked for the second piece of lamb to be boxed up for me, and was so sad when I got home and realized I'd forgotten to ask for it.

                2. re: Sixy

                  I like flavorful lamb (I've been getting wonderful lamb from a CSA), it was the vanilla I was objecting to. I'm glad it wasn't an issue for you.

                  1. re: Sixy

                    I did the lamb and loved every bite. You're not alone, Lamb Lover.

                    1. re: Sixy

                      I had the lamb on my last visit, and I thought it was excellent. I didn't care much for the lamb sausage ravioli on the side, but the breast meat was very tasty. And unlike others, I actually enjoyed the vanilla in the jus -- although the flavor tends to get a bit lost when competing against that of the meat...

                      1. re: Sixy

                        Oh the meat itself was excellent. The dish as a whole just didn't overwhelm me, and the chickpea panisse was way too thick and creamy -- didn't like the texture at all.

                  2. Hmm - i am wondering about the vanilla, as I generally am not a fan of it in savoury dishes. But really it didnt even get on my radar during the meal. I am wondering if they have lessened its presence in the dish since they got criticisms?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Sixy

                      The vanilla was striped on the plate underneath the two chunks of lamb, then there was a small puddle of it that I generally avoided on my plating.

                      1. re: Sixy

                        Well my criticisms were from dinner Wednesday, so it seems unlikely. Maybe I just got a bad bite with too much sauce on it.

                      2. Yes - I think I was so ko'd by the lamb itself, everything else on the plate faded into insignificance