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Jul 11, 2008 10:23 AM

Is there any place like Moto's or El Bulli

Is there any place to get this kind of experimental cuisine in San Francisco?

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  1. Not really. The closest you can come are Manresa, Orson, and Coi and they aren't that close.

    Manresa Restaurant
    320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

    373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

    Orson Restaurant
    508 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

    1 Reply
    1. re: Paul H

      Along the same line is Ubuntu in Napa whose chef is from Manresa.

    2. Thank got that stuff doesn't really fly around here. The one place that tried it flopped.

      8 Replies
        1. re: irbaboon

          Isn't this the bastion of California Cuisine, which worships food in its most natural states? Molecular gastronomy, or whatever you want to call it, is the polar opposite. It's the ultimate in processed food, Cheez Whiz gone haute.

          1. re: Xiao Yang

            Molecular gastronomy isn't my idea of a great way to treat food, but I don't think it's fair to equate it with Cheez Whiz. The whole point of most commercially processed foods is to standardize -- to package and repackage the same ingredients in "new" ways -- and to get the most bang out of the cheapest possible ingredients. Whatever you think of molecular gastronomy, that's not what it's about.

            1. re: jlafler

              Well, I did say "haute" Cheez Whiz, didn't I? My point is I don't want my food sprayed from a can or atomizer, no matter how high the quality of the ingredients. And doesn't Ferran Adria like to incorporate popular cheap candy and junk food into his cuisine? It's what's done to the food between the garden (or pasture) and the plate that places the two schools of cuisine in opposition.

            2. re: Xiao Yang

              I would characterize the contrast between California cuisine and what Moto (molecular gastronomy) does as

              lack of manipulation vs. extreme manipulation.

              Great raw ingredients in all their pristine glory vs. ingredients that no longer even resemble their original form -- they are puréed, liquified, frozen in liquid nitrogen, and class IV-lasered -- and the goal often is to make one ingredient look like a completely different ingredient.

              (Just saw Ben Roche give a talk last week.)

              1. re: maria lorraine

                I think you are over generalizing. Does a souffle look like an egg? Does cheese look like milk? Does ice-cream look like cream? Does chicken stock look like a chicken? What do you suppose folks said about these innovations when they were first introduced?

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  To me, "molecular gastronomy" refers to the combination of both those things: extreme manipulation using ingredients and tools invented in the the past 50 years or so and not used previously in cooking outside of processed food factories, such as methyl cellulose, carageenan, xanthan gum, vaccum chambers, smoke guns, and Anti-Griddles. I think sous vide is the only part of the MG toolkit that has really caught on around here.

                  My report on WD-50:


              2. re: irbaboon

                The only place here to have focused strongly on "molecular gastronomy" a la El Bulli and Moto was Antidote, which didn't do well and closed within a year.

                Sous vide is increasingly popular but it's about retaining the natural qualities of the food rather than transforming them.

            3. The only places I know of doing any sort of avante garde cuisine are Coi and the restaurant at Meadowood, which is definitely avante garde under new chef. But not as out there as El Bulli.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Madge

                I think that restaurants like Alinea in Chicago need to be looked at. Chef Achatz creates dishes that are certainly "molecular gastronomy," but it is definitely all about the ingredients. To sat that it is a polar opposite of California cuisine is not totally true. Maybe the restaurants that have attempted this in this area have just done so poorly.

                1. re: Mr_J

                  "Despite what your mind tells you to taste, [white chocolate with beluga caviar] is a stunner. The cocoa frames the beluga because, according to [chef Heston Blumenthal], chocolate and caviar are both high in amines and, on the mass spectrometer, reveal strikingly similar flavor profiles. This is the Fat Duck method at its core: a dish revealed through serendipity, using a belief in creativity spurred on by science. In Heston's hands, the food we thought we knew becomes more complicated, alive again in our mouths and minds, verb-like.

                  "Which is what Heston wants. He wants to return you to the Platonic thing, the buried essence of a taste that our memory occludes. 'If I could get perfect vegetables,' he says, 'I wouldn't need to do all this.'"


                  1. re: Mr_J

                    My meal last year at Alinea is still a highlight of the last several years. I think the concepts of molecular gastronomy are best used when they challenge the way you associate flavor with texture. For example, the short ribs with the guinness film and peanuts at Alinea were not only texturally interested, but combined well together. The freeze-dried bacon and pineapple were also memorable, as the technique made the dish more interesting and, well, better. It made you think. In the Bay Area, I think Daniel Patterson at COI is trying to do something similar, albeit in the confines of the Bay Area mentality -- that manipulating food is somehow bad (in fact, I think Daniel would like to push the envelope even more than he does). In particular, I remember being enamored by his marrow gelee -- he took a recognized flavor and gave it another dimension. While I loved my recent meal at Manresa, I didn't find quite as daring as my meals at COI. I will also add that Cyrus seems to be experimenting a bit with m.g. -- last week one of the amuses was an encapsulated "shot" of Racer 5 (representing bitter in a collection of tastes). It was an interesting idea and I look forward to the kitchen's other experimentations.