Cal Academy: The Moss Room
We didn't get to eat at any of Charles Phan's cafeterias at the California Academy today because they were mobbed, but we did manage to get squeezed into Loretta Keller's Moss Room for lunch - and what a lovely room it was! Moss on one wall, with intermitent raindrops, lights dotting the opposite wall, and a glassed-in private room for 14 in one corner.
Since there was only 2 of us, and the wait staff was slammed, we only got to sample the spaghetti and meatballs (too al dente for my teenager, and even for me - the kitchen must have been slammed, too) and the sustainable catch of the day: a moist, silky black cod that was perfectly cooked, seasoned, and paired with perfect tiny tomatoes and haricots vertes. At $20, it was a steal and made up for the overpriced spaghetti ($17 with 4 mediocre meatballs).
Other selections included sweetbreads, country pate, steak, scallops, chicken (my neighbor had it and it looked great, with crispy skin and potatoes).
Next time, I'm leaving my teen at home so I can eat leisurely and order the desserts which sounded interesting: artisan cheese plate with date mousse and homemade bread; Big Woods Blue cheese w/ Banyuls glaze, figs, cornmeal biscotti; Bellwether Farms Fromage Blanc cheesecake with poached Williams pear; Dagoba Chocolate Torte with malted cream and fleur de sel.
Charles Phan and Loretta Keller were both in their respective kitchens and running around furiously.
55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA
Viognier, Cold Heaven "Sanford & Benedict Vineyard", Santa Barbara County, California, 2007 - opens big with a rich nose and high alcohol at 14% and finishes with a steely touch, to soften with food - the Crispy Squash Blossoms salt cod, piquillo peppers, frisée $9 served hot and luscious delighted us with its delicately fried crust pocketing the fluffy salt cod mash in a piquillo pepper; Slow Roasted Pork Belly with fresh garbanzo bean purée, ramps, pheasant egg, piment d’espelette $11 silkens with a punch once you break the yolk of the pheasant egg to lap the goodness of crispy edged fat, thankfully this is a hearty portion because you don't want to stop eating this lovely my-cheeks-are-full portion oozing with flavor and layered with fat; Liberty Farms Duck Breast with dirty-farro, pecans, cherries - parades the best of texture and flavors like Mardi Gras jumpin' in da mouth; Whole Local Petrale Sole arrives with Moroccan black olives, citrus, herbs, fleur
de sel and announces "I'm in heaven" on a plate; Vacherin for dessert - not an island but a continent of swiss meringue, crème anglaise, chocolate sauce, coffee gelato, almonds $9 ; the service was excellent, attentively professional without being obsequious - this is where my positive remarks begin on a stream of unconsciousness.
The desserts at Moss Room were very good. And it is a beautifully-decorated restaurant. That's where my positive remarks end.
"Sustainable" doesn't have to feel like sacrifice, but our meal certainly did. We practically had to trip the waiter to get some bread (not warm, no butter). Then my fish dish came out - all beige, bland looking and tasting. A sprinkling of heirloom tomatoes or fresh herbs would've made it look and taste twice as good. My husband got the pasta with duck sugo - dry, undersalted, and ungarnished. If that's Keller's "A" game, it's time for her to leave the field.