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Mar 18, 2012 05:21 PM

Keiko à Nob Hill

Last weekend we went to Keiko à Nob Hill for my partner’s birthday. The setting is nice, more intimate, less trendy and less sterile feeling than a lot of upscale places these days. The food was very good and I would recommend this place for special occasions.

Here is what we ate:

Carrot ‘Trio” This included a carrot chiffon cake and a carrot custard. The custard was excellent. The carrot chiffon cake was good for what it was but to me it really seemed out of place as an appetizer.

Trois ensemble of Dungeness crab. The crab was layered between thin crunchy sesame tuiles. The crab tasted very fresh, and paired well with both the livelier “red” garnishes and more vegetal “green” garnishes.. I am usually a big fan of simply presented crab dishes, but I think this dish might have been elevated to the next level with a hit of lemon or yuzu juice and a tiny drizzle of good quality olive oil. While enjoyable as is, a bit of acid would have really brought out the flavors of the crab more and brought the dish together.

The next course on the menu was foie gras, the signature dish here. We are not big foie gras eaters and they made us a vegetable course with roasted bamboo shoots and bomito and miso instead which was very good.

Duo of black angus rib eye ‘Deux. Braised and grilled rib eye. The rib eye was probably the standout dish of the evening. It was offered with shaved black truffle for $40 extra. Since it was a special occasion we got the black truffles on top. From past experience, getting shaved truffle has been a mixed experience ranging from transcendent to mediocre. The quality of truffles varies greatly and sometimes servers can be very stingy with the amount of truffle. Thankfully this experience erred on the transcendent side. First, the truffles were very high quality, plump, dark are bursting with umami earthiness and aroma. Second, the owner was generous with the amount he shaved on our food. The rib eye was outstanding, very meaty and full of flavor. The braise was good but fell short because it was not braised long enough and the meat was too dry.

Fourme d'ambert cheese-kind of like a blue cheese fillo pie. What a great idea. It was excellent.
The Cannelé Bordelais was the best version I can remember having.

Wine selection suggested by the sommelier was a 1990 Maison Leroy Maranges – a perfect match for all courses.

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  1. Just wanted to add my report to this thread...had a fabulous time on a girls night at the lounge!

    This review is for the lounge, not the main dining room. Went here for a girls night out and this place was perfect! The main dining room serves a tasting menu only, but they let you order a bunch of small plates a la carte in the lounge where we stayed. There were 11 items on the lounge menu and we decided to get one of everything and share among the four of us!

    We started off with the Burdock 'Kinpira'...this was the one that looked least appetizing on the menu but it was actually very tasty, earthy and satisfying. Maybe it seemed even more so since we were starving! Next was the Farmer's Market Salad, which was light and refreshing. Third we had the Mushroom "Nibitashi", which was again very earthy, with great mushroom flavor. Next was the Amberjack sashimi. It was very fresh and tasted great, though I guess there's nothing that distinguishes it from sashimi at a really good sushi restaurant. Then we got Chef Keiko's signature dish, pan-seared artisan foie gras with espresso sauce...this was definitely the knockout dish of the night. I thought I would taste the espresso more but it was very subtle. I only wish the portion was larger! This was the only dish that we had two orders of and unfortunately the second piece was even smaller than the first. At least I'm glad I got to taste it before the ban...still on a quest to eat as much foie as possible before July! Next we had the "Forufuki daikon" radish, which was pretty good but I have to admit a bit anticlimactic after the foie gras. The "Kumiage" (yuba with sea urchin) was much better...the uni was fresh and buttery, and the sauce was fabulous. Then we had the oyster gratin with spinach, bacon, and champagne cream...this was good but I think the richness of the other ingredients overpowered the oyster itself a little bit. The wild mushroom risotto that followed was perfectly cooked, with loads of mushrooms (and seems like a little bit of truffle oil) was delish and I could have eaten at least twice as much! The Fried chicken "Tatsuta" was probably one of the best versions of chicken karaage that I've had, if not the best. The batter was so crispy but not greasy, the chicken was not overcooked and so juicy and tender. The shishito peppers went perfectly with it. Finally, we had the beef tongue "Persillade", which was tasty and had a decent-sized portion and a good sauce, but I have to admit I liked the fried chicken better.

    For dessert, there were 3 choices and since we're such gluttons, again we got one of each. The first was a fourme d'ambert cheese in a fillo pouch, accompanied by some greens/flowers. It looked gorgeous and tasted even better. This was probably my favorite dessert out of the three. There was a chocolate dessert which came with some caramel(?) ice cream, which was good but I think a bit forgettable...I would probably have preferred it to be a little darker and more bitter. There was also a panna cotta with some mango sorbet and small pieces of mango...I'm not the biggest fan of fruity desserts but my friends enjoyed it.

    We ordered two bottles of wine, the first was a Pinot that they recommended and it was pretty reasonably priced compared to the rest of the list (~$80), and for our second wine we got a Gigondas which was even cheaper (didn't want to pay more for the second bottle!) Both wines were good, though I enjoyed the Pinot better and it went with more of the dishes. Since the wines we chose were on the low end, the whole dinner wound up costing us a little over $400 ($100/pp) after tax but before tip, which I think is a steal for the amount of food and wine we had.

    The service was decent but could use improvement...I'm not sure if this is because it's the lounge, but it took them a while to refill our wine when some of us were empty (kinda wish they just left the bottle at the table if they're not going to be timely about refilling our glasses). I also wish that the plates would have come more slowly, perhaps 1-2 at a time as opposed to getting as much food as would fit in our table all at once. I'm not sure if they were just trying to turn the table but it seemed like there was plenty of empty space at the bar so we didn't feel bad lingering. Though they were sometimes hard to find though, the servers we encountered were all pretty friendly and nice.

    I do want to try the dining room (hopefully before they get the Michelin star they probably will get), probably when it's just me and the hubby. I think for a group though it's much better to hang out in the lounge, since you can try more dishes. Also it was a good option for us since we couldn't plan too far ahead to make reservations on time. I think the lounge was especially suited for a girls night out since the food was relatively light and we didn't feel bloated/disgusting in the end (not sure heavy eaters would enjoy as much).

    I would definitely go back and I highly recommend this place for a special occasion!