Commis 2013 [Oakland]
Went on impulse last night (thank you football fans) and had the chef's counter menu. It was about as close to perfect a meal as I've had.
black bread with herbed (fromage frais?)
geoduck with celtuce and yuzu
wilted chicories, licorice herb, orach, tarragon, hazelnuts, yogurt, dill oil
house levain, salted cultured butter
poached egg, potato (soup?), breadcrumbs, spices, raw kohlrabi, broccoli rabe flowers: seriously a kick-ass dish
halibut, brown butter clam vinaigrette, toasted salsify, miners lettuce
crab seasoned with its roe, lemon leaves and blossom emulsion foam, radish, celery leaf
mushroom tisane: amazingly simple and good, I think it was just regular mushrooms steeped in water
guinea hen rolled in its skin, green farro, yellowfoot chanerellle
Cara Cara pudding, sassafras ice, Kishu mandarins: one minor complaint, the sassafras lingered too much on my palate
two cheeses with seeded toast and crackers: one was an amazing Camembert-style cheese from Tennessee, I wish I'd written down the name
chocolate truffle, jelly, some other sweet
It was a very light meal for so many courses. I certainly didn't leave hungry (started at 5:00, out at 7:30) but I did have some pasta and a sandwich later.
Wow, you beat me to it. i was there Friday night, had a very similar menu, and we also sat at the chef's counter.
we were told the black bread was seaweed based - it was lighter than any spongecake, an amazing texture. this first bite set our expectations high.
our next plate up was an oyster in a wood sorrel mousse - grassy, delicious.
wilted chicories salad, licorice herbs, hazelnuts, yogurt, dill oil - we found this a lovely and refreshing dish.
house levain, salted cultured butter - we made the "mistake" of eating way too much of this. the bread is made in house, by Chef Syhabout, and for me is better than Tartine's bread. It had a wonderful caramelly, maltiness, sour yet sweet flavor, a great crust, a dense but not heavy crumb. the butter was even amazing! we were told it's made especially for the restaurant by a Montclaire bakery.
perfectly poached egg, on a buttery potato cream puree, buttered crispy toasted breadcrumbs and kohlrabi - agree with Robert - my favorite bite of the night.
halibut, brown butter clam vinaigrette, toasted and pressed salsify, miners lettuce - we actually found the halibut a tad mushy, but the sauce was addictive.
crab seasoned with its roe, lemon leaves and blossom foam, radishes, celery leaf - another fantastic sauce. i'd never heard of lemon leaves, and at first we thought the dish was made with lemon grass. loved the bite of the radishes.
mushroom tisane: i didn't love this, my sister did. i sensed a bit of an ammoniac flavor in it.
guinea hen with green farro, yellowfoot chanterellles and young garlic. a bite even without the hen - just the farro, mushrooms, green garlic in a butter sauce - was my second favorite bite of the night.
Cara Cara pudding, sassafras ice - a palate cleanser - i agree again with RL, this dish did not cleanse as it left a very root beery flavor in my mouth. i don't like root beer - my sister liked this bite.
i had the cheese course - two American cheeses, both raw cow's milk. i loved the camembert-like cheese as well, the other was much too mild to me.
my sister had the creme fraiche cake with fennel, grapefruit and pink peppercorn ice cream. the ice cream was my favorite part.
mignardises were chocolate truffles, a perfect whiskey sour jelly, and a thin sheet of some kind of coffee/cocoa thing.
we were completely stuffed. again, too much bread, but i didn't regret it.
the service was excellent - some of the best i've had. all the chefs who plated and tweezed and molded the food in front of us were friendly and ready to answer questions about what they were doing.
the only slight complaint i had was we had a res for 2, and that same afternoon i called and asked if we could add a 3rd to our party. i knew it was a long shot. we were told very nicely we could not. upon arrival at the counter, we found that there was an empty seat next to us. the maitre'd informed me someone had cancelled at 7. i told him i wish he'd called to let me know - our res wasn't until 9:00 p.m.
still. all in all a perfect evening. rivals my experience at Atelier Crenn (but not surpasses) - though perhaps a more "accessible" menu, if you will, and certainly more affordable. but the elegance and care put into each component of each stellar bite for me absolutely confirms why it deserves a Michelin star. it really stood in stark contrast to the meal i had at Aziza recently. i know, apples and oranges. but still.
It turns out that the chef's counter is once again the same menu again as the entire restaurant, which last night, was excellent.
The star of the night was the halibut confit, followed by the game hen, the summer fruits and veg w/salted corn pudding, and the scallops. I preferred a previous egg dish to the current version (although this was very good), and I'm not much of an oyster eater, but the prep was nice. The mustard plant broth was excellent, as was the wild plum and tarragon float. We shared a bottle of Vermentino followed by a half-bottle of Crozes-Hermitage. I remain impressed of the accessibility of the wine list in the mid range price point. Quite a number of interesting and delicious options.
went to commis on my trip to the bay area a few weeks ago. it was good, but didn't wow or merit a trip as a destination restaurant, imho. since its clearly shooting for a two star experience, id say it overall fell a bit short.
two absolute stand-outs were an oyster with oyster broth gelee and the egg dish, which was quite similar to the one described by robert above. id agree it was a seriously kick-ass dish. the oyster was also delicous, one of the few oyster preps where i felt the oyster was actually improved by its accoutrements. the west-coast oyster was smooth and sweet and held its own against the flood of deliciously briny gelee. simple; elegant; a perfect bite.
some less successful dishes were a lightly cooked scallop dish where everything was prepared excellently but the ingredients just didnt "sing" and the fish course (I honestly forget what type), where again the execution was perfect, but the dish seemed boring, almost soulless.
Overall everything was good, and it wasn't a bad experience, just not one that I'd go out of my way to experience again, especially the great wealth of other options in the bay area, and the difficulty in getting to commis from san francisco. as far as how it compared to our other meals, it didn't hold a candle to atelier crenn (one of the best and most exciting meals i've ever had) and was about on par, although much different, from our meal at AQ. imo, one michelin star is right about where commis currently belongs.
i'm still baffled by the AQ love on this board. i and my dining companions found it very meh. But i'm glad you loved Atelier Crenn - absolutely my favorite place in San Francisco. (Though i would personally put Commis just one step below.) sounds like overall you had a good trip here!
Our recent visit here resulted in one of the best meals of the year. Each dish had a sense of identity with clarity, and each components with purpose. The seasoning was just perfect allowing the ingredients - and confident chef - to shine. Their tweezerized presentation is only an invitation to great flavors one's utensils happily mess with and thoroughly. Progression of the plates and timing was also perfect. Combined with the wine pairing - all except one was of french kind- their price is very reasonable if not relatively inexpensive (see pic for the menu and paired wine). As Chef Syhabout was working on their new restaurant, it was chef Eric (not Aaron Martinez as I heard about) in charge and lived up to the namesake restaurant. Friendly, involved, and knowledgeable staff. Thanks to the board for putting this on our visit list.
p.s. One thing we noted though is that the chef's counter here shows a zen-like kitchen with quick searing of the proteins (many seemed to be finished in oven) being the only visible action: much of the plates were constructed w/ prepared items and sauces kept warm on the stoveside.