On Friday, January 6th, the hubby and I were invited to dine at the newly launched signature restaurant of the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco's hotel, Brasserie S&P. After spending time at the hotel the week prior, I couldn't wait to return to try out the restaurant that everybody seemed to be talking about.
We managed to arrive early enough to grab a pre-dinner cocktail at the luminous Brasserie S&P bar- a tradition of ours when fine dining, we like to relax, sip and chat a bit before sitting down for our meal. As you walk into the hotel and through the lobby, one of the first things you notice is the beautiful olive burl millwork that covers the walls and bordering banquettes of Brasserie S&P. The shiny, swirly elegance is impossible not to marvel at- I had to take a picture of the main wall that is adjacent to the restaurant because the paneling alone looked like a giant piece of art. Speaking of artwork, I also snapped a picture of this beautiful painting that rests near the maitre'd stand as well. What a sight.
The bar itself has an understated, chic, almost industrial-style allure. There is a sophisticated mirrored back wall that reflects the light and liquor, along with frosted door low boy refrigerators underneath to keep the good stuff cool. The curved Italian white marble bar top glistens in the warm lighting, decorated with glass jars of fruits, flowers and other bar accouterments. The seating consists of large, cozy metallic leather stools that sidle up to the bar and an intimate lounge seating area, complete with velvet lounge chairs sitting atop boldly patterned carpeting. The hubbs and I decided to sit directly at the bar, so we could interact with the bartenders and maybe pick up a few tidbits about the drinks they are currently serving.
Working that night behind the bar were David and Kristin- two incredibly cheerful, seasoned bartenders that were more than willing to chat with us newcomers. We very much enjoyed meeting them, as both were a pleasure to spend a few moments here and there discussing various bar related topics with. We ordered a glass of cava and settled down, taking in the environment. Immediately, David brought us a ceramic serving dish filled with seasoned almonds and pickled celery. The almonds were fantastic, almost too hard to stop eating, while the pickled celery acted as a refresher between sips. I noticed right away the jars of small fresh local flowers, trimmed and ready for the evenings concoctions. Many of Bar Manager Priscilla Young's cocktails are infused or garnished with fresh local buds- a touch that is absolutely enchanting.
Brasserie S&P's bar is decidedly gin-centric. "Led by Priscilla Young, Bar Manager and Mixologist, the team has designed a comprehensive Gin and Tonic menu to showcase the spirit's versatility and robust personality, setting the standard for gin-centric bars in the city." The standard is certainly set here. "To complement this new offering, the team created Sensei, the name given to the house-made infusions and tonics, an essential component in building Brasserie S&P's high quality Gin and Tonic cocktails. To sample their exclusive "Classics & Concoctions" drink menu, I ordered the "Indian Summer in Mt.Tam"- a mix of St.George 'Terroir' gin and Sensei saffron tonic water, garnished with a purple chive flower stalk and tiny rose petals. To say this drink was sublime would be an understatement. Smooth as silk. Other drinks such as the "Garden Envy"- Hendrick's gin infused with granny smith apples, celery, Square One cucumber vodka, lime juice and Galliano are aiming to please the most unusual of palates. Or try the "Diablo's Whisper"- Herradura Silver tequila, blackcurrant hibiscus, muddled Fresno pepper, lime juice, agave nectar and bacon salt... Yes, bacon salt. With a drink menu over 10 pages long, you are bound to find something that piques your interest.
In addition to their extensive mixed drink selection, Brasserie S&P has a collection of over 30 Gins, 59 Whiskeys & Single Malts, 21 Calvados & Cognacs, 31 Vodkas, 30 Liquors, 10 rums, 15 Tequilas, 22 Draft & Bottled beers, Sake, tea, coffee and soda. We haven't even begun to talk about their wine list!
Equally impressive is Brasserie S&P's wine selection. For you out there looking to find interesting options for sipping, they've got wine covered. Over 600 wines. They are one of the very few venues that are now currently utilizing the iPad as an electronic wine list menu. The iPad is brought to your table for your convenience and you can browse, as we did for a very long time, through their incredibly vast list of local, regional and international wines. The perfect, modern solution to a clunky, cumbersome paper list. You can even learn about the wines while making your selection using the informational screens, complete with photographs. The hubbs was particularly impressed with their large selection of aged Pinot- an uncommon, yet welcome discovery.
Once we had sufficiently sifted through the various drink options, we were happily seated at our table to begin dinner. Our waitress, Kathryn, greeted us with a smile and an introductory plate of crusty bread and creamy butter topped with sea salt. I ordered a glass of 2010 Ehler's Rose, a tart, crisp, light wine, while the hubbs tried a tumbler of Bols Double Gin. Settling in, I began to notice the little nuances of Brasserie S&P- the compact tropical Asian inspired flower arrangements, the stack of travel books for clientele to look through and the subtle, quiet ambiance of the entire restaurant. It all felt very high profile, while remaining intimate and luxurious.
On to the main meal... First a little background on Executive Chef Adam Mali:
"Chef Mali brings with him over 25 years of experience and training at some of the country’s
finest restaurants, including the renowned Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco. Most
recently Mali served as Executive Chef at Nick’s Cove in Tomales Bay, CA, working closely
with Chef/Owner Mark Franz to showcase the bounties of the Marin countryside, while infusing
his own style and flair. Nick’s earned three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle’s executive
food and wine editor and restaurant critic Michael Bauer, was one of San Francisco Chronicle’s
top 100 restaurants in 2008, 2009, and also Michelin recommended."
"Mali started his culinary career on the East Coast, where he spent three years as Sous Chef at
Gianni’s in New York City, before moving to Jodi’s Restaurant in the Berkshires, Massachusetts,
and then to Grist Mill Steakhouse in Vermont. From 2001 to 2002, Mali completed a culinary
externship in San Francisco at the renowned five-star, five-diamond Restaurant Gary Danko, and
then worked as a cook with Food & Wine Best New Chef of 2001, Craig Stoll, at Delfina. In
Colorado, Mali was chef/owner of Restaurant Kody in Evergreen, where he was named “Rising
Star Chef” by Rocky Mountain News in 2004, “Top Chef” in 2004 and earned the distinction of
being named one of Denver’s top ten restaurants in 2003 by 5280 magazine."
"Mali, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu/Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona, was also
Executive Chef of the Montecito Restaurant Group in Denver, Colorado, where he oversaw three
restaurants – Montecito North, Montecito South and Annabel’s. He was named a “Great
Regional Chef of America” by the James Beard Foundation in 2005 and is a first level
sommelier. Mali is also a fully certified Alpine ski instructor. He resides in Petaluma, CA with
his wife Mary and two daughters, Hana and Emma who love to cook as well."
As far as we are concerned, Adam Mali has really outdone himself with this little gem. The hubbs and I were beyond impressed with the quality of food for such a small yet sumptuous brasserie, hidden deep in the heart of the FiDi.
We started with a half dozen of Mali's "Drake's Bay Oysters"- a classic favorite of Northern Californian food buffs. These oysters were probably some of the best I've had in my 30 plus years of being a native. They arrived on a chilled metal stand, complete with seaweed garnish, giant rock salt and tangy, tart vinaigrette to top them off. The oysters were sweet- they tasted and smelled like the wild sea, fresh off the boat. I particularly loved that they were served at such a low temperature because it mimics the exact flavor of snatching one up yourself out of the great Pacific Ocean, cracking it open and eating it on the spot.
To counteract the flavor of the mouth watering oysters, we decided to also sample the "Blistered Padron Peppers." Everyone knows this is one of my favorite dishes, so how could I pass up the chance to give these a try? Sauteed in DaVero Dry Creek Estate olive oil, lemon and Maldon sea salt, this plate of fiery finger food disappeared in a heart beat. Our waitress was kind enough to forewarn us on the robust heat the peppers posses, but we opted to to go for it anyways and were certainly not disappointed.
Next, we split a bowl of the "Spring Pea Parmesan Soup." This seemed like a rather curious combo to me, but I was willing to give it a try. I love the idea of mixing such an unusual texture with a hearty cheese, topped off with fennel pollen croutons- something that I've been reading about a lot lately in the culinary world. Fennel pollen. The soup was offered to us either cold or hot, whichever we preferred... I chose the hot option, seeing as though the fog had rolled in and it felt appropriate. I must say, this is a refreshing spin on your everyday pea soup. Light yet flavorful- I would love to try it chilled the next time we visit. Either way, it's a great starter soup for any meal at Brasserie S&P.
After much deliberation, we finally decided on our main course dishes, or as Adam Mali refers to them, "Brasserie Plates." The hubbs ordered the "Roasted Liberty Farms Duck Breast"- a dish garnished with cracked English peas and lemon marmalata. The duck itself was beautifully carved and plated, looking pretty as a picture. We were surprised at how generous a portion was given of locally farm raised duck, pleasantly surprised. The hubbs was very impressed with tenderness of the foul and how the marmalata brought out the natural, ripe flavor of the meat.
I ordered the "Roasted Morro Bay White Bass" with snap peas, mustard greens and cherry tomatoes. This is my kind of dish. The fish was firm but buttery, with a crispy outer layer, skin on. The vegetable were cooked perfectly, all dressed in a warm lemon vinaigrette that made my taste buds water. I devoured it. Rather quickly. Needless to say, it was a huge success.
After dinner, the staff was gracious enough to present us with an amazing dessert- "DaVero Olive Oil Polenta Cake" with macerated cherries and pistachio brittle. This was divine, in all sense of the word. I believe they used black cherries, which brought a dark richness to the dish, along with fluffy hand whipped cream. The polenta cake itself was enough of a dessert, but to add such decadent toppings was like eating a small bite of heaven. A perfect way to end our lovely meal.
A special thank you goes out to Edwina Kluender, Director of Communications, for our invitation to dine at Brasserie S&P that evening, along with the gracious staff of the restaurant that served us, shared information and spoiled us with the many delights of Executive Chef Adam Mali's menu and Bar Manager Priscilla Young's lively liquid libations. We certainly look forward to another visit in the near future and recommend to everyone out there reading this...
Visit Brasserie S&P!
And again, thank you Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco!
Happy Friday to all,
Brasserie S&P Info:
7am-11am (Saturday & Sunday)
Beverage Manager / Mixologist: