Thursday, October 25, 2012
Esporao and Twenty Five Lusk.
Last week, the hubbs and I were invited to experience "A Journey to Portugal with Esporao and Winemaker David Baverstock", courtesy of Benson Marketing and the lovely Tia Butts. The event was to take place at San Francisco's Twenty Five Lusk, an industrial-chic hideaway located in the heart of SOMA. This was an experience I was very much looking forward to because A) I heart everything about Portugal and B) I'd never heard of Twenty Five Lusk and was greatly intrigued. The hubbs was covering the wine part, while I, of course, was interested in the tremendous food. With the promise of a four-course tasting meal, an education on the wines of Portugal and the privilege of meeting the good people of Esporao, I didn't have to think twice about attending.
I refer to Twenty Five Lusk as a "hideaway" due to it's sublime, hush-hush location right off of Townsend Street. A welcome departure from typical San Francisco restaurant lounges, Twenty Five Lusk shimmers with it's deconstructed 1917 brickhouse facade (formerly a meatpacking facility), and it's welcoming plate glass entryway. They manage to put a modern twist on classic workhorse architecture, leaving beams and concrete exposed, while keeping a sleek, sexy look to newly added features. Glass, steel and stone prevail in this dimly lit urban haven-- whether it's the restaurant upstairs you are visiting or the uber-hip lounge downstairs you desire.
"Executive Chef Matthew Dolan and General Manager Chad Bourdon met in culinary school and twelve years later, they have teamed up to deliver flawless cuisine served with the highest attention to detail. Their commitment to approachable fine-dining makes Twenty Five Lusk the ideal drinking and dining destination for San Franciscans and visitors alike."
As I wandered downstairs into the bustling lounge and through the maze-like black marbled walls past the inviting back lit bar, I couldn't help but think to myself, "Is the food this attractive?" Having visited so many restaurants in the past few years, it's common to come across a pretty environment with not so pretty food, all-show-no-go as they say. This is absolutely not the case at Twenty Five Lusk.
From the moment I was seated in their private dining room, I was truly impressed with their cuisine. "Approachable fine-dining" is the perfect way to describe their unique style in the kitchen. Once we were all settled in, wine started flowing and the food began to arrive. All food was paired with delightful Portuguese wine, specifically intended to complement the dishes. The first nibbles were the Truffle Popcorn and Ahi Cucumber Tartare...
The popcorn was melt-in-your-mouth delicious with just the right amount of truffle and salt. Our table ended up battling for the bowl until each kernel had disappeared. A success of a starter. The Ahi was served in single chilled spoon- great flavor and freshness, not too overpowered by seasoning. These bites were paired with a light 2011 Verdelho, light and clean on the palate.
Next we were served (my first favorite) Seared Diver Scallops with Dungeness crab, watercress and a Meyer lemon buerre blanc. The scallops were cooked perfectly, not too firm and delicately seared to a light crisp. A full bite containing the crab, scallop and watercress was decadent- if I could claim a signature dish for myself, this would be it. So. Good. The hubbs concurred. I would've loved to sit there all night with my Arco Esporao 2010 and reveled in the tastiness.
I felt spoiled when the Smoked Duck Breast with Parmesan spaetzle, huckleberry and basil course arrived. I had just eaten pristine scallops and now I'm being served duck? My goodness. This dish had a surprising flavor to it- I am not a terribly big fan of anything "smoked" unfortunately, so I found the distinct taste a little overwhelming. The bird was presented beautifully, the spaetzle was tasty when mixed with the unusual combination of berries and basil, but overall the duck dish was on the lower end of the spectrum for me. To the restaurant's credit, I thought the portion and plating of the smoked duck was incredibly impressive. This dish was paired with the 2009 Esporao Reserva Red.
When the Roast Suckling Pig was delivered to us, I thought I'd died and gone to foodie heaven. Wrapped in prosciutto with roasted shallots, hazelnut powder in a sauce au poivre, this dish was the foodie equivalent of pure bliss. It was like eating a tender, juicy, savory on the inside crispy, sweet on the outside cannelloni made completely of pork. Not a knife in the dining room was needed. I'd be curious to know how exactly this dish is prepared, whether it's roasted or baked or constructed after the elements have been cooked. No matter, it was by far my second favorite dish of the night. The 2008 Quinta dos Murcas was the perfect red to sip while enjoying the suckling pig.
Overall, this was an amazing meal at Twenty Five Lusk and I would certainly return. The restaurant would make for a particularly sultry date night meal, a meal between friends or a gathering of companions downstairs cozied up to one of their suspended fireplaces. The service is classy and attentive, and the food is downright thumbs-up worthy.
The folks from Esporao did an outstanding job at satiating the hungry minds of wine industry individuals that night by co-mingling, sharing stories, laughter and insight into Portugal's expansive wine regions. They were bright and funny, well-spoken and incredibly warm people who were eager to share their knowledge and wine with the lot of us. I very much appreciate being in attendance at this intimate gathering of writers, winemakers and industry professionals. A big thank you to Tia Butts and Benson Marketing for their invitation to the event- it was a wonderful evening. And thank you again to Esporao and the staff at Twenty Five Lusk.
Stay tuned with Vinopanion for reviews on Esporao's wonderful wines!
*photos 2, 3 & 4 courtesy of 25lusk.com