Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
340 Stockton St. (Post/Sutter)
San Francisco, 94108
(415) 781-5555 or (800) 235-4300
Executive Chef Daniel Humm has left Campton Place as of January, 2006. New chef Peter Rudolph has been named Executive Chef. New review to follow.
Cuisine: Contemporary finesse with French influence
Pluses: Exquisite food and exemplarily service
Minuses: A forever different view of what classifies fine dining
Don’t Miss: the 7 course tasting menu paired with wine
Prices: $135 for 7 course tasting menu + $78 for wine pairing
One elegant martini glass. Inside cauliflower mousse, a dollop of osetra caviar, and one perfectly poached egg yolk ready to burst, basking in lobster-uni foam. How do you poach only the yolk? Our server explains the complex process. This guy is good.
Attention to the minutest detail is apparent throughout the meal. When my guest arrives with flowers I am offered a vase to put them in. As soon as we are seated we are offered a choice of four different champagnes by the glass. The selection varies, but I have enjoyed both a 1985 Champagne Charlie by Charles Heidsieck and a 1990 Krug Brut.
Soon after this, a narrow platter emerges from the kitchen, on top of which lies a poached oyster in an apple gelée nestled back in its shell, a crisp sweetbread turnover and other assorted nibbles to pique your appetite.
The tone has been set. Get ready for an exercise in the ultimate indulgence. The room itself bemoans understated luxury with its burnished pewter tones offset by white leather and stark floral arrangements. Be prepared to follow the whims of Executive Chef Daniel Humm who is rapidly making a name for himself. The San Francisco Chronicle named him a 2004 Rising Star Chef and The James Beard Foundation nominated Chef Humm for its Rising Star Chef award in both 2004 and 2005. Most recently, he was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs 2005.
One late summer visit included a salad of diced tomato, grilled watermelon, pistachio nuts, and a sprinkling of crusty sea salt. The colors were so vibrant it looked like tuna tartar, but instead the flavors were so juicy and fresh they burst in the mouth.
Pristine ingredients are the foundation of the kitchen. Three quenelles of diced raw fish, one each of hamachi, bluefin tuna, and Japanese sea bass, are served in a scallop shell and topped with freshly grated genuine wasabi and freshly zested yuzu. These last two ingredients are nearly impossible to find and the completed dish sparkles on the plate and on the palate with a slightly sweet citrus clarity tempered by the subtle singe of the wasabi.
An option for wine pairing will pair each of these dishes with an ideal mate. A Dominus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a huge deep cabernet with a velvety texture and intense berry and cassis flavors was paired with our entrée while the aforementioned lobster-uni martini was paired with a Daiginjo (the premier grade of) sake. Not unlike a sauternes with foie gras, this almost syrupy sake with a hint of licorice and a floral finish cuts through the richness of the dish.
Speaking of foie gras, Chef Humm does glorious things with it. I tasted it sautéed, brûléed, and best of all was a torchon. A thick cylinder was formed into a jewel box, inside of which hid a pool of maple syrup. Hawaiian sea salt, thick brioche, and a pain d’épice crouton completed the picture. This dish had everything going on: sweet and earthy syrup, rich and smooth foie, crunchy bursts of salt, and spice from the croutons. Slice into the foie and the syrup bursts out. Take a spoonful of each component tasting the flavors and textures interplay in the mouth. At this point I melted into my banquet seat, giddy with delight.
It was only the next course that brought me out of my reverie, only to return to it again later in the meal. Such is the experience of dining at Campton Place.