Friday, March 03, 2006

Midnight in the Jardiniere of Good and Evil

One of my boyfriend's friends just ended her job as a pastry chef at Jardiniere in San Francisco, and she invited a group of friends to celebrate her move to new horizons, and to enjoy the benefits from her employee-discount for one last time.

Given that it is directly adjacent to the San Francisco Symphony Hall, Jardiniere has the best "location, location, location" to cater to wealthy symphony-goers. It lies in San Francisco's Hayes Valley, which is within walking distance to San Francisco's Civic Center, and thus, it acts as the buffer (comprised of upper-end restaurants) between City Hall and the innards of the city. Another restaurant in Hayes Valley (
that I have posted about before), is Absinthe. Although we not on our way to or from the symphony or the nearby performing arts theaters or ballet house, we were about to enjoy a visually-captivating performance, not by actors, but by the chefs of Jardiniere.

The entire experience at Jardiniere was indescribable. The night was one of excess. We overdrank, we overate, and we stayed out until the wee hours of the morning.

Because we were guests of a Jardiniere employee, we were able to dine in the exclusive "wine room," a room that had to be reserved with a $500 room fee--if you cancel and they are unable to fill the room, they keep your $500. In the room, we sat amongst towering shelves stocked with wines that cost more than a month's salary--meaning that "one bottle of wine cost more than a month's salary," that is. None of us dared to approach the wines too closely, or even lift the bottles to inspect the labels, for fear of the secret hi-tech security system that would laser off our corneas and two layers of our skin. (With vintage wines imported from the finest wineries in Europe, you never know what measures the owner will take to protect it.)

Although we sat in the "wine room," we actually brought our own wine to enjoy with the meal. By bringing our own wine, we'd get to reduce some of the cost of the final bill. Plus, because of the generosity of our Jardiniere friend, we'd also get to circumvent the $15 corkage fee per bottle of wine. Everyone brought wine, and it was fun to drink wines ranging from Robert Mondavi to Charles Shaw ("$2-Buck Chuck") at the restaurant.

The experience was a barrage of flavors, overwhelming at times. The food was fabulous, but not everything tasted terrific. Too much wine dulled my taste buds and my senses, but overall, it was a gourmet extravaganza--an experience of a lifetime.

Because we ate so many different dishes, it would be a tremendous disservice to try to describe some dishes and neglect others. Furthermore, given the deluge of tastes, images, and textures that I experienced throughout the night, I don't feel that I could adequately do justice to any of them. However, being the "obedient" food blogger that I am, I did snap plenty of pictures, so that you can still get a visual taste of the dishes I sampled that night. (The quality of the pictures varies based on whether I used flash, and unfortunately, I didn't use the flash consistently.) Also, although we all shared the appetizers, we ate our main courses individually. However, not everyone tried every appetizer. Consequently, I can't remember what I didn't try, so here is my "best" attempt at labeling the pictures:

First Courses

Maine diver scallops with sautéed mushrooms, smoked bacon, Italian parsley and toasted almonds

Salad of little gems lettuce with chioggia beets and parmigiano-reggiano and green goddess vinaigrette

Duck confit with salad of marinated le puy lentils and heirloom oranges, red wine-honey reduction

Duck liver mousse with garlic croutons and housemade pickles

Gnocchi (I don't remember the full name, but I remember it was "gnocchi.")

Mackerel (I don't remember the full name, but I remember it was "mackerel.")

(I have no idea.)

Arugula, endive and frisée salad with roquefort, grained mustard vinaigrette

(Again, I am dumbfounded. What is this?)

Tombo tuna “crudo” with olive oil poached cardoons, mediterranean cucumbers, crispy fennel and tonnato sauce (I think.)

Second Courses

Hoffman ranch breast of chicken with rapini, capers, chanterelle mushrooms and meyer lemon potato mousseline, natural jus

Red wine braised beef shortribs with horseradish potato purée and herb salad

Petrale sole with Pacific shrimp, artichokes, fingerling potatoes, tomato confit, and lettuce emulsion (This is my main course. It was "okay," but not great. The fish was a little overcooked, and the flavors were bland. But doesn't it look dee-lightful?!?)

Dry aged New York steak with slow cooked broccoli, garlic and lemon, fingerling potatoes, niçoise olive jus

Wild mushroom and potato pavé with local chanterelle salad, caramelized onion and red wine-mushroom sauce

Third Courses

Apple pie à la mode

Carrot cake à la mode

Bonne bouche platter

Creme brulée

Housemade ice cream

Lemon meringue “Napoleon” with passion fruit sauce, macadamia nut tuile

Bittersweet chocolate cake with port-sour cherry ice cream

It was an hour-and-a-half past midnight when we left the restaurant, as the sole stragglers in the building. We had arrived around eight o'clock. Our "lengthy" meal at Jardiniere was diametrically opposite from our reception and treatment during Dine About Town. (When we dined at Rubicon, we were literally in an out in about an hour.) However, at Jardiniere, although we left late, we left with stomachs full with a memorable meal and with hearts full of happiness.


  1. Hi PE - Wow, the descriptions will probably run into next moth!

  2. That lemon merguine Napoleon looks incredible!

  3. hey i thought you weren't into daring stuff! i see a lot of foam/emulsions going on... like the espresso/sea urchin emulsion i had at Winterland haha. nice posting, i miss SF and Winterland already.

  4. I agree Kirk! That is why I'm gonna limit the post to mainly pictures and the generic names from the menu!

    It tasted delicious too Rachel! Luckily, our entire party shared the desserts, so I was able to try a bit of everything. Actually, that was my favorite dessert--no kidding!

    I am not Eat, Drink, & Be Merry. The foam / emulsion reminds me of dirty dishwashing soap. I don't really umderstand the appeal of it.

  5. That looks like some feed. Yum.

  6. Holy mother of pearls! That's un-freaking-believable! Regardless of the hits or misses, that looks like a once-in-a-lifetime experience...Wow...I'm still dizzy! Thanks for sharing!

  7. braised short ribs...mmmmmm... wow... everything looks so good...

    how'd you put all that down?

  8. Thanks to both of you The Food Pornographer and Elmo Monster! Your enthusiasm is contagious Elmo Monster! I definitely agree that the experience of having attention (and a monsterous amount of food) lavished upon you is truly a unique experience. Never in a million years would I otherwise be able to afford such a dinner.

    Good question Diet Chili Cheese Fries! We actually shared all of the appetizers and desserts family-style, so most of us were full by the time that our main dishes rolled out. The appetizers were actually on the smaller-end (portion wise), but mostly everyone got to try every appetizer and dessert. (And welcome to the food blogging world! You are making a very positive impression on everyone with your funny and intelligent blogging style!)

  9. I dined about town in Rubicon before, too. It felt a little stuffy / snooty for my ghetto East Bay butt.

  10. I remember you telling me about your Rubicon experience, feelings are mutual here about that place Jeff L. They are a bunch of pretentious prissies!


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