Friday, December 30, 2011

Commonwealth's Chef's Tasting

Commonwealth, "a progressive American restaurant in San Francisco's Mission district," does a fine job with its chef's tasting menu. Lonely Planet pal AB and I met there a few weeks ago per her glowing recommendation. The line-up was not only pleasing to the eye, but to the palate as wellfor the most part anyway.

It started with an amuse bouche of the crunchy granola persuasion, comprising thin slivers of raw maitake mushroom drizzled with honey, laying atop a sprinkle of pine nuts. Presented to us on rough-hewn slate slabs, the au naturel opener was less to AB's liking than minewe both agreed it had a true forage feel to it, like we were taking a trek in the woods.

The foie gras bon bons served with half-rounds of quince, tonka bean and Szechuan peppercorn were a step up from the mushrooms, though I'd have preferred the foie gras less chilled and sans chocolate. The strong, bittersweet flavor of dark chocolate seems better off saved for the end of the meal vs. introduced in the beginning.

Commonwealth's standout dish was the crispety-crunchety deep-fried
Jerusalem artichokes, sharp and yet sweet onions cooked in hay, tiny soft-boiled quail egg, sprinkling of chickweed and radicchio leaves, resting on a beautiful bed of quinoa.

I'm not going to say no to a good scallop, and these were seared oh so well. Though scallops seem to be on every hot SF restaurant menu, this dish was made unique in its accompaniments: vadouvan (aka Indian spice blend), pumpkin puree, black rice, nasturtium (both the flowers and leaves), and a nettle emulsion.

I appreciated that my moist and tender quail came out as tiny medallionsmuch easier to pop in my mouth than to work on a little carcass of a bird with fork and knife. It came with crispy curls of parsnip, bitter chicories, fig leaf, vanilla and a beurre rouge (or red butter sauce).

And the finale: chocolate played a part, and rightly so. This peanut butter semifreddo with chocolate ganache outer shell and sprinkling of frozen popcorn was essentially a fancy PB&Choco candy bar. Thumbs up, we say.

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