Sunday, December 11, 2016

Silly Situ

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San Francisco, December 8, 2016—
TO THE CITY today with a couple of friends to walk through the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and lunch in ints new restaurant. It is, I think, a silly restaurant; but then much of the art of the last thirty years is, I think, silly — more entertainment than what I would call "art," which is appropriate, because the function of art has traditionally been to mediate between creators, observers, and meaning; and the meaning of much of contemporary life is shallow, social, and transient. But that's a sermon for another blogsite. In Situ intends to do for Restaurant what SFMOMA does for Art Museum. The restaurant curates a menu of recipes "lent" by famous chefs and restaurants around the world, and I must say from today's experience and a little bit of professional hearsay it does a good job. It's not just a matter of reading a recipe and figuring out how to achieve it in its own kitchen with its own staff. Travel, personal meetings, and hands-on observation is also involved.

The dishes come from renowned restaurants as far away as Copenhagen, Kyoto, Hong Kog, Lima, Mejton, Seoul, and Bangkok; American restaurants are represented from Los Angeles, New Uork City, and Yountville.

Alas the menu offered few items that interested me, and I wound up ordering probably the blandest possible item: duck breast as prepared by Thomas Keller at his Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry. The duck is cooked sous-vide and has very little developed taste as a result: it was more like pigeon than duck, reminding me how much of the flavor of duck is developed slowly in braise or on the grill.

The dish was pretty, the lentils nicely presented (though, again, lacking the depth of slow cooking), the little diced vegetables all of a size and texture, the "aged red wine vinegar sauce" pleasant but not really suffusing the entire dish. I ate at The French Laundry once, long ago; this dish seemed to me to be exactly like the sort of thing served there.

The dessert was something else. Two of my companions shared an "Oops! I Dropped the Lemon Tart," a recipe and presentation from Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana in Modena, splashed across the plate on which it was presented with dots of mint, bottarga, quince, chocolate, and so on — silly, entertaining, very pretty, fun; and the curd, which was all I tasted, very correct and forward.

I split the cheesecake, an expensive item which arrived looking like nothing so much as the uncut cheese itself but which turned out to be the softest triple creme imaginable, pungent, and oddly wrapped in white chocolate which to my taste collides with cheese. I can tell chocolate from cheese! They conflict!

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Duck breastcheesecake
Counoise, Broc Cellars, Eagle Point Ranch (Mendocino), 2014: rough and astringent at first, but interesting and rewarding with food
•In Situ, , 151 3rd Street, San Francisco; +1 (415) 357-4000

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

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