Monday, February 16, 2004

Grand Cafe Restaurant


We can all use a holiday to celebrate love in the middle of one of the more dreary months of the year. And I can think of no better place to celebrate Valentine's day than at the Grand Cafe. First off, the interior of the restaurant is an architecturally restored, turn-of-the-century ballroom with 30 foot high ceilings. Modeled after the world-famous La Coupole, if you squint you feel you really could be in Paris. There is the warm lighting, the murals on the columns, the blonde wood, the art deco lighting fixtures even the bustling sights and sounds of the scurrrying waiters plying diners with large seafood platters and drinks.

There is something so romantic about all things French. Don't you think? I guess it's some sort of cultural conditioning, but a meal in a French restaurant makes me want to befriend the people at the next table, drink champagne, hold hands and make proclamations of love. Fortunately I was with my husband at the time so there will be no embarassing scenes to report here.

As for the food it is French/Californian in the brasserie style. To begin I had a most exquisite mushroom tart touted by the waiter as his favorite dish--a warm "mousseron" tart with black truffle sabayon. Kudos to the waiter because this was really a standout. A perfectly baked flaky pastry tart filled with a light and airy sabayon mousse flavored with flakes of black truffles and loaded with meaty fairy ring mushrooms. As a main course I chose the mussels which were the PEI variety, small but tender and delicate in a dijon mustard cream sauce with white wine, slivery bits of onion and the requisite perfectly thin and crisp fries on the side (and a special request on my part for mayo). My dessert was something that the Grand Cafe is justifiably famous for--their banana cream tart. A loose interpretation of the dessert to be sure--on top of a graham cracker and macadamia nut crust is a paper thin round rim of crisp caramel filled with a light custard blended with whipped cream and layers of banana, surrounding it are roasted macadamia nuts and a thick swirl of a decadent caramel sauce. All lightness and lusciousness just the thing to finish things off. Yum!

Lee had a four course meal that began with three kumamoto oysters--one topped with caviar, one topped with fennel and a third topped with a mignonette, after that he had seared day boat scallops with capers and currants on a potato puree, then he had rack of lamb with sun-dried tomatoes, leeks and pine nuts and finally a Schaffenberger chocolate flourless type cake. And while I had bites of everything, it was far too involved for me to remember all the details, especially after after downing half a bottle of champagne. But really I will try to do better in the future!

Grand Cafe
501 Geary at Taylor Street
(415) 292-0101
Open 7 days a week for breakfast/brunch lunch and dinner