I just survived a 12-week software bootcamp, and what better way to celebrate than to get back to blogging? Well I can think of a few, but I did want to share my wonderful meal at Eight Tables, which was a bit of celebration in itself. 😀
Eight Tables opened earlier this month, bringing the high-end Chinese tasting menu experience to San Francisco. We dined during their soft-opening week and enjoyed the meal greatly.
I loved that the tasting menu stayed true to traditional Chinese flavors while turning the fanciness way up! Part of why this meal resonated so well was how the foundational elements reminded me of my favorite Chinese Taiwanese comfort foods.
When I made a reservation, I received a follow up call to personalize my experience. They also had someone greet us at the alley entrance and in the elevator.
Service at dinner was impressive, especially given the soft opening. The front of house is managed by a Saison vet, and it showed. Everyone was professional, yet approachable and friendly. George Chen came out multiple times to share his insights of the dishes.
I did notice some timing issues, but all were quite reasonable for a new spot. The first wine pairing came out after the first course and was behind on another course. There were a few noticeable lags between arrival of courses, as well as timely cleanup, but nothing egregious.
Enough about the service though, here’s what I ate!
We started with a couple cocktails:
Alluvial Fan – Kavalan Classic Gold, clarified melon with Dragonwell tea, XO sauce. I didn’t know what to expect for a $42 cocktail, since I’ve never paid anywhere near that much for one, but I do know this one was disappointing. The whiskey was very smooth at first, but it somehow reminded us of shoe polish after a while. The edible tea leaves were more gimmicky than tasty.
Guanyin’s Cup – Wok Grilled Rice, Elyx Vodka, Lemon Oil. This was the best martini-like cocktail I’ve ever had.
Nine Essential Flavors – The opening course was a visual stunner, and the flavors were delightful. My favorites were the spicy tart puff pastry (though not spicy enough!), beef aspic, and the cured anchovy (I’m usually not an anchovy fan).
Four Seas Dumpling – While the presentation was stunning, the actual dumpling itself was too doughy and overwhelmed the delicate caviar and uni.
Barbecue Shao Kao – Omg the Iberico pork char siu!!! Literally the best char siu I’ve had. The Peking duck skin was also amazing, with just the right amount of fat and perfect crispiness.
Gulf Prawn Consomme – The prawn ball in here was the most tender, amazing fish ball, period. The side of prawn wrapped in seaweed was also delightful.
Black Cod Wrapped in Banana Leaf – This was a fancier version of a staple fish preparation. The cod was cooked perfectly, and the delicate flavors were spot on. One of the best, if not the best, cod preparations I’ve had.
Velvet Chicken – An interesting egg white scramble with truffles that was a major disappointment. The ingredients didn’t come together, the truffles had no flavor, and the scallion bao side was underdone. The presentation was also not on par with the rest of the menu.
Red Braised Pork – Another traditional Chinese dish that was elevated to being the best version I’ve tasted. I sound like a broken record by now, but it’s true. I also liked the side of fried and puffed rice – great texture contrast.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras Potsticker – Benu still takes the cake for the best foie gras dumpling ever (their XLB), but this potsticker wasn’t bad. The accompanying black sesame, peanut mochi was a fun contrast and nice transition to dessert.
Chrysanthemum Granita, yogurt, preserved plum – Pretty standard granita palate cleanser.
Chinese Sea Grass, passion fruit – The extra smoky mesquite bubbles were a strange yet genius compliment to the passion fruit and seaweed flavors. It was like a symphony I didn’t know I loved. Though I could have done without the soggy seaweed cake base.
Mahjong Chocolate Gift – Each party got a box of these chocolate bonbons to take home, made by Oakland chocolatier Karen Urbanek. They were seriously amazing and incorporated flavors like river grass, soy sauce, five spice, and oolong. I wish we got a box each!
Overall, I thought Eight Tables was very impressive during the first-week of execution. The food was excellent, and I enjoyed the wine pairing more than usual – a great mix of local and imported, with extra bubbly.
I can’t wait to try the next menu evolution!