Among the many three Michelin starred restaurants the Bay Area is lucky to have, Quince Restaurant stands out in my mind for the service. A tough feat, considering the standard of service of its peers.
Take the chef’s table. In my experience, most chef tables are reserved in advance, and the complete tasting menu is usually served. This limits the number of diners that can appreciate this educational and usually pricier dinner option.
Quince likes to surprise guests with a “kitchen tour” that involves a course or two at the chef’s table. This has the effect of letting many feel VIP and being inclusive of more diners.
Another outstanding aspect was how accommodating they were about my table of fellow food bloggers. We were trying to be discreet about recording and lights, but a nearby table complained about the LED. To my surprise, the staff did not tell us to put the light away, but rather, gave a tip on perhaps shining the light in the opposite direction of that table.
Clearly I liked the service. I also very much liked Chef Michael Tusk’s local California menu highlighted with French and Italian technique.
Canapés kicked off the evening. This had a little of everything – from squid in a squid ink shell, crudo in a kumquat bowl, and beef tartare parmesan bites, to a deep fried artichoke, and carrot chips with dip.
For the caviar course, there was an optional upgrade to golden osetra. We ordered one of this, and the generous portion was enough to share amongst us three. The accompanying brioche toasts were rather firm. I would prefer a softer medium, but I still enjoyed the extra buttery bread which offset the salty caviar.
The other caviar was a lovely two part course presented in two stunning glass vessels. One was set on a creamy salmon base while the other served on a crunchy rice(?) cracker.
Next was assorted bread and butter which wasn’t as memorable as this course usually is for me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Along with the bread was the asparagus course. The dish came out with green asparagus plated with morels. The server then fished out boiled white asparagus from a large clear vessel full of water tableside. This was plated and finished with a morel cream sauce. When I said I loved morels, he made sure to give me extra! One of my favorite dishes of the night.
Next were oysters which were presented in shell on a grill. The server turned the oyster meat out into a plate of wild nettle soup, potato, and green garlic butter. The brightness of the soup offset the briny oysters nicely.
Then came an off menu course of tilefish with amazing crispy skin and summer squash. I’m a big skin person, and the texture of the skin was one of my favorite preparations.
We were then invited on the kitchen tour where we sat down and ate a fun pea pasta dish resembling pea pods. We got to observe the various stations and took a photo op with Chef de Cuisine Neil Stetz.
Back to the table, we were gifted with a couple extra pasta dishes. First was the signature raviolo with a liquid quail egg center. The amount of melted brown butter was absurdly decadent in the best way possible.
A vintage pasta roller was placed alongside the raviolo. The roller opened to reveal tiny pork tortellinis. These little bites were eaten with tweezers. Great flavor and chew, but the small size made it a tease.
Next came the larger mains. First was a dry-aged duck course served in two preparations – as agnolotti del plin with shaved porcinis, and then the breast and gizzard with porcini puree. Like the prior pasta dishes, the agnolotti had wonderful al dente chew. I’m not much a duck breast fan, but I appreciated the tender cook.
To conclude the savory portion was a generous dish of multiple cuts of lamb including rack, center, top loin, as well as sausage and neck bacon preparations. This medley of texture and flavor was accompanied by two hearty scoops of bagna cauda and garnished with garlic scape and radish. This was finished with lamb jus tableside. I’m pretty particular about my lamb, and I honestly enjoyed all the cuts.
A refreshing lemon sorbet palate cleanser was great with the crispy rice.
Dessert one was very strawberry forward, with an uncommon cilantro pairing. I welcomed this unexpected note, and thought it was a great change from the predictable basil or mint.
Concluding the evening was a mignardise cart – always a delightful sight! Some highlights included the bourbon old fashioned truffle, matcha coconut honey cream flower, and the salted caramels.
For drinks, I was feeling a light amount of wine and selected the 2005 Daniel-Etienne Defaix Chablis. This was a solid pairing for the meal, with wonderful minimality and brightness. Enough body to work with the heavier duck and lamb.