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New is not always better

Crab at aquaThe  usual foodie goal when they hit a city is to get to the new hot spots. To touch the new culinary buzz. This often means not only an expensive disappointing meal, but missing established restaurants that are still making your palate shiver with joy. Often it takes a situation out of your control to balance this drive to see the new and trendy and it was reservations made by someone else that brought me back to San Francisco’s Aqua. I have dined at Aqua about a dozen times and each visit was excellent, but this recent trip really brought home to me that new is not always better. Great restaurants are like great vineyards, they both make exceptional products year after year.

We chose the tasting menu, which was the right choice as, when visiting Aqua, or any other great restaurant, you want to taste as many dishes as possible.

This parade of palate stimulation went like this:

  • Tartare of Ahi Tuna with Moroccan Spices
  • Artisan Foie Gras with almonds, grapes, smoked duck and shallot sherry sauce
  • Hawaiian Walu (escolar) with potato/fennel fondue, mussels and a golden raisin emulsion
  • Alaskan Black Cod wrapped in smoked bacon with tomato and date chutney with glazed carrots
I replaced the suggested dessert course with a cheese course that include two lovely cheeses:
  • St. Vrain: a cow and goat milk cheese from Colorado – really wonderful
  • Pierce Point: A very nice cow’s milk cheese with a herbed crust from Point Reyes California

Each dish shimmered with enticing balanced, restrained, but complex flavors. Every plate was a small piece of edible art. As befitting a restaurant of this caliber, the wine list is excellent with a wide range of choices that go beyond local California wines. The food, wine, service and ambiance were exciting.

On my own I would have hit only the latest and that would have been a mistake. Consistent excellence seems to bore the public today and restaurants and wineries that make outstanding wines for many years often get ignored. Thanks to this wonderful meal, this will be a mistake I will try to avoid.

Aqua, 252 California Street, San Francisco CA - 94110 (415) 956-9662