Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Night Dinners at Jardinière

Rotating Chefs Helm the Kitchen in April
300 Grove St. (at Franklin), San Francisco
Civic Center
PH: 415.861.5555
Open for dinner nightly at 5 p.m.
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

I’ve been meaning to go back to Jardinière for its Monday night prix-fixe dinner since the first time I tried this promotion last year. For $45 (before tax and tip), you enjoy a three-course meal with wine pairings, which is a great deal for the high-level of dishes paraded out the kitchen.

I get regular e-mails from the restaurant with the upcoming month’s list of Monday night dinners, and April’s offerings sounded interesting. Typically, Jardinière dedicates the Monday menu to a specific regional cuisine—Sicilian one week, New Orleans the other, and so on. But this month it was the chefs who would change each week.

Executive Chef Traci des Jardins welcomed back four different chefs who once worked under her in what she called “Alumni Month.” I went to dinner last Monday night when the featured chef was Peter Armellino, who went on to earn one Michelin star for his own restaurant, The Plumed Horse, in Saratoga.

The menu for that night didn’t include any meat, so I asked my aqua-vegetarian (that means he eats fish along with vegetables) friend Ken to join me.

Our dinner began with a seasonal salad of Delta asparagus and buffalo mozzarella, sprinkled with smoked almonds and a few pieces of wild arugula. I can’t believe how many asparagus salads I’ve had at restaurants so far this spring! Still, this was refreshing and light.

The salad was served with a tasting glass of Vincent Ricard’s 2009 Sauvignon Blanc “Le Petiot” from Touraine, France, which I felt was nice but wasn’t as crisp in flavor as I’d like. (Turns out all our wine for the night were from France, so it was like dining in Paris.)

The next course was a green garlic soup served with a few pieces of battered and fried Florida frog legs on one side and chopped pieces of rock shrimp on the other. In the center was a shellfish flan, which was engulfed by the brilliant green garlic soup that our server poured at the table.

It was this course that sparked my interest in the Monday menu because I love frog legs, ever since I had them pan-fried and sautéed in Paris. I rarely see them on menus, so I get them whenever I can. Unfortunately, the frog legs were deep-fried (which I’m not a fan of) and I felt that preparation totally masks the natural sweetness of the frog meat (all you taste is batter). Plus, there were just a few nuggets of the fried frog legs so it didn’t seem to be the star of the course, which really was the green garlic soup and creamy flan in the center.

Side note: I give Ken credit for being a good sport with this course. When I saw the menu, I didn’t think of frog legs as meat and considered it along the lines of seafood. I mean, frogs live around water, don’t they? But Ken reminded me that frogs are amphibians. But that’s still not red meat, right?

Our frog leg/garlic soup was paired with a glass of Domaines Schlumberger’s 2006 Pinot Gris “Les Princes Abbes” from Alsace, France.

Jardinière’s Monday prix fixe is generally three courses, but for some reason tonight we had four. (Maybe they didn’t get enough frog legs, which were the publicized main course, so the chef decided to add another course to make up for the soup?)

Anywho, our bonus course was a small piece of Alaskan halibut. Our server drizzled a ragout of wild mushrooms over the halibut at the table. It was served with a few fava beans.

The halibut was nicely cooked, with a slight glassy texture. The mild flavor of the fish was taken to a bold extreme with the ragout, which had a very meaty flavor like a beef ragout.

The course was served with a Domaine Des Nugues’ 2007 Beaujolais-Villages from Burgundy, France. The red wine was the perfect counterpoint to the rich and intense wild mushroom ragout.

Our last course was a pistachio sablé. I’ve never had a sablé before, but apparently it’s a French cookie. The sable, which was like a thin layer of shortbread cookie, was topped with thin slices of Ortiz Farms strawberries and served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and some pistachio sprinkles.

The sablé was buttery and light, and I wanted more! Overall, it was a very elegant ending to our meal.

The sablé was served with an Ey’s 2007 Muscat de Riversaltes “Vigne lo Clavell” from Roussillon, France.

Jardinière’s elegant settings and the interesting menu from Chef Armellino made it an enjoyable evening. The fact that it was a Monday night made the work week seem to go by faster.

If you’d like to check out upcoming Monday prix-fixe menus, just visit Jardinière’s Web site.

Jardiniere on Urbanspoon


foodhoe said...

looks like an interesting meal, although what gave the green garlic soup the vivid green color? the monday dinners still look like a wonderful deal and I love the idea of a guest alumni chef!

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, I'm guessing it's the green leaves of the green garlic? I thought it looked so pretty. If I see some at the farmers' market I'm going to try it at home and see if I can duplicate that color!