I really liked AQ, a fine dining restaurant in San Francisco run by Chef Mark Liberman that changes its menu as well as its decor each season. The tasting menu is delicious, highlights local and seasonal ingredients, exhibits the chefs’ technical expertise (without being only about technique), and is not unreasonably priced (relative to other restaurants in San Francisco). One outstanding dish among many was the rainbow trout, seared on one side to make the skin crispy while keeping the fillet perfectly cooked. It was served with a smoked trout cream, potatoes, and a swiss chard “jam” with pickled swiss chard ribs. Well-balanced and delicious. The braised root vegetable was really transformed by braising in red wine. It is paired with a cassoulet of boar confit, beans, and a sweet prune jam. The desserts are unique and creative, including a sorbet that tasted of pure apple and a dessert that straddled the line between sweet and savory, with thyme, olive oil, and olives. One disappointment was the truffle supplement. Three slices of shaved truffle that did not add much flavor or aroma to an otherwise great dish of black walnuts, wheat berries, and oats in an aromatic mushroom broth. Service was very professional, and they even kindly sent out a complimentary chocolate birthday cake. Chef Liberman was expediting at the pass in front of an open kitchen and brought over and explained several of the dishes and answered questions. Overall an excellent meal in an elegant setting with outstanding service. Definitely recommended.
On a side note, over the past several years, many menus are being written in a style where a dish is not described in terms of preparation but simply as a list of ingredients. This style puts the focus on the ingredients and de-emphasizes technique, but often leaves the diner puzzled about what they are actually going to get when the food arrives. I kind of want to know what I am going to get, but on the other hand some people like being surprised.
Link to AQ web site here.