Named for the highway that runs through Burgundy’s fabled Cote d’Or wine region, RN74 still offers up a smooth culinary ride worth taking.
The splashy $4.5 million San Francisco restaurant housed on the ground floor of a gleaming condominium tower, is the brainchild of Rajat Parr, wine director for the Michael Mina Group, of which this restaurant belongs.
Now three years old, the restaurant continues to hum along with Executive Chef Jason Berthold at the helm. Berthold, who was sous chef at the French Laundry in Yountville, helped open Per Se in New York, and makes his own wine under the Courier label, is a perfect match for this wine-centric restaurant, accented by antique metal lanterns, lots of warm wood and even piped-in French dialogue in the restrooms. There’s also a custom-made flip board like the ones you see at train stations that post arrival/departure times. Only this one lists wines with only one bottle remaining in stock at the restaurant. If someone buys it, the board flips to erase the wine selection.
Recently, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. The food had even more finesse than when I last visited shortly after it first opened.
If you want to start the meal off on a luxurious note, do order the Fort Bragg sea urchin ($19). It arrives dramatically in its spiky shell. Dig down into the creamy pool inside to find potato mousseline, crab, butternut squash, preserved citrus and vadouvan, a Francophile version of an Indian curry blend. It’s gorgeous to behold, with a sweet, briny and over-the-top richness. It’s also as seductive as it gets.
Spanish octopus ($18) is grilled, leaving it smoky and wonderfully tender. Little Gem lettuce adds a fresh crispness that plays off buttery avocado, peppery watercress and creamy fingerling potatoes.
The caramelized sweetness of roasted beets ($15) pairs beautifully with spoonable, decadent burrata. Toasted hazelnuts are a nice touch to add another dimension to the dish.
Ahi tartare ($16) arrived on a wood board as cubes arranged with green apple that gave a delightful burst of acidity. It’s a perfect dish to prime the palate for the entrees to come.
In our case, that would be grilled hangar steak ($34) that was beef squared, what with the slab of short rib on the plate to go with it, as well. The steak arrived already sliced, its rosy pink interior the ideal medium-rare. I enjoyed that the short ribs were tender, but still had some toothsomeness, unlike some sous-vide versions elsewhere that seem to acquire an odd mouth-feel. Black truffle added a distinctive earthiness, while Medjool dates gave an unexpected, subtle fruity-sweetness.
Cascade Mountain arctic char with mussels ($28) was the epitome of autumn-winter with its pumpkin broth, garnish of pumpkin seeds, batons of juicy green apple and hit of ginger. Enjoy every last drop of the almost Thai-influenced broth dotted with cilantro, for it will leave you feeling very cozy, indeed.
Kaffir lime cremeaux ($9) is perfect for those who like their desserts a little unconventional and none too sweet. The floral, citrus-y cremeaux (like a very smooth pudding in texture) was arrayed with torn chunks of vivid green tarragon spongecake and tiny pink huckleberry meringue kisses that were crisp on the outside and had an almost malt ball-like interior. The anise-flavor of the cake accented the vivid huckleberry compote. Olive oil ice cream added another bridge in this sweet-savory landscape of a dessert.
Two-bite financiers signaled the end of the meal. Our ride had come to a conclusion, but not before taking us on one delicious journey.