San Francisco’s Parallel 37 has done a 360.
Two years ago, the once prim, proper and heavily brocaded Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco was jettisoned. So were the tasting menus.
In its place came a sleeker, more modern space, renamed Parallel 37 (after the geographic latitude running near the Bay Area). The tasting menus were eliminated in favor of la carte dining.
But something funny happened along the way. Chef Ron Siegel departed for Michael Mina Restaurant in San Francisco. His successor was Michael Rotondo, who brought back the tasting menus, slowly but surely, and something even more important. Rotondo, former executive chef of Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, convinced his former Windy City colleagues to jump into the fog with him. Besides Rotondo, Parallel 37 now boasts Trotter alums: Sous Chef Mitchell Nordby, Pastry Chef Andrea Correa, and the most recent hire, Restaurant Manager and Sommelier Ryan Stetins. Parallel 37 now boasts more Trotter veterans than any other restaurant in the country.
Rotondo added a tasting menu option early on, but left the a la carte menu, too. But starting in June, the restaurant went to a tasting menu-only format: three courses for $65, five courses for $95, and eight courses for $135. Wine pairings are an additional $40, $55 and $85, respectively.
In an homage to Trotter’s famed “kitchen table” dining experience, Rotondo also has added something similar. Guests start the evening inside the kitchen with cocktails and canapes to watch the cooks in action. Then, they are seated at a table next to the kitchen for an eight-course tasting menu with wine pairings. The “Kitchen Table” experience is $250 per person. A minimum of four people is required.
A couple weeks ago, I was invited in to dine as a guest in the main dining room. Parallel 37 is one of the 54 restaurants featured in my debut cookbook, “San Francisco Chef’s Table” (Lyons Press) and it was a kick to see a stack of the books for sale behind the hostess stand.
Of course, I had to start the evening off with a “Pig ‘N’ Boots” ($14), a cocktail created by mixologist Camber Lay and featured in my cookbook. Normally — and particularly when I have a wine pairing yet to come — I take a few sips of a cocktail, but leave the rest. Not this one. It’s amazing that a scotch-based cocktail can be this light and refreshing. Lillet Rose, lavender, yuzu and a fresh grating of cinnamon over the top give it balance, so that it’s not overly boozy tasting but rather floral and tangy instead.