A Modern Approach on Traditional French Cuisine - Bon Vivant Review (Palo Alto, CA)

We don't normally travel down to the peninsula, but made an exception to dine at Bon Vivant, a well-known restaurant in Palo Alto since 2010. They recently released their new seasonal menu and we were invited as guests of the house for dinner. 

The options on the menu consists of traditional French recipes with modern twists that are plated beautifully. There are several new dishes that have been added, such as Tartare de Filet de Boeuf (beef tartar with duck egg and truffle fries), Pâté de Canard (duck liver pâté with Coteaux du Layon jelly, figs stuffed with Roquefort and toasted brioche), and Faisan (young peasant marinated in Armagnac with black truffle butter, caramelized apples and Royal Trumpet mushrooms). When possible, locally sourced and organic seasonal ingredients are used.

the Decor & Live Entertainment

Decor highlights of the 60-seat dining room include a chic charcoal and olive green color scheme with orange accents and nineteenth century Casbah crystal chandeliers imported from France. There's also a community table and sidewalk seating, weather permitting. A live pianist performs weekly, often on Saturday nights.

The Food Review

Chestnut Soup (amuse bouche)

The chestnut soup was one of my favorite parts of the meal. It was nutty, earthy, aromatic, and creamy. I could have easily consumed a large bowl to myself. The texture is smooth and lingers nicely in your mouth. 

Gougeres (amuse bouche)

The gougeres were delicious. They were light and airy with a delicate cheesy and eggy taste. They serve this to you at room temp, but I would have preferred it served warm. 

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Salade Frisée $11

I love a good frisee salad and this version was nicely dressed in vinaigrette, along with mixed pieces of apple smoked bacon. I really liked the idea of the poached egg over a layered pastry puff, but also found the pastry to be a bit tough to cut and to eat all together.

Langue de Boeuf $12

The beef tongue was served with beets and sides of chutney. The presentation was nice and the flavors all worked very well together, but the beef tongue was too tough and chewy. If it was cooked longer, it would make a great dish. 

Pâté de Canard $20

If you love eating duck liver, you will not be disappointed with this dish. The duck liver pâté, Coteaux du Layon jelly, seared liver and brioche toast was magnificently rich and full of bold flavors. Each dreamy bite melted in my mouth and drifted me into a lovely state. 

Butter Lettuce And Prawn Salad $14

I wasn't sure where this one was going. The prawns were not very flavorful and the citrus vinaigrette did not bring the dish together. The entire salad was on the bland side for me. Perhaps it is a little too healthy tasting for my preferences.

Magret de Canard a l'Orange $26

The roasted duck breast had a nice layer of fat intact and was cooked gorgeously with crispy skin. The dark rich orange sauce was delicious. The side of vegetables didn't enhance the dish and were a bit under-seasoned. 

Souffle Grand Marnier $13

I suggest when ordering your food to also put in an advance order for the souffle grand marnier because it takes 20 minutes to make. This dessert alone is worth coming to Bon Vivant for. It is airy, fluffy, and custard-like when you pour in the creme anglaise, which is a vanilla cream sauce that almost resembles the taste of melted vanilla ice cream. 

Chocolates 

When we were done with our dessert, they brought us each a piece of chocolate to end our meal. 


Final Thoughts

Bon Vivant is a nice option if you're looking for a quiet and intimate restaurant with a good selection of wine in downtown Palo Alto. There were some dishes that needed improvement, but we left with a few favorite dishes in mind. If you plan to visit, you must order the the pate de canard and souffle grand marnier. 

Do keep in mind that this is the type of dinner that will take up a couple of hours or more, depending on how many items you order.

Thanks for dinner, Bon Vivant! 


VISITING BON VIVANT

Location

535 Bryant Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

Menu

http://bonvivantdining.com/#menus

Website

http://bonvivantdining.com/

Hours

  • Tuesday - Saturday: 5:30 - 10:30PM
  • Sunday: 5:30 - 8:30PM
  • Brunch: Saturday - Sunday: 10AM - 3PM

Phone

650-485-3228

A Poetic Japanese Food Journey - Yuzuki Japanese Eatery Review (Mission, San Francisco)

Zaru Tofu - Yuzuki.jpg

I've never traveled to Japan, but I could imagine the experience to be as wonderful as our recent dining experience at Yuzuki, a Japanese eatery located in San Francisco's mission district. The food is delicate and simple, yet bursting with umami. 

Yuzuki is the first restaurant in the United States to specialize in food prepared using Koji. This process of natural fermentation makes their food more palatable and easier to digest, with a mild flavor enhanced by naturally-occurring amino acids. Everything they serve is fresh, local, organic, sustainable and seasonal.

Patrick and I were invited to a hosted dinner where a set menu was prepared for us. The experience was unlike anything we've ever had at a Japanese restaurant. I'm not talking about the standard sushi fare. You can expect small plates focused on izakaya and traditional Japanese options, such as kara-age chicken, grilled Hokkaido squid, and koshihikari rice made in an earthen pot. Did I mention that they have a killer sake selection? Yuzuki even has a sake sommelier.

Yuzuki's restaurant space is small and quaint. It's a popular place and fills up quite quickly. We arrived when it opened and within the next hour, it was full. I'd suggest going earlier than later. 

The Food

Tofu - Yuzuki

Zaru Tofu ($10)

The tofu takes two days to make and the texture was incredibly silky. The taste was full of pure soybean perfection, clean and nourishing for the soul. This is the type of dish that you eat slowly to savor the moment. 

Gomaae - Yuzuki.jpg

Gomaae ($7)

I've developed a new respect for king trumpet mushrooms. There was so much going on for such a simple, yet flavorful dish. I couldn't get enough and wanted more.

Kara-age - Yuzuki.jpg

Kara-age ($10)

This koji-marinated fried chicken was one of the best versions of kara-age that I've had. The batter was fried nicely and the chicken was tender and juicy. 

Ika - Yuzuki

Yaki Surume Ika ($10)

This was one of my favorite dishes of  the night. The squid was cooked perfectly; tender to bite and it had a great char on it. The yuzu mayonnaise made for a lovely dipping sauce. 

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Koshihikari - Crab Rice with Ikura ($25)

We've never had anything like this rice dish before and it was wonderfully savory. You can taste the freshness of the crab and the ikura was a refreshing burst of umami. I highly recommend ordering this. 

The Dessert

Patrick and I both ordered similar desserts with different toppings. The ice cream was deep in flavor, creamy and very tasty. The mochi was perfect in texture and intentionally not sweet, creating a lovely balance. Both desserts were great, but if you are sharing or want to get a bit of everything then go with the Anmitsu. 

Anmitsu - Yuzuki

Anmitsu

Vanilla Ice Cream with Agar Squares in Okinawa Black Sugar Syrup with Mochi and Azuki Beans

Maccha - Yuzuki

Maccha

Green Tea Ice Cream with Mochi and Azuki Beans

The Sake

If you love sake, this is the place for you to visit. We learned how complex and wonderful the taste profiles can be for different types of sake served at different temperatures. Patrick and I both had the same sake, but mine was chilled while his was room temp. My version had a strong alcoholic taste with a refreshing component. Patrick's version was on the earthy-funky side with a lovely sweet complex flavor. The sake sommelier should be able to assist with pairings and preferences. 

Final Thoughts

Our meal was complimentary, but we would love to go back to try out the rest of their menu. There is a buta kakuni pork belly dish that I absolutely must have. 

Thanks for a wonderful dinner, Yuzuki! 


VISITING yuzuki Japanese Eatery

Location

598 Guerrero Street. San Francisco, CA 94110

Menu

http://yuzukisf.com/menus/

Website

http://yuzukisf.com

Hours

  • Monday, Wednesday - Friday: 6:00-10:30pm
  • Saturday: 5:30-10:30pm
  • Sunday: 5:30-9:30pm
  • Tuesday: Closed

Phone

(415) 556-9898

2014 Local(ish) Food Gift Guide: 8 Things Food Lovers Really Want to Eat

If you have not yet started holiday shopping for the food lover in your life then this quick guide is guaranteed to get that special person really excited - and make shopping for them much easier. There are many gift guides online that are fit for foodies, but the featured products are usually expensive, hard to find and often times useless (come on, who really needs a crappy pineapple slicer?).

Many of the gift guides available online lack a focus on things that you can actually eat and we all know that the way to a food lover’s heart is, not surprisingly, food. The holiday season is made for indulging in all things delicious, so here are 8 local things that food lovers really want to see under that Xmas tree, plus pairings that will make those gifts extra special. 

Photo Credit: La Cocina

Photo Credit: La Cocina

GIFT BOX WITH LOCAL FAVORITE GOODIES

Show them how you really feel with a gift box filled with handpicked local goodies that they’ll go bonkers over. The easy part is finding a gift box and filling it up, but the difficult (and fun) part is figuring out what local establishments they love. Maybe you can ask for “recommendations for a friend visiting town” and see where that takes you.

Consider: La Cocina is doing a holiday gift box this year that has tons of local goodies that I can fully endorse and is bound to make any food lover happy. It’s not only fun and delicious, but you’re also contributing towards a wonderful cause by supporting local food entrepreneurs who are trying to build a life by doing what they love. Prices ranges from $35 to $100. You can check it out here: La Cocina Gift Box or visit the kiosk at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chocolate

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chocolate

LOCAL CHOCOLATES

There’s no better way to say that you really put thought into your gift than local artisan chocolates. It’s not as simple as picking up a box of chocolates (or maybe it is). People have different chocolate preferences from 100% cacao to 30% or lower cacao. There are bars to pieces, with or without filling, truffles, and the list goes on. The key here is to find out what type of chocolates will make their heart melt.

Local Chocolates I Love: Dandelion Chocolate (San Francisco), Chocolatier Blu (Berkeley), TCHO (San Francisco/Berkeley), Nosh This (San Francisco)
Perfect Local Pairings: Blue Bottle Coffee (Oakland), Miette Marshmallows (San Francisco)

Photo Credit: 20min.fr

Photo Credit: 20min.fr

Cheese

I love giving cheese because it can be enjoyed in so many different ways. You can eat it as is with a piece of hot crusty bread, turn it into a grilled cheese or create a pizza. There are tons of varieties of cheese made with cow, goat, or sheep’s milk, or even a combination. From the buttery brie to the stinky cave aged blue, or smokey gouda to raclette. Be sure to know what type of cheese your food lover prefers. It’s probably best to not get them something completely unique unless you know their cheese profile. Sometimes the cheesiest gifts are the best gifts.

Cheeses I Love: Brie de Nangis, Supreme Brie, Brie de Meaux, Raclette, Saint Agur Blue
Perfect Local Pairings: Acme baguette (San Francisco), INNA Jam (Emeryville)

Huge Lobster Mushroom

Wild Mushrooms

It’s the perfect time to pick up wild mushrooms! You’ll see specialty stores and grocerers with chanterelles, nebrodinis, chicken of the woods, pom poms, lobster mushrooms, hedgehogs, and many more varieties that are foraged and only available during this season. They are priced anywhere from $10/lb to $30/lb, so a pound or two of a mixed variety would be sufficient for 1 to 2 people.  As a person who loves cooking and eating mushrooms, this is a thoughtful gift that would be greatly appreciated (and will save your fellow mushroom lover some money).

Wild Mushrooms I Love: Lobster mushrooms, hedgehogs, and chanterelles.
Where to Find Wild Mushrooms Locally: Berkeley Bowl (Berkeley), Far West Fungi (San Francisco)

Alba Truffles

White Truffles from Alba

If you have about $70 to $100 to splurge and want to give a grand gift to a very special person in your life that you know will appreciate it, you’ll want to grab a white truffle from Alba. These truffles are known as the “diamond of truffles” because they are rare and highly prized for its wonderfully intense fragrant aroma. For best results, it should be used within 3 days after foraged.

Note: You may also need to grab them a truffle shaver if they do not already have one.
Where to Find White Truffles Locally: Far West Fungi (San Francisco)

Photo Credit: Boccalone

Photo Credit: Boccalone

Charcuterie & Meats

For true meat lovers, you cannot go wrong with the gift of salami, sausages, pancetta and other cured greatness. The process it takes to create charcuterie is greatly appreciated in the food world and depending on what you get, it may have a long shelf life that allows it to be consumed for a few weeks even after opening. You’ll be thought about every salami slice.

Local Charcuterie Spots I Love: Boccalone (San Francisco), Fra’Mani (Berkeley)
Perfect Local Pairings: Cow Girl Creamery’s Mt Tam Cheese (San Francisco, a couple of doors down from Boccalone in the Ferry Building), Boccalone's Grain Mustard (San Francisco)

Photo Credit: My Nikon Eats Food

Photo Credit: My Nikon Eats Food

Pints of Local Ice Cream

Ice cream is the kind of dessert that has the power to put a smile on almost anyone’s face. We have a great selection of local ice cream with unique flavors like Bi-Rite Creamery’s ricanelas (snickerdoodle with cinnamon ice cream) and Humphry Slocombe’s secret breakfast (cornflakes with bourbon). The ice cream scene is very popular, often consisting of long lines for a scoop, so picking up a pint as a gift would make you truly heaven sent.

Locally Made Ice Cream I Love: Bi-Rite Creamery (San Francisco), Three Twins (Petaluma), Humphry Slocombe (San Francisco), Tara’s Organic Ice Cream (Berkeley/Oakland)

Photo Credit: Foodhoe's Foraging

Photo Credit: Foodhoe's Foraging

Alfajores

For loved ones with an extreme sweet tooth, a box of alfajores will make them thankful for having you in their lives. Imagine two shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche then covered in powdered white sugar.  If you are a skilled baker, you can make these at home or buy them at specialty bakeries or hole-in-the-wall Salvadorean restaurants. If you do decide to make this at home, you’ll probably win this person’s heart forever.

Locally Made Alfajores I Love: Sabores del Sur (Walnut Creek/San Francisco Ferry Building), Panchita’s Restaurant No 2 (San Francisco)