First of all, making reservations a month in advance is like torture because every day you get more and more impatient for the big day to come. As much as I tried not to, after so much waiting I had very high expectations for the meal I planned on having at this restaurant (the full tasting + wine pairing). In a sense, I was setting myself up to be let down. Not only did Jardiniere meet my somewhat unrealistic expectations, it far surpassed them.
The setting: gorgeous. We were seated on the second floor next to the rail, which overlooks the stunning bar, and not to mention is a prime spot for people watching! Perfect for checking out how your dress, or date, compares to all of the other women.
The food: thoughtful, inventive, delicious. Since the menu changes daily, I was a little scared of being let down with what they were offering that night. Fortunately, someone in the kitchen seems to have telepathy and decided to serve exactly what I wanted to eat that night.
Highlights included: a crudo of o'paka paka (Hawaiian red snapper) with caviar - fresh, light, visually appealing, the perfect way to start our meal.
Red wine poached halibut, as opposed to olive oil poached, which seems more common and less interesting. And, the liberty farms duck with a terrine of foie gras.
What really impressed me though was the thought that went into every dish - it wasn't just about the seasonality of ingredients, flavor profiles, and making sure things were cooked correctly. They also thought through the textures, colors, and presentation of each course, and seemed to lean towards presenting the food in a beautifully deconstructed manner, with each ingredient or sauce having it's own place and purpose on the plate (points for alliteration!). Now, while most upscale restaurants think about these things, many seem to lack the level of Jardiniere's execution, and I left feeling pretty amazed with how complete each course had been.
The service was, at first, a little slow (which was okay because we wanted to take our time), but soon ramped up to everything you would expect at a restaurant of Jardiniere's caliber. Notably, our waiter was very good at explaining why each wine was being served with each dish (not just what the wine is like, but also what the wine brings out in the food). However, I felt like they could have been a bit more generous with their pours! If I'm going to spend 4 hours at a restaurant, I'd hope to have enough wine to keep that buzz going (unlike the table next to us, whose 50 empty wine glasses indicated that they clearly wanted to keep much more than a buzz going!).
Overall, I think this was one of my best overall fine dining experiences in SF, and I will definitely be returning. Well...as soon as I find a date.
300 Grove Street
San Francisco, CA 94102