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There’s little question that one of the most well-known landmarks in San Francisco, famed for French Haute Cuisine, is the direct creation of Chef Hubert Keller. Born in France and trained at the Ecole Hoteliere in Strasbourg, he was quickly enticed to appointments in Lyon, Paris, Nice and eventually Brazil before coming to San Francisco in 1982. His professional itinerary is a prestigious one having brought him all the major honors and awards in American gastronomy. Voted one of the "10 Best Chefs in America," he had the first ever Presidential invitation to serve as a guest chef at the White House in U.S. history.

Keller had definite ideas about what he wanted in a restaurant besides simply a fabulous location, near Union Square and the theatre district. He knew from experience the ingredients needed for creating a successful combination that would keep his guests returning for years to come. And, Maurice Rouas, co-owner not only shares his vision but devotes his undivided attention to bringing his patrons the ultimate dining experience in this cosmopolitan city where dining is one of the most important aspects of its celebrated life.

Even as you enter, the heavy, black-iron gate beckons you to step through a portal where elegant atmosphere and high drama create a romantic setting truly reminiscent of another time. The dining room’s famous tent ceiling, giving the room the feeling of an elegant gypsy encampment, was hand-printed in warm tones of pomegranate, saffron and parsley, framing a wonderfully intimate setting. An ornate Venetian chandelier and wall sconces with handmade shades of amber lambskin give the wood-beamed room a timeless quality as you simply relax, forget the outside world, and revel in multi-sensory enchantment.

The visual feast is only a prelude to the extraordinary culinary experience that awaits you. Some of the house specialties are particularly exceptional. You may wish to begin your sumptuous journey with a symphony of Fleur de Lys appetizers of Hudson Valley foie gras, timbale of avocado and smoked salmon, lobster en gelée and sea scallop cake, or the pan seared Hudson Valley foie gras on a crisp almond polenta galette accented with an herbal spiced duck infusion.

One of Chef Keller’s signature offerings is the Maine Monkfish rolled in prosciutto served on a bed of melted leeks with a Pinot Noir sauce and marinated fruits, or the roasted Squab breasts, filled with foie gras and summer truffles, served with a ravioli of squab leg confit and a Sauternes-ginger sauce for an unforgettable taste delight.

The truffles white bean soup with mushroom duxelle, smoked duck and Florida shrimp, rolled in toasted pumpkin seeds is outstanding or the Maine lobster, roasted bell pepper and fingerling potatoes in crème fraîche, with aged Balsamic vinegar and arugula oil is a unique blend meant to compliment any meal.

The extensive wine cellar with a capacity of 12,000 bottles, boasts the finest selection of over 475 wines from France and around the world. In addition, the unique presentation of desserts complete a repast that deserves return visits to fully appreciate the extent of the innovative offerings.

Lobster and Lentil Salad, with
Cucumber Vinaigrette

1 bouquet garni: bay leaf, thyme, parsley
1 live lobster (1.25 to 1.5 lb.)
1 large and long carrot
3 medium ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled and seeded
1/2 lb. green lentils
1 small yellow onion
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2.5 tablespoons lemon juice
1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking the lobster:
Bring a gallon of water to a boil. Add the bouquet garni, sale and pepper. Poach the lobster for about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and let cool down. Break in two where the tail meets the body with scissors, cut the soft part of the tail, remove the meat in one piece and set aside. Transfer to small bowl and dress with 1 tablespoon olive, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, salt and pepper, then set aside.

Salad and vinaigrette:

Bring a medium size pot of salted water to a boil. Peel the carrot and use a mandoline to cut lengthwise into eight identical strips 1/8" thick. Trim each strip to 3/4" wise and 5-6" long. Blanch strips in boiling water for 1 minute, plunge them into cold water, then drain. Take the peeled and seeded tomatoes and chop the flesh very finely, season with salt and pepper. Transfer the tomatoes into a fine sieve over a bowl to eliminate the excess water. After washing the lentils, cook gently for 25 minutes (until tender) with 1 small onion. Drain the lentils and let cool. Transfer the lentils into a mixing bowl, add celery, red onion, ginger, lemon juice, soy sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix and check seasoning. Place the cucumber in a blender, add the sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Proces with about 5 on and off pulses, until you obtain a very smooth texture. Season to taste.

Assembling the salad:

Use pastry cutters as a bold and place each in the center of the plate. Take strips of carrots and place two, end to end, around the interior edge of each mold, trimming them if necessary. Divide the lobster meat among the four circles. Then, fill the lentil salad firmly into the circles, pressing it down with the back of a spoon. Garnish the top with a layer of the chopped raw tomatoes, and smooth over with a small spatula so that the tomato is level with the top of the mold. Very carefully eliminate with a paper towel any excess dressing which has escaped under the bottom edge of the mold. Meticulously pull of the pastry cutters to end up with a crunchy, refreshing and vitamin packed salad, in the shape of a small cake. Spoon gently the cucumber vinaigrette around the carrot and lentil cake.

For reservations call 415.673.7779 or

For more articles by well known writer, Kaya Morgan , click the link.

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With respect to the articles and their subject matter, it is based on information provided through research and/or by the interviewed parties and is not based on any original ideas or opinions of the author.


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