Thursday, 12 June 2008
Coming to America: Day 6, Fort Mason Centre, San Francisco
The search for a vegetarian fine-dining establishment is sometimes likened to the search for a sweet-smelling Frenchman. Oftentimes, your restaurant experience involves you and your companion ordering the only vegetarian starter, then one of you getting the interesting main - usually a tart or something made with glassy filo - while the other settles for the token risotto or pasta dish.
If you're very unlucky (or in Paris) then you have to ask the kitchen if they can whip something up. At which point the waiter might come back and say that they can make one of the salads without the meat, or they may bring you stinging nettles and a sock full of bread.
So, in my experience, it's pretty rare to find a vegetarian restaurant that gets it perfect.
Greens, in San Francisco, is the best vegetarian restaurant on earth. Possibly. We wanted to order everything on the menu. My starter was a fresh spring roll (with carrots, jicama, green papaya, rice noodles) with grilled shitake mushrooms and tofu and peanut sauce. My main was equally delicious - a butternut squash gratin with grilled onions, poblano chilies, cheddar and fromage blanc custard ; served with grilled polenta, green gulch rainbow chard and beet greens with pumpkin seeds. It all tasted as good as it sounds.
And the view was perfect. Hold out for a window seat, and time your visit for sundown. The light glinting off the marina waters is the perfect backdrop for a celestial dining experience. And the wine list. And the service. It's as if someone somewhere finally got the idea that maybe vegetarianism isn't about self-flagellation after all.