It has been awhile since we have posted about eight month old Rich Table by Chef-Owners Sarah and Evan Rich, the highly pedigreed duo who have cooked at many of SF’s top kitchens (Coi, Michael Mina, Quince, etc.). It is one of the most popular places in San Francisco, and we recently had the opportunity to participate in a United Airlines Visa Signature event where they bought out the restaurant and gave us the opportunity to exchange thousands of miles for a couple of seats. We had such a great time at the last Visa Signature event at AQ that we called for reservations as soon as we found about it. We decided to go ahead and blog about the event since almost all of the dishes featured at this dinner are on Rich Table’s menu, either a la carte or as part of the Chef’s Tasting Menu.
Visa Signature offers tasting perks when visiting participating wineries in the Sonoma region, and for this event they asked Chalk Hill Estate Winery from Healdsburg to supply all of the wines. There was room for about 60 diners total, so we checked in early enough to grab a couple of spots at the bar. Each individual place setting featured the menu tucked under the napkin and more than a few wine glasses, giving us a preview of what our evening had in store for us:
They also started pouring the 2010 Estate Sauvignon Blanc as everyone arrived and to pair with the small bites course:
Initially billed as a four-course menu, Rich Table outdid themselves and decided to throw in an extra “Bites” course comprised of some of their signature dishes. The first of the bites served were Dried Porcini Donuts with a creamy raclette cheese dipping sauce. We took a couple of these tasty fried dough bites and passed them down the bar. The dried porcini powder added an interesting earthy mushroom flavor to the savory donuts:
The next bite were Beausoleil Oysters on the half shell topped with a crushed flower mignonette:
A bowl of their signature Sardine Chips with a horseradish dipping sauce was also served. We said it before, but we have no issue repeating that this is a must-get item:
Each chip contained a sardine filet “woven” into the chip prior to frying:
Sarah and Evan Rich came out from behind the kitchen to briefly address the crowd and tell us a little about their food and how the night’s menu was representative of their restaurant. Chalk Hill Estate Director of Winemaking Lisa Bishop Forbes spent some time on the mike educating us about Chalk Hill’s winemaking process (alas we could not see her from where we were sitting):
The last “bite” was the off-the-menu “Dirty Hippy” featuring a buttermilk panna cotta served with various sprouts, popcorn, seeds and wheat grass served in a tiny ceramic sake cup. The savory bite was truly delicious and could easily turn anyone into a vegetarian:
For the appetizer course, they poured the 2010 Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay. The rich butteriness of the white wine paired well with the Roasted Beets (arranged like flower petals) served with puffed rice and a mousse made with crème fraîche and goat cheese. This was a much more refined and delicious version of a beet and goat cheese salad:
We saw them toasting these bread slices in the oven before being served. These thick slices are their house-made Douglas Fir Levain Bread served with their house-cultured butter. The dense sourdough bread slices and accompanying butter could easily have been served as a course on their own:
The pasta course was paired with our favorite wine of the evening, the Chalk Hill Estate Syrah:
They served a generous amount of the Chicken Canneloni topped with crispy chicken skin bits and griddled snow peas. With a wine reduction and pomegranate seed sauce, this dish had a lot of different textures and flavors that all came together perfectly:
While all of the diners were eating the earlier dishes, we spied the process of chefs par-cooking all of the steaks over a a small portable hibachi grill powered by Japanese binchotan charcoal:
Since the grill could only hold 4 steaks at a time, they spent a lot of time individually grilling each of the steaks and then setting them back on the platter where the meat would be oven-finished:
When it came time to serve the steak course, Chef Evan Rich and his staff worked together as a choreographed assembly line to plate the 60 portions. Each of the steaks were cut into four pieces, where three of them made it on to each plate:
The Charcoal Grilled New York Strip Steak pieces were beautifully topped with chimichurri, a pile of sautéed flower greens (broccoli rabe) and edible flowers. The steak was cooked perfectly rare to our liking, and the course was paired with the Chalk Hill Estate Red Wine Blend made with 49% Cabernet Sauvignon mixed with Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Syrah. The wine was very good, but they had more of the Syrah so we were able to get more of that wine to pair with our steak:
We were pretty much full by this time of the meal but there was one more course left. We asked to take some of the steak home to save room for the very tasty Coconut Panna Cotta topped with coconut crumble and lime-flavored meringue. It was an unexpected tropical surprise that was perfect for the warm spring evenings we have been experiencing lately. This course was paired with the 2009 Botrytised Semillon, a heavy sweet dessert wine that was drinking very nicely:
As if dinner were not enough, each of the guests were provided with a “goodie bag” filled with a signed menu, a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc and a Visa Signature Sonoma Winery map:
Congratulations to Sarah and Evan Rich for getting the James Beard Award nomination for 2013 Best New Restaurant (along with State Bird Provisions) – they should be finding out this weekend if Rich Table wins. The menu at Rich Table changes often based on market availability (sometimes overnight), but luckily the Sardine Chips are a mainstay. The Rich’s bold and innovative takes on food will definitely keep us coming back. They take the word “organic” to a different level, where many of the dishes incorporated flowers, douglas fir, grains and seeds, providing more earthy flavors (note that the flowers tasted more peppery than perfumey).
Many thanks to United Airlines and Visa Signature for putting this event together; we look forward to more events like this, especially since they seem to buy out some of the best restaurants in the City.
Rich Table is Hot in Hayes Valley (Aug. 13, 2012)
Visa Signature Event at AQ (October 10, 2012)