Let’s face it. Michelin stars are addictive. The quality of the food you get at a one, two, and three Michelin star location is mostly consistent with the ratings – no matter where you are – which makes the ranking a very reliable way to pick a great restaurant. While there are locations with great restaurants but no Michelin guide (yet), most major cities around the World are well-covered.
There are exactly 111 restaurants (as of today) in the World with three stars. Not an impossible number to cover in a lifetime, as renowned blogger Andy Hayler showed the World.
T’ang Court in Hong Kong was my very first three stars experience. That was quickly followed by dinenr at Louis XV in Monaco and lunch at Le Bernardin in New York City. It seems only fitting that Thuy and I booked another three Michelin experience for our first church wedding anniversary.
As we got engaged in Half Moon Bay near San Francisco, I wanted to go back to the Bay Area to one of the many great restaurants found there. Quince caught my eye, as chef Michael Tusk seemed very well-versed in Italian cuisine with a creative French twist.
Our weekend started actually in San Diego. After an uneventful business class flight from DFW on American Airlines (thankfully the food is improving – at least the hot option – and the bloody marys are as good as always), we rented a car and made our way to La Jolla. When we landed it was misty/rainy, and so we took refuge in one of the many cafes near La Jolla cove to have a nice latte at the Living Room Coffeehouse – a neat location with a down-to-Earth feeling.
While La Jolla Cove is probably overrated, it was a very good morning as the sun started creeping out before fully showing itself. It was perfect timing, as a a gloomy day quickly became a perfect California day. We took a seat at George’s Terrace on the Cove, and had a great farro salad and chicken sandwich while enjoying the beautiful Pacific Ocean view – a great an unexpected way to have lunch!
In the afternoon we took a Virgin America flight to San Francisco, and checked in at the nice Marker Hotel near Union Square. While located in the not-so-desirable “Tenderloin” part of town, the hotel itself had a nice boutique feel to it. While we missed the social hour (with complimentary wine and snacks), we did make it up with a decent bottle of chardonnay and some chips and salsa. Being tipsy is the best way to prepare for a multi-course gourmet dinner! 🙂
The hotel room was spacious, with a comfortable bed, a sofa, and a nicely-appointed bathroom with Jonathan Adler amenities.
At 8:45 we set off for the restaurant, where we had a 9pm reservation.
While located in a non-descript building, as soon as you go in the hospitality of a true three Michelin stars restaurant started to show. Our coats were taken, and we were seated while we waited for our table tobe ready. Or so we thought. In reality, our waiter escorted us to the restaurant’s cellar where a table had been set up and where we were offered a glass of Barnaut Rose’ Authentique while we were given a tour of the cellar. How cool is that??
Afterwards we were escorted to the main dining room and showed to our real table.
Quince offers a tasting menu only experience in their dining room, with seasonal ingredients used throughout the meal. The cuisine is creative, but with a classic touch and feel throughout.
We started with some canapes, which were remarkably tasty.
Our wine came out at this point – I had ordered a bottle of Chassagne-Montrachet Premiere Cru Les Vergers from Philippe Colin, 2015 vintage. This white and vintage was a good complement for our dinner, as the opulent and round notes of the wine went very well with both fish and meat dishes (without being too floral or overpowering). This particular wine got a 90/100 rating on Wine Spectactor.
The first proper dish was English Peas in their own juice. This was a jelly-like composition that was unexpectedly flavorful, with great texture.
The next dish was Tsai Nicoulai caviar. This American caviar is a far cry from its Caspian cousin, but it was still very good – creamy, silky, not very salty. It was served with green asparagus – an unusual yet winning combination.
Brassica “Crudo e Cotto” followed suit. This composition of tempura-fied vegetables and raw ones (including flowers) was good, although nothing too memorable. One challenge that three Michelin restaurants have during the colder months is that fresh vegetables aren’t as abundant, which narrows down the usable ingredients.
Next dish was the white asparagus, whose presentation was the highlight of the dish. First a glass pot of hot water was brought to the table, together with a plate with garnishes. Then the asparagus was quickly cooked in the water, and served into the plate with sauce and peas. Both presentation and flavor were great – white asparagus is definitely a winner this time of the year!
The asparagus was followed by freshly in-house baked bread, which was fresh, crunchy, and accompanied by some amazing butter.
Black cod came next ,and this was a great dish where the bitter flavors of the brussels sprouts were perfectly complemented by the the fish and the lardon.
Then, some pasta please! Here the garganelli come, with lobster, mushroom, and spring onion.
The pasta was phenomenal – Quince’s chef is renowned for his fresh pasta and the dish did not disappoint.
A beautiful mushroom “en coute” with bet sauce followed – here’s when I ordered a glass of the excellent Barbera d’Albna Bartolo Mascarello 2015 in anticipation of the lamb dish.
The lamb was definitely good. Milk fed, fatty – just as I like it – although I have to admit Thuy did noit particularly liked this dish.
Saying that we were stuffed at this point is an understatement.
However, we did not stop.
At this point, we were offered cheese. From a beautiful cart. I can’t remember exactly what we ordered, but I can remember that Thuy was so stuffed I ended up eating most of her cheese as well. The selection was well curated and comprehensive.
Then the first dessert arrived, the kiwi with coconut, vanilla, and olio nuovo. This was a refreshing start to our sweet journey.
The main dessert was strawberry with fromage blanc, meringue, and pain d’epices. It was once again refreshing and delightful.
As this wasn’t enough, mignardises were brought from the most excellent display. Everything we tried was delightful, and I capped it off with a good espresso to (try) to kickstart my digestion.
After paying the bill (which hit the $1,000 mark) we talked a little longer before getting to the door, where the hostess handed us two cups of incredible hot chocolate to keep us warm during the journey home.
We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at Quince. Chef Michael Tusk delivered a great meal which, coupled with attentive and personalized service, truly made our night special.
While we long to try either Eleven Madison Park or French Laundry next, we are sure that Quince will take its place among those rare, unforgettable experiences that made life truly worth living.