Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco Birthday Dinner – 5-course tasting menu, wine pairing, custom cakes, oh my.
On December 26th we flew over to San Francisco to celebrate my birthday in the most absurd and delightful surprise way I’ve ever had. After a remarkably straightforward, and easy trip through US Customs, a quick and painless security screening, and a window seat on the air plane on a direct flight, we left behind the storm warnings and cloudy days in Toronto and were basking in the sunshine in SFO.
It seems we left right in time, because while I was looking forward to having a bit of snow, the storm front that was hitting Toronto wasn’t my idea of a good time.
After checking in to our hotel (a mere block away from Millennium) we relaxed, enjoyed the complimentary wine hour at our hotel, and got ready for dinner. Entering the restaurant is always a bit weird because walking through the Tenderloin area of San Francisco with it’s display of overt poverty, addiction, and illness, in an area full of hotels, tourism, and theaters is quite the contrast. It’s also hard for me not to think about the last time I ate at Millennium and saw a shooting after dinner. It’s an area permanently blended with weird reality of have and have not, and it’s not something easy to overlook (at least it’s not something I can ignore.)
It’s also kind of funny that this fancy fine vegan dining restaurant is in a Best Western Hotel, with no real outside entrance, but I imagine sharing the space helps make sure they stay in business. As soon as we gave out names, the hostess promptly ruined the potential surprise of a birthday cake by asking JC about it. I imagine it could have been done with a lot more tact, but c’est la vie.
The seating arrangement was much different than the last time I had the opportunity to go, and we were seated in between two different groups of couples, in what appears to be an attempt at stuffing in more people at the cost of patron comfort. The hostess also didn’t care when I expressed my annoyance (when there were other tables for two people available.) Again, whatever. Considering how far we had traveled it was not especially the best start to the evening, but either way I was still looking forward to the food.
It’s hard to come into a restaurant with preconceived notions of what the experience should be like, based on one exceptional visit two years ago, but on the bright side our waiter was friendly, courteous, and thankfully offered a much improved experience for the rest of the evening.
We started by enjoying the complimentary house bread with a lentil chive hummus and two drinks. Me with a Pied Piper, a rich spicy drink with crusoe organic spiced rum, pomegranate juice, a chai-maple syrup, lemon, bitters and a snap ginger-molasses liqueur. Something to plan to make at home someday for sure. JC had the Far From The Tree – Osocalis brandy, calvados, cointreau, apple juice, lemon juice, with an absinthe rinse. I wasn’t as excited by JC’s drink, but that’s because it wasn’t really my style.
We opted for the 5-Course Chefs Tasting Menu, because we were both hungry and I think it’s fair to say generally unabashed gluttons for delicious high quality food. Adding a wine pairing so the experience was well worth it. If I was a better blogger, I’d probably have taken notes or included something on the wine pairings or flavour notes for each dish, but since it was my birthday, I opted to enjoy myself instead, but I did take pictures.
I was especially delighted that for the most part we ended up with different plates of food, and also found it curious how oddly suited each dish was to each of us. It was likely just coincidence, or at most, related to the drinks we started with, but either way I’m opting to just assume their chef is even more of a magician and they figured us out somehow.
Without further adieu:
I started with the grilled radicchio dish with with a savory pearl barley risotto. It was paired with a dry white wine.
JC started with this spinach, smoked tofu, mushrooms dish with red onions tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. Paired with a oaky red.
Battered slice of sweet potato, topped with crispy lentils, cilantro, chimichurri sauce. Another, but different white wine.
Mushrooms with mixed greens. Smokey and savory.
At some point we both got an amuse bouche of a spiced pear sorbet. It tasted like a cinnamon pear pie with ice cream on top, just in frozen form. My bouche was totally amused.
Winter Squash Kamut Risotto – grilled maitake mushrooms, cashew cream, fresh beans, roasted blue banana squash, braised fennel & leek, Fall greens, with fried capers, lemon zest, porcini oil & spears of squash tempura. Such great savory flavours, it paired perfectly with a sharp red.
Black Garlic & Miso Glazed Tempeh – kim chee fried Bhutanese red rice, snap peas & edamame, watercress-chrysanthemum green salad with yuzu-ginger vinaigrette, toasted peanuts, spicy pickled Thai chile & fuyu persimmon relish. JC commented on how delicious and tender it was. Neither of us likes tempeh most of the time, but this was an exception.
An assortment of desserts – cookies, truffles, chocolate almond midnight, pumpkin custard and a pair of sorbets.
My coconut cream birthday cake – specially made upon the request of JC. That wonderful sneak.
Happiest of birthday’s to me, and it still wasn’t over. There were still 6 more days to go.
580 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA
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Other stuff: You can only make reservations via OpenTable
Happy birthday! The food looks divine, especially the tempeh. I know how frustrating it is to have less than stellar experience when you travel so far and have such high expectations. It’s so wonderful when all works out beautifully.
i totes agree with your take on the Tenderloin so i avoid it but i’m glad you had a great trip
What a great birthday dinner and I had no idea it was in a Best Western!