Former Top Chef contestant, Casey Thompson opens her first restaurant in San Francisco, Aveline. (Address: 490 Geary St, San Francisco, CA – cross street Taylor). (415) 345-2303.
After a visit to the restaurant during it’s opening week, it’s solid, but still needs to work a few kinks out. My biggest complaint was that the food was a little too sweet. Even the savory dishes were sweet. Read on.
The amuse bouche was a seabass dumpling in a dashi fish roe broth. Quite nice. Then I was intrigued by the “palate resets” that were adorned to the top of the menu. At only $6 each, they were begging me to try them. So I did as the server recommended, I ordered them in between dishes.
The first dish we had was the Goat’s Milk Custard with cucumber, black tahini, trout roe, and strawberries. Although the trout roe added salt to the dish to make it savory, it was still sweet from the strawberries.
Next we had the Crab Macarons which were presented in an innovative white monogrammed ‘A’ wax sealed box, loosely tied with a ribbon. There were three to an order and they were warm. Although the menu didn’t say so, the waiter did mention that they contained shrimp and crab. Which, they were tasty, but because of the shrimp to crab ratio, they tasted more like dim sum.
Next we had Palate reset #1 which was described as: pistachio, corn, peach, and mint. When I think of a palate reset, I think of a palate cleanser, but this had ice cream in it and no matter how you pitch it, it was dessert, not a palate reset. In fact, it was delicious and I almost wished it had been a bit larger so I could consider it for dessert next time.
Following the “palate reset” we got the Amberjack, which the description superseded it’s delivery on flavor. The Amberjack was served sashimi style with salted banana, black lime, cherry blossom, and ham snow. Nowhere does it say radish, but man there was so much radish. The radish made the dish look very pretty, but it was too much radish: all other components ratio going on in this plate. Less radish, and then I may have been able to taste all of the other amazing components. But this was labeled as a savory dish but faltered on the side of being a tad sweet due to the cherry blossom and banana. The ham snow gave it some salt, but it needed more ham snow. (frozen ham shaved down to look like pink snow).
We heard the Yolk Beignet was all the rage so of course we had to get it. A beautiful beignet with a duck egg inside it, covered with a thin layer of sliced wagyu, topped with a thin layer of lardo and then trotter sauce drizzled around the outside. When you cut into the center of it, the duck egg oozed out mixing nicely with the trotter sauce. This was by far, one of the two best tasting dishes.
We followed the Yolk Beignet with the second “Palate Reset #2” which had descriptors of lemon meringue, cucumber, and granita. I kinda thought this was going to be sweet, but the waiter said that the pastry chef tends to make her desserts a bit more savory and that this was not going to be that sweet. Well, it was sweet. If the lemon meringue had been a salted lemon meringue, then this would have had potential. Or if it had just been a savory granita, that would have been enough. Also, I found this one a bit on the larger side. A palate cleanser should just be a 2-3 bites, this was more like 8-10 spoonfuls. Out of the two palate resets, this was our least favorite all around in flavors, being a palate reset, and in size. You can skip this one.
Lastly we had the Campanelle with pig cheek, smoked yogurt, and cracklin’ and this was our second most favorite dish. There are a lot of good pasta places in San Francisco (like SPQR, NOPA, Acquerello) and this dish could have been served in any one of those places. Yum.
For dessert, lots of things looked interesting, but due to the sweetness of 3 out of the 5 dishes we had plus both palate resets, my blood sugar was already elevated. My complaint about the dishes leaning toward the sweet side I feel were because there was a lot of use of fruit in these dishes. You’ll notice that the two dishes that were our favorites: the Campanelle and Yolk Beignette had no fruit in them. It’s not that we don’t like fruit, we love fruit. But it’s June in San Francisco, it’s fruit season. So when adding it to the dishes, it needs to be small enough to lend the flavor, but not over power the dish. I think that’s what went wrong here. The Amberjack had potential, but there was so much radish that I couldn’t really tell.
Will I go back? Yes. Should you go? Yes. They have a great wine list, the food is solid, and service was great too. My bet is that with a few tweaks and alterations, this restaurant will be on the top of Michael Bauer’s list.