Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

My penultimate post on San Francisco was our last dinner in the city before I headed back home to Bali and the rest of the family went back home to Las Vegas.  On that Saturday evening, we booked a table at Michael Mina’s RN74.  The name is the acronym for Route Nationale 74, the road that runs through the vineyards of Burgundy in France starting at Dijon and ending in Beaune.
The restaurant is a long room with cozy half-moon booths lining one side and a traditional long banquette (leather covered bench) on the window side.  Polished cement floors, wooden shutters covering the windows and hanging red glass lamps make the place cozy.  There are also two long tables running down the middle of the restaurant which can serve larger groups.  The back room is lit up with a large board similar to the ones seen in train stations with the most-sold wines featured on the board instead of the usual train timetable so it flicks and changes all through the night.
When we arrived, our table wasn’t ready yet so we sat at the adjacent bar which was packed with several diners having just cocktails and some food from the bar menu.  There are several more bar tables in the back for those who just want to have a drink and something simple to eat.  R and I shared a glass of Californian Tatomer Riseling while C had a 16-year old reserve bourbon from AH Hirsch with some Parmesan crackers to snack on while we waited.

About half an hour later, we were led to our table – a very cozy table right behind the hostess stand.  At this point, the second round of diners for the evening were being seated as well and the restaurant stayed full all throughout our meal.  After having a look at the dinner menu and the extensive wine list, we made our choices.
From the Plates to Share, we chose a starter for the three of us – the herb-roasted marrow bones along with a celebratory Burgundy of course, my favorite Chambolle Musigny premier cru from the 2008 vintage of Ghislaine Barthod.  The bone marrow was one large piece split in half and sprinkled with parsley and served with grilled bread and sticky bacon marmalade.  The crispy bread slathered with bacon jam and topped with chunks of melting hot bone marrow was incredible.  A burst of salty rich in every bite and an excellent start to our dinner.
Next came the appetizers: R had the Burgundian escargots, a sharing plate of nine bubbling snails, half of which were covered with the classic garlic butter and the other half with a paprika butter.  From the First section of the menu, C had the hamachi crudo – slices of raw yellow tail fish with pomelo, trout roe and drizzled with olio nuovo and I had the autumn salad of fall fruits and vegetables – chestnuts, shaved fennel and carrots and pumpkin with greens tossed in a Banyuls (fortified French wine served either as an aperitif or for dessert) vinaigrette.
Main courses followed:  another starter for R, the Mendocino sea urchin and potato mousseline which came served in a very prickly sea urchin shell.  The creamy rich soup was flavored with pine nuts, Douglas fir (actual rosemary-like leaves in the soup) and black trumpet mushrooms.  C had the Snake River Farms Wagyu flatiron steak seared medium rare and served with potato and artichoke gratin, black truffle and gremolata and I had the Liberty Farm duck breast a l’orange, which actually came with duck breasts and the bonus addition of chunks of crispy duck confit, delicious Savoy cabbage, roasted salsify, braised chestnuts and rich foie gras.  It was delicious but I couldn’t get through the whole plate and gave several slices to both R and C to help me finish my plate.
I was stuffed after my three courses and the wine so we all skipped the cheese and they ordered one dessert to share and another one, beignets, to take home to my niece.  The milk chocolate pot de creme came in a tumbler and with it’s chunks of salted toffee, devil’s food cake and cocoa nib, it made a perfect bittersweet ending to our delicious dinner.  Hands down, the best meal I had on this Thanksgiving trip to the U.S., and probably in all of 2011 was at RN74.
301 Mission Street
(between Fremont and Beale)
San Francisco CA 94105
Telephone: +1 415 543 7474
*Open for lunch, Mondays to Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and daily for dinner from 5:30 p.m.
*Wine bar open Mondays to Fridays from 11:30 a.m. till late and on Saturdays and Sundays from 5:30 p.m. till late

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