Cortez, San Francisco (January 2009)

My dinner at Cortez began inauspiciously as the stentorian bloaks sitting at the bar detracted from the haimish dining room. Following a greasy amuse, I worried that I had made a serious mistake. Could a 2008 Michelin star recipient plunge so precipitously? 
Crispy polenta with olive and hazelnut chutney
Fortunately, from there, dishes showed why Michelin valorized the restaurant. A basket of fresh wheat bread studded with walnuts arrived at the table along with creamy room temperature butter. In what seemed like only a minute later, a second amuse appeared. The soup’s dominant element came from the garlic’s sweetness, imparted through roasting. 
Broccoli soup with roasted garlic crème fraîche
Individually, the salad’s ingredients boast great flavor; when placed on the same fork, they marry amiably. 
First course: Kumquat, avocado, and chicory salad with caramel and lime
This was not my favorite scallop dish ever, yet for the tasting menu’s price, I considered it magnanimous. 
Second course: Seared scallops, pancetta, potato risotto, butternut squash purée, and heirloom apple
Buried underneath the pork lie dozens of pungent mustard seeds, bestowing an unexpected spiciness. 
Third course: Kurobuta pork belly, cranberry, microgreens, honey-mustard dressing
The kitchen enhanced the tenderloin – a cut not known for its overt beefiness – with a few sea salt specks. The rich oxtail ravioli could have been an entrée on its own. 
Fourth course: Angus tenderloin, oxtail ravioli, pearl onions, carrots, and spinach
Teecino ice cream is a first. After two cups of coffee during the day, I rejoiced when I found out about the caffeine-free dessert. 
Fifth course: Coconut cake, caramelized bananas, teecino ice cream, passion fruit
After a lackluster start, the kitchen put out one delicious plate after another. Despite a few peccadillos, Cortez seems like it can reclaim its Michelin star status.

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