Fleur de Lys, San Francisco (June 2009)

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are,” Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said. Tonight’s meal probably places me somewhere on a continuum with 17th century Western European monarchs, save for the parlous gluttony.

Hewing to my appetite aggregating asceticism proved especially difficult since I patronized both the farmers’ market and Chocolatier Blue–Berkeley foodies ought to know about this place–earlier in the day.

With my brother as a dining companion, I knew the menu selection would invariably broaden. Tenebrous photos, alas, conceal each dish’s intricacy (I am working on the camera situation).

Past reviews convey my affinity for Chef Keller’s refreshing amuse, so I will not belabor my half-dozen or so readers with repetitious comments. 

Fava bean purée with vichyssoise and paprika oil
Madeleine, watermelon purée shooter, and seared watermelon with a pineapple reduction
Every so often, a yelp reviewer grumbles about torchons in contradistinction to seared preparations. If someone complains about Grade A foie gras, check their pulse. 
White and green asparagus salad, foie gras torchon, beets, salsify
My brother seemed pleased with all of the kitchen’s offerings, particularly the osetra and foie gras.
Symphony of beef tartare, chickpea fries, foie gras and duck breast burger, lamb sausage, and braised cabbage flan and osetra caviar
I have to admit, labeling this dish a salmon “soufflé” left me confused. Setting aside appellational issues, the flavors worked great–to wit, who does not like sea bass mousse slathered on top of salmon? The iron-packed pig’s blood, moreover, imparted a hefty note to an otherwise dainty plate. When done right, a traditionally working class food like black pudding nears elegance. 
Salmon “souffle,” black pudding, choucroute, grapes
It’s foie gras; fill in your own superlatives. 
Seared foie gras, rhubarb
If my memory serves me right, the last time I ate prawns at the restaurant occurred about nine months ago at Acquerello. Their prawns risotto, replete in with its nonpareil insipidity, ruined the tasting menu. This time, I told myself, would be different, and it was. The brawny prawn’s freshness could be detected immediately as a sea water aroma emanated from the plate. 
Prawns, pickled beets, potatoes
Diver scallop, hazelnuts, grapes
I am not one for telling people how to eat a dish, but I think a little chronological advice would have helped here. Starting with the lamb loin was fortuitous. Cooked pink, the tender tournedos initiated a great start to the final savory course. The cumin-crusted shank, however, shellacked any other spice– cinnamon, anise, pepper.
Lamb loin and shank, choucroute, couscous, cinnamon reduction
Stuffed quail, baby leeks, foie gras, veal and smoked apple jus
When playing the percentages, five out of six is respectable. In the plate’s top right, a triple creme cheese–from Virginia, I think–epitomized pungency. Normally, bread will cut through a harsh cheese, but even the fig-pistachio capitulated. This cheese had the flavor profile of a “smelly bellybutton” my brother said. 
Swiss, Roquefort, hard cow’s milk, chèvre, triple cream, Époisses
Adding a personalized touch to our dinner, one of the servers delivered a moist cake for us to enjoy. 
Chocolate mousse cake
Most good things eventually come to an end, and Fleur de Lys does not defy the platitude. I can expect three studious days before my first dinner at Gary Danko. Until then, arrivederci.

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