Friday, February 15, 2008

EPIC Roasthouse

Ah, lunch. Today I went on a company lunch to Jan Birnbaum's new Epic Roasthouse. It was such a beautiful day to walk along the Embarcadero, it was truly epic (sorry, I had to, won't do it again).
Ok, I'll do a little review to start. The restaurant is gorgeous. I love the decor and the views are spectacular (could've used epic but decided not to, kudos to me). There are a couple of strange things that happened before we even got to the restaurant. When i made reservations the other day the hostess told me that I could not make a reservation for 14. The largest they supply is 6, but I could make multiple reservations and she will note that we are all together. BUT I have to make them under multiple names. So, in order to accommodate our party of 14, I had to make 4 reservations, three for 4 people and one for 2. Does this make any sense? I cannot say it did to me. AND I had to put them all under different names. Okay, whatever, it's a new restaurant and they are trying to figure things out, so be it.
We ended up having two tables of four next to each other, and a booth that sat 6. Everyone was happy though and it is near impossible to speak to everyone at a table of 14 anyway, so we were satisfied with our seating arrangements.
The meal began with water and a choice of three breads, a cornbread in the shape of a madeline, a cheese popover, and sourdough. This was served with butter and a choice of three different kinds of salt. Now, I love salt so I was pleased to be offered such a lovely array.

My table mates started their meals with the french onion soup, steak tartar, etc, all which were highly applauded. We then moved onto the main course. I was served the chicken salad with cabbage, apples and walnuts. I thought that the flavors were lovely. The dressing was present but not heavy, the chicken was cooked wonderfully. My only complaint would be that I got two pieces of gristle in the chicken (very unappetizing) and it was difficult to eat (simply a hazard of cabbage that is unavoidable).

We had also ordered the Epic Mac and Cheese (it's really called that so I think it's okay to repeat) for the table. I was excited about this as macaroni and cheese is one life's greatest pleasures if you ask me. I am absolutely infatuated with James Beard's macaroni and cheese casserole (located in his "Beard on Bread and Pasta" book. It is incomparable to any I have ever tasted. Simply the best).

The mac and cheese was disappointing, though. It was missing a zing or some kind of layer to it that made it interesting. I felt that it was just extraordinarily bland. No edge, no sharpness. I think my nephew would have fully enjoyed it, but he is 16 months old and doesn't have the most discriminating palate yet. ( He obviously enjoyed his cupcakes on his first birthday, the picture is proof). I added all three of the salts to different bites as well as a load of pepper and it was improved slightly, but not a ton. I hope that this is the result of Epic being a new restaurant, this is their first week serving lunch, and so they have some things that they need to work on.
My table mates ordered two desserts that I was forced to taste (the cruelty). A warm Sharffenberger Chocolate Soufflé with caramel and sea salt ice cream and Beignets with Bicerin café au lait were brought to our table. Now if it were up to me I would have ordered the apple tart with calvados ice cream or some other fruity dessert. I am not a huge fan of chocolate (I know, oh the horror) and typically prefer a lighter dessert, if I choose to each dessert at all, which I usually don't. Whew. So I tasted the two desserts and must say that I wasn't bowled over.

I thought that the souffle was too rich, but honestly, I think I am alone with this, and I almost always think that chocolate desserts are too rich. The best tasting thing was the ice cream, but until I looked up the menu to see the description of the dessert, I had no idea it wasn't just vanilla. The chocolate was just too overpowering.

I think that the beignets were actually pretty good, they were fresh and warm, etc, but they are just not my thing. That's okay though, my coworkers ate them up whole heartedly so I am pretty sure that I am not trustworthy with this one.
Overall, I want to give the Epic Roasthouse another chance. Jan Birnbaum was at the restaurant cooking and came and said hello to our table, which is always nice to see. I think that with some more practice and a few tweaks the restaurant could be really great. It looks amazing, they just need to get the food to match the view!

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