I Always Stay at the Ritz and Dine at Parallel 37
Opened a little more than a year ago, Parallel 37 in the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco is a destination restaurant that cannot be forgotten or mixed up with anything else. No matter if you stay at the Ritz or happen to be a San Francisco dweller on a lookout for new exciting venues, this place—named after the city’s geographic latitude—is designed to impress both with its gorgeously understated ambiance and with its sophisticated, simple cuisine.
Establishing itself as a distinctive Northern California eatery, the facility features a back wall light box filled with images of California live oaks. Minimally finished cedar wood slabs cover the entry ceiling. Solid white oak, walnut, and myrtle wood table tops in the dining room and lounge area along with leather seating and geometrical flooring provide an oasis of relaxed contemporary sensibility within the Beaux-Arts hotel building, a beloved Nob Hill landmark.
Of course, it’s food and wine that puts Parallel 37 firmly on the city map. Chef Michael Rotondo creates a highly original and fun menu influenced by the European, Asian, and African cuisines from San Francisco’s parallel 37 neighbors, such as Spain, Turkey, Japan, China, the Mediterranean, and Middle Asia. The use of market-fresh, locally and sustainably harvested, seasonal ingredients makes every dish shine, especially when paired with exquisite wines from a comprehensive list of international classics and intriguing small producers.
The chef’s eight-course tasting menu is a true masterpiece, however, since it changes with the season and the market, on different days diners would have different (yet equally enticing) experiences.
Mine was definitely something to write home about. A glass of whirling bubbles in Bruno Paillard Brut Premier Cuvee was followed by an amuse bouche of chicken liver mousse—silky and airy, but with a distinct chicken liver flavor tamed by a crispy, crunchy combo of radicchio, Savoy cabbage, shaved bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and tiny croutons.
The first course of the freshest hamachi sashimi was garnished with juicy sliced kumquats, wilted spinach, baby beet greens, clam-and-kumquat foam, and the thinnest rings of fried crisped onions.
The 2011 Laurenz und Sophie Gruner Veltliner Singing from Kamptal, Austria, was really singing along with sweet kumamoto oysters amazingly enhanced by horseradish, celery, onion, parsley, dill, and red beet jus.
The 2009 Meulenhoff Riesling Kabinett Erdener Treppchen from Mosel, Germany, made a good match for Asian cuisine-inspired chicken foot, de-boned and crisped and served in a steamed bun with kimchi, pickles, micro greens, and Cara-Cara orange slices.
The 2011 Lolo Albarinio Rias Baixas from Galicia, Spain, the grape that grows by the sea, was very fitting for the tender chewy octopus, served with pickled elephant garlic, radish, caper berries, and a work of pure genius: sunchoke ice cream topped with rice puffs. The 2011 Kistler Chardonnay Les Noisetiers from Sonoma Coast underscored the sweetness of locally caught, wild black cod with stinging nettle flat bread and Parmesan and yuzu foam. This modest fish never looked so noble. Golden and shiny with specs of red pepper sauce, it tasted even better than it looked, easily flaking and melting in your mouth.
For the meat courses, bold and powerful reds came to the stage following those refreshing mineral whites.
The 2007 Highflyer Syrah Vivio Vineyard from Bennett Valley, Sonoma County, California, accompanied a colorful plate of lamb three ways with meat cuts of shoulder, leg, and belly garnished with crispy bamboo rice, house-made chorizo, pickled shallots and fennel, and fresh mint.
The 2008 Falcor Sangiovese from Napa Valley, California, had just the right smoothness for Asian spice-marinated, medium-rare flank steak with shaved coconut and burdock, cilantro, and crispy rice.
A pre-dessert palate cleanser was beautiful to behold and consisted of light-green cucumber sorbet with elderflower gelée and mint-infused olive oil.
And then it was time for dessert. A recently hired pastry chef, Andrea Correa, created a scrumptious pistachio and green tea semifreddo with tart-and-sweet strawberry broth and rhubarb compote. Her wonderfully delicious muted green and bright red creation was nicely paired with the golden nectar of heavenly 2011 Moscato d’Asti.
White chocolate passion fruit truffles and a cup of bloomy espresso rounded up a very memorable meal.
Parallel 37 is located at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco at 600 Stockton Street in San-Francisco, California. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner and on Sunday for brunch. To book a reservation, please call (415) 773-6168.