Sunday, March 05, 2006

ame: a restaurant to watch

Last night I was fortunate to dine at Ame with five close friends. The company insured that it would be fantastic night, but as Ame is such a hot new restaurant I wanted to pass along my comments on our meal.

Ame is on the ground floor of the swanky St Regis Hotel, and it features a beautiful, modern dining room to match its hip lobby bar. With a glowing Michael Bauer review and favorable mentions in Friday’s New York Times and today’s Washington Post, Ame has opened to great acclaim.

Ame is a fusion restaurant from Terra owners Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani. They brought in rising star Greg Dunmore as Executive Chef, and he was presiding over the line while we dined. They have also hired a top-notch wait staff (the service was amazing) and lured a great sommelier who has created a diverse wine and sake list.

The menu is seasonal and eclectic. We started with sashimi and enjoyed the preparations of the “Tuna Five.” The Poke, a flash-fried maki, was fine, but the experimental crudo with kanpachi was disappointing. The beautiful, subtle flavor of the kanpachi was overwhelmed by the olive oil. Nobu’s sashimi with jalapeño works much better.

The appetizers we ordered were excellent as this detailed and accurate review notes, but the transition from sashimi to small plates felt somewhat disjointed. We tried the burrata, the chawan mushi and the ravioli. The chawan mushi is an egg custard with lobster and uni and it was heavenly. And, better still was the liberty duck ravioli. We ended up ordering more with our entrees - 4 orders total.

Unfortunately, like the sashimi, the main courses were good but slightly disappointing. The “crabonara” (noodles with an abundance of Dungeness crab) was tasty, but I had just had a better version at Tamarine. I also had high hopes for the signature sake-marinated black cod, but it suffered by comparison with the black cod miso at Kaygetsu. The shiso broth seemed to drown out some of the sweet flavor of the fish.

Our desserts were wonderful, especially the churros y chocolate, and the meal was much fun. My thanks to my friends for a wonderful evening. I’ll certainly be back, but Ame does have quite of bit of competition (Frisson, Myth and, next door, XYZ) in the pricey, trendy category.

Ame: 689 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA (415) 284-4040