A really hidden gem

Lunch in the city last week with Jan and Keith Gunn.  We had left the cartoon museum and were walking back towards Union Square when we passed the St Regis Hotel and decided to stop there to eat.

There is a fine restaurant on the main floor of the hotel,  Ame, but it isn’t open for lunch.  Instead, we headed up to the fourth floor to their breakfast and lunch spot, Vitrine.

Once in a while you find a spot that just seems like it is not part of our world at all–just completely detached from everyday reality.  Vitrine was like that for me.  I felt like we had gone up the elevator from 3rd and Mission to someplace in France, maybe Germany.  Someplace ultra-modern yet still warm, timeless and detached from the real world.

The menu is upscale fancy California.  I guess most of the diners here are guests in the hotel and living on expense account–prices are fairly steep, so they intend to give you some serious value.

Orchids on the table in a severe, minimalist vase.  Sort of warm and cold at the same time.

Orchids on the table in a severe, minimalist vase. Sort of warm and cold at the same time.

The meal started out tres elegante, and went up from there.

Not many places give you an amuse bouche with lunch.  Fresh crab and a bit of tangerine.

Not many places give you an amuse bouche with lunch. Fresh crab and a bit of tangerine.

A deconstructed tuna sandwich

A deconstructed tuna sandwich

I had this tuna sandwich sort of thing.  Tuna, radicchio, hard-cooked egg, thick bread.  Not really as tasty as you would like, but an impressive amount of effort at least.

Mint and orange cured Hamachi

Mint and orange cured Hamachi

Keith got the prize for the best looking dish of the day.  “Mint and orange cured” is another way to say ceviche, I should think.  Yellowfin tuna is cooked in the acid of the orange and scented with the mint.  It looked wonderful and Keith cleaned his plate–a clear winner.

Crab cakes

Crab cakes

Jan’s crab cakes were nicely done with a light, crunchy exterior filled with fresh, sweet Dungeness crab, resting on a lovely salad.

Chicken meatball sliders.

Chicken meatball sliders.

Gail’s dish has good and bad points.  The menu calls them “grilled chicken sliders”, which would make you think you were getting grilled chicken, not chicken meatballs.  On the other hand, the meatballs were flavored with garam masala (an Indian spice mix) topped with wild arugula and pickled onion and presented on a house made sea salt and sesame bun, accompanied by salt and cider vinegar chips.  It was really a very good dish, I just wish they were more honest about the composition of the meat.

I’ve been trying to avoid dessert, especially at lunch, but they offered me this, and what could I do?

Butterscotch pudding with popcorn whipped cream, whatever that is.

Butterscotch pudding with popcorn whipped cream, whatever that is.

I am congenitally incapable of refusing butterscotch pudding, and this was one of the best I’ve ever had.  No, I don’t have the faintest idea of what ‘popcorn whipped cream’ is–there certainly didn’t seem to be any popcorn in it, thank God.  The chocolate covered cookie stick was decent, but nothing much mattered to me but the pudding.

Service was impeccable, the iced tea was real iced tea and they had the proper sweetener.  The bill was a minor heart attack, but that’s what you expect in a 4 star hotel.

Vitrine isn’t really the place you’ll just pop into for lunch on a regular basis, but if you’re down near MOMA or Moscone center and want an excellent meal with first rate service away from the noise and the crowds, you won’t be disappointed here.
Vitrine on Urbanspoon

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