Making the Most of a Monday
Mondays are typically dead for most restaurants. People are tired and broke from the weekend and just stay home. That’s why Monday is the traditional day off for the senior kitchen crew, and, to complete the circle of logic, is yet another good reason not to eat out the first day of the week.
But since the rent has to be paid every day, some bright restauranteurs try to find ways to break that cycle. The Commissary, in the Presidio across the bay, has come up with a brilliant solution.
The first Monday of the month (or the second, if the first was a holiday) they are offering a “chefs dinner”, inviting innovative chefs from other restaurants to come in and cook just a single dish, to be part of a tasting menu for foodies on the prowl for something different. Each month has a different theme–November was pumpkin, December was caviar and this month the theme was truffles.
The Commissary features a conventional dining room in front, with a second room containing a large open kitchen with a counter running around 3 sides. You want to sit at the kitchen counter if at all possible–you get to watch the numerous chefs, who have all staked out an area for their own efforts, working together in a smooth dance to get all the parts of the meal to guests without a hitch.
Our first dish was a deconstructed potato salad prepared by Chef Jamie Simpson, from The Chef’s Garden in Milan, Ohio. The presentation was impressive and the flavors were spectacular. The Chef’s Garden grows over 800 different veggies for high end restaurants around the country.
Chef Jamie came over to introduce himself and his creation. It doesn’t hurt that he’s very, very, very cute. Or so all the women were noticing.
The guest chefs weren’t necessarily from far away. We had a very creative bean dish prepared by Chef Val Cantu of Californios, a Mexican restaurant in the Mission.
Chef Val’s dish was “Tres Frijoles”, a concoction created of 3 different beans, none of which I recognized, prepared in ways I cannot describe, dispensed as foam from whipped cream canisters and topped with truffles. The small serving dishes were hand made by the general manager of The Commissary in her ceramics class. I have neither the words nor the requisite culinary training to properly describe the rich, soothing, fulfilling umami qualities of the dish ,heightened with a touch of serrano chile, but it was the most memorable of the evening.
The main course was prepared by Chef Dave Cruz, of Little Gem, a gluten-free small plate cafe near City Hall. It was a piece of perfectly prepared rib steak with pureed potatoes. Never has meat and potatoes reached such heights.
I gave the mushroom to Kate, the cleaned my plate. “Brassicas” describes an entire family of vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbages and mustard greens. The potato puree was much finer and looser than the traditional mashed spuds. The dish was napped with a red wine jus Chef Dave described as similar to a bordelaise sauce.
Chef Jamie struck again with the “pre-dessert”. An absolutely stunning presentation of “churned sweet potato, crispy skin and truffle salt”. You’ve never seen anything like this.
Sweet potato ice cream, sitting in a cone created of sweet potato skin. The whole thing was a triumph of creativity and innovation, and shows the heights that great chefs can attain in both flavor and visual design. We were stunned with both.
Finally, as if we needed a bit more, there was a dessert of goat cheese cheesecake with truffle roasted parsnips, prepared by Chef Kristi Gauslow of The Commissary. I liked the cheesecake, thought the parsnips were clever merely for the sake of being clever.
We consider the night an unqualified success. The food was brilliant, innovative, creative and scrumptious. It’s a pleasure to be able to meet the chefs and talk to them about the food and how they developed it. At $95 the price is quite reasonable for this level of quality and brilliance.
The next chef’s dinner will be February 6, and features chocolate, fittingly for the month ofValentines Day. Our reservation is already made.