The evolution of the fine dining experience in San Francisco continues. Gone are the days that white tablecloths are a necessity and things are formal and stuffy. And now there’s a new contender in town: Keiko à Nob Hill.
Chef Keiko Takahashi and owner Seigo Takei, the husband and wife team that was formerly at El Paseo in Mill Valley, have taken over the spot on Jones Street that used to house the venerable Charles of Nob Hill. It is a beautiful space with two separate dining rooms, a bar area and separate lounge. From when I walked up the stairs and was greeted to the time I left, it was truly an awe-inspiring experience.
Despite what some publications are reporting, the restaurant is not open for lunch; the team is currently focusing on dinner service from Tuesday through Sunday. The menu is heavily slanted towards French and Japanese cuisine. They offer an eight-course tasting menu for $77 (wine pairing is an additional $78) in the dining room with a very refined lounge menu as well. It is hard to choose standouts; everything was prepared beautifully and the presentation was just as spectacular. Chef Keiko’s signature dish, which she brought over from El Paseo, is the Pan Seared Artisan Foie Gras with Espresso Sauce. Accompanied with an artichoke and Japanese sweet potato puree, it is Foie Gras like you have never had before. To be honest, I could have ordered everything on the menu. The Matsutake ‘Dobin’ took me back to soups I would eat as a kid; an amazingly flavorful broth of sea bream and bonito. The Fried Chicken, Tonkatsu, Pork Belly and Mushroom ‘Nibitashi’ were all amazing or looked amazing as well. It really is a well-rounded menu with something for everyone. The dessert menu is a winner as well, although I couldn’t force myself to try anything. Definitely will next time though.
Another highlight is the massive wine list. There are 5,000 bottles which diners can order by the glass, carafe or bottle. The wine menu truly reads like an encyclopedia of the world’s great wines. Feel free to ask Takei about the wines as well; he is a wealth of knowledge and steered me in the right direction, pouring a glass of his own pinot from Oregon (La Chouette).
From start to finish, service was impeccable. Everyone was unbelievably friendly and knowledgeable about the entire menu, making spot-on suggestions as the night went on. The restaurant is limiting the amount of diners for the time being, seeing how things go and trying not to add undue stress to the small kitchen staff. After the night of decadent dining was over, I reflected in awe of the overall experience, truly fine dining at its absolute best.
Keiko à Nob Hill is located at 1250 Jones Street. The restaurant is open Tuesday-Sunday from 5:30-10:00 p.m.