scallop at CHAYAMore than two consecutive days of not wearing a North Face means it’s officially spring in San Francisco. But while the weather may change, spring is definitely in season at CHAYA Brasserie, where Chef Yuko Kajino is serving an updated spring menu to reflect the tastes of sunny days.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a special dinner at CHAYA where Chef Kajino served a selection of the spring menu. From appetizers to dessert, he showcased his favorite current dishes that left everyone very full and very delighted. Here are the highlights:

  • Dungeness crab salad, with avocado and tomatillo coulis, oro branco gelée, lotus root chips and rémoulade. There was a very generous helping of crab, and the coulis was extremely fresh and flavorful; the lotus root chips were not just delicious, but very attractive for a chip.
  • Pan-seared boat scallop and crisp veal sweetbread, with cauliflower purée, Brussels spourts, Niman Ranch bacon, pickled ramp and porcini vinaigrette. The sweetbread was crispy and sweet, without the meaty flavor I expected of the veal. The scallop was extra-large and the vegetables retained their own delicious flavors.
  • Brioche-crusted local Petrale Sole, with rock shrimp, English peas, fava beans, pea tendrils and herbed-chardonnay fondue. The sole was light and not too fishy, and while I don’t typically eat peas or fava beans, I scooped up every green sphere on my plate. mochi at CHAYA
  • Honey-coffee glazed duck breast, with butternut squash purée, golden turnips, hazelnut relish. The duck was as rich as you’d expect it to be, but the glaze had a pleasant roasted flavor, rather than being too sweet.
  • Sakura-Mochi, with roasted strawberries, vanilla ice cream and malt-balsamic sauce. This is no Trader Joe’s mocha ice cream. The trio of mochi balls were light and chewy, and the sauce offered a sort of basily flavor.
  • Warm chocolate croissant bread pudding, with sea salted ice cream. The bread pudding was very warm, which contrasted well with the very cold ice cream. The bread pudding was sweeter than previous experiences from the croissant dough.

The spring menu is available for dinner, with some items offered during lunch as well. Reservations can be made online, but walk-ins are also welcome.

CHAYA Brasserie

132 The Embarcadero, San Francisco; Tel. 415.777.8688


Photos by Emilia Varshavsky