One of San Francisco’s iconic restaurants is Michelin three-star, Quince Restaurant at 470 Pacific Avenue in the historic Jackson Square area. Chef Michael Tusk and his wife Lindsay, and third-generation owner Peter Martinelli, have been running this Relais and Chateaux establishment for 20 years now. Quince features California contemporary cuisine, with Italian influences sprinkled here and there. The restaurant received its third Michelin star in 2017, and Chef Tusk was named, “Best Chef Pacific” by James Beard in 2011. He also holds four stars from the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2020, Quince was one of the first recipients in the country to be awarded a Green star from Michelin for its works towards sustainability and biodiversity.
All these accolades and the restaurant was reduced to serving diners only 3 nights a week in the fall of 2021 due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.
Quince has one of the most stunning dining rooms in San Francisco. The decor boasts beautiful eclectic artwork, flower arrangements, spectacular dish-ware and glassware, different for each course, and Venetian glass chandeliers. There is soft lighting, refined rich linens, copper walls and high ceilings, and black trim accents. It has been a long time since I’ve dined in such a romantic atmosphere.
The service was impeccable, and you know this is a special occasion restaurant. (Especially when you see your bill, at $360 per head excluding wine and cocktails).
Chef Tusk has a wonderful pedigree, he started his career at Stars, then four years at Chez Panisse and six years at Oliveto, before going out on his own.
San Francisco is one of the culinary epicenters of the Americas. Some would argue, including myself, that it is THE best food region in the United States. I actually have a love affair going with food from Northern California.
Our ten-course tasting menu flowed effortlessly, from our amuse-bouche to sugar snap peas with sorrel and mint. One of our courses was a Belon oyster, with celeriac, another a sweet tomato dish. The Chef’s pasta talents are an absolute treasure, and his spaghetti in smoked sturgeon broth with caviar, beets, and yuzu is a standout. We were one of the lucky few to be invited into the kitchen to see how this artistic and dynamic dish is made. We were given a chef’s table for two right in front of the prep line for this dish. While there we were given a course called the cigarette, a rolled homemade pasta stuffed with porcini mushrooms and black truffles. Be still my heart. We got to schmooze with the prep chefs as well as Chef Tusk. Back to the dining room for the best sweetbreads of my life, with cauliflower mushrooms, eggplant, and capers. Our protein for the night was a Masami Ranch Wagyu beef with maitake mushrooms, pine nuts, and negi onions. If you chose to do a wine pairing, ($320 per person) each of the above dishes came with a different wine. Next up were three dessert courses. A green apple dish, then a Valrhona cremeux, with pineapple, mezcal, and black cardamom. Then lastly, a plate of mignardise.
Dinner was wonderful and I loved the majority of the dishes. This is not a restaurant for molecular gastronomy or theatrical surprises. But rather, a refined, quiet dining experience much like you would receive in France.
Over forty heirloom fruit, vegetables and flowers are grown exclusively for them at Fresh Farms in nearby Bolinas. As you can imagine there is an extensive wine list of old and new world options, with a small amount of American choices. They have a wonderful collection of decanters to serve the big reds in. Of course, there is an abundance of Italian wines from every region. I was impressed with the bar’s huge amount of top-shelf selections, that they were overflowing with. I asked the bartender to make me a special cocktail with Amaro for dessert and it was excellent. I would love the recipe.
Michael and Lindsay Tusk’s passion shines through in all they have done and accomplished. Let’s hope this awful time in history will soon be over and restaurants will be able to recover to pre-pandemic times.
This is a world-class establishment using the bounty of Northern California.