My Vote For Chef of the Year :: Campton Place, S.F.

I’ve long been a fan of Campton Place-The Hotel and in particular, Campton Place-The Restaurant, where so many excellent chefs have left their indelible starting mark on the San Francisco food scene. Between Chefs Birnbaum, Ogeden, Manrique, Humphries and Daniel Humm, they left a mighty big toque to fill.

However, after experiencing last night’s magical meal, I think they’ve saved the best for (hopefully) the last. Executive Chef Srijith Gopinath, part of the Taj Hotels regime, not only rises to the challenge but as far as I’m concerned, gracefully nudges CPR to the top of it’s game. Chef Gopinathan was raised in Southern India, cutting his culinary baby teeth in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother. He started his career cooking at luxe hotels in India, took a break to polish up some skills at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park NY, and then polished his skills in the kitchens of Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones at the famed Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Oxford England (a Two Michelin Star Restaurant). He then jumped into the Deep End—an award-winning Mediterranean restaurant in the exotic islands of the Maldives where he wowed the discerning clientele.

It’s hard to classify Chef “Sri’s” food since it’s a compilation of his unique background. His “formula” consists of using the Indian spices that he grew up with, mixed with European classic techniques he learned from the masters, combined with his affinity for searching out exceptionally high quality ingredients which equals extraordinary culinary results.The only constant is that he brings a light touch to all his dishes, coaxing out every last bit of flavor with his judicious use of foams, gels and infused oils. Visually, his food presentations are artistic masterpieces that rival any of his predecessors.

I was dining with Sukhi Singh, founder of Sukhi’s Quick-N-Ezee Indian Foods, and an extremely talented cook herself. We were busy chatting away, catching up on a year’s worth of news, but every time a new dish was brought to the table all conversation ceased except for a never- ending chorus of oohs and ahhs.

A few highlights from our dinner:

From our first little “drink your greens” palate cleanser of avocado, green apple and arugula foam with macadamia nut and a sprinkling of black salt- we knew our “buds” were in for a treat.

Roasted Baby Beets, “Curd”, Greek Yogurt, Sunflower Sprouts and Balsamic-would win over even non-beet lovers. The beet curd should be packaged and sold to be used as a sandwich spread.

Seared Artisan Foie Gras, Rhubarb, Campari, Cardamom Tuile and Pistachio Crumbs- sheer perfection in one smooth decadent bite.

Delta Asparagus, Jidori Eggs “Gribiche”, Trotter Croquettes and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms- “designer” ham and eggs.

Sashimi of Japanese Sea Bream, Yuzu-Kosho, Apple, Ponzu and Radish- refreshing and gorgeous.

Forest Mushroom Soup with Farro, Noisette of Almonds and Porcini Essence- haunting flavor.

Slow Poached Maine Lobster Tail, David Little Farm Potatoes, Hearts of Palm, Coconut Curry-a perfect preparation.

Masami Beef “Wagyu” Beef Rib Eye, Trumpet Mushrooms, Pomme Puree and Sauce Perigord- possibly the best meat dish of the decade!

For dessert we had a very fun Popcorn and Peanut and blown sugar dish, followed by a platter of one-bite luxe sweeties.

And now a word about wines: the most perfect pairing of all was the hiring of Master Sommelier, Richard Dean (Tavern on the Green, San Francisco’s Mandarin Oriental) and one of only 150 active Master Sommeliers worldwide.

His recommendations (selected from Campton’s 10,000-bottle wine cellar ) may roam between the classic and creative but always beautifully harmonize with the Chef’s spice notes. Sometimes dealing with sommeliers can be a wee bit intimidating, however not only is Richard very personable and charming, but he’s also a lot of fun. Which is just one more reason to sign up for one (or all) of Dean’s intimate wine seminars and dinners, featuring a different winemaker, that will be joining you for an informative evening.

Coming in May are:

May 5th 2009

Grgich Hills, Napa Valley Tasting Seminar and Wine Dinner with Violet Grgich – 175 dollars

May 12th 2009

Starlite Vineyards, Sonoma Valley Tasting Seminar and Wine Dinner with Arman Pahlavan – 160 dollars

Check out The Wine Scene for the rest of the year.

The restaurant offers an ala carte menu, a Five Courses Table d’Hote – 75 dollars
(an additional 45 dollars for wine pairing), and a Chef’s Nine Course Degustation Menu – 119 dollars (an additional 60 dollars for wine pairing)

If these dinners are a little to rich for your blood, no worries, you can start out gradually with the restaurant’s well conceived nightly 3 Course Stimulus Menu priced at $45, which Goldilocks might say was “just right”.

Campton Place

340 Stockton St
(between Campton Pl & Post St)
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 781-5555

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  1. Hi Janice,

    I will be making a trip to San Francisco next week with the two ‘top dogs’
    in the finance dept of my company. We are meeting with a Bank that has
    recently pulled some advertising and we need to really woo them.
    Would Campton Place be the spot? The team is looking to me to pick
    the appropriate place.
    ps.. advise.
    Thank you.

  2. I am a lover of Indian food and spices; so, after reading Janice’s glowing review of Campton Place, I decided to go for dinner. . . the meal was, indeed, “magical.” The Slow Cooked Lamb Leg was succulent. This restaurant is not to be missed.

  3. the token redhead says:

    Hi Sam,

    I can’t think of a more perfect spot to woo your dogs.If they know anything about food, they will certainly be impressed by their meal. For the crowning touch be sure and have their master sommelier come over and talk to them about the wine selection. Plus, it is still one of the few places where you can carry-on a conversation w/o having to shout to make yourself heard.

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