Restaurant review: One-of-a-kind culinary experience at Keiko à Nob Hill in San Fransisco.
Mr. JOC and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary at Keiko à Nob Hill in San Francisco. We had an amazing meal that night and I want to share the experience with you today.
We really wanted to select a memorable restaurant so we can cherish the memory. We finally decided on Keiko’s based on our friend Kimberley’s recommendation (We think she has eaten at every single restaurant in SF! Thanks Kim!), and the menu looked the most interesting to us when compared to other restaurants we considered.
Keiko’s Signature Preparation
Keiko’s signature style is using Japanese ingredients and preparing them with French cooking method. She has received a Michelin star at both her current restaurant and well as when she was the chef at El Paseo. She’s also the first Japanese woman to be awarded the Michelin star so she’s someone I look up to and admire. Keiko runs the restaurant along with her husband Seigo Takei who is also the sommelier.
Keiko’s is located at Nob Hill neighborhood in a residential area. There is a public parking lot about 2 blocks away so it was not difficult to find a spot (Near Washington St. & Reed St.). As you walk in, the restaurant is somewhat dark (I tried my best with the images under the light) and has an old world charm with its décor. We started our celebration with a glass of Delahaie Rose Champagne and started studying the menu for the night.
A couple of our favorite ingredients were all the on the menu, Hokkaido scallop , duck, A5 Wagyu Beef, and Foie Gras, which just recently came back on the menu in California. Mr. JOC and I also shared a wine pairing for the dinner. At Keiko’s there is only 1 sitting per night so they insist everyone to arrive on time so dinner is served at the same time. The restaurant is quite small and only seats 28.
The 12 Course Meal at Keiko’s
I’ll share each of the dish we had and the wine pairing that was served along with the food. Based on what I’ve read, Keiko switches up the dishes quite a bit so don’t be surprised if you go and didn’t get the same dish.
The first dish was Japanese cherry wood smoked caviar with gold leaf, egg yolk and cheese. The smoke was captured in the glass dome and escapes as the servers lift the cover, the intoxicating smell hits your nose. We carefully spread the egg yolk and cheese along with the caviar on the little pancakes and took a bite. Oh my, the warm yolk and cheese blended perfectly was super smooth on the tongue and the caviar added just the right amount of saltiness without overpowering the rest of the ingredients.
The second dish was lobster on purée carrot with diced cucumber mango zest. You can taste the lobsters’ flavor, the mix fruits and vegetables adds layers of contrast against the firm texture of lobster. It was very beautiful and delightful.
Wine pairing: I forgot to take a picture so I don’t have the name, but it’s a white wine made from grapes that only grows between France and Switzerland. The unoaked wine smelled very clean and refreshing, it was watery yet fragrant, crisp, and elegant.
The next dish was Japanese razor clam and this dish is where we started to be surprised and entertained. The razor clam was served sashimi style with turnip leaf foam, egg yolk, Japanese mustard, and broccolini. The clams tasted amazingly fresh, the stiff texture of broccolini contrast so well with the soft tender clams . Hidden under the food was these gelatin made from ponzu and Tsuyu, and enjoyed with the rest of the dishes it was simply amazing.
Wine pairing: 旭扇極上純米大吟醸 (Asashioogi Daiginjo Sake). This premium sake is made with rice polished down to 40%. It was very fragrant, flowery, amazingly smooth, almost syrupy, as you take a big sip, the familiar spice of amazing sake warms your mouth. Perfect with the razor clam sasahimi.
After the delicate razor clams, the next dish is foie gras with Keiko’s signature espresso reduction and homemade brioche and artichoke purée. As you taste the tender and soft foie gras, the fragrance of espresso fills your mouth. It was very interesting and unique as you chew on the foie gras, the aroma of coffee being roasted fills your mouth. To contrast the rich flavor from the foie gras, the thick artichoke purée balanced the texture perfectly. As you suck up the last bit of grease on your plate with the toasted brioche, you sip on the heavenly port which breaks through all the layers enlightening your tongue. Clearing the way for the next dish.
Wine pairing: Quinta Vale D. Maria 2008 Late Bottled Vintage Porto
As we enjoyed our meal, we noticed the unique dinnerware served at Keiko’s. Even though they look like they are Japanese designed but are actually made by French plate maker Bernardaud. Why do I mention this, just look at the image above. It’s hard to imagine this Asian styled porcelain was from a French company.
As we opened the lid, I saw my favorite ikura. It was served chawanmushi style on top of Shungiku (edible chrysanthemum greens) purée with snow crab. The crab was amazingly soft and fresh, while ikura retained their firm texture. Once again, we loved the contrast of soft tender crab against ikura. It was served with sweet white wine that smelled almost like perfume. Chilled to the perfect temperature, this clean refreshing white wine cleared all the flavors from the dish out of the way so it’s ready for the next dish.
Wine pairing: Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups – Montlouis Sur Loire Les Dix Arpents 2012
The next dish is also seafood from Japan, Hokkaido uni and scallop in a uni sauce. It was very rich but not overpowering with perfect amount of umami. What made the dish super interesting is the Parmesan cheese foam on top! What a surprise it was and the cheesy foam was sooo good with the scallop. The firm texture of scallop slowly melt in your mouth and the delicious uni make you hunger for more.
Wine pairing: Corinne et Jean Pierre Grossot – Grossot 1er Cru Vaucopin (vintage unknown). This white wine was sweet and gentle on the nose, chilled slightly cooler than previous wine, it’s amazingly smooth and playful, leaving a layer of sweetness on the tongue
The seafood theme continues with Japanese Red Rockfish, it was served with dehydrated kale and turnip purée. We loved the saffron sauce with the Japanese rockfish, the firm white fish stands out against the purée and the tender hedgehog and trumpet mushrooms. The rose wine from Napa smelled like roses and had hints of berries, it was refreshing and spicy. This fun wine made us relax and really appreciate the great meal we’ve had so far.
Wine pairing: Prêt à Boire Rosé Napa Valley 2013
On to the meats, this first meat dish was a complete twist from the delicate rockfish. The muscovy duck was intense with strong flavors from curry and leek. It was prepared medium rare and cooked perfectly and flavorful. It tasted almost like a steak, the leek was soft and tender and contrasted with the firm meat. As you chew on the duck, more and more flavors come out, so delicious! Sipping on the flavorful dry red, it cuts all the duck grease and greets you with its layers of flavor, including berries, liquorice, and spices.
Wine pairing: Domaine Chantal Lescure Pommard Les Vignots 2010
The grand meat finale of the night, A5 grade Satsuma beef cooked over 40 min. As Seigo explained to us, the key to cooking Wagyu is low heat. The way Keiko prepares the dish requires the dish to be in and out of the heat 4-5 times as its cooking. It’s garnished with Japanese Kuro Shichimi, real grated wasabi. The beef was perfection, soft, tender, juicy, with absolutely no tendons or excess fatty tissues. The yuzu-soy foam cuts in the fatty beef slightly to balance out the fatty goodness.
Wine pairing: Seigo served with Wine for Wagyu from his own collection which he made over a 4 year period only with perfect grapes (grapes harvested from days with the most yield during a season) hand picked in St. Helena. The wine was the strongest one of the night, composed of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine was spicy yet elegant, reminding me of French style wines rather than traditional Napa cabs. It had intense earthy flavors.
By this time we were stuffed but looked forward to the cheese course, strawberry parfait, and mignardises (tiny pastries and sweets).
The cheese course soft Brillat Savarin (I think) cheese served with fava bean sponge cake, toasted almond, and candied orange peel. Each element contrasted with others as far as flavors and texture. What a perfect way to start the wind down. The full bodied dessert wine was sweeter than all the desserts, tasted like sweet nectars and spring fruits, hints of strawberry, cantaloupe, and citrus.
Wine pairing: Chateau d’Arche – Prieure d’Arche 2007
After the cheese course, we enjoyed the strawberry parfait. They might as well as call it strawberry explosion! The layers of strawberry and the short bread along with sipping on strawberry essence was over the top. I think my strawberry crazed daughter can eat this parfait for an entire month.
The last but not least, mignardises, with different texture and flavors, were perfect finish to the night of our delightful evening!
What we enjoyed the most about the course meal and each of the dish is the contrast of the flavors and textures, and how Keiko used her ingredients in the most creative way. The meal itself was a fun global journey, enjoying wines from Europe and North America, seafood and beef from Japan, and flavors from around the world. Even though I am familiar with Japanese ingredients, I loved her originality and the excitement she creates with her dishes. The best part of the evening was when I got to meet Keiko in person! Thank you to Seigo-san for patiently explaining all the wines to us throughout dinner. It was an extraordinary experience and we look forward to going back.
Keiko à Nob Hill
1250 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Keiko à Nob Hill Dinner Menu $145.00 (prices in 2015)
Grand wine pairing $138.00
The ‘Magnifique’ wine pairing $295.00
The Kyukyoku wine pairing $880.00
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