On Monday, The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco opened its new dining venue, Parallel 37, officially saying goodbye to the last of the formal "Dining Rooms" made famous by the luxury brand, and welcoming in a new wave of modern dining in a luxury space. I had the unique opportunity to spend three days with the restaurant prior to opening, learning the ins and outs of what future diners can expect from the new kitchen and bar concepts.
A walk through the kitchen of Parallel 37 immediately sets the tone for this restaurant. Chefs chop fresh vegetables, sample herb combinations and taste-test their latest culinary creations. Led by Chef Ron Siegel, the restaurant's lunch and dinner menu places emphasis on combining fresh, local ingredients with an added, exotic twist. Siegel places special emphasis on spices meant to bring out the natural flavors in menu favorites like tuna tartare accented with curry oil, beets with blue cheese and mascarpone balls, bay scallops with green tea, crab cakes with apple ginger jelly (that are as close to perfect as any New Englander would expect to find on the west coast), and duck breast with salsify and shiitake mushrooms.
“Without the farms you would not be as connected to the food. There is something perfectly imperfect about nature and nothing like handpicking the ingredients you serve.” said Siegel.
At the bar, Camber Lay mixes up her signature cocktails that she created specifically for the restaurant. Lest you think Lay sticks to the basics, think again. She has been known to steal a few of Siegel's fresh herbs and vegetables for her concoctions.
“My approach to cocktails really complements Ron’s approach to food,” said Lay. “We both like to handpick seasonal ingredients. I want to bring interesting contrasts to my cocktails, bitter to dry, sweet to spicy." Don't miss her signature cocktail, the Maritime Sour, made with encanto pisco, bittermans citron savage, sauvignon blanc reduction, egg whites and long pepper.
To help ease diners into the newer, trendier space, Parallel 37 is introducing one of the most popular pieces of technology to the table: the iPad. A full wine list is hosted on the electronic tablet, organized by region, variety, producer or blend. In keeping with the local concept of the restaurant, the majority of the wines offered are from Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. If old world wines are more to your liking, you'll still find plenty of options on the wine list, or allow the restaurant's wine director to suggest a few varietals based on your meal choices.
One of the more unique additions to the restaurant is the Chef's Table, which is untraditionally set outside of the kitchen. Divided by a small wall that separates the room from the rest of the dining venue, the private table seats up to 12 and gives diners unparalleled access to what's cooking in the kitchen, without actually sitting stove-side.
My recommendation: Go early to enjoy a pre-dinner drink at the bar, and don't miss out on sharing a few of Chef Siegel's specialities before dinner. The bar bites are just that - small bites that are large enough to share and give you a sense of what's to come when you sit down to dinner.
Reservations to Parallel 37 can be made on OpenTable.com or by contacting the restaurant directly.
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