Monday, May 16, 2016

Dinner at Cadence

Do you remember the time I went to an amazing meal at Chez TJ in Mountain View?  Well, I do.  It was my top meal of 2012, and one of the best meals of my life, and I don't just say that because I left with a parting gift of a deli container filled with foie gras mousse (!!!).  14 courses of flawless execution, from the front of house and the kitchen alike.  It blew my experience at the French Laundry out of the water.  It is no surprise to me that the chef, Joey Elentario, received a Michelin star for his work there.

So when the chef moved to San Francisco, and started working at Wayfare Tavern, I was intrigued.  I stalked the menus, but I didn't see much change in the ways I was hoping.  I grabbed some takeout once, but besides that, I never managed to visit while he was chef there.

And then I heard he was looking to start a new place, with an attached bar concept.  They started an  Indiegogo campaign for backers to get it going.  I made everyone I knew contribute.  I couldn't wait to see what this incredible chef would do with fairly free reign.

I finally visited in April, a couple of months after it opened, with a group of 6, on a Friday night.  We sampled basically the entire a la carte menu.  Overall, it was a good experience.  The service was the right level of attentive without being stuffy.  The space was actually perfect for a group of 6; we were given a table large enough to easily accommodate all our food (I hate big group dining where the plates never all fit!), yet we weren't so spread out that it was hard to all hear each other.  The food was good, with a high level of execution, detailed plating, excellent seasoning, and delicious sauces.

I admit that I wasn't blown away by any particular dish though, and I have the impression that they are still somewhat trying to find their exact concept, delivering beautiful, intricate dishes at a lower price point.  That said, it was certainly all good, and I'd love to return, particularly to try the chef's tasting menu rather than the a la carte.

The Space

As I said, I was stalking Cadence from the moment I heard about the project.  I contributed to the campaign, and waited.  Many, many months later, the vision all came together, in the form of Cadence and Mr. Tipple's Recording Studio.  Cadence is the restaurant, and Mr. Tipple's is the attached jazz bar and lounge.  They both use the same kitchen, but offer 3 distinct dining experiences.
Mr. Tipples Table Area.
Mr. Tipple's offers up bar snacks, where "bar snacks" means foie gras patty melts and bourbon ice cream drumsticks (yes, magic shell and all).  I went there with a large group and we were able to reserve the private lounge on the side (the "Opium Den", decked out with super comfy couches) and ordered the entire lounge menu, multiple times.

It was a lovely place to have cocktails, take in live jazz (yes, every night), and of course, eat the aforementioned amazing bar snacks.  I did take photos, but, the lighting was so dim that most look awful, and I was in a big group and did not take notes, so, I'm not going to write up that experience.  I do recommend it as a chill place to hang with friends, and Ojan will enthusiastically tell you to get multiple orders of the triple cooked cajun spiced crispy smashed potatoes (which, believe me, we did).  I was partial to the silky smooth chicken liver mousse with pickled green strawberries myself.

Anyway, our destination for this review was Cadence, the full restaurant.  The two spaces are attached via the kitchen and bathroom, so you can flow between them.
Main Dining Room.
Cadence offers up a variety of seating options, starting with fairly standard wooden tables (with soft bench seating around the walls) as you see here.  There are also three large 10 person communal tables and several bar seats available for walk-ins.  I appreciate that they hold so many seats (probably 40?) for walk-ins, which makes it much more approachable.

The lighting was dim at Cadence too, so, I apologize now for the poor photos throughout.  My little camera phone just couldn't quite handle the low light.  The seating along the wall had more illumination from the fascinating lighting that made up the wall coverings, but we were in the middle.
We were seated in one of two large booths.  Our party of 6 was able to fit easily, and I think we likely could have accommodated 8.

Our booth had a fuzzy fur seat, that my tablemates frequently got entirely distracted by, rubbing their backs up against it and looking a bit silly.  It also had curved spines extending up overhead, as you can sorta see here, like we were inside the belly of an upside down ship.

Table settings included red tea candles, white cloth napkins (no tableclothes), and cutlery that wasn't totally cookie-cutter.  Share plates were brought with each course without need to ask.
Round Booths.
The other booth option is round booths as you can see in the distance here, that reminded us of the teacup ride at Disney.  We sorta wished our group was small enough to fit in one.

The round booths had a row of led lighting along the edge that looked pretty cool once the sun went down.

The restaurant definitely had a lot of work put into the design.  I'm still not sure how I felt about it.  It was unique, and our table was quite comfortable, but, it somehow didn't quite match the warm and comfortable feeling I got from the staff and from the cuisine.  It wasn't that it was too formal, or too informal, it just felt a bit ... I don't know.  In particular, our booth faced Market Street, and half our party spent the night looking out into the harsh reality that is 10th and Market.  When one person switched sides of the table at dessert time, he mentioned on how much different it felt facing the other way.  So, something to be aware of if you are going for ambiance, perhaps on a date, ask to be seated away from Market Street.
Unisex Bathroom Stalls.
The bathroom, shared with Mr. Tipple's, is unisex, with individual bathroom stalls.  I'm so glad unisex bathrooms are finally becoming more normal.

The decor of the bathroom was also interesting.  It almost felt like a (very clean) subway.  The red doors reminded me of London phone booths.  Again, unique, designed, but, I wouldn't say I loved it.
I did love the red sink and wooden mirror frame though, although they felt like a bit of a mismatch.  The wooden frame was a bit rustic, the sink modern.  But I want that sink.
Quilting Club?
The swinging door to the kitchen was labelled "Quilting Club".  I feel like there must be a story here.  It also said "Please come in".  Was that a real invitation?  Does anyone just wander in?  I kinda wanted to ...

The Drinks

Mr. Tipple's and Cadence each have distinct cocktail menus, and cocktails are certainly a focus.  As a non-beer drinker I didn't really notice the lack of beers, but my tablemates mentioned that there was nothing on tap and only a small selection in bottles.  A wine list was available as well, but, we stuck with cocktails throughout both visits.

The cocktail menu is decidedly not boring.  I don't think any even used vodka or rum.  Instead, there was lots of the good stuff: gin, brandy, bourbon, scotch, even aquavit.  They also were happy to make off the menu drinks, just based on what we said we wanted, including a slew of mocktails for Ojan.

I only took photos of my drinks, but our group ordered a large assortment of drinks, most of which came in totally different glassware.  Somehow though, mine ended up looking the same.

Cadence also offers house still or sparkling water, brought in a carafe and left on the table so we could refill as needed.  Every time our carafe ran out, a new one was brought out.  I really, really appreciate house sparkling water, and, the ability to always keep my own water full.  I drink a lot of water, and always feel annoying asking for more.  Great touch here.
New Point. $13.
"Bank note scotch, punt e mes, genepy, absinthe garnish."

I'm a scotch girl, so I opted for the New Point, even though I didn't know what any ingredients besides the scotch and absinthe were.  The answers?  Punt e mes is just the brand of Italian vermouth I've had a zillion times, and genepy is a herbal liquor, related to absinthe. 

My cocktail turned out to be a slow sipper, if you know what I mean.  It wasn't the sort of cocktail you gulp down and then realize a moment too late how much alcohol it had.  Let's just say, you could taste the absinthe and overall, it was quite bitter.  The scotch was well represented.  I think Emil would like this drink.

But that doesn't mean I didn't like it.  I did like it.  I don't think it paired very well with the food though, but, if I were sitting over in the swanky jazz lounge at Mr. Tipple's, it would have been perfect.
High Regard. $13.
"Bourbon, meyer lemon foam, dry vermouth, cassis".

Where do you go from scotch?  To bourbon of course.  As this drink was placed in front of me, one tablemate said, "it looks just like your previous one, but, with foam!"

He was right, except, it really was a very different cocktail.

First, let's talk about that foam.  The only foamy cocktails I've had before use egg white  (Cadence does offer an egg white cocktail).  I'm really not sure what made this foam frothy, but, it wasn't egg white.  It tasted like a lemon cloud.  Which, I'll admit, is a bit strange when you are sipping on a cocktail.  But I kinda loved it.

I also really loved the sweetness and flavor from the cassis, which came forward in the finish.

Overall, another drink I really enjoyed, and a fascinating one.
Mocktail #1: Salted Grapefruit.
Ojan as always asked about mocktails, after being disappointed that they did not have any non-alcoholic beer.  He gave his standard preferences for something not too sweet, not just fruit juice.

This was described as a "salted grapefruit".  I didn't get a chance to even try it, as he sucked it right down.  His comment is that it wasn't too sweet, and wasn't just fruit juice, so, it seemed to be a winner.

He liked it, but asked for something different for his second drink (which, I failed to get a photo of).  The second one he liked even more.  It was made with bergamont tea and egg whites.  I also didn't get a chance to try that one, but mostly because it came along with the food, and there was just too much going on at that point.

The Food

Ok, enough about the space and the drinks, right?  This is Julie's Dining Club after all, and, I did tell you all about how this chef is amazing.
Chef's Menu.
Cadence offers two very distinct dining formats: a Chef's Four Course menu or a totally separate a la carte menu.

The Chef's Menu is available in two forms: "In the ground or from a stem", aka, vegetarian, or "Above ground or from the water", both priced at a very reasonable $55.  If I were not there with a big group, I certainly would have opted for this option, even though both menus are fixed, no choices, just, veggie or meat. The veggie chef's menu in particular sounded fairly amazing, featuring a slew of appealing ingredients like smoked asparagus, roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, and a white chocolate namelaka dessert.  This menu came presented in a card, signed by the chef.

But, we opted for the a la carte menu, broken down into sections of "snacks", "appetizers", "in betweens", and "entrees".  And, uh, we ordered all of it.  As in, we literally ordered all of it, to share.

Ok, we skipped one of the "in betweens" because it was a seafood based soup, and we knew that would be hard to share.  But in addition to the published menu, the chef offered a vegetarian entree from the tasting menu (the meyer lemon risotto with smoked asparagus and sausalito spring cress) since we had a vegetarian in the group and there weren't tons of options for main dishes for him.  But besides that one addition and one subtraction, we just said, "bring us everything".

We didn't decide to double up on anything, but, the kitchen knew better than we did, and doubled up a few items to better portion things (one app, one main, and two desserts).

The pacing felt a little bit off, mostly in that all the snacks and appetizers arrived all at once, and it was like our table was suddenly just bombarded with food.  I would have liked the snacks to come first, so we could have time to munch a little while sipping on cocktails and settling in, and then move on to the apps.  In the future, I'd ask for that.
Cauliflower Cappuccino: Complimentary.
Our meal started with a surprise.

Well, two surprises.  First, our server came and set the table with share plates.  And then, moments later, he took them away.  Surprise #1.

Surprise #2 was that in their place, we were each brought a tea cup on a saucer, filled with a special gift from the kitchen: cauliflower cappuccino.  I believe this is normally the start to the Chef's Menu.

It was awesome, unlike anything I'd ever had before.  There really is no better way to describe it than ... cauliflower cappuccino.  It wasn't a soup, it wasn't a puree, it wasn't a mousse.  It was super, super smooth, and, well, frothy on top, just like a cappuccino.  Very fascinating.

On top was a brown butter rice cracker crumble, pickled kumquat, and tarragon.  I loved the crunch from the crumble, and the pickled kumquat was quite fun.

This dish was a total success, warm, comforting, unique, playful.  We also all loved how we all had unique tea cups, no two were the same.  And further props for having a sizable portion; many times this sort of amuse is served in a shot glass, rather than a full tea cup.

Everybody enjoyed this dish, commenting, "tasty" and "really good".  It was about this time that I realized I wasn't going to get any good quotes from my dining companions, but, let's just say, they all liked it, and mentioned it afterwards as one of their favorite dishes.


Like I said, we ordered everything, starting with all 3 of the snacks (2 vegetarian).  Each snack was $7 each, and some are also available over at Mr. Tipple's.

The snacks were all exactly what I'd want alongside a cocktail, so definitely recommended as you settle in, or perhaps just to have with drinks at the bar.
Mr. Tipple's Nosh Mix.
"'Cool ranch', marcona almonds, pineapple, cashews, hazelnuts, rice chex."

I'm not going to lie.  This was actually one of the dishes I was most excited for, as silly as that sounds.  Yes, the snack mix.  I love snack mixes, of all kinds.  Homemade chex mixes, sweet or savory, are always a request when I visit my family.  Half the reason I fly with American Airlines is just to eat the snack mix in the lounges.  I'm really not joking.  I'm addicted to snack mixes, no matter how low brow they are.

So, I couldn't wait to see their spin on chex mix.

Except I somehow missed the whole "cool ranch" part of the description.  When I was growing up, my sister loved Cool Ranch Doritos and I thought they were the most foul things on earth.  I hated the taste, but even more, I loathed the smell.  We had rules about her being able to open a bag when I was around, it was that bad.  Shutter.

So, I gleefully took a big scoop of this, and started noshing, only to taste ... Doritos.  Cool ranch Doritos.  Doh.

I don't hate that taste as much as I did when younger, but it certainly isn't something I'd ever opt for, so, sadly, this snack mix wasn't magic to me.

That said, it had some strong points: I loved the soft chew, and pleasant sweetness, that the pineapple bits added.  Who puts pineapple bits in savory ranch snack mix?  The almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts were all crunchy as you'd expect.  And, if you liked the ranch taste, I'm sure you would have loved how well coated each piece was.  Even though I didn't love that flavor, I can appreciate a good coating job when I see one.

So, I wouldn't get this again because of the seasoning, but I'd love to see them come up with a new, more Julie-friendly snack mix ...
Kafir Lime Cured  Castelvetrano Olives.
"Togarashi, rice cracker."

So, funny story here.  When we were trying to pare down the menu and not be ridiculous and order everything, this dish was on the chopping block.  I mean, really, olives?  Not unique or exciting in my mind.

Our server heard us discussing and encouraged us to get them anyway.  He said they were actually really quite good olives.  He also pointed out that there were 6 of us, and an order of olives was a tiny bowl of olives, they weren't exactly going to push us over the edge.  And he even promised that if we somehow hated the olives, he'd not charge us for them.  Lols.  Ok, so, we ordered the olives.

The olives came in a cute little pot, with a second one for the pits.

I took a photo before anyone dug in, and then set about taking photos of everything else, as I mentioned, all our snacks and all our apps arrived at once, so, I had my work cut out for me to attempt to get photos before people dug in, without being totally annoying.  And the table was large, so things were spread out away from me.  And the lighting was dim.  Many cards stacked against me.

Anyway.  Long story short.  I couldn't tell you if these were good olives or not, as I didn't get one.  By the time I'd taken the photos, and selected some other food for myself first, they were gone.  Which, I guess means people liked them?
Gravlax Arancini.
"Steward sauce, rye bread, arborio rice."

After he took our order and walked away, our server came back to question us on the arancini.  They came 3 to an order, and we had 6 people (although one vegetarian), so he asked if we'd like to double up the order.  We said no, as several of us, myself included, said we'd be fine skipping out on this or splitting one, because, really when are arancini that exciting?

Our server however knew better, and brought us two orders anyway.  Um, seriously, thank you.  I'm so glad I didn't miss out on this dish!

So, what we had here was, well, gravlax arancini.  Fried, salmon-y rice balls.  They were perfectly executed.  I think the reason I don't generally find arancini that interesting is that they are often kinda soggy, or too oily, or dried out.  These suffered none of those problems.  The balls had a crispy exterior, and a creamy interior.  They were hot and fresh.  The flavor of the gravlox was prominent.

On top was a few sprigs of fresh dill and pickled onion.  The arancini were served on top of steward sauce that really completed the deal.  Honestly, the balls were fine on their own, but combined with the sauce were even better.  It was herby, creamy, and exactly what you'd like with some gravlox.  I appreciated how much sauce was provided, as I'm such a sauce girl, and I didn't need to worry that I was taking more than my share of the sauce.  I also appreciated that it was on the bottom, rather than drizzled on top, so we could each take as much (or little) as we wanted, and it didn't make the balls soggy.

This dish really had everything going on.  Texture-wise, it had crunch and creaminess.  It was familiar and approachable, yet unexpected and playful: we've all had gravlox, we've all had arancini, just never like this before.

This dish was the clear winner off the night.  Everybody (well, except our vegetarian) exclaimed at how good it was.  The 6th, extra, ball was rapidly claimed.  My favorite dish, and I could have easily eaten an entire order myself.  Thank goodness the kitchen knew how amazing these were, and sent us that second order!

At $7 for 3, the price is really reasonable too.


We also ordered all 3 of the appetizers, again, 2 were vegetarian.  They were double the price of the snacks, $14, and sized more accordingly.  The appetizers were the least exciting section of the menu.
Country Line Farms Baby Lettuces.
"Tangy buttermilk dressing, pickled walnuts, broccolini, candied kumquats."

I apologize for this awful photo.  It was dim in the room, and this was placed on the other end of the table from me.  If I were a real blogger, I'd have a real camera, or I'd at least get up and try to position the food so I could photo it, but, alas, I'm a lazy hoax, and I just snapped a quick pic from my seat.

As I mentioned, all the snacks and apps arrived at once, and were spread out across the table.  Since I went for the hot items first (and the nosh mix cuz I was excited for it),, like the olives, I missed this one.  Not that I was super excited for salad anyway, but the pickled walnuts and candied kumquats sounded like fun components (although, broccolini?  An odd choice).

Anyway, I only got a token slice of kumquat that somehow got left on the plate.  It was delicious, as you'd expect from a candied kumquat, but I can't really say much else about this salad.
Indian Fry Bread & Spread.
"Six-minute egg, whipped linguiça, & goat cheese."

Next up we had the signature Instagram dish for Cadence: the Indian Fry Bread.  I had seen many photos of this previously, so I attempted to prepare my table for what this would be, but, I don't think they really grasped it.

What shows up is a big, puffy, crispy, crazy looking dish, topped with herbs and dusted with spices.  It doesn't look like "bread" and you certainly don't see the egg, goat cheese, or spread that the description promises.
Indian Fry Bread & Spread: Inside.
You don't see the goodies that is, until you crack the "shell" of the fried bread, to find it all inside, including a whole egg.  Continuing the Instagram-worthy nature of the dish, then you cut into the egg, to let the yolk spill out all over the place, and you have achieved ultimate food porn.  The egg was a perfect specimen.

So, let's back up.  Was it fun to break open the fried shell?  Of course.  And I really loved the shell, it was super crispy, and ridiculously well seasoned.  I liked breaking off chunks and nibbling on them, and all my nibbling desires that were not met by the nosh mix were met by this.  Think of this more like a cracker than a bread though.

But, as you may know by now, I'm not a fan of goat cheese, so, I wasn't interested in the filling.  I tried a bite, just to be sure that somehow the linguiça didn't totally mask the goat flavor, but, alas, goat cheese.

So, not the filing for me, but really a fun dish, and, like the nosh mix, one I'd love to see a future version of, just sans goat cheese.  If others wanted to get this version again, I'd still go for it, as I liked the shell enough on its own.
Roasted Spicy Cauliflowers.
"Smoky harissa, watercress, slivered almonds, cauliflower yogurt."

The final app was just roasted cauliflower.  I would have left this one off if we were not ordering all the things, just because I'm kinda sick of cauliflower.  I love roasted (or fried!) cauliflower, but, after a long winter, I'm ready to move on to spring ingredients.

Anyway, the cauliflower was fine, seasoned with harissa, which also gave it a lovely color.  I'm a sauce girl, so you know I love to have something to drag my bites through.  Unfortunately, I'm not a huge yogurt fan, it was just too tangy for me, in the way that yogurt is.

The almonds were a nice surprise, they weren't just any slivered almonds, they were ... almond brittle!  A very fun element, and, being a textures person, I really liked the crunch they added.

I also felt this was a bit strange as an appetizer, it seemed more like a side dish.  I was expecting something a bit more exciting/breaded/fried for an appetizer, although I realize it said "roasted", and, really, why do I assume appetizers should be fried?  Anyway, my least favorite dish and one I'd skip in the future.


Moving along, the next section of the menu is dubbed "In-Betweens".  Only two items are in this section, one seafood, one vegetarian.  (Side note: Since every single other section of the menu contained three items, the OCD person in me really, really wanted a third choice here.  Just for balance).

Anyway, what are In-Betweens?  These are not small snacks, not normal sized appetizers, but also not full size entrees.  They are, in-between.  Priced accordingly, at $18 each.

This is the only area where we skipped a dish, the Mélange of Seafood, even though I quite wanted it.  But a bowl with fried catfish chunks and smoked sablefish in a light clam broth just didn't seem very shareable, so, we didn't get it.

Our single In-Between was delivered at the same time as our entrees.
Hand Rolled Potato Gnocchi.
"Charred cabbage, carrot butter, caraway, sarsaparilla"

Take a moment just to admire this one.  The chef's fine dining background is quite obvious in the plating of these larger dishes.

Our plate had several gnocchi, decently sized, soft, tender pillows of potato, with a slight sear on the outside.  I really loved the super charred cabbage as it was ridiculously smoky.   I'm a sucker for smoky flavors.

Carrot showed up in two forms, one was a pool of creamy carrot butter in the center of the plate, with an intense carrot flavor.  The second was shaved ribbons and a few coins of pickled, tart carrot arranged on top.  They added a hit of acidity I didn't even realize I wanted until I tasted it.

I'm not quite sure where the caraway or sarsaparilla were, perhaps in the powder on the plate, perhaps something was braised with them?  We didn't get much of a description of the dish when it was set down, and I was too busy writing down details of all the dishes arriving at the time to follow up.

Portion-wise, this actually could make a nice reasonably main dish, particularly if you order a snack and an app as well, or want room for dessert.  Or, if you wanted a longer meal you could course it out, and have as a mid-course before your entree.  Lots of flexibility with this menu.

It was a fine dish, but, not something I'd see a reason to get again.


Moving on to the final savory section, the entrees.  We ordered all three.  Here there were no vegetarian options, only one seafood, one red meat, and one poultry.  Our vegetarian considered just ordering his own order of the gnocchi, but, our server checked with the kitchen, and was able to offer the main dish from the tasting menu for him instead.  I didn't get a photo, nor a bite, but I did catch him saying, "Now that is some good risotto!"

Entrees are priced at $28, more than anything else on the menu, but ridiculously reasonable considering the size and execution.  You could easily pay $35+ for any of these elsewhere, for far smaller portions and less elaborate plating, and not blink an eye.  Portion-wise, they all seemed appropriate for sharing, I can't really imagine just polishing off one of these plates as an individual.

The entrees all showed off the plating skills of the kitchen, and the proteins were all executed well.  For me though, the star of each and every one of the entrees was the sauce.

Our entrees arrived at the same time as the gnocchi, and, even though we only ordered one of each, the kitchen went ahead and doubled up the chicken.
Charred Miso-Braised Short Rib.
"Toasted green onion, fried taro, forbidden rice."

Another poor photo, I'm sorry.  It was placed far away from me.

I'll be honest, short ribs aren't generally my thing.  So, I let the others all dig into this, and only went for it after I'd tried the other hot dishes, so, I didn't have it hot and fresh.  I wish I had.  It was delicious!

A generous portion of short ribs, smothered in a delicious sauce, served atop forbidden rice, garnished with some beautiful curls of spring onion and super thinly sliced fried taro disks.

The meat was very tender, fall off the bone.  I loved the fried taro disks on top, although, being a taro lover, I would have liked to see even more taro in this dish.  But the little disks did add a great crunch.

That was all good, but it was the sauce that made me go back for more and more of this dish.  It was insanely delicious.  It was salty, in a "chef's palette" sort of way, which I happen to enjoy, and went very nicely with my cocktail.

I polished off this plate, long after it had grown cold, because I just couldn't get enough of the sauce.  My favorite of the entrees, and my second favorite dish, after the arancini.  Although, in retrospect, it might actually have been my favorite, as, several days later, that sauce is the most memorable ...  I'd get this again obviously.
Air Dried Mary's Chicken Roulade.
"Sage & onion stuffing, asparagus salad, roasted chicken chicory gravy."

This was another looker, plating wise.  The kitchen doubled up on this one too, so we didn't have to carve it up into tiny portions.

On each plate were two square slices of the stuffing and two pieces of the chicken.  On top of all that was an asparagus salad, with long thin ribbons of shaved asparagus.  I started noticing a theme of thin vegetable ribbons in this meal.

I didn't actually try the chicken, as I don't care for chicken, and there were other dishes I wanted to try more.  But, I do love asparagus (yes, spring!) and, even more, I love stuffing and gravy, so I did opt for those components.

The stuffing was in a form unlike any I'd ever had before, an actually square slice, almost like a patty.  It was moist and flavorful, particularly from the sage.

I dredged my stuffing through the gravy, another stellar sauce, again, salty in all the right ways.

So, I'm not a chicken lover, but, I did find comfort in the stuffing and gravy, and enjoyed the freshness of the asparagus salad.  One of my tablemates said, "its like fancy chicken nuggets".  Again, I tell you, I wasn't counting on this crew for quotes.
Passmore Ranch Whole Trout: Before.
"Thai green curry, wild rice, 'pile of herbs'".

The trout was another dish where I knew what to expect given my research, and my tablemates did not.  I knew that we'd be presented with a whole fish, and it would be deboned at the table.  I also knew that the head would come back to us, and, that I should hold off on devouring all the fish, as a very tasty sauce would return alongside that head.

Our server did a decent job of deboning, but I'm sure that me sitting there watching critically and obviously taking notes was slightly unnerving.  Several of my tablemates did mention finding pinbones in their fish though.

The "pile of herbs" on top was, literally, a pile of herbs.  A rather strange way to plate it, as the fish was totally buried and the server had to move it all aside to debone it anyway, and the herbs were fresh, so they weren't used to infuse the fish while cooking.

As for the fish, it was good, moist, tender, delicate with a crispy sear.  The thai green curry flavors were fantastic, including plentiful lemongrass.  The wild rice was a bit crunchy, in a good way, as  can't stand mushy rice.

Overall, very good, and I really appreciated all the thai flavors, I wasn't expecting thai food at Cadence.
Passmore Ranch Whole Trout: The Head!
As I said, I knew the head and spine would be coming back to us, fried, and plated up quite nicely, along with delicious sauce.  I urged everyone to wait for the sauce to dip their fish into, but, most of them did not.

The sauce was fantastic, super spicy.  Are you noticing a theme?  Another great sauce.

I thought it was sad that no one else really got to enjoy the sauce though, and it seems like either the server should give a head's up that it is coming, or, the sauce should come with the fish.  It is a shame to miss out on the sauce!


The dessert menu, just like all sections besides the In-Betweens (ahem!), had three options, and, just like the mains, we ordered them all.  The kitchen choose to double up on not one, but two of these.  Clearly, they must have known that I was there.  You know me, I live for desserts.  Interestingly, each dessert option fell in the general "pudding" category: a custard, a panna cotta, and a pudding.  Given that this is my favorite class of desserts, I'm not complaining, but, it did seem less diverse than I'd expect.

The desserts were all far more complex than their simple names, and the price point of only $10 each, would indicate.  They also seemed more daring than the savory menu.  I can safely say that my family members for example wouldn't know what to do with these desserts, whereas they could probably figure out nosh mix, salad, and chicken with stuffing.

I welcomed the unique aspects, like the carrot sorbet with the pudding and the red miso sorbet with the custard, but, you certainly had to approach the desserts with an open mind.  They were composed of many components, and I could see where the pastry chef was going with each of them, but none of them quite came together for me.

Madeira was also consumed by my tablemates alongside dessert, but I still had a cocktail to finish, so didn't opt for any additional beverages myself.
Yogurt Panna Cotta.
"Winter citrus, jasmine rice mousse, green tea."

Although I love panna cotta, I wasn't particularly excited about this, so I was glad the kitchen didn't double up on this one.  As I mentioned earlier, yogurt isn't my favorite thing, I don't really care for citrus desserts, and, I didn't want the caffeine from the green tea.

The green tea came in the form of a crumble, which I didn't try.  I know I must have tried a bite of the panna cotta, but, I don't have notes, and I don't have a memory of trying it.  Did I really not try it?  That doesn't seem possible.  Maybe the others finished it before I got a chance?
Dark Chocolate Custard.
"Red velvet, red miso, chocolate wafers."

The chocolate dessert is the one that most people at the table were interested in, and although we only ordered one, we received two.  No one complained.

I normally do not eat chocolate desserts in the evening due to caffeine, but I decided to live on the edge and go for it.

The custard was excellent.  Perfectly creamy, rich, very good chocolate flavor.  Textbook, although served in a bar form, which is not what we expected.

Red velvet came in the form of torn pieces of red cake on top.  I can't say I really understood this element although the pop of color was nice.

Also on top was a scoop of red miso sorbet.  Yes, red miso sorbet.  It was crazy flavorful.  Miso is never really a subtle taste, so if you tried to just eat the sorbet, it was way too much.  Combined with the chocolate custard though it certainly was interesting.

I liked the custard itself, but I didn't quite enjoy this as a cohesive dessert.
White Chocolate Pudding.
"Carrot sorbet, puffed barley, rye."

The dessert I was most interested in was this one, the White Chocolate Pudding.  Pudding is always a favorite dessert of mine.  The carrot sorbet also caught my eye, as just a few days prior I had a really lovely carrot based cheese course at Keiko a Nob Hill, so the idea of a carrot dessert was quite appealing.  I was the only person interested in this dessert, but the kitchen doubled up on it, so, everyone else tried a bite, but no one else really cared for it, so, I had about 1.5 of these to myself.

I wasn't quite sure what to think of it.  First, I actually did kind of want a comforting pudding, not a beautiful dessert.  There was pudding here, but it wasn't something I could dip my spoon into and savor.  The pudding was very thick and rich, and did actually taste like white chocolate.  It actually was just a bit too rich for me, I couldn't really take more than a bite or two without a break, and certainly not without mixing other components in.  But maybe I wasn't supposed to just want spoonfuls of pudding?

The puffed barely turned out to be crispy cracker-like things stuck into the pudding.  I really liked these, since, as I've mentioned, I'm all about textures.  I liked actually slathering a crispy thing with some pudding, and eating it that way.  There was also a crumble that I believe was made from the barley and rye.  Interestingly, these components had salt to them.  I liked it.  Sweet and salty, always a good thing in my book.

Finally, the carrot sorbet.  It had an intense carrot flavor and was quite refreshing.  It was needed against the rich pudding.  The garnish was also carrot (greens).

Overall, this was certainly an interesting dessert, and I can see the care that went into crafting it, but, it still wasn't quite balanced for me.  Yes, it had creamy pudding, icy sorbet, and crunchy crispy things, and it had refreshing sorbet to balance the rich pudding, but ... it still wasn't quite right for me.  However, it was my favorite of the desserts.
Mignardises: Coconut Caramel, Coffee Marshmallow.
And, last but not least, after our desserts, we were delivered a little tray of candies, individually wrapped.  There were two types of treats - coffee marshmallows and coconut caramels, one of each for each of us.  I was pretty stuffed, and happily full of sweets, so I threw mine (and the unclaimed extras!) into my purse to enjoy the next morning.

As an aside, I really love it when I get to take something home, as it makes the next day special too.  And obviously, I don't just mean leftovers!  For example, there are places like The French Laundry that send you out the door with cookies and chocolates, or, as I prefer, places that send me with baked goods for the next morning like the kouign amann from Cyrus.  Since Cadence is not a zillion course tasting menu like those aforementioned places, I certainly wasn't expecting a take-home item, and these were just small tokens, but, still, I loved having them as a reminder of my meal, and a tasty treat, the next morning.

Both items went perfectly with my morning cup of coffee.  The coconut caramels were really fascinating, a perfect chewy texture, nice and smooth.  I loved the coconut flavor in them.

The marshmallow was just ok.  Maybe I'm just over the fancy marshmallow trend (like the plain ones from Bécasse Bakery in Sydney, the fruity ones from The Bazaar down in Los Angeles, the intense strawberry one from Biscuit Bender, and the really awesome root beer marshmallows from Tout Sweet) .  It had a slight coffee flavor, and was nicely soft and fresh, but, meh, just a marshmallow.
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