They say making it to the top is easier than maintaining that position, but Luce, Chef de Cuisine Daniel Corey, and his team make it look effortless (and taste phenomenal). The Modern American restaurant, located inside the Intercontinental Hotel at 888 Howard Street in San Francisco, incorporates influences from all over the world and was just recently awarded its 9th consecutive Michelin Star. Yes, ninth. That’s no trivial feat, and as you’ll see below, the dishes speak for themselves and show an attention to detail that set them apart from rest of the pack.
When we arrived, the sun was setting and the evening cast a cool blue light in on the tables that complemented the candlelight. We were greeted with a glass of sparkling rosé while we browsed the dinner and wine menus.
The staff was super friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful when describing the menu items and offering suggestions. You know how it can sometimes get a little annoying when servers check up on your table too often? Definitely not the case at Luce. These guys had a sixth sense for when we needed something and seemed to always be available and willing to help.
The ambiance was modern and classy, but not over-the-top formal. It’s the kind of spot where you won’t feel out of place if you’re dressed up or dressed down. The couple sitting next to us was eating a nice dinner before heading out to a show, which is something Luce is perfect for given its location in SOMA. It’s a short trip from there to several different venues. But enough chit chat; let’s get to the goods!
We were started off with a savory mousse as an Amuse Bouche. Right from the start we could tell we were in for some awesome dishes with beautiful presentation. The color and texture combination here was definitely foreshadowing what was to come.
The first of five appetizers we got to try was literally almost too beautiful to eat. The Pacific Amberjack was lightly marinated in yuzu & olive oil and topped with trout roe, avocado, and forbidden rice. Neither of us wanted to mess this one up, but luckily we were there to take pictures so we could admire this one after chowing down. It was like sashimi taken to the next level. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of sushi and raw fish.
Next up was another favorite of ours, which was the Hand Cut Beef Tartar with Confit Egg Yolk topped with puffed wild rice, black garlic, and marigolds. Once you break the egg yolk and let it cover everything, each bite becomes even better. One recurring theme throughout all the dishes was the mix of textures, and this is probably the best example of them all. The softness of the beef tartar was complemented perfectly by the crunchiness of the puffed wild rice. We’ll take ten of these, cool, thanks.
The third appetizer we tried was the Pacific Blue Prawn roasted with Espelette Chili, lemen, pistachio, and brown butter. This was super bomb. The way it was cooked gave it the flavor of the chili without the spice, so you could really enjoy it without crying out for a glass of milk.
After that, we had the Artisan Foie Gras “Chaud et Froid” with Warm Brioche, strawberry, celery, and smoked pistachios. Once again, adding the pistachios in provided a much desired crunch, especially given the soft creaminess of the rest of the dish. The sweetness of the strawberry sauce also complemented the savoriness of the foie gras.
Speaking of nomtastic foods, the last appetizer we had the pleasure of tasting was the Handmade Sweetbread Ravioli with Crispy Sweetbreads and topped with truffle emulsion and mustard leaves. Holy moley! Typically if we’re sampling and photographing a bunch of plates, we’ll take a bite or two of each, but we completely demolished this one. I mean, truffle. Need we say more? And the raviolis were super on point. This was one of those dishes where you take a bite and give that scrunched brow look of approval.
As the sun finally set behind the buildings and after we had cleaned house on the appetizers, it was time for the entrees. The tables started to fill up along the wall across from us and we started to feel more of a dinner vibe throughout the place.
If you’re looking for something on the heartier side, you can’t go wrong with the Poached and Roasted Duck Breast with caramelized endive, fuji apple, and toasted hazelnuts. Duck is one of our favorite things, and this one was tender and juicy, and when paired with the hazelnuts, that perfect texture balance was, once again, achieved. The saltiness of the duck and the sweetness of the apples were a match made in culinary heaven and despite our best efforts to stay classy at Luce, we stuffed our faces.
Each dish we tried was a work of art (which made our job easy), but a few really stood out including the second entree brought out, which was the Local Halibut Poached in Olive Oil with grilled octopus, spring onion, and bordelaise. Just look at how all of the ingredients are arranged and interwoven, and the halibut was literally melt-in-your-mouth. This is a must, ’nuff said.
And after all of that deliciousness, we still had four incredible desserts on the way. The first up was the Coffee Panna Cotta with pecan praline ice cream and chocolate. Creamy, refreshing, and light, this is a perfect choice for all you coffee lovers who might be a little stuffed after dinner.
Next was our favorite, the Fall Spice Cake with caramelized apple jam and rosemary ice cream. It tasted almost like an apple pie, but better. Ice cream goes so well with many different desserts, and the rosemary flavor is the icing (ice cream?) on the cake that brings the fall flavors together.
If you’re in the mood for something light and fruity, let me introduce you to the Pavlova made with huckleberries, lime curd and crème fraîche. The meringue, fruit and sorbet combo left our sweet tooth satisfied and our stomachs not weighed down by a super rich, heavy dessert.
Last, but definitely not least, was the Milk Chocolate Custard with caramel, sea salt & caramelized cocoa nibs. Each dessert brings unique flavors, and this one was definitely the richest. We love caramel so this was an instant winner for us. If classically decadent is your jam, look no further.
We want to give a big thank you to Chef Daniel Corey and the whole team at Luce. It was such an amazing experience from the food to the service and there’s no question why Luce is so highly regarded. If you’re a Nomster in the Bay Area or if you’ll be visiting anytime in the future, definitely add this to your food plans! Till next time, y’all!