RN74, named for the wine route that runs through the famed Burgundy region of France, has long been a go-to spot for thoroughly French cooking and a deep collection of Burgundy (and other regional French) wines curated by founding partner Raj Parr. When co-founder Michael Mina opened his test kitchen in Cow Hollow, which features public pop-ups that test concepts before committing to brick-and-mortar restaurant versions, the idea to incorporate the theme of experimentation into RN74’s menu was born. It also happens to be the best way to enjoy the kitchen’s refined approach to cooking without breaking the bank.
The host described the Les Experiments menus — always written after chef Michael Rafidi scours the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market each week — as “controlled chaos,” with some communal dishes, some individual, and all attuned to both local ingredients and the Burgundian impulses of the kitchen and the wine list.
Last Sunday night, week one of the experiments kicked off with a spring extravaganza, much richer than the “simple” food described on the menu and so subtly and complexly composed that any one of the dishes would have been nearly impossible to pull off in a home kitchen. And a steal at $49 per person.
The evening gets rolling with an amuse bouche of escargot bathed in chartreuse butter and tucked into a croissant. It’s a palate-priming couple of bites to enjoy while you peruse the wine list and anticipate the other dishes to come.
Champagne is a good choice for all of the shared first courses. Grilled green and white asparagus, the first of the season, is served with burrata drizzled with Meyer lemon gremolata and topped with tiny buttermilk-fried cippollini. Perhaps the star dish of the evening was an octopus mille-feuille, the composed cephalopod stacked delicately atop pommes Anna (the classic recipe of thinly sliced, layered potatoes baked in butter until crisp) with bright Castelvetrano olives and an earthy saffron aioli.
The $18 supplement of a foie gras tartlet was an unnecessary indulgence, but a delicious one. The chef’s playful twist here is to replace the traditional Sauternes accompaniment with rhubarb brulée and little squares of fruit gelee, additionally sweetened with a bit of honey yogurt.
When it’s time to move on to still wine, you can choose to venture into the exciting and formidable wine list or go with a $35 carafe (500 ml) of white or red selected specifically to pair with the menu. We were very happy with the house red, a 2012 Maison L’Oree Burgundy (Pinot Noir), which is Parr’s own bottling.