Les Experiments menu Kim Westerman
Les Experiments menu (Kim Westerman)

RN74 Debuts Market-Driven “Les Experiments” Menu

RN74 Debuts Market-Driven “Les Experiments” Menu

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.

Chef Michael Rafidi shaves fresh truffles into the roasted chicken with boudin blanc-stuffed morels.
Chef Michael Rafidi shaves fresh truffles into the roasted chicken with boudin blanc-stuffed morels. (Kim Westerman)

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.

An amuse bouche of escargot bathed in chartreuse butter and tucked into a mini-croissant.
An amuse bouche of escargot bathed in chartreuse butter and tucked into a mini-croissant. (Kim Westerman)

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.

Grilled green and white asparagus with buttermilk-fried cippollini, burrata and Meyer lemon gremolata.
Grilled green and white asparagus with buttermilk-fried cippollini, burrata and Meyer lemon gremolata. (Kim Westerman)
Octopus mille-feuille with pommes Anna, Castelvetrano olives and saffron aioli.
Octopus mille-feuille with pommes Anna, Castelvetrano olives and saffron aioli. (Kim Westerman)

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.

Foie gras tartlet with rhubabrb brulée.
Foie gras tartlet with rhubabrb brulée. (Kim Westerman)

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.

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The next dish is the richest of the rich, a crawfish bisque redolent of green garlic, made even richer by the addition of bacon vinaigrette and chiccharrón. The above-mentioned red wine cuts through the cream gracefully, with ripe fruit and an elegant structure.

Crawfish bisque with green garlic.
Crawfish bisque with green garlic. (Kim Westerman)

The main course appears simple, but isn’t really: roasted chicken is surrounded by boudin blanc-stuffed morels, the essence of spring, For $25, you can get a generous shaving of black truffle, but the already decadent dish doesn’t need it. On the side, served on a bread board, is an exquisite potato and leek terrine with fermented turnips, which gives the savory notes a pickled lift. According to the server, this dish alone takes three days to prepare, start to finish.

Roasted chicken with boudin blanc-stuffed morels.
Roasted chicken with boudin blanc-stuffed morels. (Kim Westerman)
Potato terrine with fermented turnip.
Potato terrine with fermented turnip. (Kim Westerman)

It was almost impossible to eat dessert, so satiated were we, but the light, soft-baked meringue with airy Meyer lemon cake and almond praline hit the spot.

Soft-baked meringue, Meyer lemon cake and almond praline.
Soft-baked meringue, Meyer lemon cake and almond praline. (Kim Westerman)

Servers are studied, friendly and constantly anticipating diners’ needs. Even as the dining room filled up for the dinner service, I noticed the harmonious staff’s careful attention to each table. As is the nature of experiments, feedback is solicited to take back to the kitchen. While I had my favorites (the octopus and the potato and fermented turnip terrine), our meal was a smashing success from start to finish, much more polished than a mere test run. It will be fun to see which of the dishes from Les Experiments end up on the main restaurant menu.

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RN74
301 Mission St. [Map]
San Francisco, CA 94105
Tel: (415) 543-7474
Hours: Sun-Thu, 5:30-10pm; Fri-Sat, 5:30-10:30pm
Facebook: RN74
Twitter: @RB74_SF
Instagram: rn74_sf
Price Range: $$$ (Les Experiments Sunday dinners, $49)

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