Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Greens Restaurant
Reviewed Greens Restaurant: Thursday, May 17, 2012
Greens has been open since 1979 and is now a Bay Area institution. It is a vegetarian restaurant sitting in a wonderful warehouse type space in Fort Mason with large lofty ceilings and a beautiful view of the Marina, the Golden Gate, and its eponymous bridge. As far as space alone goes, few can compare with this. We’ve been here too many times to count in the years we’ve lived here, and this restaurant has yet to disappoint. It has a solid wait staff that is attentive and courteous. It helps to make a reservation since the restaurant is very popular. We had for this time that we visited yet again.
One of the wonderful things we’ve found about the food here is that it is as fresh and wholesome as one can find at any restaurant. This time we visited for their spring menu. We had a cold appetizer of fresh spring rolls, a dish that showcases the flavor of the vegetable very well. It plays off with the flavor of the mint. This along with the peanut sauce is fantastic. The warm cauliflower salad was a revelation. Well-cooked cauliflower with some crispy edges tossed with a fabulous tarragon mustard vinaigrette. The salty capers and pine nuts just add good contrast to the dish.
One of the entrees we tried was a butternut squash and sweet potato gratin, a very filling dish rife with many textures and flavors, all complementing each other superbly with a little bit of each in every bite. The texture of the gratin plays very well with the grilled polenta and kale and chard it is served with. The other entree was a red curry served with rice. The curry captures the essence of a Thai curry with its fresh coconut and spices. I wish for slightly more heat, but flavor-wise it is smoky and complex and very satisfying.
Desserts were amazing. The butterscotch pot de crème is malty and caramel all at the same time -- flavors I can taste in Humphrey Slocombe’s Secret Breakfast. Perhaps they share the same alcoholic base? The honeycomb toffee it is served with is just as delightful and offers up a perfect textural contrast. The vanilla cake is perfect to sample along with the fruit of the season. It is coffee cake-like in texture served with the most incredibly fresh fruit compote. It’s very light for a dense textured cake.
We have taken many out-of-town friends and relatives here over the years who have all loved it. The food here is prepared with thought and care. It’s one of our favorite restaurants in this city.
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Outerlands
Reviewed Greens Restaurant: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
The Golden Gate Bridge, framed by sailboats and mountains at sunset, is an exceptional setting for a dinner and the view afforded diners at Greens in San Francisco’s historic Fort. A pioneer in the field of high-end vegetarian cuisine, Greens provides an elegant setting for a festive meal. The clean lines of the furniture and the expansive pieces of art reflect the view and create and lovely dinning environment. The extensive menu highlighted the diversity of regional produce and an array of ways to prepare vegetarian meals.
The homemade bread that started the meal was the perfect combination of crust and crumb and not a piece was left before we ordered our first course. Though we chose to order three appetizers, our friendly and well-informed server suggested that our party of four would be well served by two. The two that she had recommended were a wonderful start to our meal. A cauliflower salad with multiple varieties was highlighted a mix of color and taste. The potato leek pancakes were crispy on the outside and tender within. Unfortunately the wild mushrooms, which included several varieties, were less successful.
Our main course selections highlighted seasonal produce. The bright flavors burst forth from the filling of the handmade pea and asparagus ravioli and were delightfully light but also substantial. The unusual combination of cheese, asparagus, and Meyer lemon were a delicious topping for the pizza. The subtle and complex flavor of the butternut squash and sweet potato gratin made it a highlight of our meal. The use of smoked peppers gave depth to the dish and contrasted with the clean flavor of the custard topping.
There are many options for wine to be had by the glass at Greens, and we relied on our server for suggestions. Each choice was spot.
One should not confuse vegetarian with insubstantial. Portions are ample and filling. We found little room for dessert. Among the many tantalizing options, we settled on a butterscotch pot de crème and were pleased with our choice. The texture was perfectly creamy, and the flavor took the simple concept of pudding to a proper level for fancy dining without losing the essence of what makes this a comfort food.
Occupation: University President
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Bella Trattoria
Reviewed Greens Restaurant: Monday, May 7, 2012
Greens has “location, location, location”: Building A at Fort Mason with an unrivaled view of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset when we arrived at 7 PM. As a life-long carnivore, I was disappointed that Greens was one of my assigned Check, Please! restaurants. Disappointment was transformed into delight at my first-ever vegetarian dining experience.
Greens is housed in a former warehouse -- no attempt to cover this fact -- so the ambiance is utilitarian, bright, and airy thanks to large windows and a very high ceiling. My companion and I were seated at a lovely and unique burl table in the center of the restaurant. It was perfectly configured for conversation and the noise level was nil.
The wait staff was welcoming and solicitous and quick on recommendations for wine, first course, entree and dessert -- all of which I followed. The asparagus appetizer was perfectly al dente, garnished with a bit of Chioggia beets, goat cheese, watercress, endive, and dressed with lemon vinaigrette that nicely balanced the asparagus. My friend claimed that his potato leek griddle cakes were beyond excellent.
My entree, the butternut squash and sweet potato gratin with chiles, onions, and smoked cheddar was served with tomatillo sauce and grilled polenta. It was as tasty as any meat casserole I’ve ever had. My companion was delighted with his farro risotto with mushrooms and peas. For dessert, he opted for the flourless chocolate cake, and I, for citrus sorbet sandwiched between two large cookies with small slices of orange in a berry coulis. It was a perfectly tart finish to a wonderful meal. I enjoyed a glass of the recommended Preston Sauvignon Blanc (2010), which was a large enough portion to last the entire meal. All in all, the food and ambiance were great. My friend and I gave Greens an “A.” I now believe that there is life after meat.