What: Chaya Brasserie
Who: Executive Chef Shigefumi Tachibe
Where: 132 Embarcadero in San Francisco
When: For lunch, M-F: 11:30am-2pm. For dinner, M-W: 5:30pm-10pm, Th-S: 5:30pm-10:30pm, Sun: 5:30pm-9pm. For happy hour, begins at 4pm M-F, at 5pm on weekends.
Why: Located on the Embarcadero, Chaya Brasserie will give you a delectable dining French-Japanese experience with unobstructed views of the Bay Bridge. We made reservations for 7pm on a Saturday night, and I’m very glad that we did because while we were seated very promptly, we noticed that the dining room was full within the next thirty minutes.
Since we were seated by the window in the main dining room, we got to enjoy the beautiful sunset view of the Bay Bridge and the lights coming up in the East Bay as the night progressed. (If you come by for Happy Hour or drinks – a great deal, by the way, since it’s offered all night – snag a seat by the window for views of the Ferry Building.) The modern decor was clearly Asian-inspired, hinting to the Japanese influence of the food. The open kitchen lets you see all the action behind the scenes if you choose.
More importantly, the menu made the biggest impression. I wanted to order almost everything on the menu, which is incredibly rare. (Usually, I only find a few key items that I want to try.) We actually had great difficulty choosing and ended up asking our waiter for recommendations, to which we adhered. There were simply too many delicious-sounding dishes, and we went with his suggestions to “narrow” it down. He did not fail us. (The wait staff is phenomenal by the way. Our waiter was friendly, prompt without hovering, and very knowledgeable about the menu.)
We started with two appetizers: the Poached Main Lobster Salad and Rainbow Sashimi & Seaweed Salad. The Poached Main Lobster Salad was citrusy and bright, accented with endive, orange, watercress and ravigote sauce – overall, very Californian. (My eating companion couldn’t get enough of the sauce.) The Rainbow Sashimi & Seaweed Salad had fresh pieces of ahi tuna tataki, hamachi and Scottish salmon; it was topped with wasabi pickles, citrus dill, salmon caviar and dressed with a yuzu pepper garlic vinaigrette. It was so fresh and fabulous, like the ocean. They were both spectacular appetizers that are not to be missed.
For the main course, I took the sea route and ordered the Crispy Yellow Fin Tuna. The tuna was crusted in crispy rice, accompanied by onion marmalade, sugar snap peas, hijiki salad and a balsamic soy glaze. This was such a fun dish to eat. I don’t think I’ve ever described food that way, but it truly was fun. The texture of the crispy rice in combination with the elements made it so enjoyable; I wouldn’t mind having this dish every night of the week. (In fact, I’d like to have it tonight if I could!) My dining companion ordered the Filet Mignon Rossini with a potato filled soba crepe and periguex sauce. Fois gras and truffle oil top this dish off for true decadence. Indeed, from the bite I had, the filet seemed perfectly cooked – very tender and moist – while the rest of the dish added ample flavor. Overall, it felt simply luxurious to my palate.
At this point, we were pretty full, but the Warm Milk Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding with caramel ice cream came highly recommended – and who am I to deny dessert? I’m glad we didn’t miss it because it was spectacular! Bread pudding can be too rich, but this one was just right – possibly the best bread pudding I’ve had in my life. The texture was smooth and silky, with just the right hint of chocolate without overwhelming the entire dish. This dessert is reason enough to visit Chaya.
All in all, the verdict is: I can’t wait to go back! The food and ambiance were truly spectacular, and I really am looking forward to trying the rest of the menu out. Go to the Chaya Brasserie website or call 415.777.8688 to make a reservation. Maybe I’ll see you there!