We thought we were going out to dinner at a traditional steakhouse — you know, a bit like a local version of Morton’s or maybe not even at that scale. In the states, I always conjure up an image of a restaurant with“steakhouse“ in the name as one with classic seating and leather booths, white tablecloths if more formal and none if a casual southwest joint. In all cases, it’s about the steak and not really about the ambiance or the rest of the food offerings.
Not the case with Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco. Think posh temple to beef that fuses steakhouse classics with Japanese cuisine and an additional chef tasting menu for luxury foodies who want a memorable experience that they won’t forget anytime soon. Your palette will thank you for weeks later.
While the chef’s tasting menu at the chef’s tasting table (in front of the kitchen of course) is definitely the way to go, they do have a standard menu, where you can order whatever dish you want or plates they call bites — aka smaller portions of something exquisite that Executive Chef Marc Zimmerman and his team have created.
Developing Japanese flare in the kitchens of Nobu Matsuhisa and Takashi Yagihashi, you’ll find a strong infusion of Japanese and other Asian influences in the menu at Alexander’s, which he moved to San Francisco to open in 2010.
Given that we were there on Marc’s night off, sous chefs Joshua Gjersand and Peggy Tan took care of us, making us feel like royalty.
Joshua connected with us by being present and answering every question we had about dish preparation with careful thought and intention. And, we had a lot.
After all, when you’re sitting in front of an open kitchen, there’s so much to see and so much to learn. If you’re a serious foodie, you must try their chef’s menu, which changes by the way, so be sure to see what they’re offering before you make a reservation.
If you think steak is the only order of the day at this restaurant gem, think again.
I’d call it more of a Japanese-style eatery with influences from French, Singapore, Japanese and American culinary schools.
Their edamame, sashimi, and wagyu is from Japan and many of their veggies are sourced from local farms. If you’re a beef fan, there’s plenty of steaks to choose from as well — be sure to show up hungry and order their “Study of Beef” which consists of seven-courses of seafood, steak, and sides.
The Himachi shooter remains on the menu even as other dishes cycle out. It’s a favorite of locals and tourists alike and I have to agree — it was divine!
Simple and elegant, it was perfect with a champagne pairing which is how we started our evening off, with some natural spring water from the Ouachitas, the very same mountains we drove through in Arkansas a few years ago.
The ceilings were high, but the lights were dim, adding to the already incredible ambiance.
As for preparation and timeliness? Bravo bravo to Marc, Josh and his team as well as to the wait staff and managers who took care of us all night. Robert Buckley who spoke a bit of Italian had us in stitches throughout the night – it helps to have some “Latin song” in the background when you’re dining with an Italian.
The below salad had us at hello, which btw, was not on the Chef’s menu, but we just had to try it. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?
Roughly 90% of what they serve is organic and they work with an organization in Sonoma which sources produce from farmers who can’t make it to farmer’s markets or afford distribution.
Their kimchi and pickling is done in-house.
Their charcoal seared Wagyu is served with marinated mushrooms and smoked soy, and they paired it with a lovely French rose.
Ready for my favorite? The chilled foie gras torchon is served with a Sonoma Blackberry honey and is simply to die for – enuf said! They’re known for their foie gras so even if you don’t opt for the chef’s menu, order any of their foie gras dishes if this one isn’t on the menu when you dine. It was perfectly paired with the 2013 Dr. Crusius from Nahe (Traisen, Germany).
Foie gras torchon is kinda the sister to foie gras terrine and both of them are made from raw foie gras and little else.
Sometimes you’ll find torchons wrapped in a towel or a cheesecloth when you buy them, which is used to shape the raw foie gras into a cylindrical formation.
There’s so much work involved in preparing it perfectly that it’s fascinating to learn how each chef prepares it a little differently. It often takes a few days for the flavors to develop and soak into the foie gras.
Typically chefs will scrape off the excess when they prepare it, however at Alexander’s, Josh tells us that they whip it back in which makes for a fluffier taste in the final dish. It also lasts on your palette longer, something we noticed after the first bite.
So much wow in this dish!
Apparently, Alexander’s buys more foie gras than any other restaurant in California. Says Josh, “We have 70 pounds of it in our fridge right now.” YES please! Now I know where to go in San Francisco when I need my foie gras fix.
Ready for my second favorite dish on the chef’s menu? It’s a delicious dish made of California caviar, smoked corn cream and pickled local corn. Some of the corn is freeze dried and there’s a little of in the brioche on the bottom. T’was so divine! It is topped with micro-greens, which they get from a farm in Marin which grows whole flats of organic micro-greens just for this restaurant.
If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll appreciate their King Crab, which is served with Koshihikari rice, summer heirloom squash and chantrelles.
We paired this with a local Sonoma Chardonnay which was a perfect accompaniment. The texture, feel and taste of this crab plate is a bit more like a risotto than a rice dish and there’s a bite to it which you’ll fall in love with even if you can’t figure out what it is. It turns out that this kick is due to the added elderflower vinegar all the way from Lindera Farms in Virginia. BRAVO!
Anthony’s favorite was the below Lobster Mushroom dish, topped with watercress from Sausalito, balsamic and a side of a grilled Quail Egg, which we watched them prepare in front of us. Scroll down for a little video of what we experienced on-site. The lobster mushrooms they used for this dish are freeze dried and imported from France. It was paired with the Samsara Pinot Noir from Santa Rita Hills, California.
The Red Abalone ‘steak’ was served with Seared Foie Gras from Hudson Valley, saki flying fish dashi (made with a ginger and mushroom broth) and broccoli rabe, our second foie gras taste of the evening. Oh so yum! We paired this with the 2013 Beaune Montrevenots Premier Cru Pinot from France.
Below, before they poured the unami broth over the uni tomato and fennel pollen. So simple and yet so perfect!!
By now, you’re probably wondering, what’s the steak like right? Notice below a 2008 scrumptious bottle of Rioja from Spain, so it must be around the corner, right?
Joshua served up a variety for us to sample, including the Japanese wagyu, always my favorite. Steaks include Filet Mignon, Bone in Filet, a Storm Hill strip steak, a WR Reserve Angus Ribeye Chop, a Flannery Porterhouse, Prime Rib, and dry-aged T-bones, Bone-in (New York) and a Bone-in Filet. And, the sauces had me at hello.
If you’re a red meat lover, you will want to try their Beef Tongue Clay Pot served with meyer lemon (yes, really), the Cherry Cremeux if they have it on the menu (with black sesame, wagyu chocolate sable and a maple aged vinegar), and their Smoked Oxtail.
What else is cool is that you have 12 different sea salts to sprinkle on your steaks, including Himalayan Pink from Nepal, Appalachian, Applewood Smoked, California Sea, Alaea Hawaiian Red, Atlantic Sea, Jurassic and Bamboo Jade, all from the USA, Kala Namak from India, Sel Gris from France, Murray River from Australia and Black Cyprus from Cyprus. They also serve something called the Rossini Burger, which is topped with foie gras of course, and black truffle mushroom ragout.
Side dishes are heavenly and include wild mushrooms, mashed potatoes, shichimi fries, caramelized sweet onions, rainbow carrots, Brentwood corn and Blue Lake beans.
We didn’t have much room left for dessert as you can imagine but their house-made chocolate soufflees are exquisite — we did manage a few tastes with a small bite of their homemade ice cream. Two thumbs up!
For serious soufflee lovers, be sure to check out my article on two French restaurant picks in San Francisco, which includes Cafe Jacqueline “the place” to go for French style savory and sweet soufflees.
Would we return? You betcha! The wait staff and kitchen crew were incredibly warm as was the Nepalese-born bartender, who promised to whip us up a couple of amazing cocktails next time we came in. Let’s just say: “bring it on please!”
Be sure to check out the below very short videos for a glimpse of the experience at the chef’s table.