Restaurant: Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar at the Fairmont - Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA - October 1, 2011
Address: 950 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94108
Service: 4/4 Food: 3/4 Presentation: 3/4 Concept: 3/4 Value: 4/4
Overall, the Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar had a marvelous service staff. From the evening’s experience it was clear that the staff took great pride in their work and strived to reflect the reputation of excellence at The Fairmont Hotel. What was also evident was that every element of the restaurant was in close communication, with attributed their attentiveness and efficiency. The exquisite food and ambiance provided the perfect backdrop for a a romantic couples’ dinner or an upscale dining experience for small groups. We give this a combined score of 17/20, placing the Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar at a Rave Factor of 5 out of 5; we absolutely look forward to future dining experiences!
A special thanks to The Fairmont Food & Beverage Manager Mindi Morin, Restaurant Manager Max Rivadeneira, and Chef de Cuisine Joshua Rogers for accommodating our party and helping make the evening thoroughly enjoyable. The Fairmont (@FairmontSF) social media team should also be commended in their facilitating communication online with the property - truly a case study in how restaurants should be utilizing and managing social media.
Review: When we arrived for our reservation at 6:45pm, a host was ready and waiting at the front to check us in and lead us to the table. The decor was a continuation of The Fairmont lobby - a mixture of classic elegance was very appropriate for the concept of the restaurant.
Once seated, our waiter Mark spoke on the selection of wines at the Laurel Court Restaurant and the variety of cocktails available. We decided on the **Strawberry Daiquiri and Marshall’s Farm Honey Old Fashioned cocktails to start. The daiquiri was delicious and had the right proportions to balance the sweetness of the mix with the alcohol. The Marshall’s Farm Honey Old Fashioned was a surprising favorite! While many bourbon drinks tend towards being overpowering, the honey gave the drink a rich flavor and cut into the aftertaste for a smooth finish. Great start!
A live pianist began his set in the rotunda located in the middle of the restaurant, enhancing the ambiance while maintaining a mellow and enjoyable noise level. A staff member came to our table to offer us their selection of bread. His service throughout our meal — promptly clearing our plates — did not go unnoticed. Very quick and friendly.
The asiago bread was delicious. We appreciated the subtleness of the asiago.
Starters: Dungeness Crab Cakes with Fennel, Sausalito Watercress Salad & House Tartar and Crispy Sea Salt Calamari with Chipotle Aioli & House Tartar. The crab cakes were cooked well. Crispy exterior and moist center, though inconsistent with each cake. They were seasoned well and held up its shape. Check and check!
The calamari was good, but could have been crispier. As we ate through the pile of calamari, we found that the exterior of the pieces towards the bottom were soft. The chipotle aioli and house tartar were great choices.
Mark and his support staff regularly checked on our courses and we greatly appreciated their attentiveness. Throughout the entire meal, not once did our water glasses reach the halfway point and dishes were cleared quickly.
While we had initially ordered a glass of the Turnbull, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Mark returned indicating that they had run out of the selection for the night. However, at the same time, he also brought two other selections of Sauvignon Blanc for sampling of which we decided to try his recommendation of the Chalk Hill, Sonoma County. We found that the Chalk Hill served as a lovely pairing with the entrees and the rest of the meal.
Entrees: San Francisco Cioppino and Salmon Creek Ranch Duck Breast. The spicy tomato broth of the cioppino was well-balanced, but might have been enhanced with a bit more salt. The individual flavors of the seafood were a bit muddled, but it was still a delicious dish for the shellfish enthusiast. The grilled sourdough was best when paired with the cioppino broth. The real highlight of the cioppino were the oysters which were cooked perfectly and lacked the rubbery quality of ill-prepared shellfish. The duck breast was cooked evenly and in combination with the flavors of the duck jus, balsamic glazed fig, and goat cheese polenta cake, was an excellent experience. The polenta cake was very well done with the slight crisp on the exterior.
Side: Local Asparagus with Honey Butter. The asparagus was cooked well and the honey butter offered a sweet, unique twist. In retrospect, we enjoyed the concept of featuring local honey in the dishes as The Fairmont is known for their onsite honey bees.
Desserts: Lavender Flower Crème Brûlée and Honey Crème Caramel. The presentation of both were both artistic and appealing. The caramelized sugar of the crème brûlée was good, but could have been slightly thicker to provide a better crisp. The lavender flavor was a delicious twist to the crème brûlée, an inviting flavor while not coming across as overpowering or perfume-like, as is the tendency. The blueberry compote was an excellent addition as well. The crème caramel had a smooth texture and good flavors, complimented by the honey for a modern twist to the traditional crème caramel. Two very well done desserts to finish off our meal!
**Full Disclosure: the Strawberry Daiquiri and Marshall’s Farm Honey Old Fashioned cocktails were complimentary with our reservation.