This decadent dining establishment ups the ante on most hotel dining rooms in the city. The food and decor are as over-the-top as the credit card bill. Part of the Mina Group “chain”, this restaurant in San Francisco’s Westin St. Francis Hotel opened in 2005 to much fanfare — including details about how the interior designers could not get the right shade of “fog” for the napkins.
It’s considered one of the premiere dining establishments in the city, if not the country, with the most recent issue of Wine Spectator rating it as SF’s best. So can at least a restaurant of this caliber get an espresso right? Afterall, if I can have my Sonoma County duck roulade and foie gras served three ways, is it too much to ask for a decent cup of coffee? I was on a mission to find out.
After an impeccably prepared series of succulent dishes, each suitable for framing, out came the choices for coffee and dessert. For espresso, they use a single-group superautomatic machine that grinds the beans and everything after (definitely a low-skill setup). It appeared to be a Verismo machine that somehow didn’t end up in a Starbucks. For coffee beans, they use a modified version of Peet’s Major Dickason; they apparently add more Kenyan to the blend. The fact that the waiter (an amiable, and not stuffy, professional) knew this notched them a few savvy points.
However, the resulting cup was by no means exceptional by even typical restaurant standards. In fact, it was downright average. Their espresso has a light film of pale crema and a mellow flavor of mild spice. It’s not a flavorful cup by any means, but it is pleasantly understated. (This is about as close as espresso gets to decent tea.)
Once again, a five-star restaurant offers you the meal of the lifetime … only to finish it off with a two-star espresso. Is it really sane for any restaurant at least feigning high-end dining to send their patrons home with this as the last memory of their car-payment-priced meal?
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