Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Millennium, San Francisco #2

Eric Tucker is one of this country's finest vegan chefs. Having been the executive chef at Millennium for over 20 years, he has perfected many of his dishes and is always adding new ones to the menu. I make it a point to go there at least once a year to enjoy his culinary masterpieces.

We had a reservation for 7 p.m. on a Saturday and needless to say, they were completely booked. Millennium is located inside the Hotel California and the outside facade really doesn't do it justice. When you see the yellow awning and the Best Western sign, you wonder if you are in the right place and soon enough, you realize you are. Once inside though, it is quite the elegant restaurant.

There is a bar in the middle of the dining room adjacent to a semi-exposed kitchen. We were seated at a two-person table that had booth seating on one side and a chair on the other. For whatever reason, it had never occurred to me how close the seating was until this time. The couples on either side of us were finishing their meals though and were soon on their way. Soon, we realized that the reservations are staggered for just this reason -- because you are pretty close to your neighbor. So, when you are seated, those around you are leaving and once you leave, others are seated. I really like this approach.

Millennium is one of the finest vegan restaurants in the country. It was, once again, rated the number one vegan restaurant by readers of VegNews magazine this year.  They usually have daily specials along with their seasonal menu. It took us quite a while to decide what we wanted to order because there are so many great options. Zach and I both went with the Fall Harvest menu, which allowed us four seasonal courses. I also chose the wine pairing.

We started with an amuse of fresh bread with a white bean and jalapeno spread.

Then, the first course was served. The Roasted Beet "Tartare" consisted of roasted red beets served "tartare" style with Belgian endive, syrah-grapeseed oil, pickled golden beets, and macademia cheese. This course was good, but not overwhelmingly so as I felt like the macadamia cheese was missing something and wanted a bit more of the roasted red beets. It just didn't feel well balanced.

Next, we received a gift from the chef, Eric Tucker -- crusted king trumpet mushrooms. Now, Zach and I love mushrooms and were excited to receive this, but nothing could have prepared us for how good these were. It was like a taste explosion. The king trumpet mushrooms were dredged in rice flour, sesame, and spices and served with a sauce. I don't know exactly what was in the sauce, but it all tasted pretty amazing. So much so, that Zach nearly bought the cookbook when we left! What a wonderful gift!

The mushroom dish was pretty filling and we still had three more courses to consume. Next, we were served a Popcorn-Wild Rice Cake. The little cake was made of wild rice and king trumpet mushrooms and was served with a subtle parsnip sauce. It was deliciously satisfying.

The third course had many different components. There was a yuba roulade, which consisted of housemade seitan (some of the best seitan I've ever had), cumin-roasted crimini mushrooms, and sweet potato-sage puree wrapped in a yuba skin and baked to a crisp. These flavors all meshed so well together. It was served with creamy roasted garlic polenta, carmelized shallot-red wine gravy, pickled chiles, quince, and cranberry sauce. I especially enjoyed the polenta.

We were pretty full by then, but we had to make room for dessert. I ordered the pecan-chocolate pie served with Chantilly cream. The pie was great, but the cream was even better. It was made with coconut milk and some type of liquor and blended into a smooth, silky cream. Zach liked this one the best.

We also got their signature dessert -- the Chocolate Almond Midnight, which has to be one of the best desserts I've ever had. Imagine a mocha chocolate filling with a white chocolate mousse layer on an almond cashew crust topped with chocolate and served with chocolate and raspberry sauce. This dessert is about as good as it gets.

We also ordered a flight of three dessert wines, which were a nice mix of sweet and semi-sweet wines.

Before we left, Eric came out to say, "hello," to us as he remembered us from the cooking class we took with him last year. He was telling us how he's been dabbling with making his own yuba and how difficult it is. It was fun to hear about his experiences and great to see him again  as he is such a nice guy.

The four-course meal was a steal at only $50 per person plus the optional wine pairing of $26 -- an amazing price for such a great restaurant. The service was especially exquisite as our server seemed to know about everything and seemed attuned to assist when we had any questions. So, as always, we had a wonderful experience at Millennium. Every vegan (and non-vegan) should visit this restaurant at least once in their lifetime.

Millennium Restaurant
580 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 345-3900

Millennium on Urbanspoon


  1. We recently went to Millennium as well and I really loved the Kale side dish. It was cooked with rice bran oil and it was devine - very butteresque! And I agree with you, they make dessert better than anyone.

  2. Oh, wonderful! I'm so glad you got to eat there finally. And, yes, the desserts are amazing!