Thursday, December 22, 2005

Campton Place: Farewell to Chef Daniel Humm

340 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Current Chef Peter Rudolph (formerly Navio)

Last tried: December 2005

As soon as I heard that Daniel Humm was leaving Campton Place to head up a restaurant* in Manhattan, my first thought was, "Wait! You were just getting interesting. You can't leave now!" I had tried Campton Place twice previously during his tenure, and each time I thought that his cuisine, although rough in some spots, held the promise of something great. Which led directly to my second thought-- to get a reservation one more time before he leaves, anticipating that I will have to pay even more to taste his cooking in New York. I was able to squeeze into Campton Place the week before Christmas and had the chef's tasting menu with wine pairing:

The meal started with an amuse consisting of an array of single bite tastes: Raw oyster with sweet mignonette sauce, Grilled monterey sardine, Goat cheese Neapolitan, Savory puff pastry with cream, Layered salmon terrine square, Big eye tuna and halibut sashimi sandwich with dill, and a tempura fried green vegetable (unidentified). Of these, I had the savory puff and the big eye tuna. The fish was not quite fresh enough and the dill was overpowering, but the savory puff was sublime in both flavor and texture.

The first course was a cold nage of wellfleet oysters in cream sauce with tapioca, sprinkled with red pepper powder. The cream was a little overwhelming but the oysters were fresh and succulent.

  • Krug brut 1990 (unfortunately oxidized)

Next came Foie gras creme brulee. I could not decide whether this dish was too salty or too sweet. In any event, it gets the "Most Interesting Dish" award.

The rich and intense flavors of the foie gras brulee were cleansed by the next dish, Osetra caviar two ways: (1) on top of scallops in sea urchin foam, served in a scallop shell; (2) on top of scallops surrounded by cucumber. I love sea urchin. I love scallops. And I can never get enough caviar. But here, it seemed the specialness of each ingredient was somehow subordinated in the combinations. Nonetheless, this was a nicely executed presentation.

  • Dewazakura, Dewasansan Nama Genshu Junmai Ginjo Sake, Yamagata Prefecture (delicate and fragrant but got lost in the pairing)

The next course was a ceviche of lobster, scallops, and clam with blood orange and fennel. The blood orange was a bit too sweet, and the citrus juices fought with the seafood a bit. This was still a clean and refreshing dish.

  • Livio Felluga, Terre alte, Colli Orientali del Friuli 2002 (crisp and fruity)

Then the menu veered back to richness with a stick of foie gras terrine underneath a buttery gaufrette, accompanied by butternut squash butter and cranberry compote, and a large slice of toasted brioche.

  • Chateau Raymond-Lafon Sauternes 1986 (also oxidized)

Next came a steamed tube of dover sole with a caramelized strip of parmesan cheese on top, accompanied by a leek and cream "salad" and a quenelle of truffle potato mousse. The sole was a bit rubbery but the leeks were tender and melted in my mouth. The truffled potato was what you'd expect-- two perfectly yummy things mashed together to create a tasty treat.

  • Chenin Blanc, Huet, Le Mont, Moelleux, Vouvray 2002 (pretty wine)

The next course was DIVINE: Herbed pasta layered with lobster, in a sauce that tasted like heavenly lobster bisque, with shaved white truffles. The white truffles worked their magic on the tender morsels of lobster in the velvety sauce, which complemented the herbed ribbons of pasta as though they were soul mates.

  • Aloxe Corton, Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru 2002 (this was my favorite wine of the evening)

The last savory course was Chartreuse of Berkshire pork with black truffles. The pork was steamed, wrapped in spinach, and topped with crisp pieces of Berkshire bacon-- those were yummy bits of salty crunchiness. The black truffle sauce tied the dish together quite well.

  • Les Vins de Vienne, Saint Joseph, Northern Rhone 2001 (best wine pairing of the evening; perfect complement to the pork and the truffles)

I did not try the andante dairy goat cheese that came next because I have not yet acquired a taste for goat cheese, but others seemed to enjoy it.

  • Manzanilla Sherry, Emilio Lustau, Papirusa Sanlucar de Barrameda (personal preference-- not crazy about sherry, particularly those as high alcohol as this one)

Next came a palate cleanser-- a cold foamy jasmine orange granita/tea cappucino. The cool sweetness definitely served to cleanse the palate but I found the jasmine orange to be kind of soapy in taste.

The desserts included a pear fondant with rooibos sorbet, valrhona chocolate pastilla topped with orange guajillo confit (tasted like sweet chocolate egg rolls-- yes, they were that good), and fried beignets the size of small donut holes, dusted with granulated sugar. The beignets were my favorite sweet of the evening.

  • Kiralyudvar, Cuvee Hona, 5 Puttonyos, Aszu, Tokaj 1999 (did not taste as sweet as I would have expected for 5; the orange flavors were balanced and pretty)

At times I found the wine pairing to be a bit on the weak side, both in terms of the wines individually and in matching. While the pacing dragged somewhat, the overall cadence of the menu was delightful. The courses were elegant and presented a pleasant array of different tastes. As I was leaving with my complementary box of homemade candy and nuts, I was glad that I had gotten to try Campton Place one more time. I believe Chef Humm will do great things in his career and wish him well in New York.

*Eleven Madison Park

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