689 Mission St
My delightful evening at Ame began with "forbidden fruit," a cocktail composed of pear-spiced vodka, cinnamon quince puree, apple and lemon juice, apricot brandy, and Angostura bitters. It smelled like an exotic flower, but the taste was not overly sweet.
I almost didn't order this drink, because it sounded like too many disparate ingredients. Likewise, Ame's Web page describes the approach of chefs Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani as "a refined blending of local ingredients with the flavors of southern France and northern Italy, filtered through Hiro's Japanese culinary sensibilities." Somehow, this succeeds.
B and I ordered the tasting menu, the prudent choice for both the indecisive and the adventurous. The colorful first course offered three goodies: scallop ceviche with candied jalapeno and watermelon radish, seared tuna with ponzu vinaigrette, and trout sashimi served with roe, asparagus and heart of palm. Next came oxtail soup with green garlic and farro verde, and rich oxtail tortelloni.
Another brothy plate followed: broiled sake- marinated black cod in shiso broth. The fish was slightly sweet and very lightly cooked.
My favorite savory plate was the grilled beef strip loin steak with poutine and green onions. Traditional poutine, I discovered, is Canadian comfort food: French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and brown gravy. This version was more elegant, but just as comforting, with a bed of crispy-starchy cubed potatoes beneath the well-marbled beef.
Desserts did not disappoint. I enjoyed the frozen banana cream pie parfait with white chocolate and rum caramel sauce. But when I think "pie," I think of flaky crust -- not an artistic dusting of crumbs on the plate. Why not just call it a parfait? And I would have liked more than a few dots of sauce on the plate.
B kindly let me taste his dessert, but he was quick to move it back to his side of the table, and I didn't blame him. Semolina pudding fritters were a little like beignets, and the lively citrus salad and elderflower soda pop kept the taste buds interested throughout.
If we hadn't ordered the set menu, I might have tried the "staff meal:" cuttlefish noodles tossed with sea urchin, wasabi, and umami soy sauce. Even though I'm not that crazy about sea-urchin sushi. Even though I can't quite imagine cuttlefish noodles.
Or perhaps the chawan-mushi, Japanese savory custard with sea urchin, geoduck clam, shimeji mushrooms and mizuna sauce. Again, my imagination fails.
Ame's Web site has beautiful pictures of the jewel-box room and the food -- much better than I could manage with my iPhone in the dimly lit space.