Millennium Restaurant: It’s About Time
Many would say Millennium in San Francisco, so we traveled across time zones to decide for ourselves. We landed at Millennium’s zinc-topped bar at 9 p.m. on a Monday night, and the place was buzzing with a fit-looking, multi lingual crowd mingling by the light of eco-correct deconstucted paper chandeliers. When we left a couple of hours later, our palettes forever enhanced, our only criticism was that all the starters were so enjoyable, we’d have needed several more hours to fully appreciate the selection of entrees.
Since 1994, Millennium has been earning regular accolades from the likes of VegNews magazine and Food and Wine magazine, not because everything on the menu can be consumed worry-free (animal-free, GMO free, usually organic and always sustainable), but because Chef Eric Tucker is unrivaled in his fearless creativity and zest for combining health-promoting ingredients. Dishes often are made of so many components it’s hard to believe they blend harmoniously, but they do. The Crusted Oyster Mushroom starter (pictured above) is lightly breaded in rice flour and coriander seed dredge and served over radish salad with kaffir lime and pickled ginger vinaigrette with a sweet and spicy pepper jam. Sounds like a mess, but it is sublime. So we won’t rave about Tucker’s creations just because items like the creamy white macadamia cheese are animal free, but because they’re inspired, complex and composed; in this case paired with sweet smoked onion marmalade and caramelized figs with a radicchio-cherry tomato salad. In short, mouth-watering healthfulness. And as Southern diners, it’s worthy of noting that Millennium’s Fried Green Tomatoes with polenta crust were the best we’ve ever tasted. But that only gives you an indication of the food.
The wine list is so extensive that Wine Enthusiast magazine named Millennium one of 2011′s 100 Best Wine Restaurants, so we’ll focus our attention on the featured cocktails ($12). Perhaps most inspired was Sweet Chariot (after two someone may need to carry me home), a heavenly concoction of El Jimador Blanco Tequila, roasted melon puree, chipotle agave and lime juice garnished with a sugar, salt and cumin rim. It has the smokey essence of a Mezcal, but more intrigue. The liquid fire Pepper Pot, made with Old Overholt Rye, cumin roasted pepper puree, apple and lemon juices, ginger agave and blood orange bitters, was a stimulating success; as was the more subtle Happy Boy with Tru Organic Gin, beet puree and hints of lemon verbena.
A return visit is a must. Until then, we’ll attempt DIY dining with guidance from The Artful Vegan: Fresh Flavors from the Millennium Restaurant.
Millennium Restaurant• 580 Geary Street • San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel: 415-345-3900 • Fax: 415-345-3941
Main photo by John Storey for the San Francisco Chronicle
For more on interesting Vegan restaurants, check out Drawn and Devourered’s post on Canada’s The Hogtown Vegan.