Campton Place Degustation

We decided to try this restaurant at the recommendation of Chef Kinch from Manresa, one of our favorite chefs. With the recommendation of a great chef, our expectations were extremely high. A 5:30 reservation on Sunday began our near religious culinary experience.

When we arrived a few minutes early, we were offered a drink in the lounge/bar area. The staff of the restaurant was in the dining area finishing a staff meeting. It’s always a good sign to see coordination between front room and kitchen staff. After enjoying a few sips of my rose champagne, we were escorted to a really nice booth by a warm and friendly hostess originally from Hawaii. Chef Daniel Humm offers up a number of menu choices, but we quickly opted for the full 12 course tasting menu to see what he is made of. We additionally opted for the wine paring by Sommelier John Ragan.

Our meal commenced with an amuse of 7 small bites on a large plate (to be shared by two people). No two bites were repeated so the chef intends us to taste different things. All were delicious but the sweetbread and the oyster were outstanding. The ability to produce such delicate and perfect tiny creations requires near surgical precision. That’s the level of detail that I like to see in a chef.

The next course was a sorbet of heirloom tomatoes with pickled cucumbers and a marinated anchovy on top. The texture of the sorbet was perfect, creamy and velvety on the palette. The intensity of flavor was incredible, as if the flavor was extracted from a dozen tomatoes in each bite. The olive oil that it was plated with was really bright and offered a perfect union to the tangy flavor of the tomato. The anchovy offered a little more richness to the dish.

For the next course, we received different dishes based on the same ingredients. I had the “Fantasy of Eggs” – A slow poached organic egg with a tiny piece of sea urchin, a very generous quenelle of Royal Sterling Osetra caviar, and served atop a wonderful cauliflower puree. The dish was assembled perfectly, and presented. Tableside, sea urchin foam was generously spooned atop this beautiful dish. Your first bites of this dish taste like the essence of the sea – light and clean. As you dig deeper, this is wonderfully juxtaposed with the richness of the egg and buttery earthy flavor of the cauliflower. The Caviar adds more wonderful elements of the sea with that great briny flavor. The other dish was a veloute of sea urchin with caviar and baby clams. I only had one bite but it was delicious. So creamy and rich – having the texture of foie gras. The veloute was served with a side dish of three clams gratin – a beautifully cleansing and bright dish. Note that the two us don’t like Sea Urchin and we couldn’t get enough of our dishes. At this point I’m getting really excited. I found a chef that can change my preconceptions about an ingredient.

The next course was a trio of Hawaiian “Poisson Cru” – Kona Kompachi, Big Eye Tuna, and Nairagi Toro. In line with fine European tradition, this course utilized a nice tableside preparation for the accompaniments. The waiter topped the fish with the zest of Yuzu citrus, grated fresh Wasabi, and created a wonderful dipping sauce with lime juice and Japanese salt. This salt contained some ground seaweed to give it a wonderful flavor. A simple dipping sauce of organic soy was also provided. This was not some “fusion confusion” dish. The chef respected all the Japanese ingredients to produce a really clean and bright dish. Well executed.

The next dish was out of this world. My dish was an heirloom tomato and watermelon salad with almond and vanilla vinaigrette. You can look at the photos and read what I write, but you must try this dish to fathom the flavors. The flavors explode in your mouth. A small fried basil leaf and some fleur de sel top this perfect dish. I can’t do this dish justice so I’ll refrain from any further feeble attempts at describing the flavor. The other dish was a grilled watermelon with tomato tartare, pistachios, and aged balsamic vinegar – equally incredible but completely different. Hints of caramel and smoke from the grilling of the watermelon give this dish great body.

The next course started with an intermezzo of foie gras crème brulee with melon juice. Tasted exactly how it looks – delicious. The fatty foie gras was balanced by the pure taste of the juice. The chef is starting to show his playful side here. Mixing dessert-like preparations into the savory portion of the meal is brilliant. I thought to myself, how could he out do himself? The chef answered my question by serving another dessert inspired dish – mille-feuille of fois gras which was created with fois gras and bittersweet chocolate. Accompanying this was a bright salad of charentais melon and green apple – extremely cleansing. Two powders were served – a savor cocoa powder and a powder of dried ground charentais melon seeds. The melon seed powder was absolutely phenomenal. Who knew? Melon, chocolate, and foie gras makes a perfect combination. My only criticism was that the toasted brioche served as an accompaniment was too large in comparison to the scale of the dish.

A wonderful seafood dish consisting of a consommé gelee of bouillabaisse topped with lobster, scallop, crayfish, and calamari was our next course. It was served with a sauce of lobster roe, foam of tomato water, and a dusting of dried lobster roe to echo the lobster sauce. Everything was perfectly cooked and tender. The sauces were concentrated and intense.

A fish course of John Dory cooked sous-vide was next. The fish was toped with small cucumber slices to represent the scales of the fish. The sauce was a saffron fumet with tomatoes. The flavor of the fish was very intense due to the sous-vide preparation. This was my first time having something cooked sous-vide. I’ve heard many great things but overall I was not that impressed. I think the chef executed it properly but I don’t yet know if I enjoy this method of cooking. This was my least favorite dish but by no means was it poor.

Our main course was next – an herb roasted Millbrook Farms venison “Rossini” with onion tarte tatin. This was served with a luxurious black truffle sauce, a creamy butternut squash puree, a baby carrot, and a “tempura” celery root. The garnish was a deep fried celery leaf. If you would think that this is too much to combine into one dish, you would be wrong. Everything came together perfectly. I’ve eaten a lot of venison and this is by far, the best venison I have ever tasted.

The chef’s cheese course is a composed course of fresh Andante goat cheese. I was informed that this cheese is produced fresh daily for the chef. It is served with olive oil on the plate and chive, cracked pepper, and fleur de sel on top of the cheese. The bright “green” flavor of the olive oil worked perfectly with the delicious creamy cheese.

Just when we though things couldn’t get any more interesting, the Chef serves a sweet corn sabayon with blueberries and bacon brittle. You read correctly, bacon brittle. The sabayon has the natural sweetness from the corn but is savory at the same time. The bacon brittle was just so damn cool. You wouldn’t think it would taste this good, but it does. The Chef indented this as a bridge between the sweet and savory world. I’ve never crossed a bridge like that before but he pulled it off.

An intermezzo of Jasmine Orange Cappuccino was next. The course was started by an orange “pixie” stick – a playful burst of intense orange to be enjoyed like when we were children. Wait, they didn’t taste like this when I was a kid… The cappuccino was perfect in setting you up for the next fruit based dessert.

The next course, a pear dessert, was the best fruit based dessert I’ve ever had – delicious pears with rooibos sorbet and pear fondant. Again the Chef had challenged my ability to describe the flavors. So good it makes you want to cry.

The meal concluded with a Valrhona Chocolate Pastilla with orange Guiajillo confit. The warm chocolate just bursts in your mouth and encompasses your palette with the most decedent intense flavor and texture. Finally some wonderful petit fours and some cinnamon sugar “donuts” were served.

This meal was perfect in every aspect. Chef Humm’s food is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. This is one of the best four meals I’ve ever had in my life. The sommelier was perfect in every pairing, which made for the best wine pairing I’ve ever had. The service was stellar. There was not a single flaw and it is done in the European style, which is to say very attentive. Our waiter was extremely knowledgeable having traveled extensively for food and wine in France. Ask a question and he knew the answer. I don’t think you can find better service anywhere. Chef Humm comes out at the end of service to greet and talk to all of the patrons, another touch that is not only nice, but necessary for a great chef to stay in touch with his customers. After a wonderful five hour dinner, we left truly happy. The best food, wine, and service: a culinary utopian trinity.

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  • E. Goh Apr 11, 2006, 6:27 pm


    Yes, It’s located in SF Union Square:

    Campton Place Hotel
    340 Stockton St.
    San Francisco, CA 94108
    Campton Place

    Sadly, Chef Humm is no longer there and I hear the food is not nearly as good. You can now check him out in NYC at Eleven Madison Park

  • Linda Apr 11, 2006, 6:07 pm

    Where is this restaurant Campton Place? SF Union Square area? I enjoyed reading it! The frie gras prep reminded me of a frie gras “whipped cream/mouse” I had in the a French restaurant in Hanoi recently. Wow…it was so incredibly toxicatingly satisfying!