Postrio boasts an elite classic status in the minds of San Franciscans. With renowned chefs Wolfgang Puck and Mitchell Rosenthal, a celebrity clientele, high prices and an unbeatable Union Square location, the restaurant had a lot to live up to when I finally paid the place a visit. On an especially spontaneous Friday evening in the city, my companion and I were not laughed at for making a reservation 10 minutes before we showed up. Nor were we snubbed for our endless questions about the menu. The ambiance, service and food were ready and willing to prove themselves worthy. From start to finish, Postrio left nothing to be desired.
The restaurant is extravagant but not pretentious. There are three separate tiers of dining options where you could feel equally comfortable coming in for a lazy lunch in blue jeans from your room in the adjoining Prescott Hotel or in an opera gown before a formal theatre event in the neighborhood. The top floor, at street level, houses the bar and cafÃ©. The bar feels smaller than it actually is, and very intimate””dimly lit with dark wood and bronze themes and a wood-burning oven””while the restaurant below has a luxurious sense of space that makes for a royal and open dining atmosphere. The restaurant provides a quiet ambience to enjoy the classic jazz playing in the background and, of course, the fabulous food. Large windows span the wall furthest from the street, revealing plants of various shapes and hues, in the small bit of open space that downtown San Francisco affords Postrio.
On the restaurant walls, an impressive modern art collection adds to the artsy mood created by large, amber orb lights decorated with confetti-style bronze sculptures and appear almost space-age. Our dapper waiter, bespectacled in horn-rimmed glasses, was a font of knowledge when we asked about the diverse and tantalizing menu. He recommended the heirloom tomato salad, a wildly creative and divinely delectable choice. Two fat slices of tomato topped with kim chi (a Korean marinated cabbage dish) and a watermelon-based sauce with cayenne pepper.
The fare is eclectic and open-minded. It borrows from the many corners of the world, but still holds to fresh and California-style principles in its final presentation. For example, the appetizer special of the night was a sushi dish, while also on the menu were Middle Eastern and Peruvian entrÃ©es.
The meal was preceded by a basket of three types of bread and a dainty teacup of gazpacho. The chef in the case of the latter was borrowing from Spain, where I have recently returned from, and I must admit that the Postrio outdoes its mentors. The addition of cucumbers diluted the normally harsh flavors of the savory dish to highlight the freshness of the ingredients.
For the main course, we opted for the sea bass and the vegetarian special, a choice not on the menu but which can always be prepared from the vegetable side dishes of the other entrÃ©es. Highlights were a hot corn salad which retained its crunchiness from the cob, a salad with delicate greens and walnuts atop a bed of delightfully ripe strawberries.
Dessert was a pleasure beyond words. For us, the German chocolate cake was the main event, but its accompaniments were each something in and of themselves: a delicate, refined wafer and a caramel and orange sauce that were far too delectable for a slender waistline.
Postrio is in the theater district and makes a fine dining experience prior to any show or even for drinks afterwards. The spaciousness of the layout lends itself for office parties or business meetings. And while it might seem otherwise by a first glance at the menu, vegetarians can be accommodated””and well””as long as they make a point to ask for their options.