It was perhaps the most anticipated opening of 2016 and after so much hype I was sure that I was going to be disappointed. I tried to set very low expectations and even prepared myself to sweat on the roof before dinner. I could not have been more pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was. One of the best examples of what hospitality is. Delicious food, friendly and stellar service. Really the type of fine dining experience that I gravitate toward. I didn’t want to leave and can’t wait to return.
late summer in sonoma county
homemade tofu – heirloom tomatoes, jimmy nardello pepper, saikyo miso and olive oil
summer squash from the farm – scallop stuffed blossoms and courgette cream
bodega bay wild king salmon “ibushi-gin” – shio koji vinaigrette, char roe, and myoga
poached foie gras – tea of last year’s tomatoes, tokyo turnips, and their greens
black cod “fukkura-san” – leeks, vegetables from our farm broth of young lettuces and gyokoro tea
pacific rogue beef – noyaux cream, komatsuna, bing cherries, chanterelle mushrooms, summer truffle, and almond
sonoma grains – nettles, kasu-zuke, farro verde beignet, rib cap, and herbs from the garden
frozen peach – sweet corn granite, peach, corn pudding, and peach consommé
pennyroyal lychee sherbet – whipped lemon posset, fig compote, and plum
wagashi – chocolate and mint, tomato and strawberry, yuzu cream
I oddly find myself writing this in the midst of restaurant week. I know everybody in the industry dislikes it, I no longer care for it myself because I never actually want anything on the restaurant week menu, and I always wonder why anybody participates. But the first time I dined at Ai Fiori was at lunch during restaurant week several years ago. I have come back many times since and have happily followed the white label burger to Costata. So perhaps restaurant week isn’t such a bad idea after all as at least for a minority of diners, a good experience will translate into loyal customers.
I seem to have a rather large weakness for Michael White’s pasta. And while the fusilli will always be my favorite, the various versions of agnolotti at Ai Fiori definitely come in second place. Its very rare that I even order pasta because why bother if its not this good? Dining at Ai Fiori is always lovely and this was no exception. Pasta aside we loved the very summery cocktails and desserts and while I seem to have been ordering quite a lot of octopus lately, this one definitely ranks near the top of the list. As tends to happen far too often, I was distracted by conversation and didn’t take notes on the dishes so the only descriptions I have are from the ones still on the menu.
I look forward to checking out the newest Altamarea addition soon!
Crudo di Passera – fluke crudo, American sturgeon caviar, Meyer lemon Trofie Nero – ligurian crustacean ragu, seppia, scallops, spiced mollica
Agnolotti – braised veal parcels, roasted eggplant, pine nuts, balsamic sugo
Astice – butter poached Nova Scotia lobster scallops
Torta di Olio – mascarpone mousse, Sicilian pistachio, strawberry sorbetto