Described by some as “the city’s hippest hotel,” the new Kelly Wearstler designed Hotel Proper, located at Market and McAlister Streets offers ambience and sweeping city views at Charmaine’s Rooftop Bar and exceptional cuisine and spirits from the restaurant, Villon, yielding a post-modern style menu that reflects the decor.
Villon, (pronounced Villian) sits adjacent to the artful lobby salon, carrying a similar theme along its walls to the striking, multi-level spirits library, complete with sliding ladder.
It is from that spirits library that they prepare BVHospitality’s “7X7” cocktail compendium that pays tribute to the square miles of San Francisco. With seven cocktails in each of seven categories, there are choices for every palate.
Scanning through cocktails with names like “Earthquake Proof,” “Hanky Panky” and “Ver Sales,” a satirical play on how someone from Kentucky would pronounce Versailles, I settled on “Martinez,” a flavorful and balanced mix of Old Tom Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Maraschinos and Bitters, served up.
After Patty, our server, introduced us to the menu, we were joined by General Manager Jens Halbert who also served as our sommelier for the evening.
The dinner menu is composed of a diverse selection of small and large plate dishes. To begin, we selected the Yellowfin with Korean rice cake, pepper relish, tonnato and a California Kale Salad with pearl onions, manchego custard and something called hippy vinaigrette that Jens paired with a 2015 Weingut Jager Gruner Veltliner Ried Vorderseiber Wachau from Austria.
I have a preference for Gruner Veltliner, especially from the Wachau region along the picturesque hills above the Danube River. The crisp Weingut Jager release had balanced expression of fruit and mineral elements along the finish.
This and other wines that were served are part of a diverse list, ranging in price, that includes very good, highly rated selections that won’t break the bank.
Next, we were encouraged to try the Nachos with Chorizo, quesillo, crema, described as “everything in every bite” as the ingredients were spread throughout a long, thin flaxseed tostada. With this dish, Jens opened a bottle of 2015 Jones Family Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley.
This limited production sauvignon blanc is crafted by noted winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown for the Jones Family and spends three years in barrel and bottle before release. Like the Sea Fog Sauvignon Blanc from The Grade Cellars in Calistoga, another Thomas Rivers Brown creation, the Jones Family release expressed intricate, full-bodied flavors that also paired nicely with the Cod served with King Trumpets mushrooms, bitter greens and dashi, a cooking stock used in miso soup.
The next two dishes, a Berkshire Pork Chop with fennel, apples and yogurt and Short Ribs with carrots, fava beans, spring onion and black garlic jus were artfully paired with the highly reviewed, opulent Band of Vintners Consortium Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2016 that reveals a complex flavor profile found in wines at twice its price.
The consortium consists of Napa Valley winemaker Dan Petroski , French winemaker Stéphane Vivier and Master Sommelier Jason Helle, a powerful trio who use their contacts to secure top quality fruit for this value-priced release.
Chef Mikey Adams surprised us with a wonderful salmon and shrimp in creme sauce original dish. Chef Adams actually began his cooking career while attending college in Edinburgh, Scotland. Once Stateside he honed his skills at Shimo Modern Steak in Healdsburg and Central Kitchen in San Francisco before assuming the reins at Villon.
The pastry chef at Villon clearly defines his dessert choices. There are no chocolate-covered strawberries here. From a selection of offerings that ranged from a Chocolate Millefeuille with puff pastry, spiced chocolate mousse to Pavlova, a meringue-based cake with Blood Orange sherbet,
Meyer lemon, huckleberry and fresh thyme, we selected a Caramelized Banana Tart with malted custard, Stout sauce and yogurt that Jens skillfully paired with a sparkling, dry Schwaab Dietz 2010 Brudersekt Riesling Trocken from Germany’s Mosel region, to balance the sweetness of the tart. It’s always nice to end with bubbles.
Villon, located in the new mid-Market area, boutique Hotel Proper, was a pleasurable discovery that, while easily accessible to local theater and other events, is well worth devoting an entire evening to experience superb service while exploring new cocktails, creative and excellently prepared food plates and a divergent list of fine wines that represent both the local region and the Old World.
Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is a guest columnist.