I am a big fan of Top Chef. I am always curious to see how the cheftestants manage their post Top Chef lives. Just by observation it is very easy to quickly identify the chefs that love the spotlight and those who would rather have their food speak for them. I am not saying one type is better than the other. Just different.
Chef Casey Thompson is in the second group. She was Season 3’s Fan favorite and finished in the top 3. But post-Top Chef she took her time figuring out her next step. I have a really good friend who has a really good friend that is really good friends with Casey. I know. That is a lot of degrees. But having that connection allowed me to keep up a with what Casey was doing. She is a Texas native but has made Napa her home. She has spent the last several years honing her craft out there in the wine country and like good wine, it is worth the wait.
Casey partnered with the Hotel Warwick in San Francisco for her restaurant. It is right across the street from Curran Theatre, a perfect spot for an established theatre crowd. But the decision wasn’t just a “yes” and she moved in. Nope. Her new restaurant, Aveline (the name a combo of Casey’s 2 grandmothers names) was a very long time coming.
The restaurant is actually a former convenience store that was next door to the hotel. The creation of the restaurant was part of a very large renovation that Hotel Warwick undertook which included the fabulous bar, just relaunched as well, The European.
Casey created the food for both venues. And two weeks after Aveline opened, my friend (who is friends with the friends who’s friends with Casey, you still with me?) and I had dinner to check it out.
We started in the bar which is absolutely gorgeous. The drink menu is very cool. Really great European classics with modern twists. I didn’t eat anything but I had serious menu envy and I want to go back just for the bar bites. I had the bar’s namesake The European which is Campari, grapefruit, lemon and seltzer – delish! Having just come back from Italy, it was perfect.
We moved to Aveline which is next door through the beautifully redone Hotel Warwick lobby. We sat down, ordered a glass of wine and perused the menu. We decided right away that we were all-in. Three courses, two palate cleaners and dessert!
We shared everything so we could get of taste of most of the menu. Here is what we had:
An amuse bouche of really light corn soup. It had a perfectly popped piece of popcorn on it as a garnish.
The meal started and we had goat’s milk custard with tiny cucumbers, strawberry, black tahini and trout roe.
And crab macarons served a la français in a box that could have come from Ladurée. Looks aside, it is the best crab cake I have EVER had. I took a couple of photos that didn’t turn out great, the best one I have seen is this one:
The first palette cleanse was ricotta sorbet with peach and mint.
Then came a yolk beignet – very interesting – with wagyu beef, lardo and trotter sauce. When you cut into it, there was a perfectly cooked egg inside (and you know how I feel about eggs!).
And red abalone, ear mushroom, succulents, pepperoni and sea froth. (Apologies, it started getting darker and darker in the restaurant – food blogger’s nightmare!)
The second (and final) palette cleanser was lemon meringue on a cucumber granita.
We watched Chef Casey at work between courses.
Lastly came fried chicken with kimchi powder, pickled vegetables and red pepper. We also had Campagnelle pasta with pig cheek, smoked yogurt and cracklin, it was getting too dark and the dish was monotone white so we skipped it!
For dessert we shared a really fun dish called Batter which was a dark chocolate (batter), cashews and hazelnut dust served in a big mixing bowl with a big wooden spoon. Just like Mom used to do! I tried a photo with flash so that I could try to capture they whimsical nature. This was before we started eating.
The desserts are designed by Kaley Laird who Casey met in the Napa area. Casey’s sous-chef is Blake Askew who she worked with in her Texas days. Together they make a powerhouse team!
The meal was really good. A few things I didn’t love, but overall really delicious. Two weeks into any restaurant opening and there is still some working out of the kinks, so I am anxious to go back and eat there again if for nothing else, I must have those crab cakes again.
I think Casey’s patience and planning has paid off. Her debut restaurant is going to be a huge success. I don’t know Casey personally, but I feel awfully darn proud of her!
You too must try Aveline! It is in the Union Square area right across from the Curran Theatre, definitely put this on your places to eat if you are visiting San Francisco. Natives, you need to knock it off the list, check it out at least once, but I am sure you will go back more often!
490 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
In addition to this post, I got to interview Casey for the Groupon San Francisco City Guide. Please check out what more she has to say about Aveline and some of her favorite spots to eat in the city. (Thanks to her PR team who helped facilitate the interviews as Casey’s schedule has been insane!)
How about you? Have you eaten in a Top Chef restaurant? What do you think about my meal? Was there something that sticks out that you must try when you visit? Do tell!