Baumé 201 S. California Ave., Park Blvd., east off El Camino Real, (650) 328-8899. L&D W-Sat; $$$+. Lunch: 6 courses $288; Dinner 8 courses $388 + $370/person for wine pairing; gratuity included. Reservations required. No children under 8.
Super expensive, but quite the gastronomic experience (it has a Michelin star), this is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion. Windows are blacked out, so from the sidewalk it looks as if the restaurant is empty, but inside diners are seated in one of three intimate rooms featuring chocolate-black and persimmon painted walls and one curtain wall. The menu simply lists ingredients from which the various courses will be composed. You can't order a particular item, because the menu is fixed and not revealed. Now, my stomach has been known to protest when fed too many disparate ingredients at one sitting. But chef Bruno Chemel promises that “our menu is built with a consideration for digestion and moderation influenced by macrobiotic cooking.” And, indeed, the chef delivers on this promise, and consistently startles the senses with intensely flavored tiny portions served on a parade of unusual vessels. If you enjoy wine, do opt for the pairing because it exquisitely enhances and is served in a battery of glasses that are a pleasure to see lining up like crystal soldiers as each new one is added. Conducted like a symphony, the battalion of servers is coordinated to arrive on cue with each course. Among our courses was a surprise amuse from the chef—a sweet little teeny-tiny baby, actually infant, no--maybe a premie—carrot-half with miso. Caviar with teensy egg balls to spread on brioche squares arrives in an especially designed dish that when removed from its base releases an incense smoke. Fairytale pumpkin soup features little floating balloons that pop open in your mouth. The perpetual feast goes on and on--punctuated here and there with foams that are actually quite delicious--until you think you’ll bust, reaching a crescendo with a flurry of edgy desserts. This “French cuisine moderne with a Zen touch” is da bomb! I was very glad we reserved an early seating because the dinner lasted a full three hours.
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