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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Changes On Tap At Tartare

As recently reported by the Chronicle's Grace Ann Walden, Tartare is about to undergo a bit of an overhaul.
Apparently, the restaurant is not doing as well as Owner and Chef George Morrone would like, and there's a concern that some in the dining public are staying away because they think the establishment serves nothing but tartares.   I don't doubt that this is true; I remember briefly having the same impression the first time that I heard about the restaurant.   When I eventually got around to visiting Tartare, however, I found a lot to like – both raw and cooked.

The new incarnation of the restaurant will be called George, and Morrone is promising to deliver "edgy" dishes inspired by his recent trip to France and Spain.   Morrone likens the new menu to the food he once served at Fifth Floor – an interesting twist, given that Tartare was intended to be a deliberate step away from that type of "artfully complex" cuisine in favor of a more "mature sensibility and minimalist vision."   I suppose that Morrone, having achieved wild success and four stars at Fifth Floor, figures that it can't hurt to take a step back in that general direction.

One of my two favorite dishes at the current restaurant – George's Ahi Tuna Tartare – will survive the transition and remain on the menu.   Unfortunately, the fate of my absolute favorite – the Truffled Foie Gras Pasta – is not as clear; a call to the restaurant earlier today yielded no definitive answer.   This item, which also made my list of Ten Favorite Dishes from Bay Area Restaurants, is truly outstanding, and I urge you to try it if you get the chance.

George is not set to open until mid-September, although Tartare will presumably need to shutter its doors sometime before that date in order to allow for an orderly transition.   Until then, you'll know where to find me: enjoying a large plate of Tartare's Truffled Foie Gras Pasta – just in case it ends up vanishing with the restaurant.


Anonymous Fatemeh said...

Didn't Morrone also have a failure with Redwood? Wasn't that what it was called -- the restaurant at the base of the Transamerica Building?

Not having a tremendous amount of luck, is he?

August 17, 2005 9:09 PM  
Blogger NS said...

Fatemeh: Yes, Redwood Park was the restaurant that the Aqua group (Charles Condy, Michael Mina, et al.) opened in the base of the Transamerica Building in December of 2001, with George Morrone as executive chef. And yes, that restaurant very quickly went down in flames.

I ate there once, and I was not impressed with the food. But the restaurant was also cursed with terrible timing; not only did the dot-com bubble burst earlier that year, but 9/11 adversely impacted the entire sector for many months after Redwood Park opened.

As for Tartare, I frankly do not know whether Morrone is actually losing money, or whether he simply would like to see it doing a bit better. The food there is excellent as far as I'm concerned, and the dining room has never been empty on my visits. Also, Morrone and his staff really understand the value of hospitality; everybody is very gracious, and Morrone himself walks through the dining room several times each night, stopping at every table to say hello, thank the guests, etc. You don't find many chefs of his caliber doing that kind of thing.

At any rate, whatever Morrone ends up doing to revamp Tartare, I personally hope that he's satisfied with the result. He's a talented chef making some great contributions to the city's dining scene, particularly at that price point.

August 17, 2005 10:25 PM  
Anonymous Fatemeh said...

It appears that I have a little time to try Tartare before it goes to the new direction.

Maybe we'll try to get in the in the next 10 days.

August 18, 2005 3:40 PM  
Blogger NS said...

If you do go, please do let me know what you think! At the risk of stating the obvious, I would strongly recommend the Truffled Foie Gras Pasta and the Ahi Tartare. The only dish there that I have been somewhat underwhelmed by was, surprisingly, the Tuna Foie Gras Melt -- one of Morrone's "signature" dishes. It was fine, but nothing to write home about.

August 18, 2005 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Fatemeh said...

How underdressed would we be in nice jeans and nice tops?

I'm thinking of going today (there's an available res. on OpenTable), but wearing jeans and heels to work, and wouldn't have time to go home and change...


August 19, 2005 12:59 PM  
Blogger NS said...

I think you should be fine; it's a beautiful room, but the atmosphere is not really all that fancy. You probably will see some business folks there coming from work a bit more dressed up, but I have had friends go there in jeans before without feeling out of place at all.

August 19, 2005 1:08 PM  

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