It’s been four months since In Situ’s doors opened to the public and it’s been a crazy ride.
While being part of the opening team for In Situ (read all about it here), I’ve seen countless employees come and go but through all the trials and tribulations, the restaurant has finally gotten into a steady flow. We’ve also received glowing reviews from the San Francisco Chronicle as well as the New York Times which called us “America’s most original new restaurant“. Pretty damn cool.
Last week I finally came in on my night off from work to dine at In Situ and it was a fantastic experience. Even though I’ve tried all the dishes currently featured on the menu, sitting down at a table while drinking a glass of wine and enjoying the dish is a completely different experience than just tasting a bite for educational purposes.
This tiny shot of soup might be small in size but makes up in intense ample flavor. The carrot soup is incredible rich with a luxurious coconut foam on top, a sprinkle of chaat masala (a spice blend of coriander, cumin, black pepper, kashmiri, ajowan, mango powder, and pomegranate), and fried curry leaf.
The carrot salad is actually one of my favorite dishes on the menu. The carrots have been dehydrated, intensifying the carrot flavor, and then rehydrated in carrot juice before serving. The carrots are coated with caramelized yogurt crumbs and served with dollops of tangy sour curd, pickled pine, and a carrot brown butter sauce that’s absolutely divine.
The shrimp grits is a fun take on a classic southern dish since the dish actually contains zero grits. The entire dish is made up from shrimp that has been cooked and ground up and then cooked again with corn stock and corn powder to help thicken the texture and give a gorgeous yellow hue. The mixture is creamy, decadent, and sweet, with a nice touch of heat from the pickled jalapeños.
People either love or hate the presentation of the buttermilk fried chicken but I happen to adore it. Nestled in a pine basket with pine cones, these tender chicken nuggets are coated in a light dusting of pine salt. A fun quirky finger food.
The apocalypse burger is another fun dish. Meant to resemble a charcoal briquette to represent the effects of carbon emissions through food, this slider sized “burger” is anything from ordinary. The charcoal briquette is actually like a cracker made from a dough of flour, water, squid ink, and edible clay, and then deep fried until it puffs up. The cracker is split in two and a mini beef burger is inside with melted American cheese. The idea is to smear the caper aioli onto the burger and wrap the entire thing with the bibb lettuce. The burger also comes with Japanese cucumber pickles, tomato slices that have been compressed in ketchup, and red onion rings. Really delicious.
“Octopus and the coral” is meant to embody a single ecosystem, the sea. The octopus is braised and then slightly charred and tossed in a hot ceviche sauce garnished with rice crisps (representing rocks), egg white meringue (representing coral), and red seaweed. It’s served with an octopus broth, made from the braising liquid, that’s meant to be sipped while you eat the dish. The broth pairs nicely with the octopus since it’s coated in a spicy sauce.
Another amusing dish is the wasabi lobster. The lobster tail is tempura fried then doused in wasabi mayonnaise and coated in puffed rice, basically rice krispies! Underneath there’s a mango jelly, a Thai vinaigrette with fresh pieces of mango, carrot, cilantro stems, and ginger, and then wasabi marshmallow stars. The heat from the wasabi mayonnaise really compliments the sweetness of the lobster as well as mango jelly and the Thai vinaigrette. A little fun fact is that the two marshmallow stars represent when Tim Raue received two Michelin stars in 2013.
“The forest” is an ode to nature, an interpretation of a walk through a forest while picking wild mushrooms and herbs. Each component in the dish represents an aspect of the forest. The quinoa risotto on the bottom of the plate represents dirt and is flavored with a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese cream. A variety of sautéed mushrooms (king trumpet, black trumpet, chanterelle, lobster, and abalone) are piled on next with fingerling potatoes and potato mousse. The pieces of “parsley moss” are actually a spongecake made from a parsley cake batter that’s been aerated in a siphon and then cooked in a microwave. The bark pieces are made from sunchoke skin that’s been fried and the twigs are dried enoki mushrooms.
The concept behind this dish is basically an Asian version of Italian bolognese (rice cakes instead of pasta and spicy pork sausage instead of bolognese). The rice cakes are fried resulting in a slight crispiness on the outside with a chewy interior. They’re sautéed in the pan with the spicy pork sausage ragù and yu choy (Chinese leafy green) and then silken tofu is added to give creaminess. The dish is finished with fresh scallions and fried onions. Of course, the dish does have some heat from the szechuan peppercorns, giving a mouth tingling numbness that some people might not enjoy.
The closest dish we have to a “cheese course” is the sheep’s milk yogurt and wood sorrel dessert. The sheep’s milk yogurt almost has a mousse like texture with a sweet flavor which pairs well with the herbaceous wood sorrel granita (shaved ice). There’s a sugar tuile, almost like crystallized sugar, with green anise seeds that gives a nice licorice flavor to the dish.
Any food fanatic knows of chef Massimo Bottura who was featured on the first episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix. This is the only dish on the menu where I’ve actually tried the original dish! I dined at Osteria Francescana twice in 2013 (read my review here) and this was the dessert I had during my first visit. The dessert is a lemongrass gelato with a spiced tart shell and limoncello zabaglione. While the presentation is almost spot on, the original one didn’t have the zabaglione on top (just on the bottom) and more garnishes on the side, the flavors were spot on. I really like the contrasting flavors and temperatures of the dish; creamy cool gelato with a buttery tart shell that’s been seasoned with various warm spices such as star anise, cinnamon, juniper, and cardamon, and a warm limoncello zabaglione on top.
The presentation of the dish is so much fun! Underneath the cocoa bubbles lies a chocolate glazed cake with a rum soaked spongecake and an almond cream on the bottom. The cake itself is pretty small, I could easily eat two, so sharing this might be difficult.
Dining at In Situ is truly a one of a kind experience since there’s no restaurant like it in the world! Being able to try all these famous dishes from restaurants around the globe under one roof without boarding a plane is the coolest food experience one could ask for.