Review: Villon.

The latest restaurant addition to Civic Center just happens to be inside a new swanky boutique hotel.

Villon, located inside the Proper Hotel, opened about a month ago and is open all day offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They’re also opening up a rooftop bar later this week which is pretty rad. The funky designed restaurant is small but has an extended lounge area with comfy plush couches. The kitchen is run by chef Jason Franey, an Eleven Madison Park and Canlis alum. The dinner menu reflects an eclectic mix of New American dishes divided into snacks, appetizers, and entrées. Their cocktail menu is impressive with 49 cocktails divided into categories such as their own inventions, cocktails invented in famous hotels, cocktails made famous or invented in the Bay Area, cocktails featured in novels, cocktails created by famous barkeeps, cocktails made famous or invented in clubs, and cocktails named after cities. If you love mixed drinks, I highly recommend going to the bar or lounge to enjoy one of their awesome cocktails.

Tommaso and I were lucky as we both knew people that just happened to work at Villon. A former coworker of mine works front of house and a former coworker of Tommaso’s was in the kitchen so they hooked it up that night.

Of course we had to start off with a few cocktails.

Old Cuban (Rum, Mint, Lime, and Champagne) and Ver Sales (Bourbon, Sweet Vermouth, Raspberry, Lemon, and Ginger Ale).

Baby Back Ribs with Feuilles de Brique and Nuoc Mam Cham (8.5/10).

The tender pork rib was wrapped in a super crunchy crisp dough, a nice contrast of textures. The Vietnamese dipping vinaigrette was salty, sweet, sour, and spicy, an aromatic explosion.

Everything Hawaiian Bread (8.5/10).

These warm fluffy rolls were heavenly especially when eaten with the creamy chicken liver mousse and strawberry jam, whipped butter, or nectarine preserves. Highly recommend these pillowy morsels.

Cultured Butter, Nectarine Preserves, and Strawberry Chicken Liver Mousse for the Hawaiian Bread.

Baby Beet Salad with Burnt Ricotta, Pumpernickel Streusel, and Plum (7.5/10).

I love a good beet salad, it may be basic but it’s delicious. I liked the burnt whipped Ricotta cheese in the middle with pumpernickel crumble underneath. The plum sauce added a pleasant acidity to the dish. My only criticism was that some of the beets were slightly hard and needed to be cooked more.

Steak Tartare with Yuzu and Furikake served with Nori Crackers (7-7.5/10).

Steak tartare is another favorite of mine. This was a creative asian inspired version of steak tartare that was good but I wasn’t crazy about it. I absolutely love tofu but the small diced pieces within the steak tartare just didn’t really work for me.

The next two savory dishes were actually gifts from the kitchen. Very thoughtful of them.

Gift: Dashi Flan with Mussels, Clams, and Maitake Mushrooms (8/10).

The dashi flan, basically a chawanmushi, was silky smooth and luscious. Definitely a warm comforting dish.

Gift: Kuri Squash Soup with Honeycrisp Apple, Vanilla Brown Butter, and Sage (7-7.5/10).

I love soup but unfortunately this could have been so much better. The soup itself lacked some flavor and there was some ingredient that reminded me of ginger that was overpowering. It also needed a crunchy textural component.

Squid Ink Tagliatelle with Uni Butter, Bottarga, and Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (8/10).

Pasta is by far one of my favorite things to eat and this was scrumptious. Beautiful squid ink pasta strands tossed in a creamy uni butter with shavings of nutty Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and bottarga. I do wish the bottarga was slightly saltier and some acidity would have really amped up the dish.

Skate Wing with Cauliflower, Concentrated Grapes, and Lobster Bouillabaisse (8/10).

Skate wing isn’t a fish I see often and it was nicely browned yet still tender. The various cauliflower preparations (mousse, cous cous, raw slices) with the intense lobster bouillabaisse sauce complimented the flakes of white fish.

We ended up not even ordering dessert since they were kind enough to send us two!

Gift: Passionfruit Curd with Mango, Mascarpone, and Coconut (8/10).

This tropical inspired dessert had tangy sweet passionfruit curd with creamy Mascarpone cheese, a perfectly juicy piece of mango, and a coconut flavored crumble on the bottom. Loved it.

Gift: Beignets with Lemon Posset, Butternut, and Coffee (8/10).

Warm beignets dusted in cinnamon sugar are already delicious as is but the dipping sauce was bomb. It was a velvety rich lemon flavored cream with a dollop of butternut squash purée. So good.

We had a great dinner at Villon where not only the food was great but so was the welcoming hospitality. For being open only a month, the entire experience was solid so my rating is a 8/10.

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