Mosu – New Contemporary Kaiseki in SF

I can’t believe it’s April! March was a blur of travel – Orange County, snowboarding in Tahoe, and then LA last weekend. One of the highlights for me was closer to home though: Mosu, a new kaiseki-style restaurant in San Francisco. Mosu chef owner Sung Anh’s resume includes The French Laundry, Benu, and Urasawa.

We visited during their second week and while they were still figuring out the timing, the impressive menu and vision made one thing clear: it won’t be long before Mosu stands among SF fine dining royalty.

Fans of Benu will appreciate the strong influence at Mosu. Familiar Korean, Japanese, and Chinese flavors are incorporated in a contemporary menu, but stay authentic with ingredients like sansho berries, sake lees, and gingko nut.

The menu flowed cohesively with a few small bites, followed by a progression of eight savory dishes, a palate cleanser, and dessert.

Menu 3/3/16
Menu 3/3/16

We started with a visual show-stopper. Thinly sliced burdock root roasted to look like tree bark. The texture reminded me of dosa, and the subtle flavor was enhanced with kombu butter and sansho berries.

Burdock root "bark", house-made butter, kombu, sansho berry
Burdock root “bark”, house-made butter, kombu, sansho berry
Burdock root "bark", butter, kombu, sansho berry. Flipped to show underside.
Burdock root “bark”, butter, kombu, sansho berry. Flipped to show underside.

Next was a savory and sweet shrimp chiffon cake.

Shrimp chiffon cake, creme fraiche, lemon
Shrimp chiffon cake, creme fraiche, lemon

The last amuse looked like a glorious black truffle and uni nigiri. Sadly the black truffle flavor was barely detectable.

Truffle, sea urchin, sake lees, rice
Truffle, sea urchin, sake lees, rice

Next we moved onto the main menu. The first course was one of my favorites. I loved the texture of the daikon wrap with the cured tuna and creamy monkfish liver. The pickled veggies provided nice brightness. A well-balanced, excellent bite.

Cured tuna belly, monkfish liver, daikon, yuzu, pickles
Cured tuna belly, monkfish liver, daikon, yuzu, pickles

Course two was a sesame tofu “bun” with a surprise uni filling! The caviar and green apple relish were perfect compliments. Amazing.

White sturgeon caviar, sesame tofu with uni filling, green apple, bonito broth
White sturgeon caviar, sesame tofu with uni filling, green apple, bonito broth

The A5 Waygu tartare was overwhelmed by the boldness and heat of this dish. While tasty, I couldn’t even tell I was eating the finest waygu. Too bad.

IMG_0766
A5 waygu tartare, rice cracker, yuba (tofu skin), Korean “Jang,” waygu fat and sesame oil powder

The geoduck was probably the least memorable dish. The flavors didn’t feel cohesive.

Geoduck, kumquat, radish, mitsuba, lovage
Geoduck, kumquat, radish, mitsuba, lovage

The next course was served in the traditional style of soup with rice and sides. The foie gras sea moss broth was delicious, though the foie gras itself was too gamey for my taste. I liked the squid.

Sea moss and foie gras soup, served with rice and squid
Sea moss and foie gras soup, served with rice and squid
Sea moss and foie gras soup, served with rice and squid
Sea moss and foie gras soup, served with rice and squid
Squid, served with rice and soup
Squid, served with rice and soup

The quail was a pretty substantial portion. The brown butter sauce with lemon was delicious. I was getting really full at this point!

Quail, spring bamboo shoot, sansho berry, brown butter, lemon, parsley
Quail, spring bamboo shoot, sansho berry, brown butter, lemon, parsley

Following this was one of my favorites – acorn mook. This was great mix of textures from the nameko mushrooms, gingko nut, and fried onions. The fried onion was the dominant note in this dish which I enjoyed, but Mr. A thought it was too much.

Acorn "Mook", nameko, ginko nut, onion, bone marrow
Acorn “Mook”, nameko, ginko nut, onion, bone marrow

The last savory course was definitely one to impress. There were two cuts of lamb, loin and rib. The rib was was my favorite – juicy, tender, and just phenomenal. The sunchoke croquette was a surprising treat. The fried outer shell gave way to a creamy sunchoke puree center. Eating this was pure bliss.

IMG_0785
15 day dry-aged lamb loin and rib, fermented cabbage, fermented sunchoke croquette, pear

Before dessert came a refreshing palate cleanser of bright flavors.

Grapefruit, elderberry, ginger, Thai basil
Grapefruit, elderberry, ginger, Thai basil

The meal ended with toasted rice ice cream and black sesame cake. I liked the flavors, though the texture of the ice cream was shockingly icy, and the cake was on the dry side. The Grand Marnier crumbles and white chocolate were tasty garnishes.

IMG_0792
Toasted rice ice cream, black sesame, Grand Marnier crumbles and drizzle, white chocolate

SERVICE

The two servers were familiar with the menu and able to answer most of my partner’s technical questions. Anything that was uncertain, they asked the kitchen and followed up. Tableside manner was good, though there could be more finesse to be on par with two and three Michelin starred establishments.

Timing was poor. We had 15 minute waits between many courses, and the 13-course meal ran 3.5 hours. For comparison, Benu and Saison had 20+ courses for under 3 hours. Having said that, I did dine during their second week of opening. For such a new place, I have to say they are killing it(!) to already be drawing comparisons to Michelin venues.

AMBIENCE

The decor (or lack of) is striking in its simplicity and starkness. The space is essentially blank white walls with wood partitions and tables. The two-floor dining room is designed to further enhance the intimate feel of the 18-seater. We dined on the second floor which was like dining in a private room, except with two other tables in our room. I could hear other conversations clearly, but it didn’t detract from my experience as the tables were relatively far apart.

Mosu has all the elements to become a stellar fine dining establishment. I am excited to see how Chef Anh will grow and hone his practice. I recommend getting a reservation now before it becomes too difficult!

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