Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fifth Floor, on the fifth floor

Molecular gastronomy has become the weapon of celebrity chefs and almost a requisite label if one wants to make a name amongst the ever more competitive culinary world. It has almost become a battle of who can make spaghetti out of ice cream, without tampering with its texture. Really? I'm timid about the unknown, especially when food is tortured into something it was never meant to become. But with the limited knowledge I have for molecular gastronomy (having only dined at XIV and Bazaar), I'm not about to write it off as something nefarious and science fiction.

That said, this post obviously will not be raves about a mind blowing experience at a venue that is a disciple of molecular gastronomy. Fifth Floor, one of the bay area's collection of Michelin-starred restaurants is located (naturally) on the fifth floor of the Palomar Hotel. Simple? Not so much.
An eyebrow was raised when my dining companion so ingenuously asked the doorman, "What floor is the Fifth Floor on?"

An interesting note about Fifth Floor is that the executive chef is Jennie Lorenzo, being female and Filipino and having never attended any culinary school, makes her a bit of a rarity amongst the almost predominately Caucasian-male, CIA trained chefs. Her dishes seem to border on pushing boundaries, yet retaining the original nature of the ingredient. Therefore you won't find foams and emulsions tampered with liquid nitrogen. But boring it isn't.

The crudo consists of sashimi with agave nectar, lime and olive oil. The tartness of the lime and subtle hints of agave nectar really wakes up the palate. By far, one of my favorites of the night.

“Hot Spring” Egg: poached jidori egg, truffled potato.
Egg? I'm sold.

Ahhh.. foi gras atop brioche and almond paste. Now this sucker you either love or hate. For me, it is the latter. Well, hate is such a strong word. Let me rephrase, it simply does not sit well with me. This is too avante-garde  for my liking. The brioche and sweet almond paste reminded me of  a foi- gras cupcake.  On a side note, the considerate chef did include a dash of salt and pepper on the side for ones accustomed to the more savory version. But the burst of flavors from foi gras to sweet almond paste, then sweet brioche, then salt and pepper -- sadly -- did not do it for me.

The smoked duck breast: a tender mouthful of perfectly executed duck, with just the right amount of crisp to the skin.

Pork belly with white asparagus and lavender cream sauce. Pork belly always gets me hot and bothered, but this one falls short.

Wine infused strawberry sorbet with tapioca and banana chips. At first glance of this techni-colored creation, I am slightly appalled. I try hard brushing away the image of Chesire Cat lapping at my neon green dessert. Diving in, I remember not to dissect its parts, but to include everything in one mouthful (rest assured that Jennie Lorenzo knows something I don't). This is an experience of an unexpected taste explosion; an in- describable orgy of flavors. 

 I give props to Jennie Lorenzo for being innovative while still staying in the realms of simplicity. Her bold dishes such as the foi gras with brioche will always be remembered, if not loved. Also, the amazing goat milk butter that came with the bread was simply to die for, the culprit of me eating a sinful amount of bread. I highly recommend the tasting menu, as it is reasonably priced and reasonably portioned. Albeit, a few hiccups here and there, Fifth Floor pulls everything together nicely and ends with a beautiful note.

5th Floor in San Francisco on Fooddigger


  1. Have you been to Rivera? They make pretty food.

    However, if you want to take it up a notch in molecular gastronomy, you have to plan a trip to el bulli.

  2. The notorious El Bulli..definitly #1 on my "must try before I die" list. As for Rivera, haven't been yet. Seems fairly new and interesting. Gotta love Latino food! Thanks for the rec =)