The fish, along with a bouquet of lemon verbena, was cooked to exquisite moistness in a glove of aluminum foil, which was presented whole before being cut open tableside. The dish also filled out our daily ration of pasta pillows; once the filet had been extracted from its crinkly lair, it was laid to rest on a handful of porcini ravioli, with lemon verbena sauce poured around.
The cheese course, at $18, isn't a bad deal. You get four choices from the day's array of cheeses, and the chunks (along with bread, grapes, mulberry jam, honeycomb, and roasted almonds) are big enough to share. We noted several varieties from Cowgirl Creamery on the cart; 10 years ago, almost all the selections were from France. I let the cheddarhead have at it while contenting myself with a glass of Darozze Armagnac ($16), poured from the lazing digestif cart. Armagnac has a pleasant fieriness, almost like a cross between cognac and calvados.
Dessert brought our only disappointment: a chocolate savarin that seemed dry despite a good soaking with some orange liqueur. The chocolate manjari caramel cake, on the other hand escorted by a tuile and a pat of walnut ice cream was alive with moistness and suppleness, and no wonder it's a mainstay of the pastry menu. Then there were the petits fours, followed by a parfait, of blueberry-fennel crumble atop lemon verbena cream atop strawberry jam a school's-out-for-the-summer treat subtly adjusted for an adult sensibility.
According to Open Table, the restaurant's dress code is "jacket preferred," and that is probably enough to ward off hip-huggerists. At least we saw none. The tone, as in the rest of the hotel, is one of old money comfortable in its skin while gliding across a red and gold carpet of quiet beauty and richness.*
THE DINING ROOM AT THE RITZ-CARLTON
Dinner: Tues.Thurs., 59 p.m.; Fri.Sat., 5:309:30 p.m.
600 Stockton, SF