But the main dishes do not disappoint; they're substantial and satisfying, and because they don't rely on meat, they're neither heavy nor oversimple. While the best meatless cooking, for me, involves dishes that traditionally don't have meat and don't bother with substitutes, we were impressed by the meatiness of spice-rubbed tempeh torpedoes ($22.95), blackened and plated with smashed potatoes and a mélange of summer squashes in a lemon-caper sauce of cashew cream. Also good was a napoleon ($22.95) of polenta-crusted zucchini spears, surrounded by white beans, braised baby carrots, and a corn-zucchini hash in a coconut-milk sauce.
The flavor palette draws on a world of influences. The kitchen has been known to use zatar, a spice blend common in the Middle East, and the value of seasoning practices from south and southeast Asia is certainly recognized. But the dominant flavorings are from the Mediterranean basin. This is particularly true of the dessert menu but this is particularly not a criticism of the dessert menu, since making any sort of dessert at all without cream or butter is a formidable undertaking, and making a dessert that would be exceptional at any restaurant is nothing short of astounding.
Millennium offers such a dessert. It is the lemon trifle ($8.25), a slice of rum-soaked walnut cake, topped with lemon cashew cream and capped off by a helmet of basil ice cream (also made with cashews) that reminded me of a pesto that had died, gone to heaven, and been reincarnated as a sweet. Its strange and alluring radiance half-obscured an equally worthy panna cotta ($8.25), a pearly disk of coconut milk and rosewater served with raspberries, an intense apricot emulsion, and a pat of chocolate-raspberry sorbet.
The patronage is surprisingly and pleasingly heterogeneous in age and affect. Having developed a mild case of hipster fatigue from Mission restaurants, I was relieved to see even younger people dressed nicely but unaffectedly at Millennium. They, like we, came for the food, stayed for the trifle, and left happy.
Dinner: Sun.Thurs., 5:309:30 p.m.; Fri.Sat., 5:3010 p.m.
580 Geary (in the Hotel California), SF
Pleasant noise level