To walk into a pre-established restaurant and change a menu top to bottom that has been in existence since before the dinosaurs trampled the earth and deliver a totally different concept and style is not an easy task. Taming T-Rex at Jurassic Park without a tranquilizer gun would be far simpler.
But with optimism, stressism and hardworkism I can now say that it is not an impossible task either. And the light at the end of the tunnel is finally burning brightly. Most importantly I have an oustanding team that is able to execute new ideas quickly. Even if it means five minutes before we open the restaurant.
"Hey Sarama… you know that avocado salsa verde you made for family meal yesterday?"
"Can you make it again? I want to use it with the olive oil poached Walu. For tonight. Like right now. It's delicious."
(roll of eyes, slight smile)
So what is Circa? Where is Circa? What is the history? What is my position?
Circa is located in the Marina. It's most famous at the moment for its clubby night scene which takes over my dining room on the weekend after the last desserts go out. And this place gets packed. Lines outside the door and down the block until early in the morning.
The restaurant's last claim to fame was under the guidance of Top Chef contestant Erik Hopfinger who brought his big personality and comfort food. He also brought this animal called brunch with bottomless mimosas and eggs benedict samplers (choose two of seven choices). Anthony Bourdain dedicates a whole chapter of our Brunch in his latest book Medium Raw. Read the chapter then I'll give you the lowdown.
And I am not changing the eggs benedict sampler. Why? Why would I intentionally put my cooks and myself through this confusing torture every weekend morning? Because my cooks can handle it and they make the various hollandaise based sauces correctly and they poach the eggs to order (unlike some restaurants). If you don't like eggs benedict then try the Huevos Rancheros. It is the best in the city. A lot of love goes into it. I challenge anyone who thinks there is better.
I was hired on as a consulting chef to change and implement a new menu and new style. But it became clear that there needed to be an executive chef to execute it. So I am filling those shoes as well. Now you understand why I haven't posted for a month!
Circa has a large local crowd and we compete with other Marina local hangouts like Balboa Cafe and East Side West. My goal was to create a menu that locals would come in and enjoy a few nights a week. Something fresh and seasonal with my own feminine style. A California Bistro.
I focus on highlighting the purity of excellent ingredients and draw upon unique world flavors to do this. And my training in fine dining helps to deliver a clean approach and a beautiful plate to the client.
For example, Sarama's extraordinary avocado salsa verde is a perfect match with our Poached Walu Butter fish with grilled heirloom baby pumpkin that is garnished with a laughingbird shrimp stuffed zucchini flower lightly fried in tempura batter.
Our scallops are seared and placed on a bed of sautéed pea shoots sauced with a black garlic reduction and tiny hon-shemeji mushrooms scattered around with sugar snap peas – a sexy hot appetizer. The salads showcase interesting produce from heirloom carrots in an array of colors to heirloom tomatoes in all their glory.
God, it's good to be back in California!
Not that I ever thought I would be flipping patties, but our hamburger is seriously delicious served on buns made down the street at Chestnut Bakery (best bread in the city in my books). The burger is thick and juicy topped with whatever you can imagine. My fav is piling on bacon and blue cheese with sautéed mushrooms. But if you want to top it off with a fried egg we will happily comply.
Don't wear a white shirt if you order the hamburger. (There is a dry cleaner's right next door if you forget)
So the days of Erik's half chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach or halibut over mushroom risotto are long gone. But we still retain a few of his masterpieces like the white truffle lobster mac-n-cheese and the black and white bread pudding.
And the brunch.
Oh my God, the brunch.
These will live on!