Monday, January 28, 2008

Epic Roasthouse & Waterbar Opening Party


Last night's party at Pat Kuleto's two new restaurants along the Embarcadero was more like a New Year's Eve party than a typical restaurant opening. For one thing, the party was for two restaurants, not just one. Epic Roasthouse is headed up by chef Jan Birnbaum and is his contemporary take on a steak house, but I suspect there will be a lot more on the menu than beef. Waterbar its next door neighbor is a seafood restaurant with spectacular views and live fish tanks. Chef Mark Franz is co-owner and Parke Ulrich is executive chef.

For starters, the party began at 4 pm and roughly around 6 pm the two restaurants and a tented piazza in between was at capacity and a line began to form. Waiters headed out in the rain to serve nibbles to the estimated 250 people waiting to get in.

Local chefs including Roland Passot, Joanne Weir and Joey Altman were there, as were two past "villainous" Top Chef competitors. For those who follow the TV show I can say that in person Marcel is quite friendly and does not come across as egotistical. Tiffany lived up to her on-camera persona. After asking if I could take her picture, to which she said yes, I innocently asked what she was up to, she snapped "I'm talking to my friend, if you don't mind." Yikes! Wouldn't it have been just as easy to say "I'm opening a restaurant in LA, thanks for asking." If you're Tiffany, I guess not!

The band featured the amazingly talented 17-year-old daughter of one of the founders of the band the Doobie Brothers. And yes, her father did join her on stage for a set of Doobie Brothers hits.

As for the food and drink, there was plenty of wine and a fennel infused gimlet garnished with orange slices was the signature cocktail. It went particularly well with the seafood at Waterbar. I snacked on crisp salt cod cakes with aioli, fried risotto balls with a green olive tapenade, a sea bass ceviche on shrimp chips, steelhead trout tartare and ate more oysters than I can can count. There were also shots of a seafood soup, little prosciutto sandwiches and slices of pizza to feed the crowd.

At Epic there were meatballs, spicy tender pork ribs and a divine flaked salmon appetizer served on flatbread. Desserts created by Emily Lucchetti were also standouts. Luscious tiny panna cotta cups were topped with pineapple and granola, creamy brownie sundaes were my favorite along with endless cookies, sorbet and crispy apple pastries. While at Epic a Chinese dragon made it's entrance, in San Francisco this is considered good luck even if your restaurant isn't Chinese.

To top it all off, there was a fireworks display set under the Bay bridge! Pat Kuleto is known for his over-the-top fantastic interiors and partnerships with some of the best chefs around, turns out he also throws one hell of a party.