Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nick's Birthday Dinner at Plaj in San Francisco!

Plaj San Francisco

     If I were to ask you, "What is Scandinavian food?" what would you say? 

     Before coming to Plaj (pronounced "play"), I couldn't name a single Scandinavian dish. Luckily I'm not afraid of trying new things, because as it turns out, Scandinavian cuisine is not only delectable, but a feast for your eyes as well! Plaj is a Scandinavian and Californian fusion restaurant, unique even in the diverse city of San Francisco.


     Plaj is actually located inside a nice hotel in Hayes Valley. I would describe it as pristine and upscale, with white tablecloths and massive mirrors. 

Plaj San Francisco

     The menu takes advantage of it's Scandinavian origins. It is divided into four categories: Dagen (Specials), Hagen (Garden), Fyord (Sea), and Beta (Entrees). We decided to order an item from each unique genre, and patiently awaited our mystery dishes.

Plaj San Francisco
Rye Bread & Butter

     I enjoyed the presentation of the bread. Simple, straight and to the point: here is your Rye Bread, here is your butter, and here is your wooden paddle/knife, all basically placed on a wooden cutting board. This is something I could picture eating on a cold Scandinavian night. Also, the wooden knife reminded me of the wooden spoons they give you at the ballpark to eat your chocolate malts with. Yum.

Plaj San Francisco
Elderberry Gimlet and Lime

     All class!

Plaj San Francisco
Gioia Burrata, Organic Frilly Red Mustard Greens, Heirloom Tomato, Aquavit Vinaigrette
Topped with Rye Crumbs

     Who would think to put Rye Crumbs on a salad? Apparently Scandinavian-Californians would. And they would be right about it, because Nick and I agreed this was one of the best salads we've ever had. It wasn't just the Rye either, which was diced so finely we don't really understand how they even did it. The Aquavit Vinaigrette on the Organic Frilly Red Mustard Greens was perfection - just enough vinegar to offset the mustard greens, but not enough to make you pucker. Neither Nick nor myself are big on cheese, but let me tell you we were enjoying the Gioia Burrata by the forkful. It had a soft consistency and incredibly mellow taste. The Heirloom Tomatoes were big, chunky and sweet to offset the vinegar and add some texture to the burrata. 
    From the pillowy Gioia, to the leafy greens, topped with minutely-diced rye, to the soft crunch of the Heirlooms, the texture in this salad was almost distracting to the conversation. That's how unique and interesting it was. 

Plaj San Francisco
Sashimi of Halibut with Pickled Onion & Ginger, Crispy Garlic, Hot Dill Oil

     That said, the Sashimi you see (and I assume are mesmerized by) above was hands-down my favorite dish of the night. It takes the cake for it's absurdly beautiful presentation. I might add that there is zero filter on this picture, and I only had to take one. I could stare at this dish for days. 
     Of course, the dish was gastronomically impressive as well. The Halibut Sashimi was silky, buttery even, and melted in your mouth. The garnishing of Pickled Onion, Ginger, Crispy Garlic and Hot Dill Oil all complemented the subtle taste and smooth texture of the fish. 

Plaj San Francisco
Smoked Halibut and Salmon Fritters with Dill Aioli

     Next came the Fritters, filled with Smoked Halibut and Salmon, with a side of Dill Aioli. These were hearty and very tasty. 

Plaj San Francisco
Smoked Halibut and Salmon Fritters with Dill Aioli

     I love this picture because it clearly shows the delineation of the white Halibut (left), and peach Salmon (right) within the fritters.

Plaj San Francisco
Swedish Meat Balls, Potato Puree, Pan Gravy, Lingonberry, Pickled Cucumber

     If the Fritters are hearty, the Swedish Meat Balls are a meal all their own. These are not your average IKEA I-could-eat-twenty-of-these meatballs. We're talking tried and true beef, Scandinavian style. This means heavy meat, spices, and surrounded by Potato Puree, Pan Gravy, Lingonberry, and Pickled Cucumber. The light, crisp cucumber was a great juxtaposition to the meatballs, gravy, and potatoes. The Lingonberry was vibrant, sweet, and an amazing topping to the earthy meatballs. 

     Dishes at Plaj were fresh, fun and had impeccable presentation. The only hiccup we encountered was in the service. After being seated at our table for about 15-20 minutes, we finally had to hail down a waiter to take our order. Not sure what happened there. When we finally were assigned a waiter, she was extremely friendly and familiar with the menu, which was helpful. Overall, it was a delectable and exciting meal. I would absolutely recommend Plaj for a formal or special occasion. Oh, and our check came in an old Norway travel guide - so cute!

Plaj San Francisco

Plaj on Urbanspoon

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