On Monday, Sens opened to the public. It’s located in the old Monte Cristo Cafe space at the tippy-top of a curiously exhilarating spiral staircase at Embarcadero Center 4. It’s an odd place for a restaurant, but the cityviews from its windows — of the Ferry Building, beautifully lit at night, and the Bay Bridge beyond — are stunning. I hope the location will work for it, rather than against it.

The large interior has the feel of an elegant hunting lodge, with stone walls original to the restaurant, wooden beams, and cocoa brown leather armchairs at every place. Chef Michael Dotson (Evvia Estiatorio, Slow Club, PlumpJack Cafe) has crafted a menu focused on an area of the southern Mediterranean not well represented in San Francisco, traveling from Greece to Turkey to North Africa. According to the press release, Sens will pair “ingredients indigenous to these lands…with locally sourced organic and sustainable produce, meat and fish.” The wine list, from General Manager and Sommelier Saeed Amini (Mondavi, Cetrella, Kokkari), includes biodynamic and seasonal selections.

At last week’s Friends & Family preview, the menu included things like crispy-fried veal and olive meatballs, braised lamb shank spiced with za’atar, whole roasted sea bass, and cumin pot de creme. Eating there was a full circle moment for me, as I have been following along with Pastry Chef (and Bay Area Bites contributor) Shuna Lydon’s (Aziza, Citizen Cake, Bouchon, The French Laundry) pre-opening jitters on eggbeater. Shuna has christened her “fruit and aroma inspired desserts” with intoxicating names like “soft & evocative”, and though this is not a review, may I simply say that my heart stopped when I tasted the verbena brown butter on the peaches?

Sens Restaurant
4 Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level
San Francisco
(415) 362-0645
Open for lunch and dinner.

Sens Opens its Doors 4 October,2007Catherine Nash

  • Tana

    Catherine: I sampled some of Chef Michael Dotson’s lamb prosciutto once, at a press conference for Certified Humane.

    He is incredibly talented, and had not a trace of puffery about him at all. I wish them all the success in the world: what a team, and what a vision.

    Best of luck to Shuna, too…


Catherine Nash

I grew up in the South where it was common for a meal to include more platters of food than people. I survived on a childhood of sausage biscuits, fried chicken, fried clams, ham rolls, shrimp cocktail, pickled peaches, homemade ice cream, and lemon tarts, and I thought that getting your tomatoes from a paper bag your neighbor left on the doorstep or knowing the name of your favorite corn was normal (Silver Queen was mine). Now I’m a San Francisco-based freelance food writer who’s been published in Olive magazine, Best Food Writing, the Oakland Tribune, The Onion, Northside San Francisco and other local publications. As most of my attempts to reproduce childhood favorites in my own kitchen have ended in crushing disappointment, I eat out four to five times a week and cook healthy meals when I’m at home.

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