It was big news on the haute cuisine scene when it was announced that Chef Rogelio Garcia was taking over the kitchen in the first place. Luce. It was a very rare case where a Latino chef was asked to run a celebrated restaurant, going from dishwasher to dishwasher after arriving here from his native Mexico. He was run by superstar chefs Traci Des Jardins, Michael Mina and Thomas Keller, so he was a perfect choice to run the restaurant – located in the InterContinental San Francisco – that Dominique Crenn launched in 2010, and which has maintained a Michelin star. for the next 10 years under Daniel Corey.
It’s an extra-stellar CV and a restaurant provenance. However, Garcia immediately found himself navigating rough waters as the restaurant was closed both for the pandemic and then for an extended remodel. Now Luce is back, tremendously, looking and tasting. I was invited to peruse the chef’s epic nine-course tasting menu with wine pairings, a four-hour journey on the rainiest night of the year. Since it was also our anniversary, I took my Hunky Beau with me for some doomsday romance.
There is some great food porn in the slideshow above, but here are a few notes. The food was great, no frills or overkill – Chef Rogelio even went out and shaved the truffles himself. (OK, that was a bit precious). I was really surprised with the wine selection: Luce is billed as a ‘wine restaurant’, which prepares you for deep and wild world cups, but you get extraordinarily simple, even familiar wines within 100 miles . This allowed the dishes to shine brighter, while also grounding the experience, in a thoughtful way, in the here and now. Other simple and intimate gestures included using ingredients like pearl onions, buckwheat, and Calrose rice, which also allowed the plates to tell their story.
Speaking of plates, the dinnerware was a real spectacle here, with stunning pottery from the chef’s personal collection giving each presentation a hip shop window vibe. I asked where he got it, but he left no secrets that night. The restaurant itself, nicely wooded and casually lit, plays with the hotel’s international vibe without feeling too commercial. You don’t need to splurge on the entire tasting menu, and there’s also a sweet cocktail bar right outside the restaurant if you want to check it out.