We went to the vegan Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco to celebrate my brother-in-law's graduate school graduation, and it was by far the best gourmet vegan food experience I've ever had.
Although it's a high-end establishment and you have to sacrifice your hard-earned money to eat there, it's the kind of experience you'll remember for the rest of your life. I highly recommend everyone add it to their goal list.
Millennium is in the Lower Nob Hill area of San Francisco, which is a gorgeous and walkable area, and close to tons of hotels. To enter the restaurant, you go through the lobby of the Hotel California, and it's a lovely place, such a lovely place. Millennium has an open, airy feel, and though we sat pretty much in the middle, we didn't feel crushed in between other tables or on display.
There were six of us for dinner, and everyone was willing to share tastes of their dinners, so we got a really good feel for the food.
And, oh my, it was so good. They use high-end ingredients that are familiar to foodies, and aren't just for vegans. Bobby Flay would probably be better able to interpret and explain the menu than any regular vegan.
I "accidentally" left with a menu (don't worry- they're paper), and so I can show you an example of what types of food they have, but don't get too stuck on any one particular dish because it's from 2010.
What did we order?
I absolutely adore beets, and so we started with some roasted beets with a really light balsamic vinegar and hazelnut oil. We also tried a sunchoke and artichoke salad with fresh morel mushrooms in a light broth, which was unique and tasty.
I have an incredibly hard time deciding on what I'm going to eat at vegan restaurants because I'm so unaccustomed to having tons of choices, but I knew I'd get to try a bunch of entrees, so I zeroed in on my winner pretty easily.
Someone had an artichoke stuffed with tempeh sausage and a happy combination of escarole, carrots, olives, and pine nuts, and it was outstanding.
They also served a beet and hazelnut risotto cake that was out of this world. The cake was accompanied by mashed cauliflower, spicy gigante beans, and a small lemon salad.
Millennium Restaurant Desserts
The whole table was blown away by the ridiculous Death by Chocolate & Peanut Butter dessert, largely because of the homemade peanut butter-chocolate chunk ice cream and the dainty piece of peanut butter.
If I had a dime for all the times I had to settle for a restaurant's sorbet sampler while the rest of the table indulged in creamy goodness, I'd be eating Millennium's food daily. I wasn't expecting much from their seasonal sorbet, but it was a delightful surprise. The most interesting one was the buttermilk-sun dried tomato-caramel swirl, and it was probably the more delicious. I'm not even sure how they came up with the idea for those ingredients, but it worked.
We also had the 3-carrot dessert, which included a little carrot cake with a light, fragrant cardamom cream, as well as another inventive savory ice cream; carrot-coriander.
My Overall Assessment
If you're lucky enough to be a San Francisco vegan, you can take advantage of specials that Millennium restaurant runs all the time. They have a 5-course tasting menu, seasonal harvest menus, raw tasting menus, and a cool Sunday- Wednesday deal for appetizer, entree and dessert for under $40.
This place is amazing. You would have a totally different menu, but probably a similar feasting experience. When chefs and owners work this hard to come up with delicious, innovative food, you're in for a real treat.
You can also try to recreate some of their famous dishes at home with one of the Millennium Restaurant cookbooks by Erik Tucker:
, first published in 1998
, published in 2003
It's always a really cool feeling to know that if you wanted to, and you had the time, and you had the resources to find and pay for the more expensive ingredients, you could have Millennium Restaurant quality gourmet vegan food in your house any time you want.