Syhabout has diners tuning in so intently to what he's doing — tracing those subtle notes and the correspondences among them — that he sets himself up for two recurring flaws. The first is that when he does a straightforward dish, it comes off tasting flat. Braised veal cheeks with trumpet mushrooms and salt-roasted potatoes turned out to be, well, just beef and potatoes. A savory dessert of warm Carmody cheese draped over a pastry shell with onion jam and arugula salad seemed like the kind of thing you'd eat at a mediocre French bistro.

The second flaw is that whoever's picking the wines for the wine pairings doesn't quite have Syhabout's subtle palate. Serving four three-ounce pours for $30 can't be easy for a small, fledgling restaurant. The waiters did a solid job of explaining the details of the wines as they poured them, but the wines themselves kept coming up at odds with the complex dishes. A dry, almost oxidized Lebanese white sinuously whispered to the egg, chive, and onion in the amuse-bouche until it encountered the date purée, when it turned biting and acidic; the German Riesling paired with the roasted carrots played to their sweetness, while the other components in the dish were all chosen to bring out their earthier side.

Precious flavors await: The roast breast of Muscovy duck.
Jen Siska
Precious flavors await: The roast breast of Muscovy duck.

Location Info



3859 Piedmont
Piedmont, CA 94611

Category: Restaurant > California

Region: Montclair


510-653-3902, Dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. Wed.-Sun. Reservations required. Noise level: quiet.

3859 Piedmont (at Rio Vista), Oakland

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Whether those moments of disappointment invalidate the experience or make it more interesting probably depends on what $120 means to you as a diner, or whether you've signed up to follow along with the chef wherever he goes. For me, every anticlimax was overshadowed by a peak, a moment when I found myself zeroed in on the food before me, when the waiters and the wines and even the friend across the table faded into the white walls. There was too much on my palate to listen to, and I didn't want to miss a single tone.

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