Promise (and Chicken Feet Bao) on Nob Hill

One of the most exciting dishes all year: deboned chicken feet bao

One of the most exciting dishes all year: deboned chicken feet bao

PARALLEL 37, Nob Hill (600 Stockton St. between California & Pine, 415-773-6168)

Couches & bright colors warm up the bar area

Couches & bright colors warm up the lounge/bar

When Parallel 37 first opened at the end of 2011, it looked rather corporate for the Ritz-Carlton on Nob Hill, though touches of orange, comfy couches in the bar/lounge, and elegant black and white photography of trees on the back wall warmed up the space.

Closing the celebrated Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton run by Chef Ron Siegel (who is now at Michael Mina), it was understood that the Ritz was moving away from fine dining in keeping with nationwide trends, though still upscale. In the early days of Parallel 37, the food, though good, seemed to lack sparkle, even passion, despite the talent of Siegel, the first U.S. citizen to win in Kitchen Stadium on Iron Chef in 1998. I wondered how long the place might last.


Whipped strawberry mousse, basil granite, Szechuan peppercorn tuile

Since Chef Michael Rotondo came on board in January of this year, there’s been a fresh wave invigorating the restaurant. Originally from Massachusetts, he cooked for eight years at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, and also worked in Michelin kitchens around Europe for two years, including time with Paul Bocuse in France.

In 2008, he was named “Most Promising Chef” when competing in the US Bocuse d’Or. A couple months after he arrived at Parallel, he brought on sous chef Mitchell Nordby and pastry chef, Andrea Correa, both alums at Trotter’s. Correa brings impressive international perspective having cooked in some of the most famous kitchens in the world, with six months at none other than El Bulli and a year at Noma.


Brilliance with tomatoes & pulled pork

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“Promising” is certainly an appropriate descriptor when it comes to Rotondo and team, though “arrived” is more how a multi-course meal feels at Parallel.

Having dined here a handful of times this year, each visit I marveled at the artfulness of a Rotondo or Correa dish, and the array of flavors, running $14-26 a dish or $33-50 for larger entrees – there’s also a chef’s tasting menu for the whole table.


Guanaja dark chocolate cake, blood orange, caramel ganache, blood orange curd, mint

One of the most exciting, unusual dishes I’ve had all year (and that includes internationally, researching food and drink in over 15 cities around the world so far this year alone) is Rotondo’s crispy chicken feet in a bao bun with grapefruit and pink peppercorn. These aren’t just any chicken feet. They are actually deboned, full and meaty, the skin savory and crisp. Chicken feet never tasted so good.

Paired with a bright 2011 Erdener Treppchen Mühlenhoff Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel, Germany, the dish feels blessedly high and low brow. Like elegant street food or playful fine dining with a mischievous wink.

Muscovy duck, tomatillo, coconut milk, green curry

Muscovy duck, tomatillo, coconut milk, green curry

Correa skillfully weaves herbaceous notes into her desserts, making them vivacious, fresh, and blessedly not too sweet. I’d often take another savory course over dessert, but not in the case of Correa’s desserts, which can be a highlight of many courses at Parallel.

The best approach (always) is to try an array of dishes and give yourself over to the taste experience. Some dishes are more revelatory than others but it’s the entire experience that remains worthwhile.

Parallel 37 Coddled egg - Virginia Miller

Lentils, spring garlic, Spring asparagus, black truffles, coddled egg