Ah, travel…the opportunity to explore new places, faces, cultures, and, most importantly- food. Being both a foodie and a vegan, I love the challenge of finding the best vegan food around, no matter where my travels take me. From vegan diners to white tablecloth establishments, it’s always exciting to see the many interpretations of classic foods prepared sans animal ingredients, as well as the new and innovative dishes so many great cooks are introducing to the scene these days.
Having recently traveled to San Francisco on vacation, I couldn’t NOT go to the famous all-vegan Millennium Restaurant I had been reading about for years. I made reservations weeks in advance, just to be sure I wouldn’t miss out, and made a note in the reservation letting them know we were traveling from South Carolina, and that we’d be dining there in celebration of both my own birthday, as well as that of my boyfriend (after that trip, now fiancé!).
Location, Location, Location
Millennium Restaurant is located in the heart of downtown San Francisco on the bottom floor of the Best Western Hotel California (where, according to their website, guests receive a free shot of tequila at check-in).
The restaurant has a fantastic design, combining sustainable, eco-friendly ideas with those reminiscent of an upscale French bistro. According to the designer, Charles deLisle, sustainable measures were used to exhibit and comply with the restaurant’s concern for the environment in details from the beautiful fishnet chandeliers, made from upcycled paper bags, to the recycled plastic bag curtains and the faux leather banquettes lining the walls.
It’s the perfect balance of upscale chic, a casual, inviting atmosphere, and just so happens to offer some of the best vegan food I’ve ever put in my mouth.
Getting to the Good Part…the Food
Since we were there on vacation AND celebrating both of our birthdays, we decided to go all out- wine, appetizer, entrée, and desserts (yes, more than one!). The meal commenced with our friendly server offering us a selection of waters: chilled, room temperature, or sparkling- all of which are carbon and UV filtered in-house. I opted for the sparkling- who doesn’t like some bubbles in their life every now and then?!
Moving forward, I selected a decadent wine from their impressive all-organic, vegan wine list. Since I was feeling the bubbly, I chose the Louis de Grenelle Brut Cabernet Franc Rosé from the Loire Valley, France. It was a beautiful pale pink with a delicate floral aroma and tasted crisp and refreshing, with hints of strawberry- delicious, in a word.
Next, we chose a simple, yet splendid, assortment of herb marinated olives to begin our vegan feast, and were offered an assortment of breads to accompany the house spread of the day, which happened to be a warmly spiced and comforting curried red lentil puree of sorts. The combination was fantastic, and even better, the bread and spread are offered free of charge!
Progressing on to our entrées, I ordered the Polenta Cake with Braised “Lobster” and Oyster Mushrooms, which arrived as an appealing culinary masterpiece, served with a Cranberry Bean Caponata, Seared Green Beans, Fresh Artichoke, Vanilla-Thyme Oil, and an Orange Caper Salsa Verde. It was heaven in a dish. Every flavor had its own unique contribution, while also blending in and complementing each of the others.
Taking a break from my own meal, my fiancé encouraged me to taste his as well, and I can happily report that my taste buds were not disappointed! He had ordered a delicious Morroccan-inspired Pastry Purse, filled with a Seitan and Dried Apricot stuffing, served alongside a Tagine of Beluga Lentil and Tomato, Sautéed Greens, Fresno Chile Harissa, and a Cucumber Mint Raita. I felt as though I had just traveled the culinary world, jumping from Italy to Morocco in one fell swoop, or bite, as it were.
The Sweet Part
Though happily satiated at this point in our meal, no birthday dinner is complete without dessert, so dessert we had! We decided to share a dessert since we were both pretty full, though choosing from the dessert selection presented was not an easy task.
While literally everything on the dessert menu sounded spectacular, after much deliberation we finally ended up going with a glorious Bourbon Molten Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Barbecue Sauce and Smoked Pecan Ice Cream (yes, I promise it was all vegan!).
Apparently the staff had taken note of our impending birthdays, and treated us by sending out yet another dessert, on the house. The chef had chosen to send us his creative twist on a classic Southern US favorite, cornbread. This updated, dessert-ified version was a Grilled Lemon Cornbread with a Pomegranate Reduction, Grilled Peaches, and “Buttered” Corn Ice Cream. It was warm and cold, salty and sweet…an exquisite balance of flavors bursting with the exotic flavor of juicy pomegranate.
The Bottom Line
In my opinion, no trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to Millennium Restaurant, whether you’re a vegan, or just a foodie looking for a great excuse to try something new.
While I’m unsure how busy they are during the week or off-season, it was pretty hopping on the Friday night we chose, so I would suggest making reservations in advance, just to be sure you don’t miss out on this jewel of a dining experience.
Find Millennium at 580 Geary Street downtown, and if you’re feeling saucy, go ahead and reserve a room at the adjoining Hotel California while you’re at it and let us know how that tequila is!
We are proud to present The Millennium restaurant with our recommendation label!