When modern art and modern cuisine collide, one creates In Situ.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MOMA), beautifully designed by Norwegian architect firm Snøhetta, re-opened in April 2016, and with it came this stunning, new restaurant.
Walking through the galleries of the MOMA, one is inspired by art of various mediums from artists across the world. The pieces are meant to provoke and evoke a sense of curiosity and feeling. Eating at the MOMA compliments that experience.
The food at In Situ is a compilation of dishes from the best, most imaginative chefs from around the world. As with the works of art displayed, the dishes too have a name, and other details listed such as the chef, restaurant, and year of creation. The menu items change over time, mimicking the gallery experience, to show the evolution and radical dishes of the past that have helped to define the modernist cuisine of today.
In all of the dishes, the texture, colors, and ingredients all come together to create an element of wow. This is a dining experience unlike any other.
There were two stand out dishes of the night for me. The first came from Tim Raaue, who is also featured in Netflix’s celebrity chef documentary series, Chef’s Table. His egocentrism has pushed him to reimagine and thereby redefine Berliner cuisine.
Raaue incorporates German ingredients with (predominantly) Asian spices. His wasabi lobster perfectly exemplifies this unique melody. He combines the lobster with mango jelly, Thai vinaigrette, and wasabi marshmallows. The wasabi has a bit of spice, but since it is not cut with horseradish (like the wasabi at Japanese restaurants) it isn’t overwhelming. It is in fact, the perfect level of heat and flavor. The color is a soft pastel, again the natural color of wasabi, instead of the bright fluorescent green color. The ingredients here shine and speak for themselves.
The second standout dish came in the first course. It was a “cuttlefish cappuccino” from Massimiliano Alajmo out of Italy. The potato made this dish creamy, almost frothy, like a cappuccino. Yet the gelatinous cuttlefish pieces surprised my taste buds and reminded me that this was definitely not a caffeinated beverage. Alajmo created this dish in 1996, which is to say he really pushed the boundaries of modernist cuisine, likely before people were ready to accept him.
Like many great artists, chefs who challenge the status quo are often not celebrated until after they receive a lot of criticism and struggle through a series of failures. To see them now be celebrated on the menu at In Situ is a true testament to the evolution of and appreciation for great food with bold flavors, unconventional ingredients, and the fusion of techniques and disparate culinary cuisines.