With an inviting outdoor patio on the San Francisco waterfront, dazzling Bay Bridge views and delectable dining and drink offerings all day long, Hotel Vitale’s Americano Restaurant is an established Embarcadero hot spot that’s not afraid to mix it up with new seasonal dishes.
We grabbed a few minutes with Chef Josh Perez (He’s a busy guy, with two kids and a new bakeshop in the family!) to hear about Americano’s Spring menu, which is bursting with fresh, sustainable, creative ingredients.
Joie De Vivre: What is your process for coming up with new dishes? Where does your inspiration come from?
Chef Perez: I’m trained to cook with the seasons, so I always start with a list of seasonal produce. From there I look at proteins (crab in winter, lamb in spring, salmon in summer, etc.) and last but not least I consider how to create a sense of time and place with the dish. For instance, after a long cold winter, I might mimic the emergence of spring by adding fresh green things like peas, asparagus or artichokes. In summer, I keep dishes light and often prefer to use ingredients in their unadulterated or raw state punctuated by fresh herbs and olive oil. By fall, I’m ready to bring back rich braised meats, butter, nuts and dried fruit — warm comfort foods that make you want to eat while listening to the rain outside. The food has to be delicious, but if I do my job well, our guests feel a connection to the season and terroir that leaves them emotionally satisfied.
JDV: What are some of the most interesting or unique ingredients in this batch of new dishes? Do you have any favorites?
Chef Perez: A few years ago, grilled octopus would have been a hard sell, but these days diners are more adventurous and have broad culinary knowledge. The octopus has become one of our most popular items!
JDV: Do any of the new dishes require special techniques to prepare?
Chef Perez: We prepare the short rib using sous vide technique, cooking it at 167F for 22 hours, which yields a much different texture than traditional braising. The meat is very tender but has a texture similar to steak.
JDV: If people haven’t been to Americano recently, why should they come in now?
Chef Perez: We have changed a lot of the dishes on both the lunch and dinner menus. You might discover a new favorite!
JDV: Do you have any tips for diners?
Chef Perez: Have fun and order a lot of different dishes! The menu is designed to offer many smaller plates for sharing, instead of the traditional appetizer, entree, dessert format.