The Moss Room at the California Academy of Sciences

by Stevie on July 20, 2010

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I had the good fortune to try The Moss Room last Thursday.

welcome to the Moss Room

This upscale restaurant is nestled in the basement of a corner of the new and much-talked-about California Academy of Sciences museum in Golden Gate Park across from the spectacular de Young Museum.

The Moss Room at the new California Academy of Sciences building

overlooking the Moss Room bar


main dining room at the Moss Room

Both museums are architectural masterpieces. It turns out that on Thursdays at the California Academy of Sciences there’s an evening admission for adults only where cocktails are served as singles meet and congregate among the giant fossilized dinosaurs, exotic sea creatures and the other various and sundry natural history exhibits at the museum. This party looked to be really fun and popular. There was a shockingly long queue to enter through the main doors. Fortunately, the Moss Room can be accessed from a side entrance.

This was another of those work-related dinners in a private room, like I recently went to at Gary Danko. Like that last time, it was a crowd of about fifteen. The menu was pre-selected by our gracious host.

I said that the restaurant is in the “basement” of the museum. And while that’s true in a strict sense, the Moss Room feels more like a romantic grotto out of ancient Greek mythology than a storage area for forgotten Christmas ornaments or college textbooks. The ambience here is incredible!

lazy fish swimming by the Moss Room

To enter, you start off at the Academy Café on the ground level. That’s a typical looking sort of museum cafeteria. There’s a stone covered stairway with little ferns growing out between the rocks decorating the far wall that leads you down into a large chamber filled with romantic lighting, an elegant bar and even a long aquarium replete with large silvery fish swimming lazily along. The place is really easy on the eyes.

2008 Stomping Girl Pinot Noir

I attended this dinner with my long-time friend and colleague, David P. We were worried about the cross town traffic so arrived a little early. That turned out well, as it gave us time to catch up over a glass of wine. The Moss Room wine menu is extensive though tends to be pricy and a little unusual. They offered pages and pages of red Burgundy in the multiple hundreds of dollars range: not practical even if someone else is paying. Surprisingly for a California restaurant, there were only about a half dozen zinfandels and only one by the glass. I settled on the most expensive red by the glass, the 2008 Stomping Girl Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. At $14 a pop, I thought that it would probably be good. It was a full bodied red with lots of fruit and some smoke on the nose. David had a glass of Roederer pink sparkling which he enjoyed. The host ended up ordering more of the pinot for the table.

We had three courses: appetizer, main and dessert.

I tried the yellowfin tuna sashimi. This was a beautifully presented dish with very fresh and delicate tuna to one side with a tiny elegant salad of cucumber, seaweed and fish roe balancing the plate. It came with a spicy sauce that tasted good on its own. But frankly, I thought that it overwhelmed the delicate dish and didn’t match well at all.

yellowfin tuna sashimi

creamy Maine lobster corn soup

David had the Maine lobster corn chowder. This was a large bowl of very rich creamy soup. I took a bite. It was good though seemed awfully heavy for July, even in San Francisco. He ended up picking out the morsels of lobster and left a lot of the creamy broth behind.

For my main I had the Tai snapper. This came with an elegant side of shaved zucchini, sweet peppers and eggplant. It was o.k. but not really memorable.

Dessert was good. I enjoyed my tiny Summer Berry Tart with lemon Bavarian, almond ice milk and praline crisp. I had this with a glass of Sauternes. Ah, heaven!

Tai snapper with zucchini, roasted pepper and eggplant

Summer Berry Tart

Afterward we walked through the museum to the main exit. We were enchanted by the marvelous building, breathtaking exhibits and the large crowd of lustful singles milling about.

The Moss Room is nice. The food is fine and the service less than top notch. I’ve the idea that it would be fun to come here for a drink and a visit to the science exhibits, perhaps on a Thursday evening.

Thursday evening happy hour at California Academy of Sciences

a Golden Gate Park tree-scape

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

David July 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm

It was a nice evening, the best aspects of which were the company (if only H could have attended) and the sparkling rose.

Michael Ackerman August 31, 2010 at 11:49 pm

What a great review and it matched our experience too!

I was thrilled to be in the gracious company of longtime business acquaintances – become friends just a few weeks ago. I was most impressed. Who knows as perhaps we may have benefitted from your review.

It was a stellar evening and the staff was very attentive – albeit I must admit our cocktails were truly delayed – but then again, when you’re in the company of friends – a – few extra minutes wait for a cocktail doesn’t really matter. Our server and the bartender was embarassed enough without our even mentioning it and let us us know the dessert was on them! (Kudos!)

The tomato lobster soup was a delightfully refreshing chilled soup. (CHILLED EARLY GIRL TOMATO AND MAINE LOBSTER SOUP WITH YUBA AND OPAL BASIL) followed by the cavatelli noodle dish. If these weren’t handmade – I’d slap somebody because they became even more incredible with each bite. (RICOTTA CAVATELLI SUMMER SQUASH, TOASTED GARLIC, PECORINO)

The wine chosen was the Turley “Mead Ranch” Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, California, 2008 – a perfect match for all four of us. I’ll leave you hanging on the dessert… Suffice it to say… we all had a taste of the caramel sauce and it was incredible! };-)

The California Academy of Sciences Nightlife is a wonderful evening out. This is NOT the museum I grew up going out on field trips as a kid – yet they still have several exhibits which bring flashbacks! If you haven’t been – YOU SHOULD! Make a new memory for your life!

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