The infamous Stinking Rose restaurant kept all these things in mind with their garlic-only restaurants in San Francisco and Beverly Hills. Created in 1991 in heavily Italian-populated North Beach by four ambitious friends sharing a love for the bulb, the flagship quickly gained notoriety with its neo-Italian cuisine. While the thought of having a garlic-filled meal might seem like a stinky situation, keep in mind that your digestive system will be thanking you later!
When you walk into The Stinking Rose the first room you will visit is the lobby. But the lobby is not like any boring, long corridor, this one is filled with an extensive collection of beautiful art and little anecdotes foretelling how much you’re going to enjoy this meal.
Round the corner and you’ll find a cozy shop where you can buy the restaurant’s brand of salsa, pasta sauce, Dijon dressing, barbecue sauce and more. Of course, all of these products are preceded by the word "garlic," except for the bottled water, which is "sans garlic and sans gas." You can decide which products you want to get later, though, because you have seven more rooms to visit.
There’s a room for every occasion. If you feel like dining in a quaint café where the only light is candlelight, sit in the Chianti Room. This area seats only 36 guests and is a romantic hideaway tucked in the corner of the restaurant. If you’re craving garlic with a bit of Old World Renaissance flair, step into the Michelangelo Room where you sit under a large canopy of stars – OK, twinkle stars, but shining nonetheless.
Keep it real, Garlywood-style, in the garlic bulb-themed room decorated with murals of bulbs shopping on famous Beverly Hills streets and playing volleyball on the sands of California’s beaches. Sound confusing? You’ll just have to check it out for yourself.
Other rooms include Dracula’s Grotto – I think it’s best to be festive and sample the six red wine varietals (bottles range from $19 to $169) – the tavern-like Garbar and European courtyard-style Piazza.
Once you have decided where to plant yourself, you can begin your garlic feast! I recommend launching off with the signature Bagna Calda (translation: garlic soaking in a hot tub, $4.95), oven roasted cloves in extra virgin olive oil, butter and a little anchovy, served sizzling to your table. You can dip the house-baked buns or spread the mixture of raw minced garlic with olive oil and fresh herbs. To cool off the sharpness, have one of seven different mojitos ($7.39) or a non-alcoholic smoothie ($4.50).
Roasted sizzling skillet appetizers are the way to go. A combination of mussels, peel and eat shrimp and Dungeness crab ($31.95) delicately simmer in a secret garlic sauce.
To cleanse your palette and prepare for your entree, I suggest drinking a tall glass of water with some lemon. You’ll want to make sure you can savor every bite.
Standout entrees include the Garlic Roasted Prime Rib, you choose which cut: Lite ($17.95), Medium ($21.95), Large ($29.95) or The Slab ($39.95). The Forty Clove Garlic Chicken ($17.95) falls right off the bone and is served with fluffy and light garlic mashed potatoes. If it feels like a pasta night, try the full-flavored Gnocchi ($13.95) in a delicate roasted tomato cream sauce.
Many of the dishes are vegetarian friendly like the "meaty" Baked Portobello Mushroom entrée ($17.95), served over a colorful array of assorted roasted vegetables, and the Neon Ravioli ($13.95) with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, potato and sweet caramelized onions with a basil cream sauce.
If you happen to come to this restaurant by happenstance with your friends and garlic is just not on your list of desirable foods, there are garlic-free options available as well. One such Vampire Fare is the Silence of the Lamb Shank ($17.95) in a Chianti reduction and, you guessed it, fava beans – sure to be a treasure chest for your appetite.
No matter what your tastes are, I highly recommend sealing your feast with dessert. Priced at $6.95, you can choose from Tiramisu, the Trio of Seasonal Fruit Sorbet or yummy Irish Coffee Chocolate Brownie Mousse. But the real crowning glory lies in Gilroy’s Famous Garlic Ice Cream. I was very skeptical about it, saying to myself, "OK, now you’ve gone too far!" But no, I was actually upset that I was too full to finish it. The marriage of roasted garlic and heavy cream makes for a savory feel, and when covered with the caramel mole sauce becomes a sweet and savory taste experience. Definitely not to be missed!
Once you’ve finished dining you may feel like you can’t have a conversation with anyone for the rest of the evening. Not to worry, the restaurant provides caraway seeds and even BreathAsure. Something tells me that you’ll pass on that and join the majority who proudly "eat, drink and STINK."
The Stinking Rose is open daily from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Hosted valet parking is available. For more information, visit www.thestinkingrose.com.