Luce Wows with Chef Dennis Efthymiou’s New Cornucopia Degustation Menu

Luce, located on the lobby level of the InterContinental San Francisco Hotel, first garnered international acclaim when Chef Dominque Crenn earned the restaurant its initial Michelin star in 2010. Later, under the stewardship of Chef Daniel Corey, Luce maintained its star for ten consecutive years until its 2019 closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, with Chef de Cuisine Dennis Efthymiou at the helm, the 30-year old Greek-born culinary savant aims to reclaim the restaurant’s glory with his Cornucopia Degustation Eight-Course Tasting Menu.

Luce Chef de Cuisine Dennis Efthymiou. Credit: Eric Wolfinger

With his keen eye for a distinguished contemporary style and a history of curating singular menus at some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants, Efthymiou, via his multi-course, seasonal menu, takes Luce guests on a culinary excursion honoring his Greek and Mediterranean heritage while reflecting his travels to the U.K., Middle East, and Peru—as well as Japanese and Thai ingredients/flavors—all the while emphasizing sustainability and zero waste practices.

The multiple dishes (eight courses, plus a Chef’s Welcome of small bites, and meal-ending mignardises) are wildly imaginative, and each comes with a back story. The supplemental Caviar Sunflower (pictured above), for instance, is Efthymiou’s tribute to the Ancient Greek and Persian origination of caviar 5,000 years ago. Featuring Golden Osetra caviar atop a sunchoke tartelette with smoked Sturgeon mousse, confit egg yolk, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, dill, and edible sunflower petals, the dish is as Instagram-worthy as it is rich and delicious. It’s also a conscientiously derived item; the caviar is procured from a biodynamic farm in Greece (where sturgeon are fed with natural prey) and imported by Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, a longtime Luce collaborator.

Thalassa, with scallop, mussel broth, scallop roe, salsify, and seaweed. Credit: Vinson Huynh at Luce @ The InterContinental San Francisco Hotel. 

Efthymiou, who hails from the coastal town of Igoumenitsa in the mountainous region of Ioannina, Greece, honors the marine life and turquoise ocean waters of the Ionian Sea with his Thalassa dish featuring a single succulent scallop bathed in a naturally azure-hued broth derived from blue spirulina seaweed. Chef Dennis says, “I’ve never seen such a vibrant blue on a plate before.” (Nor have most diners.)

A simple mid meal offering of Bread & Butter provides a delicately delicious respite, and includes a small pan of freshly baked sourdough served with organic Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a fluffy mound of insanely flavorful truffle butter. Land & Sea follows, with Spanish Turbot served with parsnip gnocchi. Nutty Secrets is Efthymiou’s love letter to fall flavor, featuring thin slices of Iberico Secreto pork, with apple, cranberries, and a snowfall of hazelnut. A juicy slice of Kagoshima A5 wagyu concludes the savory portion of the menu.

Chocoberry Sunset dessert, with Tainori chocolate, Moelleux cake, and sea buckthorn berries. Credit: Vinson Huynh at Luce @ The InterContinental San Francisco Hotel. 

Vegetarians will be pleased to know that Efthymiou more than keeps up by creating a complementary menu with courses that closely match those of his standard offerings. Vegetarian diners will feel “seen,” and won’t encounter the “afterthought” vibe encountered at some establishments where their dietary needs and restrictions are seemingly burdensome. The wagyu course for instance is matched with a Pave of eggplant, zucchini, celery root, onion, truffle, Matsutake mushroom and vegetable jus.

Diners can enhance their meal with wine pairings well-curated by Luce’s sommelier Isauro Zavala, who helped the restaurant earn Wine Spectator magazine’s “Best of Award of Excellence.”

Luce entrance. Credit: Luce @ The InterContinental San Francisco Hotel. 
Luce dining room. Credit: Luce @ The InterContinental San Francisco Hotel. 

The restaurant, with its jewel-toned garnet and citrine hues and subtle illumination, is an elegant spot, not at all evocative of its hotel lobby locale, though, as far as hotel lobbies go, this one is vibrant and welcoming. (Diners are welcome to enter via restaurant centric access on Howard.)  Luce is open Thursdays through Saturdays for seatings between 5:30pm – 9pm. The Cornucopia Degustation Eight-Course Tasting Menu is $175 (vegetarian menu is available upon request). Tasting menu wine pairing is $110 (eight-course).

Reservations can be made via Tock.

Fran Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is an experienced travel, wine, and general feature writer for a variety of luxury lifestyle publications and websites. Prior to her journalism career she established and managed the Golden State Warriors' first official community relations department and efforts. Principled and genuine, she’s known for thoughtfully eloquent writing. When not traveling, she can be found walking her Northern California neighborhood with her beloved golden retriever Nate.