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advice, please, on San Fran & nearby restaurants

m
martin merowitz Feb 22, 1999 02:01 PM

Opinions on: ave 9, canasta, casa aguilar, chow, eliza,
emerald garden, eos, khan toke, manora, massimo,
meditereene, tien fu, oriental pearl, real food deli.
ricochet, rose's cafe, socca, yaya?
Also, please, cafe and chez panisse.

Thanks for all help.

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  1. r
    rachelhope RE: martin merowitz Feb 23, 1999 10:07 AM

    I went to Chez Panisse for my birthday, finally, having
    first heard of it on my first trip to the Bay Area, six
    years ago. We (my boy and I) ate downstairs (the
    restaurant,as opposed to the cafe). Here's the
    conclusion, then I'll follow with the description:
    while the meal was exquisite it was not worth $250 to
    me. Okay, so the restaurant is beautiful, the staff is
    warm, the kitchen is open -- we had a great table so
    that from my seat I looked right in on the kitchen, and
    the maitre'd and the waitstaff extend warm invitations
    for you to walk through the kitchen and watch the chefs
    at work. In fact, the kitchen welcomes you, in the way?
    no, not at all. Everyone at Chez Panisse is served the
    same meal, we went on fish night, our meal was a frisee
    salad with fresh pears and walnuts and a roquefort
    dressing, a pureed sorel soup with creme fraiche and
    chanterelles, and a pan-seared black sea bass in a
    fennel-olive sauce with celery root puree, potatoes and
    winter greens. THree courses and then dessert, which
    was a simple pear clafoutis. With two glasses of
    champagne, one bottle of wine, and one pot of verbena
    tea, plus tax and tip the tab came to $250. Now, while
    every dish was executed lovingly, and never a
    less-then-delicious bite did enter my mouth, the food
    was -- well in the style that I might cook at home (of
    course not as well, not as deliciously). Alice Waters
    revolutionized our food world, but the ironic
    consequence of that is her restaurant no longer seems
    revolutionary. The meal was wonderful, but would have
    been more wonderful for $100 or $150. Perhaps this is
    not a concern to you, but it is a concern to me. I
    have been to other restaurants in the $200 - $300
    range, and have always gotten more bang for my buck --
    more courses, more unusual ingredients, more
    preparations beyond my limited capabilities, more
    lavish service, more desserts, more, more, more. I
    would not go back to Chez Panisse downstairs. The cafe,
    on the other hand seems nice, and I hear that's where
    all the locals go. Our waiter estimated that 70% of
    folks downstairs were out-of-towners. So there is my
    subtle conclusion, while CP is absolutely wonderful, it
    has poor value.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rachelhope
      j
      jonathan gold RE: rachelhope Feb 23, 1999 11:44 AM

      Chez Panisse is probably my favorite
      restaurant in the country, and I have
      eaten downstairs at least 20 or 30 times.
      When the restaurant is on--it's never
      less than superb, but the menu does
      change every day--the food energy, the
      sum of what's on the plate, is utterly
      unmatched. Upstairs is just good eats.

      That being said, a lot of the excitement
      at CP is in the process of it all, seeing
      how the kitchen manages to capture the exact
      essence of the season and of the night's
      ingredients. This is unlike a traditional four-star
      restaurant (French Laundry, say), where the
      relatively unchanging set dinner is designed
      to dazzle the casual customer--a single,
      isolated dinner at CP can often seem unspectacular,
      which at $125 a person shouldn't happen.

      Too often, the Friday and Saturday dinners end
      up being variations on steak 'n' potatoes,
      to please the out-of-town crowd. Try the Monday
      dinners, a relative value, where the menus
      tend to be more adventurous and the regulars more
      frequent.

    2. d
      Debbie Puente RE: martin merowitz Feb 23, 1999 10:59 PM

      This is a food report I did after spending a few days
      in San Francisco last year. Hope this helps.

      This last weekend had me wondering, can you have a bad
      meal in San Francisco? Five out of the five meals we
      had the pleasure to eat were all fantastic. The service
      was outstanding in each place too. It was especially
      nice to have four very close girlfriends along for the
      ride; nice because none of us thinks anything of eating
      from each other's plates. In fact, is there any other
      way to dine? In no particular order, here are the
      places we went:

      Betelnut, 2030 Union Street, Near Union and Fillmore
      Rose Pistola, 532 Columbus Ave., North Beach Area
      Café Pescatore, in the Tuscan Inn, 425 Northpoint, St.,
      Fisherman's Wharf
      Little City, 673 Union Street, North Beach Area
      Mama's, 1701 Stockton, on Washington Square

      We also ate hot fudge sundaes at Ghirardelli Square,
      lobster sandwiches at Pier 39, and clam chowder in
      sourdough bowls all over town.

      As some of you may already know, I have begun a tour to
      promote my new book, Elegantly Easy Crème
      Brûlée, and San Francisco was the first stop. I'm
      taking a short breather before heading to NYC. (I look
      at my trip to SF as a dress rehearsal for NYC.) Besides
      eating, I did manage to squeeze in a few radio
      interviews and book signings.

      Now, on to the restaurants:

      Betelnut is an Asian restaurant unlike anything I've
      ever experienced. This one is really hard to put into
      words, except to say, don't miss it. Low prices, large
      portions, and some very unusual flavors.

      Rose Pistola. Was it Italian? Mediterranean?
      Californian? I'd guess it was more Italian than
      anything else, but
      done with much flair and originality. We loved
      everything we ordered, including stuffed focaccia with
      white truffle
      oil, the thinnest crust pizza with the most delicious
      goat cheese and olive topping I think I've ever had,
      and a
      wonderful cioppino made perfectly spicy to our order.

      Café Pescatore isn't just your average restaurant in a
      hotel. It's outstanding but a bit over-priced. We had
      calamari and a selection of antipasti. It was a light
      meal to hold us over for a very late dinner at...

      Little City. To start with, we were all in a festive
      mood after seeing the Beach Blanket show. Then it
      turned out
      that the owner's wife went to Taft High School in
      Woodland Hills with one of the girls in our group. We
      then find
      out there's a lemon grass crème brulee on the menu that
      seemed to be just different enough to go into the
      second
      edition of my book. This all added up to the most
      memorable AND the lowest-priced meal of the trip. More
      about why it was so low priced in a minute. Oh, and by
      the way, I still have the menu, and so can give you
      prices
      for this one too.

      For starters, the girls let me choose a few appetizers.
      The fact that ordering the antipasti was my job plays
      an
      important role here. We had Ahi Tartare (9.50). This
      was served with jalapeno, shallots, ponzu sauce, quail
      egg
      and shiso leaf. Sounds kind of weird? Well, it was! But
      it was also very tasty. We also had Grilled Japanese
      Eggplant with an herbed ricotta cheese fritter and warm
      tomato chive salsa (5.50), Crab Cakes with a habanero
      cream fraiche (9.50), and Smoked Duck with Chinese
      spinach (7). I don't think I've ever had Chinese
      spinach
      before. It's got an unusual nutty flavor and is
      exceptionally delightful. I've got to find someplace
      that sells this
      stuff. Anyway, our main courses were Caramelized Pear
      and Roquefort Cheese with walnuts, arugula and
      basalmic reduction (7.95), Peppered Pan Seared Ahi with
      crispy mango ravioli and japanese salsa (18.50),
      Linguine with Day Boat Scallops with anchovy, garlic
      and red pepper (15.50) and Salmon in Rice Paper with
      quinoa risotto and crimson orange reduction sauce
      (15.50). For dessert we had Fugazi Lemongrass Crème
      Brûlée (5.50) and Caramelized Nut Tart with Vanilla
      Bean Gelato (6.00). It was all great, but the highlight
      (we
      all agreed) was the Linguine with Scallops. And none of
      us thought we liked anchovies!

      Okay, so the waiter found out why we were in town, and
      took me to meet the chef. I promised to bring him a
      copy of my book before going home, and I also promised
      to put his crème brulee into the second edition. When
      the bill came, everything that I ordered was removed
      from the bill! The chef had told the waiter that he'd
      like to
      pay for "my" order, so the waiter took off the
      appetizers in addition to my meal! The bill, including
      drinks, and a
      25% tip, based on the total bill before the credited
      items, came to about $11 for each of us!

      Our last meal was brunch at Mama's on Washington
      Square. This may have been the best breakfast that any
      of
      us have ever had, EVER! Chocolate and candied orange
      peel French toast with fresh raspberries, Home baked
      Broiche French Toast, Banana nut French toast, and a
      few omelettes made with peppered jack cheese,
      pancetta, ortega chiles, avocado, and mushrooms. It was
      all very fresh and out-of-this-world delicious.

      The end of the trip was a delightful ride to the
      airport in a stretch limo with a bottle of champagne,
      compliments
      of our hotel. Another surprise was a box of chocolates
      that one of the girls bought at See's in the airport.

      Total weight gain for the trip:

      Linda, 3 pounds, Mary Kay 3 pounds, Debbie B. 1 pound,
      Debbie P. 2 1/2 pounds, and Marla, who refused to
      get on the scale, but we would guess 3 pounds.

      In the next issue of Foodstuff: Reviews of the best
      "Foodie" movies, the birth and history of California
      Cuisine, fantastic recipes and more!

      Return to Creme Brulee.COM Newsletter List

      1. m
        m RE: martin merowitz Mar 20, 1999 07:00 AM

        trip notes:
        Cafe panisse:a good place. no fuss. ingredients plucked
        from Eden. ( Thanks to Hounds- got reservations
        Eliza: ok
        Rose: wonderful breakfasts
        Splendido: forget it
        Socca: nice

        1 Reply
        1. re: m
          m
          m RE: m Mar 20, 1999 11:27 AM

          Sorry, forgot to list
          Swan Oyster Depot: warm, friendly,
          oysters/chowder/wines(!) very good. Not cheap.

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