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Jun 27, 1999 02:55 PM

Sumptuous San Francisco- your nominations...

  • l

Having just shed the last of the many pounds I managed to gain on my recent New Orleans food-fest (the debris at Mothers ( *hugs* Jim) and the oyster Po'boys at Acme largely responsible for the surge, not to mention the fantastic redfish at Emeril's, the countless beignets at Cafe du Monde, the awseome chicken and andouille gumbo all over the place and the many Pimm's Cups at Napoleon House..... you were all right on about the Jazz Brunches btw- very overrated and majorly mediocre food esp Court of the Two Sisters...entirely forgettable) I figured it was time for another yo-yo session on the scale and am getting ready for a trip to San Francsico. I've spent the last few days scrolling through all of the prior San Fran posts on this board and am still uncertain about all of my eating with the exception of dim sum at Ton Kiang and sundaes in Ghiradelli Square.... :)

We'll be in San Fran for four full days with a few excursions to Muir Woods, Sausalito, maybe Napa Valley and maybe Berkley for Chez Panisse depending on your suggestions. What do you deem entirely ESSENTIAL for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, or snacks in any of those vicinities? The boyfriend, btw, is insisting on Scoma's for some weird reason. Sounds pretty touristy.... am I right?

Merci beaucoup and many good sumer meals,

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  1. I lived in SF for ten years, up until two years ago.
    Here are my suggestions for your trip. Email me if you
    want more!

    First, forget Scoma's. You'll be abused and

    In addition to Chez Panisse, go to:

    Kate's Kitchen for breakfast. The cornmeal pancakes are
    absolutely the best. Yummy biscuits and gravy, too.
    Located on Haight Street, near Fillmore.

    Just for You. A tiny place, also for breakfast. The
    huevos rancheros are the thing to get here. Different
    than other versions of this dish - better! Located on
    18th Street in Potrero Hill.

    Pancho Villa, Taqueria Cancun, El Farolito. The best
    places for burritos. Not to be missed under any

    Ristorante Milano. Wonderful Northern Italian place.
    On Pacific Street, I think.

    Firefly. On 24th Street in Noe Valley. Eclectic
    California cuisine. I've never had anything but a great
    meal there. The same people have also opened a second
    restaurant in Potrero Hill, but I'm not sure of the

    Dusit: The best Thai place in town. Get the tofu with
    crispy basil, and the seafood salad. On Mission Street,
    past Army.

    EOS: Upscale, very creative food. Looks fabulous, but
    tastes just as good. At the corner of Cole and Carl.
    Slightly pricey but worth every cent. You'll need

    The Slanted Door. Trendy sort of Vietnamese. Truly
    great. On Valencia Street near 17th. Reserve ahead,
    it's very popular.

    Greens: First-rate vegetarian food in a spectacular
    setting by the water in Fort Mason.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Cathy

      I second the motion to put Chez Panisse on your
      "ESSENTIAL" list. Also Zuni.

      1. re: Tom Armitage

        Definitely Zuni. Order the roast chicken, even though it sounds boring and is only offered for two. It's the best chicken you'll ever taste. Try the home-cured anchovies too.

        And if you're going to spend a day in the East Bay (and you should), have breakfast at Cafe Fanny, lunch at Oliveto (the chef, Paul Bertolli, is astonishing) and dinner at Chez Panisse. Work in time for snacks of chile verde and tacos at Picante, ribs at the Berkeley branch of Everett and Jones, a slice at the Cheese Board and a sandwich at either Panini or Super Lucca.

        I love the East Bay--all the tourist attractions involve either punk-rock or food.

        1. re: j gold
          ann morrissey

          Does anybody else like VIVA's? inexpensive, great Italian food in north beach. Their rustica was so good we have been trying to duplicate it at home.

          1. re: ann morrissey

            Don't know Viva's. But for my money, the best Italian in SF is at Ristorante Milano.

      2. re: Cathy

        We went to Scoma's 10/99. The food was excellent. The service we received was great.

      3. Hey Lisa, glad you enjoyed your New Orleans trip.
        First I would do your best to avoid Scoma's. It would
        be a real shame to waste an evening there with all of
        the other great spots in the area. The only thing it
        has going for it is a view of the bay which can be
        duplicated many places. If you don't remember I was
        the one that warned you about Court of Two Sisters.

        I don't think I would second the Green's nomination.
        The food was not great on my last visit, although it
        also has a bay view and the wine list is great and
        very reasonably priced

        I'm glad Tom Armitage mentioned Zuni. It's on upper
        Market Street. I started going there twenty years ago
        and used to loved it. Haven't been in long time but if
        Tom says it's still good I'd believe him. If you want
        to go high and you should not miss Masa's

        If you do go to Berkeley for dinner I would make sure
        to go early enough in the day to stop at Acme Bakery.
        It has been mentioned on this site before. Perhaps the
        best bread on the west coast. That's no slight to La
        Brea in L.A. There is a nice little lunch spot next

        For a fun day excursion, think about a boat ride out
        to alcatraz. You will get a great view of the bay and
        learn about an interesting S.F. landmark.

        1. Lisa - I envy you: we're just back from a few days out
          there and I want to go right back. We stayed with
          friends with chowhound tendencies so were able to avoid
          the tourist crowd. Had a great, terrific dinner at
          Boulevard, near the Embarcadero. Roast guinea hen,
          soft shell crab are two main courses that spring to
          mind - they were great. Appetizers included foie gras,
          sauteed sweetbreads, and several fish dishes. All five
          of us agreed it would go head-to-head with any number
          of top rated NY places. Good wine list. Worked out to
          $80/person - two courses each, no dessert, but we
          ordered several wines.

          Also worth a shot was Mecca for Thai food - not sure of
          the address on that one. The first couple of dishes
          were good, not great: but we then told the server to
          have the kitchen increase the heat and found it very

          One place which we wanted to visit was Acqua - had very
          strong ratings from our foodie friends there but we ran
          out of time. Also, Laurent Manrique of the late
          lamented Gertrude's here is now exec chef at the
          Compton Place (or Park? my note is illegible)
          Restaurant in the hotel of the same name across the
          street from the Grand Hyatt - Stockton St I think. His
          Gascogne style was very appealing to me and if we'd had
          time we would have eaten there.

          We were lucky enough to get up into the Napa. Mustard's
          Grill has many fans - we didn't get to eat there but it
          was highly recommended for lunch - I think it's on Rte
          29 (?)near St Helena and Yountville. Also we did get
          into the French Laundry. We opted for the 9 course
          tasting menu. The meal started with a terrific
          cauliflower pannacotta with oyster glaze and caviar:
          we thought we'd really hit the big time but there
          wasn't the consistency through the rest of the courses.
          Two fish courses followed which were good, the duck
          with savoy cabbage very good, but the next, a lamb
          course came to the table medium well to well done and
          we sent it back. Of the two desserts, the strawberry
          "shortcake" with strawberry sorbet was awesome (the
          other was poached apricot with sabayon - also good).
          Even though the hype for the place is seriously high,
          we felt it was good to very good, not superlative. I
          know people have many different feelings about Zagat
          but to throw it in: the bay area Zagat gives them a 29
          which in our view is simply not justified. But the
          restaurant itself was beautiful, herb garden and
          roses surround the place. The wine list has a
          significant selection of good half bottles. We found
          this a big benefit as there were only two of us! If
          you do decide to go (and you can get in), I would
          recommend that instead of the 9 course you opt for the
          five course menu - there, you select which of the
          offerings from each group you want rather than opting
          for the selections of the kitchen. I also want to
          comment that the portions are quite small - we left the
          place satisfied, not stuffed. So the multiple courses
          are manageable.

          Chef Tom Keller has also opened a bistro down the
          street called Bouchon - we looked in and glanced at the
          menu - it didn't seem to be to the same level as the
          Laundry (to be expected), but the prices were quite
          high regardless.

          I hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did. Good

          2 Replies
          1. re: Barbara S

            French Laundry is seriously worth all the hype--it's one of the two or three American restaurants on the level of a Michelin three-star. Although it helps if you like organ meats, and it helps even more if you recognize the classic French dishes Keller is riffing on. (Not to put anybody down, but if you haven't eaten a lot of serious French cooking, a dinner at French Laundry can feel a little like an evening of Moliere in the original--it's hard to see why people are having such a good time.)

            Bouchon, on the other hand, is pretty mediocre. Go to the much better Bistro Jeanty right down the street: an amazing bistro, and possibly the most reasonable meal in Yountville.

            Also, Aqua is quite good, but cold: I can never stop myself from ending up at the century-old San Francisco classic Tadich Grill next door, which come to think of it may itself be a required food stop on a San Francisco trip. Go for the charcoal-broiled petrale sole and a sturdy chardonnay.

            1. re: Al Pastor

              Couldn't agree with you more on the Bistro Jeanty vs. Bouchon issue, Al. Jeanty has the most heavenly strawberry tart; we also had a plum tart that was unusual and wonderful. The pigs trotters were also fantastic, but very rich and if you're not used to eating gelatinized pork, give it a pass. Bouchon was overpriced and very well done but not extraordinary bistro fare. (I think Jonathan Gold also id'd Bouchon as poor in comparison, so this is just an echo.)

              I haven't been to Aqua in many years but the one item that is worth going for is the ahi tuna tartare with scotch bonnet chilies, served (and mixed by your server) with a single quail's egg. This phenomenal signature dish is also served at Aqua's new sister restaurant, Pisces, at a quaint little sidepost at the Broadway (at least I think it's Broadway, but it could be one stop up) CalTrans train station in Burlingame. Go during the summer and you'll avoid that cold problem that comes with Aqua's high ceilings. Pisces is warm, light and bright and their current maitre'd is wonderfully attentive.

          2. l
            Lisa Antinore

            Thanx a bunch ChowHounders. As it stands we have included:

            Swan Oyster Depot
            Chez Panisse (Cafe) the dining room was booked :(
            Just For You (b-fast)
            ZUNI, Masa, or Aqua
            Rose Pistola
            Ton Kiang

            I'll report back. Can't wait for those Golden Gate fireworks.....


            3 Replies
            1. re: Lisa Antinore

              Don't be too disappointed about not getting in the
              dining room at Chez Panisse. I've had some glorious
              chow in the cafe. I'm not a big fan of Rose Pistola,
              for what it's worth. I'm puzzled, however, that, given
              the inclusion of Masa and Aqua on your list (high-end
              joints), no one mentioned Fleur de Lys. Chef Hubert
              Keller has been cooking at Fleur de Lys on Sutter
              Street forever, but I've had some magnificent meals
              there in the not too distant past that suggests he has
              not lost his edge. And the decor in the main dining
              room, draped with a gadzillion yards of expensive
              fabric, though formal, is very lush and romantic. Which
              is to say, I guess, that as between Zuni, Masa, Aqua,
              Rose Pistola, and Fleur de Lys, I'd choose Zuni and
              Fleur de Lys.

              Any ideas from other ChowHounds on why Fleur de Lys
              wasn't mentioned? Has the quality of Chef Keller's
              kitchen fallen off recently, unbeknownst to me?

              1. re: Tom Armitage

                I thought Fleur de Lys was the MOST overrated restaurant we had ever dined at, and it was for a special occasion. Seated in the back, with tourists in kakhis and Tshirts, the setting got off to a bad start and went down from there. Small portions, attitude of servers and a nothing to rave about experience, made me BAD mouth the place a zillion times (and never to included it to friends from out-of-town or those who "dine around") In the 18 years I've lived in the Bay Area we have dined at some pretty incredible restaurants but not this one. For a tab in excess of $200.00, there's more out there for great food as well as attitude and great decor!!!

              2. re: Lisa Antinore

                Why do people recommend Rose Pistola? Frankly, it is so common. You want Italian? Go to New York (or Italy.) Without question try to add La Folie to your list for fine cuisine. It is just as exquisite (if not more so) than the overrated Masa's without nearly the heavy, oppressive pomp and circumstance. La Folie is so much more romantic and less self conscious.

                In Napa, have a drink on the deck of Auberge du Soleil before eating at Terra. I once offered the chef at French Laundry my first child in exchange for a table on Saturday night. He said he would consider it...only if I was having twins. But I hear that it is flawless.