Sumptuous San Francisco- your nominations...
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,
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?
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!!!
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.
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
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
I hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did. Good
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.
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.
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.
I lived in SF for ten years, up until two years ago.
Here are my suggestions for your trip. Email me if you
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,
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.
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.