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special occasion food, but please no stuffiness

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I'm going to be in SF for my three year anniversary and would love to treat my boyfriend to a spectacular meal. I recently found this messageboard and read through the (many) entries, and came up with Fleur de Lys, La Folie, and Aqua as my top choices. However, can someone let me know if these are stuffy? I'm 22, and last time we went to a highly recommended restaurant in Menlo Park, the waiters barely glanced at us, possibly because we were the only people under 30 who weren't with parents.

Please help! I want a special, romantic dinner, but with the right service and atmosphere. What is best restaurant to go to? $200 is my limit. I trust your judgements (I'm in awe of this messageboard, btw).

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Is the $200 inclusive of wine? Tax and tip? Then you are not likely to make it at the restaurants you mentioned.

    By stuffy, do you mean formal? If you are uncomfortable in a formal restaurant, perhaps you should look at a trendy fun spot with great food that attracts a young crowd.

    While no restaurant should ever ignore you, you should be sure not to walk away from a fine dinning restaurant unhappy. If you are not getting the service you want, begin to be firm and direct with the waiter. If it does not improve, speak the the host/manager and they will bend over backward for you.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Anne

      I should have been more specific--$200 for food.

      A trendier spot with great food is fine too. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

      Thanks also for the tips, I'll keep them in mind.

      1. re: Ching

        I would say that Aqua would not disapoint - I found the service there friendly and non-pretentious... And the food was amazing.

        -MZ

    2. I had a fairly good time at Charles Nob Hill about a year ago. We were a bunch of twenty-somethings - the least formally dressed group and defintely the "liveliest" table in the whole place. The waitstaff were very friendly and accomodating throughout the evening. They offered to make substitutions to the tasting menu when two of us wanted something else from the regular menu and were watchful, constantly replenished bread, water etc... I felt very well taken care of there.

      Have fun!

      The food is also very good and the place doesn't seem to be over popular, which means that reservations are easier to come by. It's also fairly quiet and intimate, with tables spaced quite a distance away from each other, so you don't have to listen to the conversation from the next table (and they yours).

      There was a $70 tasting menu, but I remembered a $100 special tasting menu as well - that should fit your budget of $200 for food for 2.

      Wherever you go, do let them know that it's a special occasion. At the very least, some places would write a congratulatory note on your dessert. If I were you, I'd order two glasses of champagne to be served when you get to the table - order them when you make the reservation.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Limster

        Just had an anniversary dinner at Charles Nob Hill and was very satisfied. We had the $70 tasting menu along with the Sommelier Wine pairing ($45). We had an early reservation (6:45pm) and were probably the most casually dressed at that seating. Service was very attentive and like Limster said I also felt very well taken care of.

        We had been to Charles once before (two years ago?) for the Iron Chef tasting menu. That also was a fantastic experience. Ever since then I've wanted to return.

      2. Aqua would be the least stuffy of the 3 youve mentioned. IMO, I would pass on La Folie - didnt wow me and the decor is absolutely uninspired. Boulevard would fit your bill as well as would Fifth Ave. Both cater to both the younger and older sets. I would also highly recommend Gary Danko, but at times can reflect a little of that old Ritz Carlton stuffiness (but it's well worth it).

        1 Reply
        1. re: srf1

          I found the service at Gary Danko to be excellent but a titch obtrusive and solemn. The service at Fifth Floor had a lighter touch. I have had the tasting menu at each and preferred the Fifth Floor on food. Also, Gary Danko is more clubby and casual, I think the Fifth Floor beats them out by having the more elegant room for special occasion. But I think it will be difficult to get out of either of these places for $200.