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Jun 29, 2001 02:57 AM

SF restaurant recommendation for special occasion?

  • c

Could anyone recommend a quiet, intimate, and moderately priced restaurant in the city for a special night?

Thanks a million.


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  1. Hi, Christine.

    I'm surprised you haven't gotten any feedback, but I know I'm a little stumped by your question. It seems like "quiet, intimate, moderately priced" restaurants have gone the way of the Dodo.

    Maybe if you gave a little more detail about what you're looking for in the way of price, location and atmosphere, it will jog some ideas loose.

    Assuming that by "moderately priced" you mean most of the entrees are under $20, Fringale is a good choice, although I'm not sure it qualifies as "intimate" if what you mean by that is "romantic." Absinthe is another choice ... more romantic but a little less quiet (depending on where your table is). And I may sound like a broken record, but Greens is always wonderful.

    Anyone else got some ideas?

    1. r
      Randy Salenfriend

      Try Zax in North Beach, 2330 Taylor. (415) 563-6266

      1. There was a recent post with thumbs up on Watergate in the Mission. I would strongly recommend La Villa Poppi (Mission) or Albona (North Beach). Chaz (Marina) is a personal favorite of mine, mainly because it's quiet and the sauces that the chef spins out are quite fantastic.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Limster


          I can't agree with you on Albona or Poppei.

          Poppei was just poor quality, badly prepared food when I went, and here's a little writeup on Albona:

          Albona is the best bad restaurant I've ever been to.

          It's an odd thing to say, but let me explain.

          We'd decided to try Albona after seeing it listed in the San Francisco Chronicle's "The Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants". The description sounded appealing enough: "only place that specializes in the foods of Istria, near Trieste". Yugoslavian/Italian cuisine, what an idea!

          When we got there, a polite valet was on hand to park the car. We were greeted warmly upon entering and seated almost immediately. As we looked around, my dining companion and I commented that the decor was entirely generic. Like a chain hotel or a first-class airport lounge.

          The menu looked interesting, but the foods turned out to nothing special at all. The recommended appetizer, Pan-fried gnocchi with sirloin sauce, was indistinguishable from deep-fried potato puffs in gravy. And my entree turned out to be a perfectly acceptable but completely bland chicken cutlet with steamed broccoli.

          In fact, nothing was remotely interesting about the place. Service was excellent, everything tasted fresh, but I kept imagining I was eating generic first class airline food.

          That's why Albona is the best bad restaurant I've ever been to!

          1. re: Syre

            Hi Syre,

            Sounds like we've had very different luck on our trips to these restaurants, or we have different preferences. I also wonder if it's an on night/off night issue, or if these places have gone downhill since my last visit (both more than a year ago).

            I recommended these places not only because I ate well there, but also because of attentive, friendly service. Also, La Villa Poppi was quiet and mellow, and the chef/owner was busy in the kitchen.

            I would like to be sure that we are both referring to La Villa Poppi on 22nd between Mission and Valencia. Just want to double check as you call it Poppei. There, I had a very well prepared rabbit in a red-wine sauce that was flavored with an array of spices (thyme and rosemary stood out) on a bed of risotto cooked in game stock. The grouper I ate was also good, crusted with pecorino cheese and bread crumbs for texture as well as a peppery mix of spices. More recently, I sent two friends there after confirming that it was still good on this board. My pals went and raved about the fish they got in a red wine sauce. I was wondering what you got at La Villa Poppi that was bad; that way I can be more careful and precise if and when I recommend the place again.

            As for Albona, I remember the fried gnocchi - the sauce had a definite touch of nutmeg and cinnamon that made it more interesting than just a meat-based gravy. Among other things, I also sampled the calamari stuffed with bread crumbs and parsley in a tomato sauce, a very tender lamb (we could split the meat with a fork), a seafood risotto with plentiful chunks of salmon and a rather moist rabbit flavored with honey and juniper berries. Based on your posting, I'm avoiding the chicken the next time I eat there.

            1. re: Limster

              Perhaps I should give Poppi another try -- I ate there a while ago just a couple of months after he opened the place. But our dinners were cooked by the Chef/Owner, who was supposedly highly experienced even at that point, and they were mediocre or a bit less than mediocre.

              It was the small place on 22nd street across from the Make-Out room.

              1. re: Syre

                Yes - that is the place - I did notice that the restaurant reviews got better for La Villa Poppi over the years; the media did get a bit more enthusiastic about the place over time. Would be great to have an update, please post about it after your trip there.

            2. re: Syre

              Your experience at Albona was better than ours--LOL. But you definitely caught the "flavor" of the place.

              It's been a few years, but I do recall hearing the voice of the owner repeating the same story over and over, like a tired recording.

          2. l
            Lester Gabis-Levine

            Second the nomination for Watergate. Food, decor, service and VALUE...

            1. The tables are packed in, so it's not exactly quiet or intimate, but Chapeau! is probably the best inexpensive French restaurant in the city (or that I've eaten in anyway). I think it far exceeds Fringle in quality and authenticity, and it's less expensive!