Chowpuppy's Comparison of Masa, Charles Nob Hill and Gary Danko (quite long)
Please bear in mind that I am not a full grown chowhound which means I don't really remember everything I eat but I do have some observations and would love to see what the "grown-ups" think.
By mere coincidence, I went to 3 French restaurants in the last 3 months - Masa, Charles Nob Hill and Gary Danko.
The worst bread - Gary Danko - cold and chewy.
The best sommlier - Gary Danko - even though we didn't order a very expensive bottle of wine, he still spent a good amount of time with us. Masa's sommelier was MIA. I did have had great wine at all 3 places.
The best valet - Gary Danko - the cost of the valet was included in the bill and our car was waiting for us as we exit.
The best foie gras (my must eat dish) - From a taste standpoint, Masa for sure. GD's was paired with caramelized onion and was SO sweet that it really over powered the foie gras itself. I actually had to leave most of the onions because it was so sweet. The waiter suggested trying it with a dessert wine and even com. us on it which was nice but I am not sure I would pair it that way again. The best presentation was CNH. It was served 3 different ways - seared, mousse and pate sytle. The seared version was also very good, the pate was a little too salty and the mousse was very rich (read heavy) and I can't say I tasted the foie gras at all.
Tasting menu - I like the GD's choices.
The meat dish - I had duck at Masa, beef at CNH (too salty) and quail(a little oily) at GD. Masa again was the best.
Atmosphere - I still remember the times when Masa was "old school" where everyone whisper. I thought, at that time, it was too stuff. After suffering from the "4 bells" restaurants all over town - including Masa, I miss the old days. I think all 3 restaurants are par for the course.
I had the GD cheese course and it was fabulous. They didn't have Tazmanian blue so may be next time.
After all these years, I have to say, Masa still rocks. All of their dishes were wonderfully executed.
On a separate note, I had great meals at Bistro Ralph in Healdsburg and Terra Brazillus (?) in SF recently.
we had an unforgettable delicious meal at Masa last year for my birthday. i remembered the lobster bisque, a great meat entree with bits of foie gras and a cocktail that i can't remember the name but it was green in color with sugar around the glass rim that was just fabulous. I ate everything clean like a real chowhound.
the dessert was just ok.
Masa was better than Aqua I think.
re: Han Lukito
I have to believe that Masa's is head and shoulders over Aqua - not even in the same league. Aqua always gets a lot of press, but I have never (in eating there 5 times) left there saying to myself "that was a great meal." There tartare and the mussels are very good dishes, but as a whole it is not near my top 10 for the city (IMO).
Based one lunch experience I have to agree that Aqua is somewhat overrated (maybe dinner's better - any comments anyone?). The wines that came with the tasting menu were excellen), but the food wasn't as spectacular as the press made it out to be.
I ate at Charles Nob Hill almost 2 years ago when Siegel was there. That was the best splurge I've had in SF. I'm looking forward to comparing Fleur de Lys, the Restaurant at Chez Panisse (downstairs) and a third wildcard (probably Elisabeth Daniel) next month when my folks are in town.