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May 17, 2001 03:12 PM

Thanks from SF visitor for dining recs

  • g

I posted a month or so ago and received lots of good info from Chowhounds. Here are the highlights:

Babbo - Far and away our favorite. Started with grilled octopus, followed by mint love letters. We had a bottle of 1997 Tenuta Terricio Tassinaia - thanks to my notes from a post by Melanie Wong on Super Tuscans -and it stood up mighty well to the incredible flavors. Entrees were Sweetbreads with Duck Pancetta and Brasato al Barolo, short ribs with celery root. Dessert, chocolate hazelnut cake with orange sauce and hazelnut gelato and a glass of Vin Santo. We sat near the back of the downstairs and enjoyed Tom Waits' Heart Attack and Vine playing LOUDLY on the sound system. This would be a no-no in SF, (Chronicle critic Michael Bauer would adorn the review with many little exploding bombs) but we loved it and found it to add a layer between diners where tables are close together.

Cafe Boulud - We were nervous about this choice but it was perfect for us. We had glasses of Vieuve Cliquot and requested to make no (well, very few . . )decisions thereafter. We were served five savory courses paired with wine by the glass. Arancini, Spring Pea Soup, Goat Cheese Ravioli with morels and spring onions, Atlantic Cod and Roast Squab. I don't remember the dessert, not because it wasn't memorable but we were on overload by that point. We were treated incredibly well and felt very spoiled by the end of the evening.

Grand Central Oyster Bar - After a long day of business for my husband, we decided to go around the corner from our hotel to Grand Central. The place was DEAD. The hostess who seated us seemed to feel she was doing us a favor, and made a very stinky face when we requested a table other than the one she offered. The dining room was maybe 1/2 full on Thursday night at 7. We had wonderful Oysters on the half shell (both east coast) and glasses of Vieve Cliquot (again), followed by fried calamari (so-so) and coleslaw (good) and the Bouillabaisse, which had it's ups and downs. It was full of lots of very fresh fish and shellfish, one item being a 1/2 of a small lobster which was overcooked and tough. Guess we should've followed the advice of posters here re: eating at the bar.

Katz's Deli - We have little-to-no deli options in the bay area, so a visit here was a must. I LOVED the Pastrami, cole slaw and pickles. My husband had the brisket. This place might've topped our list had he not come down with a case of food poisoning that evening (likely a meat temperature version, fortunately lasted only about 18 hours). We unfortunately had to cancel our reservation at Balthazar that night. I had very good room service at the Iroquois Hotel, where the restaurant Triomphe also accommodated my husband with a mild chicken bouillion.

Grand Central's hostess excepted, we found the quality of service and the atmosphere of NYC restaurants just blows away SF. There are probably only a handful of restaurants here that could equal our experience there. Thanks for all the help - we can't wait to go back again.

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  1. I'm glad you had a good trip, and it was entertaining to read your report. I have just one question: What are mint "love letters"?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pan
      Jessica Shatan

      If I remember correctly, mint love letters are something Babbo made up: triangular ravioli filled with ricotta and fresh chopped herbs, predominantly mint in a butter sauce with herbs (predominantly mint.) Someone correct me if I am wrong-- I had them a while ago. They were wonderfully savory.

      1. re: Pan

        Ravioli with mint and spicy lamb sausage - there are many fans of this wonderfully named dish at Chowhound!

      2. "Grand Central's hostess excepted, we found the quality of service and the atmosphere of NYC restaurants just blows away SF. There are probably only a handful of restaurants here that could equal our experience there. "

        Sounds like you had some great meals. but remember,there are also 7.2 million more people in NYC to frequent the restaraunts. so NYC beats SF on volume. There are some terrific places to eat in SF that rival NYC:

        Farrallon, Fleur de Lys, Masa's and more. I don't disagree that NYC has some great restaraunts I have a hard time swallowing the above comments.

        That said: I defy you to get a good Pastrami Sandwich anywhere on the West Coast.

        3 Replies
        1. re: SLAP

          So maybe I'm gushing a bit over the service we received in NY. And I sort of buy your numbers argument (at almost 4000 restaurants to less than a million in population according to the last statistics I heard, okay, we don't have you on sheer volume). But you mentioned less than a handful of restaurants in SF. I've been to them all, and IMHO and based on my personal experience, the service at the NY restaurants had it hands down, with maybe Masa's excepted. And the places we chose were more casual. Wonder what we would have thought after Jean Georges, Alain Ducasse, Le Bernardin, Daniel, etc? Believe me, I know SF is a great restaurant town. We certainly compete food-wise. But I still beg to differ on service and atmosphere.

          1. re: SLAP

            "I defy you to get a good Pastrami Sandwich anywhere on the West Coast."

            Uh oh. Not to start an east coast/west coast thing right here on Chowhound, but there are those who believe Langer's deli in LA beats any of the NY delis for pastrami. (See Jonathan Gold's book, Counter Intelligence). I can't corroborate, but this comes from a very reputable source.

            Long live Tupac.

            1. re: Eric Eto


              funny stuff, hey I keep trying to convince my boss that Tupac Shakur is an obscure Jewish holiday and I need that day off.