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Die Hard New York Chowhounders Coming to San Francisco...Farallon or Aqua?

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I posted on here a couple of days ago. I've done some research on the one or two upscale meals we plan to eat in San Francisco before heading out to Napa. There seems to be so many wonderful, eclectic selections in the moderate range that we plan to check out. We've decided to make reservations at French Laundry in Napa, so we think we will hit one upscale, exquisite restaurant while in San Fran. So, from all of the suggestions that I received on my previous post, would you choose Farallon or Aqua for fantastic, well-prepared seafood? How do service and ambiance compare at the two restaurants? Which is more romantic? Thanks!

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  1. Of the two, Aqua hands down. I found Farallon to be a bit too thematic at the expense of the service and food. Aqua is often superb- food, service and atmosphere. A very grown up dining experience.

    1. Personally, if I were coming from New York, I'd go to Koi Palace.

      Aqua is dark, modern, conservative, expense-accounty. Pat Kuleto's decor at Farallon could be the dining room set for a big-budget Jules Verne fantasy movie.

      One plus for Farallon is that the chef and pastry chef came from Stars, have been at Farallon since day one, and don't spread their energies around.

      Aqua's a corporate creation on its third (albeit great) chef and could just as easily be in any other big city.

      1. Aqua aqua aqua. Farrallon has a better space, Aqua has the better food.

        Though I agree with Robert ... there is nothing particularly unique or San Francisco about Aqua. Great food, blase setting.

        1. Aqua is much better. The menu is creative and exciting, and the setting is stunning. Service is in the top 5 in SF area (French Laundry, Masa's, Ritz, Aqua, Danko).

          I don't know where the "corporate creation" idea comes from. Aqua is a locally owned and operated restaurant on it's 3rd world class chef in 15 years. In the restaurant business that's an excellent record. If you mean that Aqua is not chef-owned, that is true, but the restaurant group that Aqua is the flag-ship for has two other local restaurants (Cafe de la Presse and Picies). It's hardly an empire. Maybe you're thinking of Michal Mina's global reach?

          Farallon is great fun, and I love it, but for a very special time, Aqua is the choice.

          3 Replies
          1. re: monday

            I agree. Aqua has much better food and a refined ambience, whereas Farallon has solid food in an almost whimsical setting.

            I, too, am not clear on what "corporate creation" means. Aqua was started by restaurateur Charles Condy with chefs George Morrone and Michael Mina at the helm. Condy subsequently expanded by opening Pisces, Charles Nob Hill, etc., but I don't know whether that alone ought to discredit Aqua in any way. After all, Thomas Keller has significantly expanded his holdings in recent years, yet The French Laundry still ranks high on any list of U.S. restaurants.

            1. re: monday

              Aqua's owned by Aqua Development Corp., and the constant over its 15 years has been the entrepreneur Charles Condy. There's nothing very local about the concept or style of the place, it could just as easily be in any other large city. Mina's Las Vegas place was originally a branch of Aqua.

              That's not to say that the food isn't good, I just don't think it's something that different from what a New Yorker could get at home. Farallon's not that much better--both places get almost all of their fish from the airport.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I'll mention that the last time I sent NYorker friends to Aqua, they said they liked the meal but it was too much like a Manhattan restaurant in ambience and clientele.

            2. We've been going to Aqua since it opened and have never been disappointed. It's one of the top places in the city.

              1. AQUA. Never had a bad meal there, and I have had some bad experiences at Farallon. Regardless of the chef or ownership, it does not come off as a chain or clone, and it has been consistently good and inventive over the years. However, it does remind me of NYC restaurants I have enjoyed in the past.

                1. Just to make things more confusing, I would scratch both and go to Ame.

                  http://www.amerestaurant.com/dinner.html

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chaddict

                    Someone else suggested Ame and it's on my short list. Thanks.

                  2. Robert,
                    You'd send someone from New York to Daly City? I don't know about that. I have not eaten at Koi Palace...though I'm now dying of curiosity...but DALY CITY. I may sound like a snob...okay, I guess I am...

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: abe1329

                      It's by no means an eccentric opinion. Search the board.

                      Much of the best Chinese food is in suburban towns with little else to recommend them except high test scores in the public schools.

                      1. re: abe1329

                        You really need to eat at Koi Palace before you make any assumptions based upon its location. I ate the best scallops of my life there once, and given how often I eat scallops, that is saying a lot...I still dream of them...

                        (Personally, I'd also skip Aqua and Farallon and either go to Koi Palace or Ame. I haven't eaten at Ame myself but am looking forward to doing so soon...)

                        1. re: abe1329

                          Sounds like Robert has joined the chorus that the best place to blow $200 per person on a supremely fresh (as in LIVE) seafood dinner is Koi Palace in Daly City.

                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            You don't *have* to spend $200 a head.

                            http://www.koipalace.com/menu/dinner....

                        2. I would say taht Chez Spencer will give you a more SF experience. It is located in an obsure place and is freqented more by city folk than the downtown joints. I really can't say enough good about it. I think you can make a reservation or look up the info on opentable.com

                          1. Koi Palace....sigh...how I miss thee.

                            Forget Aqua and Farallon.

                            Why not Gary Danko if you want to drop the cash?

                            I always have great meals there.