Chow Challenge -- Zuni, Chez Panisse and ...
Thanks to those who posted previously to first time SF visitors from Ottawa and Toronto, Canada. I have reservations, thanks to you, for Zuni next Thursday night and Chez Panisse on Friday night.
Would like to reserve for Saturday night and have a few options to consider for Wednesday where reservations aren't necessary.
The suggestions I'm following the recommendations for are:
With the reservations I have, would you care to rank those above or offer other suggestions -- wide open to bistro/brasserie, ethnic regional/ethnic cultural (Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Californian other) or just great reasonable eats for enjoyable, casual dining and get a flavour from the food and off the city.
Lunch suggestions would be appreciated too. Residing near Union Square but plan on getting around a fair bit. Rented a car for Saturday and Sunday.
Personally I like and would recommend these two:
Bar Crudo - very friendly casual little fish place serving both raw and cooked preparations within walking distance of union sq (on bush above the tunnel).
I have been twice and the stellar dishes are a tuna confit and the chowder (very rich - they will split the bowl for you if you ask). A lobster salad special I tried there was excellent. downside - no meat or desserts.
Coco500 - Unabashedly modern. A little noisy. Actually, very noisy at peak times. Great value for money, good cocktails and, if it is still on the menu, a cured salmon pizza with lemon and bitter greens that I adore. Many others have a preference for the squash blossom flatbread instead. It almost has a cult following.
Beef cheek tacos (COCOmolo) are fun and a steal at just $4 for five bite sized pieces. This place open for lunch too - if you go a little later, around 1.30ish) when it is emptying out then it is less noisy.
When you are at Zuni, ask if they have the caramel pot de creme on the menu that night. Miss it at your peril.
I think those are all very different, so it really depends on what your want. Tadich has good food -- not exciting or innovative, but fresh and well-prepared. Its appeal is mostly the combination of the classic, West Coast seafood and the old SF atmosphere.
I think you would find the food more unique and exciting at Aziza. I don't know what the Italian food scene is like where you're from, so I can't judge whether either Da Flora or Oliveto would be worth a visit. Be aware that there are often complaints about the service at both places, if that matters to you.
I think with two Cal-Cuisine standards you probably want something different, so I'd skip Coco500. Maybe consider Piperade (upscale Basque food). Since you have a car, maybe you should head up to the wine country Saturday or Sunday -- lots of good restaurants in both Napa (touristy but compact) and Sonoma (less touristy but spread out) counties.
Aziza would be a good choice for Sunday and they take reservations.
Tadich doesn't take reservations so you might consider it on one of those other nights.
I love Coco500, but I'm wondering if you are putting too much Cal-cuisine in your schedule. If you don't mind that, then Coco500 is an excellent choice. It is only open during the week for lunch, so don't count on it for a Saturday lunch. They are famous for the vacherin for dessert. The coco500 cocktail is wonderful. Calamari is wonderful.
Oh my, I just looked at their menu and there is roasted veal marrow bones ... and me in SF tommorrow. I think I know where dinner will be ... but I digress.
Other good options at coco500 are the fried green beans, duck liver terrine, coastal greens with almonds and nectarines ... hmmm ... really got to get over there ... pork tenderloin ... they always do pork well ... and white corn. Well, everything is good, but those are the standouts that I see on the current menu.
You do know about the Saturday morning farmers' market at the Ferry Building, right? It's an absolute must, and there's lots of prepared foods for grazing.
There's no Vietnamese on your list, I noticed. What about Bodega Bistro? You also mentioned Indian. Does anyone know if Sultan is still doing Gujarati on Sundays? That would do you very nicely for your Sunday dinner.
If you want something fun and surprising, you could always head over to Oakland and do Mexican street food. If you search "Fruitvale taco crawl" you should get lots of threads with names of places and directions.
For your night of no reservations, I'd suggest NOPA, call at 2pm for the same night. You will get the "feel" of the city you mentioned you were looking for. Its pretty new so its still a new feel, but its very San Francisco as the city is right now!
Have lunch at Canteen. Alternatively (but a second choice, still) is to go graze at the Ferry Building. I would also second the recommendation of Oliveto for your other dinner.
re: Robert Lauriston
Given that neither restaurant is unknown, if Oliveto were superior to Quince I'd expect it to be harder to get a reservation at Oliveto than at Quince, and that Oliveto would have a higher Zagat food rating than Quince, neither of which is true.
I've only been to Quince and Oliveto three times each, so perhaps I caught them showing uncharacteristically each time, but I have preferred every dish I have had at Quince to any dish I have had at Oliveto (though Oliveto is a good restaurant and worthy of a visit if you are in the neighborhood, and their whole hog and balsemico dinners are well worth attending).
re: Paul H
It's hard to say one is better than the other. Quince is fussier with more cream preps and is a little more northern italian in their pasta style. Oliveto is more rustic with tomato, garlic, and olive oil preps and is little more southern italian bent. Not that both don't occasionally dip into other regional italian cuisine.
It depends on which style of pasta you like. If you like italian with a touch of french influence, then Quince. If you like italian with a touch of Cal-cuisine, then Oliveto. The entrees are about equal.
I like the wine list at Oliveto better.
One of us must be bored today :-)
Perhaps the few reports of "disappointment" with the entrees is because they pale when compared to the brilliance of the pasta?