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Restaurants that surpassed your (hyped up) expectations

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You spent months reading reviews, drooling over photos and fantasizing about sample menus. When you finally made that reservation your expectations were through the roof, and the meal was everything you had hoped for and more. In contrast to the recent "hater" thread, what restaurants have gone beyond the hype and exceeded your expectations?

For me, it would have to be Incanto. I read countless gushing reviews, I heard my friends and coworkers rave and when I finally ate there I was floored. The food was actually better than my fantasies and I can't wait to return.

Here's my full report on Incanto:

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

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  1. Michael Mina. This was before I "discovered" CH. Had a wonderfully amazing dining experience.

    As for post CH "discovery," I'd have to go with Pazzia and Winterland.

    Most places have either met or fell JUST below my expectations (i.e. Gary Danko).

    1. I'd have to say Shanghai East. I'd never had that type of Chinese cuisine before, and I had read the countless endless discussions of XLB, but they surpassed my expectations. OMG, do XLB deserve the hype. On my first visit I had the XLB and the Lions Head Meatballs and the rice cakes with crab and I still haven't recovered from the pure yummy deliciousness of those dishes. I've since eaten at other Shanghai restaurants, and loved those same dishes elsewhere, but nothing's ever quite like your first time.

      1. Ame. I was told by several friends that it was super. We had eaten at Terra in St. Helena several times so were familiar with the concept. We tried Ame for my wife's birthday and were very impressed. There was not one flaw in either of our opinions.

        1. I have to go with Incanto, as well. I remember nearly every dish I got (and those of my dining companions) and few bites, if any, weren't at least excellent.

          1. French Laundry (probably the most unoriginal answer).

            It's the most hyped place I've ever been too, and it was worth all the praise. It's in a whole other league and opened my eyes to dining as an experience, not just a meal.

            1. Another vote for Incanto. Will be visiting FL in 1 month so we'll see if that changes. I have a sinking feeling it's become more commercialized and assembly line compared to 3-4 years ago.

              1. The House.

                It became the boyfriend's and my go-to restaurant. Love the sea bass.

                1. Delfina. I've seen raves about it lots of places, and finally went last night. The food was just about what I expected it to be, but what surpassed my expectations was that the service was so friendly and warm and on top of everything, and the restaurant itself was just lovely.

                  1. Manresa. Every course was insanely good, and the service was great. One of the best dining experiences I've had. We can't wait to go back.