Nopa, Canteen, Aziza, or ? (another bday query)
I'm looking for a bday spot for the manfriend's bday next month. Our most frequented place for an occasion is Delfina which we both love for the food, service, proximity to home, and being able to eat a bit later. We also go to Blue Plate, Foreign Cinema, Slow Club, and Range for nicer dinners usually. I wanted to go to Winterland b/c the bf was a fan of Morales at the Flying Saucer, but we waited too long. He's already been to Boulevard and we went to Slanted Door and Myth this summer. Nopa is my top choice mainly b/c I've heard almost all positive opinions about the food and we like to drink, so full bar is nice. Aziza has been on our list forever but that is a really expensive cab ride from the Mission/Bernal area. Canteen has been on my list, but I'm not sure the ambiance would be right, I think we'd be ok if we could have a booth. As for the others, I'm a bit wary b/c for every good review I've read, I've also read a "meh" one. Also, not so fond of hotel restaurants due to hotelish ambiance. Things we like are sashimi and raw items, spicy or bright flavored food, and decent lighting (ok, that's mostly me). Thanks for any advice.
Potentials: Circolo, Coi, Aziza, Ame, Chez Spencer, Cortez, A16, Bushi-Tei, Scott Howard, Canteen, Cortez, Nopa, Bar Tartine, ?
Given your list of favorites, I would definitely suggest Nopa, though I have not been to several of your potentials (Coi, Ame). Canteen's great but I went for my birthday last year and though I loved the food, the atmosphere wasn't quite right for an "occasion" meal.
For brightly flavored food, I would consider Scott Howard. The new menu looks great, and the raw stuff there is always good. Also the intense carrot soup is amazing.
Nopa is really loud and not as much of a celebration destination in my view. It's great and the food is terrific, but it's more of an everyday place.
Ame is very pricey but also fits your requirements.
Circolo is the opposite of hotel ambiance. In fact, it sort of
seems a bit like a big, glass and steel birthday party.
Half bar, half restaurant, half upstairs something, half dance club.
Wait, that doesn't add up right. Anyway, the place feels like a
dot.com bubble overarchitected horror, but it's not. Open kitchen
with a chef who is minutely aware of what's happening at the
tables (a distressed look on my companions face over some minor matter
got us the full-on how-can-we-make-things-better treatment when
he noticed one time).
Fusion-y but in a surprisingly good way. The baby back ribs appetizer
is really nice. Really really nice. It's been too many months to comment
usefully on the rest of the menu, but I've never had anything there I didn't
like a lot. Oh yeah, lychee bread pudding. Yum.
At about 10 or so it begins to transform into a dance club. Which could solve
the what to do after dinner problem.
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I love all three restaurants, and you're sure to have fantastic food at all of them, but for a special birthday dinner I'd choose Aziza and order the tasting menu (an excellent value at five courses for $50). The atmosphere is very convival and the far back room is intimate and sexy if that's what you're going for. The food is excellent and much more interesting than the more classic dishes at Nopa and Canteen (don't get me wrong, I love a good pork chop, but for my birthday?) The bar at Aziza is phenomenal. It's also easy to get there on the bus that runs down Geary. I guess the one possible downside is that the lighting is somewhat dim.