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Jan 20, 2005 12:07 PM

Forbes Island DAT

  • j

Did the DAT at Forbes Island with 3 friends last night, just for fun...I got to say the experience is worth it...I mean come on you get driven out in a boat by Pierre to the floating island. Great view of SF from the lighthouse...And then you eat downstairs, under water.

So for the DAT you get a soup or Caeser salad...any entre($5 more for Filet Mignon or Lamb)...any dessert(they only had two last night)...the food was solid, nothing earth shattering but not bad by any means...I had the squash soup, lamb, and sorbet...The soup was nice...the rack of lamb was very good, little small. The creme brulet was very good...I think the DAT saved about 10 to 15 bucks so its a pretty good deal...considering the atmosphere...I would actually think sitting upstairs with a view of the city would be nicer than downstairs...

to sum up I think the DAT makes it worth it...and it is definitely a worthwhile experience at least once, even for a San Francisco resident who normally avoids Pier 39...

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  1. Whoa, do I have to disagree. We have different tastes jonnygo, so I'm glad people will have a chance to see two different points of view. Perhaps I was there on an off night ... a really, really off night.

    I was the Bay Area representative, the other tables being filled with tourists. All I can say is TOURIST TRAP, TOURIST TRAP, TOURIST TRAP.

    I didn't even find it particularily entertaining in terms of the boat ride and unique decor. Here I am in one of the most picturesqe parts of SF and I'm eating in a basement.

    I started with a luke warm cream of mushroom soup that looked like thick congealed gravy. It lacked any flavor so I guess that is a good thing. It could have tasted as bad as it looked. It costs $8 if you ordered it off the menu. I just spent $2.70 for a delicious yellow tomato tarragon soup made by people learing to cook at the cafe on Treasure Island. It beat the unapealing Forbes Island swill hands down.

    The roast pork was awful. It takes a special flair to ruin roast pork, IMO. Again it was lukewarm. Three tender but tasteless pork medallions sat on mashed white and sweet potatoes. A pool of a wine cherry sauce surrounded everything. I forgot what the menu said about the sauce, so I assumed the little pieces of fruit I saw were cranberries. Afterward I realized they were some sort of tiny cherries. Again, no flavor.

    The menu boasts the finest seasonal produce. Sure, however that season happens to be in Chile. The absolute worst thing there was the napolean dessert. Two less than crisp florentine cookies, a cup of overly cold out of season (in this hemisphere) blackberries and strawberries, and some sort of cream like substance that had the texture of marshmellow fluff. Again, being spared the flavor could be a good thing. Also, the fruit was so cold and straght from the fridge that if it did have any flavor, it was lost.

    My pleasant but untrained server recommended it. This is the same guy who when asked about the vegetarian entree said after dancing around the issue with "the finest seasonal vegetables", finally admitted he didn't know "some mashed potatoes, some braised cabbage". It was he knew, "a huge mound of vegetables and very filling" I was just astounded the diner ordered it after that description.

    The service was slow and I suspect it was to push the drinks. People were ordering multiple drinks while waiting for the food. The guy next to me asked the server if he would have time for one more brew while waiting for his entree. They asked you if you wanted drinks BEFORE seating you. You waited and waited to be seated in the empty restaurant next to the bar.

    I couldn't even drown my misery in drink. The wine was awful and way, way over priced. Small selection. See wine list on link below.

    The decor is nautical with antique pistols and swords on the walls. Between the long waits while waiting for each progressively worse course, I toyed with the thought of using the samari sword and ending it all.

    The staff was boasting that it was only place on pier 39 where the ambiance matched the food. They never had one complaint. Do you think I was going to complain when there was the chance I'd annoy them and find myself having to swim back to the pier.

    While the tourists seemed to be having a fine time, I didn't hear anyone say anything enthusiastic about the food after taking a bite. There were no mmmms.

    This is a great place to take someone if you don't want them to escape. Breaking up with someone? They will have to listen to your good bye until the boat comes. And there is that final insult of the horrible meal.

    I will give them credit with being the only DAT menu that gave you a significant saving. I would have paid $14 more ordering a la carte. They also had the brilliant idea of letting you order entrees that were not one of the DAT selections by adding $5 to the bill. Other places should do that.

    There is a $3 charge per person for the boat ride. What finally pushed me over the line into contempt for this restaurant was the parking validation. When I made a reservation, THEY made it a point to say the parking was validated. It was repeated a number of times. Validated parking is free for two hours at the pier 39 pier for participating restaurants. HOWEVER, this is not one of those specific restaurants. I was charged $8 as I exited. I got into a squabble with the parking attendant over this. I called the restaurant on my cell phone and they confirmed it was $8. It was just deceptive, to me.

    Also, you don't want to go here if you get queasy on a boat or have mobility problems. Thhe restaurant moves and even on the calm night I went, a lamp was swinging back and forth, back and forth ...

    You elderly aunt who is unsteady on her feet would have trouble negotiating the steep ramp to the pier, hopping on and off the boat and a significant number of stairs once you reach the island.

    At one table, there was a group of people from Texas. One guy bit tentatively into his filet mignon and said "I've been eating pastrami sandwiches all week, I might as well eat like a San Franciscan one night".

    Of course I first wanted to ask where he was getting those great pastrami sandwiches. If it wasn't for the prospect of having to ride a sea lion back to the pier, I would have shouted "NO, NO, San Franciscans do NOT eat like this".

    A nice woman on the boat asked that, as a native, did I eat at Forbes Island often. I tried to recover from the look of shock that I know was on my face. No I told her, explaining about DAT. I was just curious. It was one of those places you wanted to see ... like Alcatrez.


    6 Replies
    1. re: Krys Stanley

      I'm a bit confused by what you say about validated parking: was the parking or was it not validated? $8 sounds like it might be a validated rate to me: did you just assume that the two hours free would apply (because you happen to know about it), or did something the restaurant said lead you to believe that 'validated' meant free? How much would parking have been without the validation? If in fact you did not receive validation after being told you would receive it, I would send a letter to the manager and ask for a refund of your parking fee, assuming they didn't specify a certain lot and you parked in a different lot (which has happened to me in that area). However, I am guessing your parking was validated, just not as much as you assumed it would be....

      Hopefully, the restaurant warns one about the charge for the boat ride: if they don't, that would be deceptive, imo, particularly since the boat ride is required...

      one comment on your assessment of the food: I actually think roast pork is one of the easier foods to ruin (by overcooking)....

      1. re: susancinsf
        Daniel Simpson Day

        This is stated on their website:

        Parking at Pier 39 Garage is only $8 for up to 6 hours with our validation.

        (located directly across from our dock)

        There is a $3 per person round trip fare for shuttle service to the island.

        1. re: Daniel Simpson Day

          sounds very clearly stated to me.

        2. re: susancinsf

          When you enter the Pier 39 garage there is a HUGE, HUGE sign that says 'Validated Parking with participating pier 39 restaurants. This is not the first time I have parked at that garage. It continues that one hour will be free with validation. The first two hours are free if you leave after 6 pm.

          Because this place is next to Pier 39, one would assume they are a Pier 39 restaurant. That parking garage sign is just too in your face.

          There is a sign about the charge for the boat ride, so I didn't feel deceived about that, just ripped off considering the prices. I did know about the boat fare from reading this board, so I was prepared for the charge.

          Maybe to avoid confusion, when you enter the gate they should also have a sign at the dock clearly stating $8 parking with validation.

          I could bring this to the attention of management if I ever would consider going back. There are some things I didn't include in my post because of board rules. The parking was just the last straw in a thouroughly unpleasant evening.

        3. re: Krys Stanley

          Hey Krys,
          I can certainly understand how bad food and bad service would influence your perception of the place and overshadow the decor...I was also put off by the "hidden" fees, even if it was stated on the website...but then again I wasnt expecting cheap or good definitely sounds like you had a worse meal and experience than I had and that is always disappointing...As I said before the food isnt great...I would rather get a steak from Izzys, for example...but if you havent been there I think it is a unique experience, good for a laugh...and maybe the food might be better on the weekdays when it is less crowded...hey some people might not be willing to gamble 50 bucks for a laugh and hopefully a good meal...but other might...

          1. re: jonnygo

            I'm glad that there is FINALLY some discussion on this place. I don't know how many times someone asked about this over the years and you get back a one sentence reply ... which I will admit is, we liked it.

            If anyone wants to go I would suggest going during DAT where you do get that big discount. At night, you really can find street parking near Pier 39 and save the $8.

            I did go there with mixed expectations. I suspected the food would be average, but I was starting to believe Forbes Island hype. I was hoping I could tell people ... wait you are wrong.

            About two years ago I revisited the Pier 39 restaurants to see if they were perhaps better than I remembered. They were much, much worse than I remembered (Eagle Cafe excepted). As kind as I can be about Forbes is that it wasn't as bad as those restaurants.

            So my curiosity about the place was finally satisfied. There's just too much good food in the city for me to revisit even for the entertainment value.

            People just have to decide if they want the trip. I know I was just hell bent to go this year and even if someone had written up something like I did, I would have went. I hope anyone else who goes will report back too.

            I will say that everyone was really, really pleasant ... except me toward he end. I dont think they would have REALLY thrown me to the seals if I complained.

        4. I have eaten there as well and was very happy with my food. When I went, the whole "island" had been rented out for this party and we had a good representation of almost all the menu items and I was very impressed. I think I was impressed because I was more prepared to be diasappointed. Like you said, it's nothing earth shattering but it's very good food, well prepared with great service and a truly unique atmosphere.

          1. any new updates to this? my office is considering this restaurant for our holiday party. we all like good food, but were looking for something a little different than the usual. in years past we've gone to M2squared, The Grand Cafe in the Hotel Monaco, Farallon, etc. is this still considered cheesy/bad food? anyone had a more recent good experience here? thanks!