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Best Tasting Menu with Wine Pairing

I'm bringing my parents on a weekend trip to San Francisco, and we're looking for a stellar tasting menu with reliably good wine pairings and a good sommelier. The emphasis here is on the wine pairing, with a preference for a nice selection of California wines.

We're too late for Gary Danko, so I'm considering:

The Ritz Dining Room
La Folie
Boulevard

Any advice?

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  1. While the food is good at La Folie, I'd recommend against it if you're aiming for wine pairings. They don't actually have set pairings, and when I was there recently, I was most unhappy with what the sommelier picked - a man we never saw again after our initial request. Someone else will have to chime in about the other two: I've not been to the Ritz (shocker), and I was on a year kick from drinking during my two visits to Boulevard. Any openings at Michael Mina?

    1. Boulevard- I have been here about five times although it's been about two years since my last visit. They have been consistantly good and I have always had great experiences with their
      Sommelier. No matter how busy they are he will take the time with you on the wines and follow up to make sure you are happy with your choice.

      Rubicon- might be a consideration as well. They specialize in Californian wines.

      1. I'm a dolt - ditto on Lori's Rubicon recommendation. Wine is a huge +++, as are the desserts Nicole puts out. On that tangent, I still salivate when I think of her pecorino and plum tart with olive oil ice cream.... quite possibly one of the best desserts I've ever had.

        You could always do the DAT option and splurge on wine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jrhsfcm

          Does Rubicon offer a sommelier-selected pairing with the tasting menu? The wine list is amazing, but I've always been disappointed by the by-the-glass selection.

        2. Does Boulevard offer a tasting menu? I don;t remember seeing it, but I do really like Boulevard and is one place I keep going back to.

          We had a lovely meal at Fifth Floor this last weekend. Most of the wine pairings were French, but I'm willing to bet they would accomodate a CA request.

          We did the Ritz a year or so ago and that was nice as well. I'd choose Fifth Floor over it though, based on food.

          2 Replies
          1. re: SLRossi

            There's one thing I forgot to mention that I really liked about FF. I was dining with two ladies and we all had the tasting menu. The ladies had one menu and I had another. So with a seven course meal (plus various amuse)we got to try 14 dishes and 16 wines. Of course this is only a perk if you're willing to share.

            1. re: SLRossi

              With Boulevard and Rubicon I think it depends on how you order; you build it your own with the help of the sommelier. Both places are excellent and have a nice atmosphere.

              For actual tasting menus maybe
              Coi
              Fifth Floor
              Gary Danko
              Farallon
              Aziza - more causal
              Campton Place

            2. Rossi - you mentioned that the "ladies" had one menu, and you another. Was that because they had different menu options available... or because FF participates in the misogynistic practice of having gender-specific menus? Just curious as that's a huge pet peeve of mine.

              3 Replies
              1. re: jrhsfcm

                The chef and sommelier at Fifth Floor are women.

                When's the last time you saw a gender-specific menu? I thought they went out around the time that bars started serving unaccompanied ladies.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  On a date in 1983 I was given a menu with no prices. Crazy. However, I think the poster above simply meant that there were two options for tasting menus. I've never heard of gender-specific menus.

                2. re: jrhsfcm

                  There were no options available, we were just served two different menus. Personally, we got a kick out of it because we got to try so many things and then we discussed who got the better dish for each course. We didn't feel as if one menu was more or less adventerous than the other. I would never have framed it as misogynistic, particuallry because we were aware that of the female leadership at the restaurant.

                3. I know the chef at FF is leaving, so I was curious if that had happened and someone else had taken over the reigns.

                  And gender-specific menus and supplements are not as uncommon as you think. My boss and her husband had an evening out not THAT long ago whereas she was served an entirely different (and much less adventurous) tasting menu. Our dining party was also treated to a hint of this around Thanksgiving while dining at Per Se. The three gentlemen in our group enjoyed a tangy (and delicious) cranberry pot de creme... while "the lady" was singled out and served a rather boring creme brulee.

                  It's usually an unspoken thing that happens - I can't imagine chefs actually putting said things in print. haha

                  4 Replies
                    1. re: jrhsfcm

                      A travesty to some is a blessing for others. The tasting menu at Elizabeth Daniel (the Daniel now at Coi) included two completely different sets of dishes, one for he and one for she. Both were equally creative and it was a joy to try twice as many dishes as I expected. Misogynistic? Absolutely not. Thou doth protest too much, methinks.

                      --A

                      1. re: jrhsfcm

                        Probally more common than one would think. During Ron Siegel's tenure at Masa's in 2003, the tasting menu was served in a similar gender specific manner during a business dinner I attended. We were asked at the beginning if it was ok for us to get different dishes with each course and we agreed thinking it would be fun. As the only woman at the table of 8 (and the youngest by 10 years), three courses were served where I got something different than my colleagues. When I figured out that I was only one that was going to get a different course, I quickly pulled the server aside and asked him to just serve me what everyone else was having. The server apologised profusely but said that he couldn't change it now. The food was, nonetheless, amazing, but it wasn't a good practice when the table isn't evenly split and made me somewhat unconfortable.

                        1. re: jrhsfcm

                          Had the same experience at Masa's.

                        2. It's shocking at fine dining establishments, yes. But, at the same time, it also has made me hyperaware of this phenomenon, as well. Small things occur all the time in restaurants that reflect cultural misogyny. But trust me, it's something I consider when taking my female friends out to eat.

                          Interestingly enough, the situation with my boss was actually under the watch of one of SF's most famous chefs. Furthermore, Per Se has yet to respond to my letter regarding the situation (my letter was otherwise glowing, so it wasn't all gloom and doom).

                          1. I have had the tasting menus with wine pairings at Ame, Coi, and Danko. Food-wise Coi was the most daring and innovative while Ame had some truly original pairings (sake which is unusual).

                            I was more impressed with the wine pairings at Ame but with the food at Coi.

                            1. When I said "one for he and one for she", I didn't mean that there was a man's menu and a woman's menu. I apologize. What I meant was that as a couple, we received two different menus. In this case I don't think it would effect you and your boyfriend...or your lesbian friends. I -assume- that the two menu option would be available to any two people, regardless of gender.

                              The restaurants where I have experienced this did not have printed menus. I don't remember for sure, but I believed that we were asked if this was OK at the start of the meal. Both Per Se and FL had printed menus and I don't recall them deviating from the menu when I dined there.

                              If this is such a hot issue for you, why don't you inform your server that you'd like all individuals to be served identical tasting menus? Problem solved. All restaurants of this caliber will certainly honor such a simple request.

                              1. Back to the topic at hand, I really like the tasting menu with wine pairing at Acquerello. Don't know how old your parents are, but my 50/60 year old parents absolutely loved our meal there and mr. norjah and I go there quite a bit on our own.

                                The wines are italian, not Californian, but it's a fabulous bargain for fine dining ($100 per including wine). I know this isn't usually considered a plus, but I like that fact I can almost always get a reservation there.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: norjah

                                  The price has gone up to $110. It's still a great value if you take advantage of the free refills. But as you note the wine pairing is always 100% Italian.

                                2. SF places that I am sure have tasting menus with formal wine parings include:

                                  Aqua
                                  Acquerello
                                  Fifth Floor
                                  Gary Danko
                                  Masa's
                                  Michael Mina

                                  I suspect Fleur de Lys and Farallon do also, but I have never dined at either place.

                                  At COI they will put together wine pairings for the tasting menu, and some of them can be quite creative.

                                  1. The Ritz had the best wine pairings I've had in my life matching a memorable restaurant in France.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: rworange

                                      Oops. I forgot to mention Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton which certainly has an exquisite tasting menu and wine pairing.

                                    2. Let me add my voice to the chorus for Boulevard. Get a table by the window if you can. Enjoy the view of the Bay Bridge at night or at twilight. The hustle and bustle of the dining room; the smells from the open kitchen; that beautiful vaulted ceiling, they’re what make the place so special. And the wait staff and sommeliers are all top flight. Even when I’m in town alone, I go there and eat at the chef’s table (really a bar counter) overlooking the kitchen and have never been disappointed.