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50th Birthday Recommendations...Jardiniere or Aqua?

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I am taking my wife to San Francisco for her 50th birthday and she has requested a romantic restaurant that is not "fussy" or trendy and is open on Sunday (her B-day this year)...we were thinking of Jardiniere or Aqua...Any other recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.

In addition, we are always on the lookout for really good Northern Italian (I was raised there...and we have very little in SoCal!)...we have loved Ristorante Milano for many years but it is too much a trattoria...and not fine dining!

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  1. I have not been to Jardiniere, but I am so down on Aqua. It is far from romantic, the service can be cold and the food isn't all that ... just expensive. This is based on my person experience a few years ago when I vowed never to step in there again and reading along on the board over the years where these same type of comments seem repeated. I haven't read enough to inspire me to return. There are Aqua fans. I am not one of them. Why take a chance for a restaurant that can be uneven.

    There seem to be lots of positive reports on Jarniere on the board.

    Happy Birthday to your wife. Hope you report back about the restaurant you decide on.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rworange

      I agree with all of this about Aqua, and I also think it's very fussy, which isn't what your wife wants.

    2. silks at the mandarin oriental might suit your needs: good food/service; handsome room that is romantic and not stuffy.

      1. I agree about Aqua and ate at Jardiniere in April to celebrate a friend's birthday. It remains celebratory, fun, and good food. Maybe no cheaper than Aqua, but you don't feel it's just made for expense accounts.

        1. Birthday Update...

          I finally chose Jardiniere for my wife's birthday this evening...and we were generally happy with the choice...and while it was a lot of fun with the pianist playing a jazz version of Nirvana to the Beatles Bluebird and a lively crowd...unfortunately the service was less than spectacular (20 minute wait for cocktail orders and a 30 minute wait for our mains after our first course...and we were not the only ones)...The food was well prepared but uninspired...my wife's beet salad with soft cooked eggs was interesting but did not have the "wow" factor she expected...it lacked flavor...her lamb special was perfectly cooked and tasty...my garlic soup was too salty (inedible) and was sent back...the chicken soup with greens was offered as a replacement and was very good!...my main course was the halibut which was outstanding...perfectly prepared with just a hint of a mustard and butter sauce. For dessert we shared a selection of excellent cheeses and a trio of ices...the crème fraîche ice was sooo good on the few berries on the plate used for garnish we asked for more to eat with the ice...this is a winner!!

          The wine selection was quite good but a little expensive...I had a flight of three Brunellos...supposedly two ounces each, but actually quite a bit more for $25...a bargain!! Expresso and mint tea ended the meal...the coffee was so so but the mint tea was wonderful.

          All in all, Jardiniere was an interesting choice for dinner...but really did not "wow" us in any way. Most of the dishes are simply prepared (this is a good thing) but overpriced...for a final tab of $250.00 for two I can only hope there are other places to dine in the Bay Area with better service and atmosphere...and maybe a little more imagination.

          2 Replies
          1. re: TravelPath

            Despite the lack of "wow" factor, I hope your wife enjoyed her birthday celebration!

            My husband and I just spent a week celebrating our anniversary in San Francisco, and Aqua and Jardiniere were among the restaurants we visited. (Also, Zuni Cafe.)

            Although the food at Aqua offered more of a "wow" factor in terms of presentation, we found the overall ambience unpleasant due to the extremely high-decibel noise. I would expect a higher-calibre restaurant to rectify that. Also, our waiter at Aqua was strange, alternating between obsequious and condescending.

            At Jardiniere, we were seated at a banquette on the quieter second floor, and we felt that the overall experience was more pleasantly memorable and a far better value for a higher-end restaurant than our dinner at Aqua. Jardiniere's food was quite good; we especially enjoyed the duck confit salad with candied kumquats, pistachios and olives. Oddly, our waitress disappeared for long stretches of time, especially when we needed her attention, which was somewhat off-putting.

            The prices for the wine selections everywhere we went in San Francisco struck us as slightly on the high side, but not ridiculously so.

            However, for the week, our favorite dinner was at Zuni Cafe; the service was perfect -- well-informed, extremely unobtrustive, always available -- and the food was nothing short of spectacular. From the looks of it, it might not be a typical choice for an "occasion" restaurant, but it had everything we look for in a favorite: inventive, high-quality food, attentive service and low-key ambience -- again, we were seated on the quieter second floor.

            1. re: Writer.Editor

              ZuniCafe "inventive?" Please elaborate.