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Jan 17, 2006 04:06 PM

Which upscale SF restaurant has the best desserts?

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I'm in the process of making a reservation for a special dinner in SF, and I want to make sure that wherever we choose has great desserts, rather than being a place where desserts are kind of an afterthought and not a focus.

Any opinions on an upscale restaurant in SF that has great desserts? I'm thinking along the lines of Zuni, Delfina, Range, etc.


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  1. m
    Morton the Mousse

    Aziza has great desserts. The challenge is to make it to the dessert course without being stuffed.

    I don't like the desserts at Boulevard. I think they're way, way, way too sweet.

    19 Replies
    1. re: Morton the Mousse

      Gary Danko is a possibility
      Roy's can be a bargain if you like the very popular dark chocolate "molten cake/souffle" desserts.

      Delfina and Range are so so for desserts in my opinion.

      1. re: Cary

        Roy's in SF by far has the WORST chocolate souffle out of all the Roy's that I have been to (which isn't really saying much about that branch since I don't like that dessert . One of the better chocolate cake desserts around the Bay Area would be Oliveto. Their bittersweet choco cake is done very well.

        1. re: Mike Lee
          Robert Lauriston

          Olvieto's desserts are to my taste the best around. But it's in Oakland.

          Farallon's executive pastry chef is Emily Luchetti (formerly of Stars), one of the best in the business.


          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Sorry but Emily's desserts are boring. She is a very engaging person with lots of praise(see the Beard website) However her desserts are more Betty Crocker than not. They lack creativity. They lack any flavor other than sweet. They are BORING.

            No offense to Emily but(in my opinion)she's been mailing it in for years.


            1. re: lance
              Robert Lauriston

              One person's boring is another's subtle and delicious. We have a lot of dessert/baking cookbooks and Stars Desserts is overall the best.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I don't disagree w/your opinion. But STARS was 20 years ago. & not much has changed at FAROLLON.


                1. re: lance
                  Robert Lauriston

                  You say that like it's a bad thing.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I don't know if 'bad' is quite the word to use. I think of restaurants(not cooking at home)especially fine dining places like Farallon, with W. Allen's reference in 'Annie Hall': they're like a shark. They have to keep moving forward or they die. & far too many restaurants get comfortable & fall asleep, so to speak. & that's fine if you're in the taqueria price point. But, I expect more from chef's that continually appear in the J. Beard nominations.

                    However maybe it's me. Maybe I expect more than I should from Beard award winners. But I'd venture a guess there are others who'd agree w/me.

                    Any takers?


                    1. re: lance

                      I'll take this on, like a fool! I think you're both right: Emily is a bit boring (but not her fault) and she is very good (at what she does). Yes, chefs are supposed to keep swimming, but so are musicians and actors and painters. Some artists evolve, and others refine their one-hit wonder. Some diners and art lovers want constant change, and others want comfortable predictability. I like both,but at different times, and choose my dining according to my mood and desires, and try to judge food and chef on each its/her/his own merits. I only get upset when I pay $200 for a $50 value meal, like at CP or FL.

                        1. re: Claudette
                          Robert Lauriston

                          The French Laundry is $210 including service charge.

                          The most expensive meal downstairs at Chez Panisse is Fridays and Saturdays, when it's $85 for four courses (just went up $10 this week), with the 17% service charge that's $100.

                          We went last Friday for a birthday celebration and it was a glorious meal. Having a different bottle of wine for each course drove up the tab but it still cost considerably less than FL's base price:

                          - olives; prosecco-citrus apéritif

                          - grilled Cannard Farm leeks with egg and black truffles; 2003 René Muré pinot blanc "Tradition"

                          - Bronze turkey and chanterelle mushroom ravioli in brodo; 2002 Guillemot Savigny les Beaune Serpentieres

                          - Line-caught striped bass, sea scallops, and steelhead trout in red wine sauce with pancetta and glazed onions; black flat cabbage [i.e. tatsoi] and Yellow Finn potatoes; 1999 J.L. Chave St.-Joseph (estate)

                          - Baba au rhum with Valencia oranges; 2003 Durban Muscat-de-Beaumes-de-Venise

                          If there's a restaurant in the area where you can get a meal like that for $50, I'd like to know about it.

                        2. re: lance

                          I think there are a lot of people in here who would agree with you. Places like Aqua, Boulevard, and Hawthorne Lane have there detractors for not innovating, while others think they are are consistently excellent. Plenty of folks who once loved Slanted Door, now don't return for what is arguably very similar food.

                          1. re: Chris Rising
                            Robert Lauriston

                            I loved Slanted Door when it was on Valencia Street because it was good Vietnamese food with a great wine list at reasonable prices in a nice space.

                            The food's about the same and the wine list has gotten better, but prices have gone up and the new space is grim and noisy. I'm happy to go there for business lunches but wouldn't choose it myself.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I completely agree with Robert on both these assessments.
                  It's interesting how difficult it is to do desserts well. Chez Panisse has great summer offerings- again East Bay.
                  I seldom find anything in the city I want to go back for.

                3. re: Mike Lee

                  People can be split on how they like their chocolate "souffles". More "souffle" like, or more "cake" like, or very "molten" like.

                  I just mentioned Roy's because it is very popular for their food and dessert. (prix fixe is $30 for 3 courses, which isn't bad)

                  Personally I like the classic souffle but not many places do a good one.

                  1. re: Cary

                    Sorry, my barometer for saying Roy's in SF is horrible is based on visiting Roy's in SF, Roy's in Woodland Hills, Roy's in Los Angeles, and Roy's in New York. I wasn't stating whether people would like their Souffles prepared flourless or cakey but merely a reflection of the said dessert at all its chains that I visited. I have been twice for lunch at the SF location and both times left disappointed in comparison to other Roy's.

                    1. re: Cary

                      Cafe Jacqueline makes great souffles.

                      1. re: Foodrat
                        Robert Lauriston

                        No entrees or desserts other than souffles, though.

                4. re: Morton the Mousse

                  Is Janet Rikala still with Aziza?

                  IMHO, she's the best in town...

                5. Rubicon has excellent desserts, specially if you do not like things too sweet. The pastry chef there is without question brilliant.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Amy G

                    I cannot 2nd this opinion with enough emphasis. I have tasted desserts from James Beard award winners & nominees & rate Nicole Krasinski with or better than all of them.

                    She is wonderfully creative, blending flavors & ingredients that are rarely if ever found on any menu in any city. This woman's desserts are a true culinary treasure.

                    Most often you will have to pause to evaluate just what it is you're eating. Because she is so inventive some will say this isn't dessert. Perhaps chef K is reinventing the genre. In her own way she is more Ferran Adria' than anything this country has produced.

                    If you haven't tried desserts at Rubicon, turn off your computer & run straight to the restaurant(Rubicon)on Sacramento near Montgomery. No one & I mean NO ONE comes close to what Nicloe Krasinski does at Rubicon!


                    1. re: Lance
                      Robert Lauriston

                      Interesting. Can't beat Rubicon's wine list, either.


                    2. re: Amy G

                      Another vote for Rubicon's desserts! Definitely the most creative palette of flavors among the restaurants I've tried. (And by creative, I don't mean weird or funky.) Yes, I'd go to Rubicon just because of the desserts.

                    3. I love Town Hall's desserts which, I feel is pretty close comparably your examples of upscale. Gary Danko is not comparable to Range and Delfina.

                      Town Hall has a chocolate and butterscotch pot de creme that makes my mouth water thinking about it, and a house made s'more that layers a graham cracker crust, fresh made marshmallow, ice cream, chocolate sauce, and caramel. It is fairly outrageous and comes with a menu warning that it is not appropriate for one person.

                      1. I love the dessert platter (bite size of several desserts plus some cookies and candies) @ Jardiniere. Would even go back and have dessert at the bar w/ a nice glass of wine or coffee.

                        1. winterland.

                          The most creative dessert I had by far.

                          Chocolate pie with a lavender sauce
                          Curried banana
                          Caramelized brioche with olive oil ice cream

                          and that's the one I got, but there were many more I did not get to sample that looked amazing.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: cedichou
                            Robert Lauriston

                            Oh yeah, the desserts were great there. Like everything else I tasted. Especially the pork belly.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              the pork belly with praline foam *was* dessert.

                            2. re: cedichou

                              I'd have to disagree about Winterland - when i went, although the meal was superb, our desserts were overpriced and bland.

                              they came out on rectangular plates, with a little dab of all the different components sitting seperate from one another.

                              For my $9, i got about 4 tablespoons of actual product. Although i forgot the specifics of the dish (since it was about 5 months ago), i remember it was fig themed - and not very sweet, and left me wanting more, not just because i really wanted a great dessert - but because i'd paid so much for it.