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Aug 23, 2007 05:49 AM

Our love affair with all things Tartine-- and the rest of our trip to San Francisco (a long report!)...

Day 1
We were immediately excited when we walked up to Yank Sing. We took everyone’s advice and went very hungry. The room was really attractive and the service was shockingly helpful (both these things were fantastic improvements over my dim sum experiences in New York). Overall, we were incredibly impressed. I’ll give the run down of what we had, with a grade next to them. First string beans with garlic and minced pork that were really fresh and wonderful (A). Next, through a little miscommunication, we ended up with fried shrimp and fried crab claw. The seafood inside both was really fresh, although the batter was rather heavy; this is something I would skip in the future (B). The Shanghai/soup dumplings were excellent, though really different than the versions I’ve had in New York; less soup inside, significantly less fatty and the dipping sauce was red and not soy based (A). The Peking duck!! Wow, we loved this. The sweet light bun went so well with the crisp duck, scallions and hoisin sauce—unbelievable (A+). The minced chicken in the lettuce cups was not a favorite for us, perhaps just a matter of taste, but we found them overly sweet and nutty (B-). The shrimp dumplings were great, not particularly exciting, but really simple and fresh (A-). We loved the pot-stickers, really gingery and flavorful with the skin cooked perfectly (A). My favorite of the meal was the BBQ pork bun; that light sweet bun filled with little pieces of sweet/tangy BBQ pork that we dipped in the hot mustard—awesome (A+). Finally, we got the egg custard which were very good but at this point I was way too full to even finish one (B+). Overall the meal was terrific. We got lucky and sat right near the kitchen so all dishes were hot and fresh. Again, the service was really helpful which made it quite enjoyable. Definitely true that this is more expensive than most dim sum (though admittedly, we ordered a lot of food for two people). We loved that Yank Sing chili sauce that was on the table. I really hope to make it back here again soon.

I must preface my report on Aziza by saying that we were considerably jet-lagged during this meal and slightly woozy. We found the room to be very pretty and our server (Jennifer) was lovely. At everyone’s suggestion we did the tasting menu. We both felt that the portions were rather large for that sort of meal. We were told to pick a soup and an entrée (and that we would eventually pick a dessert) and that the chef would pick the appetizers and we would get the Basteeya (?) as a third course—not much of a “chef’s” tasting, but I guess some choice in a meal is good... It started out wonderfully, he had the lentil soup with a date; the date was fresh and fantastic and complemented the coriander-heavy (in a good way) soup. I had the special that night, a corn soup with pink peppercorns and grilled corn, my favorite part of the meal. Next we got the “chef’s choice” which were the gigantes (huge lima beans in a tomato sauce, baked with French feta on top) and grilled kafta kebabs. The gigantes were terrific and the cheese on top of them was outrageously good. The kebabs were served with grilled grapes and julienned cucumber salad. All the flavors matched perfectly, but being a little nit-picky, I would have preferred if the kafta was cooked through (and I love rare meat), I just didn’t think the texture lent itself to that temperature so well. After this was the Basteeya, which neither of us particularly cared for. It was a little too heavy, too big, and too sweet for a course in the middle of a meal. I wasn’t especially fond of the texture, couldn’t taste the saffron and found it to be slightly cinnamon-heavy. I’m not sure what it was but this really didn’t work for us at all. For entrées he got the braised lamb shank in kumquat sauce with cranberry-cinnamon barley and earl-tea braised prunes. The lamb itself was amazing and perfectly cooked, but again it tasted a bit too sweet for us. I had the halibut in a saffron broth with potatoes and green olives. This was good (especially the potatoes), if slightly bland, and the portion of fish was huge. Now I’m not necessarily complaining about that, but sometimes when you are sitting down for a lengthy meal you don’t want to see hunks of fish and meat after you’ve already had three courses. At this point our jetlag was more then we felt like dealing with and got dessert to go (the fruit with cinnamon dusted almonds and the chocolate tart). Had the fruit and nuts when we got home, good quality ingredients, though again I didn’t think that everything (grapes, peaches, strawberries, almonds, etc. had to be dusted in cinnamon). The next morning for a pre-breakfast we had a bite of the bittersweet chocolate tart, which came with a peanut butter mousse wafer and a piece of cocoa nib toffee. Great dessert (or breakfast)! Overall the meal was really good, the ingredients were fresh and everything was cooked perfectly. Our minds just weren’t blown and this might have been an issue of taste (not loving all the sweet), maybe ordering too many sweet dishes (we were out of it) and mindset (damn jet-lag!). As a side note, we had a terrific pinot noir rose that paired wonderfully with the food and the anise seed flecked bread was awesome (and the cucumber scented water was a great detail)!

Day 2
We woke up and headed over to the Ferry Building around 9. Initially we only saw the front booths (which we were still impressed by) and we bought naan, jalapeno chutney and some channa masala from Sukhi’s. They were very generous with the samples and what we got was great. Finally we realized all the other booths that were on the backside! Wow, this market is reason enough to move to San Francisco. It was so overwhelming, in the best possible way and we proceeded to eat our way (rather eclectically) through the market. We got a German bier sausage from Aidell’s—juicy and really flavorful, great mustard. We got a couple oysters (one from Hog Island booth one from a seafood booth inside the building, I forgot to check out the name of it). We got excellent chips and avocado/tomato/corn/red onion salsa from Primavera—awesome. He got a custard bomboloni inside, which he loved but I didn’t taste. We got beef jerky (and dog treats!) from Marin Sun Farms. And along the way we tasted June Taylor preserves, various cheeses, dips, nuts… I’m sure you get the idea. It was a wonderful morning that ended with a really reasonable $10 wine flight at the wine shop inside the Ferry Building.

Our meal at Bar Tartine is exactly why I wanted to come eat at all these fabulous restaurants in San Francisco—this is what I had in mind. The room is elegant and understated and the service was so friendly and just really lovely to talk to. The entire menu was appealing and we were feeling pretty blissful after the first sip of a delicious California Dolcetto. We started with the bone marrow and grilled bread—this was so luxurious and flavorful, like meaty butter (and the fact that the bread there is some of the best I’ve ever had really didn’t hurt the dish). We also shared a salad of just mixed lettuces and herbs with olive oil croutons and radish. Fresh, good and what we needed to break up all of these indulgences. For an entrée he got the onglet, which was served, with bitter greens, grape tomato/green bean/bread salad in a bordelaise sauce. We love hangar steak and know the difficulties of making it tender, this was absolutely perfectly cooked. I got the gnocchi with hen mushrooms, grilled corn, Parmesan and truffle oil. The gnocchi was browned on the outside and tasted as if they were toasted and not boiled. For as heavy as this dish sounds like it could have been, it wasn’t at all. The truffle oil wasn’t overdone and the flavors were just awesome, really delicate. We moved over to the bar for dessert and got some after dinners drinks. The Milk and Honey (honey mousse over almond cake with peach sorbet and half a grilled peach) was so wonderful. Much like the gnocchi (in some odd way) it was light and the flavors did exactly what the chef intended them to. Great variety of textures going on. We also tried the lemon verbena and basil ice creams. This is honestly in the top three meals I’ve ever had and my boyfriend said it’s the best he had. Beside impeccable food the laid back but elegant atmosphere and service was perfect. We were contemplating canceling all other reservations and just going here for the rest of our meals—it was that good! (P.S. I know this is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but this blew Aziza out of the water.)

Day 3
I think we got suckered into our first (and only) tourist trap of the trip! When we were at the Ferry Building Saturday we noticed a really nice looking place with outdoor seating a good sounding breakfast menu, MarketBar. We woke up this morning rather hungry (and early) and knew that dinner wasn’t until 8:45 so we figure we would do all three meals today. We went down to MarketBar. The outdoor seating is quite lovely but the service was totally inept (we’re on vacation, we didn’t stress it, and as a result I won’t go through all the reasons why here. Needless to say my boyfriend and I have both waited tables know some confused servers when we see them—these were them). We ordered a frisee salad with poached egg, bacon, roasted potatoes, green beans and heirloom tomatoes. It was fine, a bit heavy handed with the dressing and as a result over-wilted the veggies. We also got smoked salmon on toast with cream cheese, red onion and capers (and a side of sausage). All was fine, nothing great, but it worked.

For lunch we went to La Taqueria—and now I understand why people complain that there is no good Mexican food in New York. We got four tacos to share: chorizo, pork, beef and tongue. We loved all of them except the tongue, which didn’t have enough texture/flavor pay off. These were awesome though. The cheese was melted into the tortilla, slightly crunchy on the ends and great salsa. Again, this and Bar Tartine are reason enough to move out here. We were too full and didn’t make it to Bi-Rite or La Cumbre or Papalote for burritos. Oh well… next trip.

Dinner was at Zuni. (We tried to go to Cav first, but it turns out they are closed on Sundays). We got there early had a drink at the bar and were then seated. As for the “where to sit” debate we didn’t make any requests and ended up at a table next to the kitchen across from the bread station. We were definitely in the action and got to see the kitchen, which was nice. Likewise, we were seated next to each other, which is nice for sharing and having a more intimate meal. The place was really pretty; my only complaint was that it would benefit from dimming the lights a bit. Great bread—we finally got to try the Acme sourdough. It was really good, but Bar Tartine’s was better. (Uh oh, we’re afraid we peaked too early with Bar Tartine). We shared four courses. First cold thinly slice Marin Farm beef with green beans in a tarragon mustard sauce. The meat was salty and delicious and melted in my mouth. Green beans went well but were a little over-cooked/mushy for my tastes. Next the Caesar salad—it definitely deserves all the praises that it gets. Everything about it was perfect—its what every Caesar tries to be; crunchy, garlic, anchovy goodness. After this was the garganelli in a red wine-squab sugo. Pasta was cooked perfectly, with a little crunch in the center. It was our first introduction to squab and we both really liked it, the sauce in general was pretty mild. Finally we finished with a pan-roasted salmon with escarole, potatoes in a shallot-shellfish sauce. This was the least exciting of the dishes. It was well cooked but nothing particularly interesting or flavorful about it. We also got the shoestring potatoes, which were awesome. We decided against the chicken (as I’m not such a big chicken fan and the bread salad was served with currants, prunes, pine nuts and we were hesitant about another sweet meal) and it gave us a chance to try more of the menu. For dessert we had the flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream. This was great and not too sweet. Overall the meal was very good; it just didn’t reach the same level as Bar Tartine for us (for service, atmosphere and food). But we had a conversation about the fact that Zuni has been around for 25ish years and though it may not still be very innovative it really is a predecessor for restaurants like Tartine. I’m glad we went for the history and since it is pretty classic SF—not a place I would run back to, but I understand how there are people that have been going there for 20 years.

Day 4
We skipped breakfast today and had lunch at Burma Superstar. This place is awesome—definitely something that I would try and do weekly if I lived here. We had the Tea Leaf Salad, which was incredible, so interesting and crunchy (loved the fried garlic chips)! We had the Samusa Soup which was very good, loved the falafel and samusa’s in it, though the flavors of the broth weren’t my favorite—but still wonderful. And finally we had Garlic Noodles with Duck, which was terrific. Everything tasted distinct both from foods I had eaten previously and from each other. We had no wait at all and the bill for all that and a couple drinks was only 32 dollars.

We drove around 18th and Dolores at the recommendation of the manager that we adored at Bar Tartine. To continue our Tartine love affair we had the most amazing brioche bread pudding with nectarine and Bavarian Coconut cake with passion fruit icing. And if that wasn’t enough… we noticed that Bi-Rite was just down the street and had a scoop of the Salted Caramel (quite possibly the most perfect ice cream flavor).

We had late dinner reservations at Quince. We tried going to Hidden Vine first for some wine, but it turns out they are closed on Mondays, so we went to Cav. Good selection, informed bartender and love the tasting sized options for the wine. Felt the décor was a little cheesy/dated. Ok, back to Quince. This was such a nice way of doing a fine dining restaurant—still small and intimate. The room was beautiful and food was absolutely stellar. We shared to start; the “Oxtail Sopprosata”, breaded and pan-fried oxtail served over a big thinly sliced beet and horseradish sauce and Grilled Sardines served with cubed watermelon and cantaloupe with fresh mint. The way that the flavors melded in these two dishes blew my mind. Whoever came up with them clearly has an amazingly refined palette and a wonderful talent for pairing flavors—impeccable! At everyone’s recommendations which bypassed entrees and shared three pastas. First was conchiglie with snails, fresh tomato and garlic crema. The second was macaroncello in a foie gras/vin santo sauce. And the third was pappardelle with rabbit. I can’t pick a favorite dish out of any of these five. They were each superb. The macaroncello was everything the mac and cheese wishes that it were. Just wonderful food and perfect service. We got one cheese (the AMAZING Midnight Moon) for dessert, but as we had told the waiter we were trying to drink as much California wines as possible, to go with the theme he brought us their one California cheese just to taste. Then the cheese-person asked what we thought of the selection and we got into a conversation about favorite cheeses etc. Long and short she brought us yet another free cheese and two free glasses of dessert wine to sample the different ways the cheeses could taste. It was generous, informative and fun! This was by far the priciest of all our bills (220 before tip, where most others were about 130 before tip) it was well worth it to do one fine dining splurge—didn’t feel the least bit disappointed.

Day 5 ☹
For breakfast, we went to Mama’s. The line from start to sitting was about 40 minutes. Personally I’m not big breakfast person but dishes that were coming out of the kitchen looked good. My boyfriend had huevos rancheros that he was happy with. I had the Farmer’s omelet (goat cheese, leeks, spinach, bacon). I was very happy with the design of the omelet, it was easy to open up and eat all the delicious fillings (great spinach and bacon). Only complaint is that I personally like my potatoes crispier.

For lunch we went to Chez Panisse. We were initially seated in a really dark booth directly across from the kitchen. It was a beautiful day and we asked to move to a different room so that we could enjoy our last day of glorious California sun. We started with bone marrow (I know, again—but we thought maybe we needed to compare theirs to Tartine’s!) and a baby gem lettuce salad with beets and crumbled hard-boiled egg in a light anchovy vinaigrette. The bone marrow was good, how could it not be? But not as good as Tartine’s. The marrow at CP was brown (as opposed to a lovely pinkish tone at Tartine) and wasn’t as seasoned and the bread just wasn’t as good. The salad was very good. For entrees we had the pizza with eggplant and mint and chicken confit with giblet gravy and green beans. The pizza was enjoyable, not much to say about it. The chicken was absolutely delicious—the giblet gravy was quite rich and felt the dish could have benefited by having some slightly acidic or bitter element to cut all the fat. For dessert we had the blackberry-nectarine cobbler, it was delicious (but didn’t touch the nectarine bread pudding at Tartine—see a trend yet?). Overall we were very happy with our food and the room. The one thing we were really surprised about was the service. I’m not sure if it’s a result of the tip already being included. But they seemed SO disinterested and uninformed. Much of the service was pretty unprofessional (including discussing a tip another table left within ear-shot of us). When we asked our server what he recommended he really couldn’t provide much of an answer, beyond pointing to a couple dishes—no elaboration or further details. Having both worked in restaurants as servers for some time (how we met, aww) we tend to be pretty tuned-in to that part of the experience. I don’t doubt that CP churns out delicious food, overall it really was, it felt like too much of The Disneyland for Eaters—or something to that effect.

Dinner plans were at Slanted Door. I’m not sure if it was just lunch at CP or an accumulation of all the meals we had had over the past five days but we struggled to conjure up an appetite for dinner and definitely didn’t want anything fat laden. We had some outstanding oysters at the bar first and their entire raw bar looked really delicious. We were seated at one of those lovely orange curved booths facing the water—so nice. We had a half order of the Slanted Door spring rolls, which ended up being my favorite dish of the nice. They tasted fresh and lean and the peanut sauce was great, textures and flavors were perfect. The Niman Ranch ribs were our other appetizer (so much for light, but they’re his favorite). Nothing particularly unusual about the hoisin glaze but the meat was excellent and they were delicious. For entrees we had Dungeness crab cellophane noodles and caramelized Tiger Prawns. The noodles didn’t taste particularly crabby, but they were very good. The prawns were good, flavorful and cooked well. We also had some steamed bok choy; its amazing how much more flavorful some of the ingredients are California just due to freshness (bok choy tasted really earthy as opposed to watery). It was a nice meal to cap off our trip with, the Vietnamese flavors being a needed break from a French heavy week.

Our trip was amazing and so was the majority of the eating that we did. It was a treat for us to do all of this together and we really savored it. Our favorite meal of the trip was Bar Tartine (and we were equally impressed by what we tried at Tartine), followed very closely Quince and then Burma Superstar, Yank Sing and Taqueria. We agreed that Zuni was in many ways the most forgettable meal (the salmon really was shockingly bland) and Aziza was our least enjoyable. Most of the complaints throughout here are nit-picky and I feel the need to end all this by saying how wonderful most of what we had was. SF is obviously an awesome eating city and I look forward to exploring more in the future. Sorry for how lengthy this is and thanks again so much for all of the help in planning!

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  1. What a fantastic report!!! I'm really glad you had such a great time in SF.

    1. Great report! Thanks so much for all the detail and the enthusiasm.

      I love Aziza, but agree that a meal there can sometimes be heavy -- I can see not enjoying it when feeling jet-lagged. Moroccan cuisine does mix sweet and savory elements -- if you don't like that, then it's probably not the cuisine for you.

      25 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        I agree in part: it does mix sweet and savory elements, but, Aziza's food can be lighter depending on how one orders. In this case, personally I think the issue was getting the tasting menu. Aziza is one restaurant where I don't think the tasting menu is the way to go, and I really don't understand those posters who say it is a 'must do' at Aziza. For one, it always includes the basteeya (one of the heavier, sweet items on the menu, and one that personally I think is only ok. I ordered it once, to try it, but have since stuck to other items), and for another, it is just too much food for the average eater!

        Anyway, I do agree that it was a great report!

        1. re: susancinsf

          It is a great report--I was really with you for most of it, yet there were several cringeworthy moments for me (e.g., Sukhi's for me isn't generous, just really damn pushy; Aidell's--some giant corporation makes those now). Also, many on this board have reported for years that they felt Aziza's basteeya and lamb shank were far too sweet for them, and I'm perplexed that you praise the food so highly and so often, yet feel it fell short. I think it's a fairly unique place that certainly can't be found in every city (though I think that food in the style of Bar Tartine and Zuni can be) and that they do a superb job. You lured me in with your admiration of Tartine's Passion Fruit Lime Bavarian cake (their very best cake, I think), but then you really loved the bread pudding, which I find goopy and bordering on gross.

          I do think it's a great report, though, and am grateful that you shared it.

          1. re: Atomica

            Oh man, this edit button keeps messing this up, let me try again. Didn't find Sukhi's pushy, they let us try what we wanted and didn't push sales. I didn't know that Aidell's was a giant corporation, nonetheless they tasted good and that's more or less what matters. Had I known this about the size of the tasting menu aand the sweetness of those dishes at Aziza I definitely would have ordered differently. The reason I praise the food but don't overall like the meal is because I objectively think the food quality and preparation was excellent, I just subjectively didn't like the flavors. As for there being a place like Bar Tartine in New York... please tell me where it is!! I guess what you're talking about overall are just a matter of divergent tastes-- and those definitely exist.

            1. re: jdream

              It is nice when things taste good, but I guess I feel that Aidell's sausages don't really belong at the FB. I have a huge prejudice against Bar Tartine that I'm obviously going to have to try to get over--had a truly terrible brunch there. I guess I'll have to put that aside and try it again. With the number of chefs who shop at farmer's markets, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the notion that New York doesn't have places with fresh ingredients, service, and ambiance.

              1. re: Atomica

                The price point/quality of Bar Tartine especially doesn't exist in NY. Often, neither does service that will just let you linger for a while after a meal, on a Saturday night. Also while the ingredients in NY might be fresh they are overall not as varied as they were in SF, the climate doesn't allow for it as much-- our market is about 1/4 the size.

                1. re: jdream

                  I was about to say the same thing - off the top of my head, none of the NYC restaurants that do farmer's market driven cuisine have the casual intimacy of Bar Tartine.

                  I'm so glad you loved Bar Tartine as much as I do! But I'm bummed you had subpar service at Chez Panisse. Hope you'll be willing to give them another shot in the future - I swear, they also have some skilled servers who are knowledgable and passionate about the food.

                  1. re: daveena

                    I was at the Chez Panisse Cafe 2 weeks ago and we had excellent service. That was for dinner though.

                  2. re: jdream

                    No one said anything about price point/quality, and I'm woefully ignorant of NYC restaurants. However, when I look at Babbo's menu, for example, it's no more expensive than Bar Tartine.

                    1. re: Atomica

                      Restaurants in NYC that do this style are Union Square Cafe, Blue Hill, Telepan, Picholine, Gramercy Tavern and Gotham Bar & Grill - all are more expensive than Bar Tartine (unless it's lunchtime, when a lot of them have excellent prix-fixe menus).

                      But it's also not just about the price point - for me, it's the fact that you can get this kind of food in a casual environment is what makes it so uniquely Bay Area, The NYC restaurants I named are more "occasion" restaurants - or, at least, involve some planning, reservation making, etc.

                      1. re: daveena

                        Don't forget Blue Ribbon in NYC. Fairly casual environment. Really reminds me of my SF favorites, plus it's right along the same prices. Last time we went our waiter was actually from SFand had worked at Absinthe.

                        1. re: Fussy Foodie

                          All of these places are similar, at least somewhat, I agree. But I was talking about a meal I had at Bar Tartine in which the OVERALL experience isn't similar to anything I've had in New York. But sure there were elements of the meal that I could find at various places...

                          1. re: jdream

                            All these collapsed responses are confusing, but I named the NYC places to support your (jdream's) statement that this kind of cuisine costs way more money in NYC, and is found in stuffier atmospheres. I can't stress enough how much more appealing (to me, anyway) it is to have this kind of food in a casual setting than in a linen tablecloth/fine china environment.

                            1. re: daveena

                              Or, as a visiting fried from Virginia said to me when I took her to a casual Cal-Cuisine place in Oakland, "Where I'm from, you only find food like this in fancy, expensive restaurants." I think the difference is that here it's the local style which is reflected at all price points, while in other places it's a very self-conscious "cuisine."

                              It really struck me, because normally I worry that someone from the smaller urban areas in the South is going to get sticker shock in the Bay Area.

                          2. re: Fussy Foodie

                            The cusine at Blue Ribbon and Bar Tartine are totally different. Yes, both have a bone marrow appetizer but that's where the similarities end. Blue Ribbon is more classic bistro fare and has a raw bar. Bar Tartine is market driven cal cusine with fantastic appetizers/salads and refreshing desserts.

                            I'd recommend Bar Tartine to anyone visiting from NYC because you really can't get that cuisine at that price point in a casual setting in NYC.

                            Bar Tartine and Canteen are unique to SF in cuisine and feel. Like jdream said, it's about the overall experience.

                            1. re: Porthos

                              Thank you for articulating it better than I did.

                          3. re: daveena

                            So, they are "fancier," thus more expensive. Some of those are also longstanding, famous places, which you can't really say of Bar Tartine.

                            1. re: Atomica

                              I'm not sure why it matters that Bar Tartine isn't long standing and famous as long as the food is great. I think what what the point was is that the OP hasn't gotten food like that in New York, and that food like Bar Tartine (and others of its ilk) is unique to San Francisco and the Bay Area, and whether the places in New York that serve food of the same general style are famous isn't really the point.

                              1. re: JasmineG

                                Some are saying Bar Tartine is unique at a low price point. I'm saying it is not unique.

                                "bone marrow and grilled bread . . . salad of just mixed lettuces and herbs with olive oil croutons and radish . . . onglet, which was served, with bitter greens, grape tomato/green bean/bread salad in a bordelaise sauce . . . gnocchi with hen mushrooms, grilled corn, Parmesan and truffle oil . . . honey mousse over almond cake with peach sorbet and half a grilled peach . . . lemon verbena and basil ice creams"

                                1. re: Atomica

                                  To Atomica, you should really give Bar Tartine a try at dinner. I know the menu can read pretty standard at times but the taste speaks differently. The vinaigrettes are brighter than what you usually find and it's amazing what pan frying or roasting gnocchi does to the texture. No one is claiming that Bar Tartine is Pierre Gagnaire. It's supposed to be comfort food but it's by no means boring comfort food.

                                  I've also had a watermelon/heirloom tomato/opal basil salad and a seppia/pork belly/egg appetizer that was enlightening and that doesn't read or taste standard in any way.

                                  1. re: Atomica

                                    We're saying that this cuisine, at this price point, is unique to the Bay Area.

                                    I think I've read about places in Portland and outside Denver that do this style, and probably at this price point, since rents are lower in those places, so technically you're right. However, that does not take away from the fact that for a visiting New Yorker, the experience of having this style in a casual environment is "unique".

                                    1. re: Atomica

                                      Well, lots of people who have eaten a lot in New York are saying that it is unique to San Francisco, and you said in this thread that you're unfamiliar with New York restaurants, so I'm not sure why you're maintaining that it's not unique.

                                      1. re: JasmineG

                                        I've eaten in many cities all over country, and I've eaten at Gramercy Tavern. There are hundreds of similar restaurants all over the place, including one in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.

                            2. re: jdream

                              Thanks for a great report. I would have a hard time getting through all those restaurants but it sounds like it was lots of fun and you really got to cover a lot of area--nothing like sight seeing via restaurants!

                              I definitely want to try Bar Tartine now as I've not read many glowing reviews in the past here on CH. In any case, two places I have eaten in NY that I really enjoyed recently were Cookshop in Chelsea and Dressler in Williamsburg. From what I know of Bar Tartine they might be decent comparables?

                      2. re: susancinsf

                        I just read your report again, and am scratching my head: first of all, what was 'french heavy' about your week? and secondly, don't see what it was given your descriptions that would cause you to rank Mama's above Aziza (?) given that you say "Overall the meal was really good, the ingredients were fresh and everything was cooked perfectly".

                        I didn't love Aziza the first time I went either, but now it is a favorite 'go to' place. I think it deserves another try before you rank it just above the tourist trap! I ate there a week or so ago, and nothing I had was at all sweet other than the fabulous desserts (but as I said, I don't order the basteeya)...

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          Zuni (shallot/butter sauce on salmon), Tartine (onglet in bourdelaise), Chez Panisse (chicken confit) and Quince (foie gras) all are somewhat French influenced and the fat in their cooking was more butter than olive oil-- something I always associate more with French cooking, although they weren't necessarily French restaurants.

                          I ranked Mama's before Aziza because the way that I casually ranked them below was a fancier restaurant and it's lesser expensive counterpart. I wasn't really comparing Mama's to Aziza, but I was comparing Mama's to Market Bar-- which it was better than. I hadn't come up with a very intricate system, just a way of organizing it a bit. I see that saying I didn't really like Aziza bothers some, and I do have faith that I could have a much better meal under a different set of circumstances (no tasting menu, no jet-lag, etc) , it was just that this time I didn't. I would try it again in the future, especially given everyones response to my not liking it so much.

                    2. Glad you had a great time! Just two comments on the "misses" of your trip:
                      1) I think the tasting menu prices out about the same as app + entree + dessert, so I never feel obligated to eat all of the bastilla; I view it as a freebie. As for cinnamon and sweetness, that just comes with the type of cuisine.
                      2) Our salmon situation is dire due to some federal water management decisions in Oregon; as a result we don't have good salmon any more except for a 1 month season which you missed on this trip. I don't really order salmon any longer unless I know it is fresh and local.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: SteveG

                        Definitely didn't know that about the salmon, glad we only got it once.

                      2. Thanks for the report. I might have to add Bar Tartine to my itinerary on next month's trip up north. I've been wanting to try their bread for a while. (Planned stops: Zuni, Chez Panisse Cafe, Quince, A16, plus Boulette's Larder, XOX, Liguria Bakery, Bay Bread, Ici, Sketch and more!)

                        1. So when did you say you're moving to San Francisco? ;-)

                          Thanks for the detailed report, I felt like I was there with you. I agree with you on most of your points. But I didn't see where you placed Slanted Door, your last meal, in your list of favorites on your trip? Was it just totally not worth ranking among the others?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: singleguychef

                            Hmm, I'm not exactly sure where I would rank SD, I guess it depends if we are going just on food or overall experience. But either way it would look something like this (with "b's" being the less pricey/more casual places) ... 1) Bar Tartine 1b) Burma Superstar 2) Quince 2b) Yank Sing 3) Slanted Door 3b) La Taqueria 4) Chez Panisse 4b) Great Eastern--forget to mention that we had a late night dinner here when we got in Thursday evening 5) Zuni 5b) Mama's 6) Aziza 6b) MarketBar

                            1. re: jdream

                              Yeah, jdream, but you guys have Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan and Al di La in Brooklyn. That makes up for a lot of fresh produce!

                              Interesting and thorough report.