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"Dine about Town" top lunch spots

Lunch is the best time for me to take advantage of the "Dine About Town" week which is coming up. Can you recommend a place if I only have one chance to go? (Especially interested in a pretty place)



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  1. Michael, I'm actually going to try the DAT lunch in a couple of weeks at Vitrine at the St. Regis. It had an interesting menu and I've been dying to check out the hotel.

    125 3rd St, San Francisco, CA

    6 Replies
    1. re: singleguychef

      Thanks so much for the tip, I'll look into it.


        1. re: baron45

          Had lunch at Vitrine at the St. Regis today. It was good. Not excellent or exceptional, but a nice time. My friend and I took the day off so we could enjoy our lunch and we had a two-hour lunch.

          The DAT prix fixe is a good deal for Vitrine because its $21.95 for three courses (starter, entree and dessert) and when I looked at the regular menu, the typical lunch entrees average about $24. So already, you're getting a good value with the DAT menu.

          What we had:

          Starter was choice of escarole salad or grilled prawn. My friend had the escarole which came with a poached egg on top and some bacon. She liked it. My prawn was just one prawn that was huge, sitting on parsnip puree and parsley sauce. The prawn was simply grilled with salt and it was good. I liked the puree, very smooth and buttery, and the parsley puree was very brilliant in color, very pretty.

          We both had the same entree, which was the bluefin tuna that's seared and served with fennel jus and cooked fennel. This was the main reason both of us chose Vitrine because they get fresh fish daily from the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo every day. It's flown in. So today's special was the bluefin tuna. It was two huge pieces and very fatty, so it was yummy. I thought my friend's piece was seared nicely where the middle was really rear, but my pieces actually looked like it was sitting a bit longer so it wasn't as pink. Still, it was nice.

          For dessert, my friend had the mix of sorbet. I got the butterscotch pudding. I liked my pudding, really nice with a slight coffee undertone.

          Overall, the food was clean, elegant, and I might say predictable. What really added to the experience is the beautiful environment. I love the St. Regis hotel and the Vitrine dining room is very calming and spa-like. The service was excellent, very friendly and not at all stuff. We both ordered a glass of wine and the selection was very wonderful.

          While I didn't jump up and down about the food, it was good and like I said, DAT is a good chance to experience lunch at Vitrine. Normal price would be much more.

            1. re: singleguychef

              Photos look great! How's the wine list @ Vitrine and what Pinot Noir did you order?

              1. re: baron45

                Sorry, but I don't recall the name of the Pinot Noir. I went basically with the recommendation of our server, and whatever was sold by the glass since I just wanted one glass. But like I said, it was very nice and my friend's Chardonnay by the glass, also recommended by the server, was very nice as well. Just judging by what was offered by the glass made me have a lot of confidence in their wine choices.

      1. Campton Place is pretty, if formal, and I enjoyed DAT two years ago there. Haven't been back since there's a new chef.

        1. My friend and I went to Sens on Friday for DAT lunch. She hasn't sent me the pics yet, but the meal was wonderful. We had:

          Squash Soup w/ Pistachio Dukka and Cardamom yogurt
          Salad of Chicories w/ Orange Blossom Honey dressing and Pomegranate Seeds

          Chicken Meatballs w/ Israeli Couscous Roasted Red Peppers and Chickpeas
          Lamb Burger w/ Feta Cheese on Brioche Bun

          Roasted Pear & Buckwheat Clafouti w/ Pear Ice Cream
          Cool Milk Chocolate Cream w/ Chocolate-Almond Salad & Sour Cherry Marmalade

          3 Replies
          1. re: chemchef

            do you know if that's similar to the dinner menu? sound good.

            1. re: Windy

              That's very close to the sample menus posted on the DAT site. In both cases, the all the dishes were from the regular menu. It's a really good deal for lunch, as separately those dishes would have been over $30. Plus, that space is a really nice mixture of cozy and open (with big windows overlooking Justin Herman Plaza).

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I agree on both counts...

                This was our first time participating in DAT, and after reading so many negative comments on this board, I was careful to calculate what the (potential) menu would cost w/o DAT before deciding to go (I came up with the same figure as you, over $30).

                My friend and I had been wanting to try Sens for quite some time now, and we were both very pleased. The space is gorgeous, and made for a very warm and comforting long lunch on Friday when it was cold and blistery outside. The service was pleasant, and did not seem rushed at all, even though they were quite busy when we got there (1pm).

                We enjoyed it so much that we're thinking about going back for DAT dinner. Not sure if the menu's the same, but there were three entree choices for lunch, so either way, it would not be boring.

          2. We headed to Jack Falstaff for lunch and were pleasantly surprised with the service, food, and decor. We had a wonderful Leek Soup, Fried Chicken Breast w/Braised Cabbage & Barley, and finished with Cinnamon Sugar Donuts w/Creme Anglaise and Raspberries.

            The walls were covered with beautiful mint green suede and dark wood accents. We had a very nice lunch experience there.

            1. We went to Roys and Sutros at the Cliff House. Both decent, nice treats for people that don't get to go out to lunch often.
              Roys-appetizer sampler with a rib, a shrimp wonton and a grilled prawn; entree choices , we got mahi mahi, and salmon, then a passionfruit-lilikoi tart for dessert.
              Sutros-butternut squash soup and house salad with pickled onion dressing and watermelon radishes;entree choices Wagyu beef with mustard tarragon sauce over linguine (A light beef stroganoff) and salmon on a bed of polenta with andouille sausage and mussels, dessert was pistachio creme brulee and Fuji apple bread pudding.
              The Roys menu was exactly what is posted on the DAT website, but we had to ask for DAT menus, even though we made reservations through the DAT/ Open Table link. The menu at Sutros was not the same as the website, but had similar offerings. They presented DAT menus alongside the regular ones.

              1. Three of us just had a very nice lunch at Sens -- for DAT there were three choices from the regular menu for the first course, three for the second course, and two desserts. We weren't that interested in one of the entrees, so since we were going to share everything anyway, we ordered two DAT meals and an extra entree and dessert a la carte.

                If you ever ate there when it was Monte Cristo or Splendido, the main restaurant has changed very little -- it still has sort of a split personality, with rustic rough stone and leather throughout most of it, but a lighter, more open area near the big windows overlooking Justin Herman Plaza. On this cold, wet day, the coziness of the main room was very warming, and although it was nearly full when we were seated, the sound level was pleasant. The big change that I think has really improved the place was the remodelling of the attached greenhouse-type room into a lounge, with low couches and conversation-inducing seating groups. Warmed by extra heaters, it felt toasty warm even on this cold, wet day. (Did I mention it was cold and wet? I was thankful that having worked around the corner for many years I knew about the secret route through the Hyatt Regency that got us from the restaurant to BART with a minimum of exposure to the weather.)

                We remarked after lunch that not only had we enjoyed the food, but that it was a nice change from the sameness of a lot of restaurants on the local scene. I guess you could call it Cal-Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, etc.), and all the dishes showed elements of that region, especially in the use of fresh herbs and citrus. In particular I liked the one dish I wasn't that enthusiastic about ordering: the sea bass kofta (an appetizer on the DAT menu, which is actually better than the sample posted on line) -- the flavors of the fish and of the seasonings were all distinct, but well balanced so that no one thing predominated. I liked the lamb burger, even though it could have been cooked less (we ordered medium-rare and it was served well past medium, but was still juicy) and the fries that came with it could have been cooked a little more. The chicken meatballs from the regular menu were surprisingly spicy, and the chestnut-squash manti were interesting and unusual (I particularly liked the yogurt sauce in that dish). The three desserts were as different as they could be -- one chocolate (Cool Milk Chocolate Cream w/ Chocolate-Almond Salad & Sour Cherry Marmalade), one honey mousse and gingerbread, and one a medly citrus that included a disk of cheesecake, mandarin orange segments, candied kumquats and a couple of tiny scoops of citrus sorbet -- but they were all a delicious blend of complimentary and contrasting flavors and textures. But then Shuna Lydon has always been one of the best pasty chefs in town. We washed down lunch with a carafe of food-friendly Vermentino ($18). Total was $93 with tax but before tip for a lunch that really felt like a treat. For the regular prices it's a little on the expensive side for lunch (not so much for dinner), although not for the quality of the experience. At DAT prices it's a steal: since the appetizers and desserts are in the $8-9 range and the entrees in the $15-16 range, the "retail" value of the DAT lunch is about $33, making this a better deal than the "free dessert" that prix fix deals often work out to be. They also seem to understand that the purpose of DAT is to make people want to come back and pay regular prices by featuring some of the most attractive options off their regular menu.

                Note: we did have to ask for the DAT menu, and also turn down a couple of "what kind of water do you want" offers, but otherwise the service was pleasant enough.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. Maybe they need a new menu writer. The food sounded more complicated than it tasted.

                  My favorite dishes were the gorgeous chicories salad (made me wish I were a food blogger), the mantu, and all the desserts. The complimentary soft cheese with olive oil was lovely too.

                  I liked the meatballs but not the rest of the dish. And I did long for a side of something green with all the meats and starchy foods.

                  Hard to say which of the desserts was best. Maybe the orange one (which was actually not what we ordered), for the tiny bits of tangerine and candied kumquats. I hadn't even wanted to order it, but I wasn't all that anxious to let the plate move out of reach either.

                  Portions were enormous. The wine list, btw, is a fascinating read (I was the first to arrive), a giant double-sided poster. The four carafes are an excellent value for $18, and the wine selection favors the Mediterranean. Lots of wines by the glass, half bottles, and obscure choices.

                  Service was very attentive. They were a bit anxious at first to take our orders, and we had to request the DAT menu.

                  I would definitely return for dinner. Or a business lunch on someone else's dime. Despite how exotic many of the dishes sounded, I wouldn't hesitate to bring non-hounds here. Very satisfying all around.

                  1. re: Windy

                    Well, Ruth and Windy really said it all. I also very much enjoyed our long, late lunch (and the break from the work day!). I haven't been there since it was Splendido, and on that one visit I sat in the window area; the feel in the main part of the room where we were seated today was so different that the other two had to convince me it was really the same place without a lot of remodeling. Sit by the windows for the view of course, but for a rustic, cozy yet sort of clubby feel our booth with leather seating was ideal. The bar area is also very comfortable.

                    I also loved the mantu dumplings, and of course the meatballs (but then, when don't I love meatballs?). The meatballs were a particularly huge portion; I can't imagine eating the entire thing plus dessert and actually getting any work done afterwards. The burger was my least favorite, seemed a bit overseasoned to me and definitely more done than I prefer.

                    My favorite dessert was the gingerbread...and yes, all were excellent.

                    I also would definitely return, and was really glad for the chance to try it during DAT. I also will keep it mind the next time I need an upscale but not extremely expensive spot for a group business dinner.

                    4 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA 94111

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      Well, thanks to all who reported about Sens. We had dinner there tonight and it was one of the best DAT meals I've had.

                      HOWEVER ... my friend who said it was the best meal he's had in a long time INSISTED that the first thing I mention was the music was horrid ... horrid.

                      For every course he would stop and make a comment about the music which detracted from the dinner for him. It was this awful sort of pounding techno-beat. It reminded me of that old Saturday Night Live skit of the three guys out on the town who think they are hip and are always bobbing their heads to the beat.

                      Ok, duty done on that front.

                      Otherwise, loved it.Great service and wonderful food. I did wonder if that stonework was leftover from previous restaurants. Kind of funny, but it looks like the stonework at Jonesy's Steak House in Napa ... tres 50's.

                      Dinner was also a major deal. One of the options would have added up to $43 dollars on the regular menu ... a real deal for $31.95

                      Totally agree with this statement that Sens is different from the usual menu lockstep that most restaurants in this class seem to follow ...

                      "We remarked after lunch that not only had we enjoyed the food, but that it was a nice change from the sameness of a lot of restaurants on the local scene.'

                      See, this is the problem with DAT being two weeks long. By time people tell other people about it ... DAT is over.

                        1. re: Windy

                          Here ya go ... since it wasn't lunch I put it in the other thread.

                          1. re: Windy

                            My friend just emailed this comment

                            Should you do a Chowhound report of the restaurant please feel free to say that your dining companion, following dessert, would have been willing to marry the pastry chef sight-unseen!

                            Dine About Town
                            San Francisco, Ca, San Francisco, Ca

                            1. re: rworange

                              I hope Shuna, who used to be an active participant on this board, is still reading Chowhound!

                              Sorry to hear about the music -- I don't remember any music at lunch. As the old Monte Cristo, they were trying to position themselves as a nightclub at night. That location is difficult: lots of financial district business at lunch, but at night, with no foot traffic or neighborhood clientele, they have to try to make themselves a "destination," so I think they're trying to appeal to the young/hip/lounge crowd (as demonstrated by the new lounge area). I'm not sure that's ever going to be the way to go with that space -- it's so much better suited to a relaxed-but-elegant atmosphere and a more mature clientele.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                thank you Ruth! so nice to read all this, even after my lay off.
                                and ps, RW Orange-- is your friend cute?

                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                      One more comment on this from Ruth about Sens ...

                      "They also seem to understand that the purpose of DAT is to make people want to come back and pay regular prices by featuring some of the most attractive options off their regular menu."

                      Yes ... yes.

                      I'm not in SF all that often these days, but this visit will get a lot of recs for Sens to people I know as well as recs on the board. My friend emailed about going back for dessert ASAP.

                      I do wish that other restaurants would get this about DAT. It is not only about that dinner. To this day, my visit to Farralon had such a negative impression on me that my rec is not to go there. I would certainly never return. I still think favorably about Ana Mandara because of a really nice DAT meal and it has gotten lots of recs from me on the board and given the right time and situation I would not hesitate to return.

                      For too many restaurants DAT is penny wise and pound foolish.

                      1. re: rworange

                        True enough! I have already given my first recommendation for Sens based on my DAT lunch there....and definitely will be putting it high on the list for some business dinners this spring (though the report on the music disappoints me; I certainly don't remember the music at lunch!)...but I still never consider Rubicon after a really sub-par DAT experience there, even though I suspect it is worth dining at (now and then when one is flush) other than at DAT....

                    3. Does anyone know if the restaurants (and menus) for DAT in June will be the same as they were in January?