Where to eat before SF Ballet?
We went to Absinthe last weekend before the symphony. Got a 5:30 reservation and enjoyed a very leisurely dinner. Our enjoyment came from the service, cocktails and ambience more than from the food. Server was knowledgeable and friendly, even offering to lend us an umbrella that we could use in the downpour and return after the symphony. An added bonus was that their valet only costs $10, less than others in the area, and you can leave your car valeted during performance and pick it up afterwards.
Food, however, was a minor disappointment. We started with the appetizer plate of cured meats, including Fra' Mani, all of which were wonderful. For the mains, I found out that their new chef has removed one of my stand-bys, coq au vin. In fact, there is no chicken dish on the menu, something I find odd for a french bistro. Because I'm not into raw fish, the entire left side of the menu was eliminated for me. I settled on a scallop appetizer that was the special of the day, 3 scallops with sauteed chard. Since scallops are a light dish, I requested to increase the order to 5 to make it an entree size. The chef didn't want to split the orders and end up with an uneven number of appetizer portions, so instead the server suggested I stay with the smaller size and supplement with the caramelized brussel sprouts. I liked that idea until I tasted the veggies and they were both cooked in the same fashion with a heavy bacon flavor. This combination became quickly tiring and I ended up leaving one of them, a rarity for me. At $8.00 for the brussel sprouts, that really felt wasteful.
I just relooked at their menu and it has changed considerably since last week. There is now a scallop entree with celery root puree and sprouts, along with a braised lamb shank. Guess I just hit it unlucky last week with the choices, at least for my palate. In spite of that, the evening there was very enjoyable. Just goes to show what good service and a good cocktail can make up for.
Ha, I had the same dilemma a few weeks ago. (Went to see "Giselle.") I ended up going to Cav Wine Bar and Kitchen. It was fun and good food, good wine selection and casual feel. I didn't need reservations. Here's a write up of my experience with photos: http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/200...
Before I ended up at Cav, I had initially considered going to Bar Jules, which is the hot popular place in Hayes Valley next to Suppenkuche. But then reading some of the feedback on Yelp, it sounded like the pacing of the food was inconsistent. It sounded like some people had to wait a long time between their starters and entrees. So I didn't want to risk running late for the ballet so I decided to check out Bar Jules on a non-ballet night.
Another option is also Sebu for sushi. It's great sushi, kind of pricey, but if you go early it's not as crowded as other more traditional pre-ballet places such as Absinthe (by the way, Absinthe is really strict about you being two hours before curtain time or else they wont' serve you).
Another option I also considered was J-Lounge, which is the supposedly casual dining area at the bar of Jardiniere. That would definitely be closer, but more pricey.