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Apr 30, 2008 07:26 PM

Looking for excellent tasting menus in SF

I apologize for the lengthy post, as it is my first ever, but I'm trying to be as clear as possible. My wife and I will be visiting San Francisco (coming from ny) at the end of June. She has never been and it's been about a year and a half since I've been out. A major focus of any of our trips is food (and good bars!). We're looking for some restaurants that have great tasting menus with solid wine pairings to accompany them. I've been checking the posts, but I seem to e getting mixed reviews for many of the restaurants of heard about. For example, a few posters pointed out that Gary Danko (one of my initial choices) had great food, but "uninspiring" wine pairings, which is a downside for us.

To give you an idea, we've been to some excellent restaurants out this way. Which reminds me, if you have any questions about restuarants here I'll be happy to answer them. Some of our favorites our Churrascaria Riodizio Tribecca - This is a great riodizio, though a little prices when comared to some of the excellent one Newark, NJ, that offers a phenomenal array of meats with a solid wine list. Another is a good northern Italian Restaurant called I Coppi in the East Village. Strong (not large, but quality) wine list when it comes to Super Tuscans and Brunellos. An excellent Basque restaurant (though it can occasionally be inconsistent) is Euzkadi. The food is some of the best I've had when everything is clicking, though the wine list is nothing special. Babbo is also superb, but just about everyone knows that.

Recently, we went to Philadelphia for a weekend and had one of the best culinary experiences I've ever had at Vetri. The dishes were amazing (one was a scallop crudo served over pickled fennel with pomegranate seeds that taken seperately was only okay, but all three together was an amazing combination) and the wine pairing was some of the best I've experienced. Also, the staff was extremely knowledgable, telling us evernthing anyone could possibly want to know about the particular wines they were pairing with each dish on the tasting menu, why each wine was chosen for each dish, and all the ingredients going to the dishes. And, once I demonstrated a little knowledge about wine and food and pointing out why I thought some of his pairings were done or the intimacies of a particular dish, he started pouring us extra glasses (with no charge) of different wines he thought might work with the dishes (at one point, he poured himself a glass and sat at our table to just talk with us about the qualities of the particular wine (it was an Antinori Solaia that was excellent). With all this said, it was also very expensive (around $500 with tip)

Where at that same time Abode down in L.A. was also ver expensive (close to $1,000 for four of us) and was pretty much the antithesis of Vetri. It was large, unwelcoming, the servers told us almost nothing even when asked to elaborate on something, and were generally unfriendly (though the food was solid, but the wine pairings were lacking). For $250 per person, I expect something more than just good food.

With all that said, can someone recommend some excellent tasting menus in San Francisco.

By the way, when I was last in the city, I went to Piperade and it was great so I'll definitely be going back there one of the nights we'll be town.

Also, if anyone can recommend any good bars I'd like to hear a few. Interestingly enough, we tend to hang in dive bars, play darts and pool, and drink $3 miller lite bottles.

Once again, I apologize for the long post and I am new to this so hopefully i can share my experiences with any of heading out east.

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  1. Best tasting menu w/pairings (in order):
    Fifth Floor

    Note - I am not a Gary Danko fan, believing he has shown little improvement in half-a-dozen years and pandering more to one-time diners (like tourists).

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. Best tasting menu w/pairings (in order):
        Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton

        Forget about everything else. Not worth it.

        1. Thanks for writing such a detailed post (definitely don't apologize for it!)

          It sounds like you're open to restaurants that aren't necessarily fancy, but have interesting wine lists - I'll relay second-hand that posters more knowledgeable than I have reported that A16 (Neapolitan) and La Ciccia (Sardinian) both have interesting lists with lesser-known varietals.

          Will you be in SF long enough to have time to venture outside the city? My best food+wine experiences have been at Ubuntu (Napa), and Cyrus (Healdsburg). The other restaurant that frequently gets cited for excellent food+wine is Manresa (Los Gatos).

          1 Reply
          1. re: daveena

            Thank you for the posts so far. I've also heard good things about A16, Ame, and Coi... and thanks for pointing that out, daveena. The key for us is how the wine and food come together. Also, living where we do, it's not always easy to find the products of lesser known (but by no means lesser quality) wineries from California. Unfortunately, we will only be in the area for for a few days which does not allow much time to venture out of the city, though we may try to get to Napa for a night so I'll look into Ubuntu.

          2. If wine is an important factor, I would recommend Michael Mina. The tasting menu is excellent and the restaurant has one of the most extensive wine listst I've ever seen. I haven't tried the wine pairing yet with their tasting menu (always ordered 1-2 bottles) but it looks good on their web site.. I believe it's an additional $90/pp.

            3 Replies
            1. re: KathyM

              I really enjoyed the tasting menu with wine pairing at Jardiniere - It was well thought out and the service was excellent.

              300 Grove St., San Francisco, CA 94102

              1. re: suebette

                i sent my bf and his mother (an *extremely* discerning woman) to jardiniere for the tasting menu with wine pairings. they were both blown away. she announced that for her next visit here, she would like another tasting w/ pairings of the same caliber.

                we're going to ame, and i'll be sure to report back.

              2. re: KathyM

                Have to completely disagree about Mina -- one of the worst pairings in the city, IMHO. My recent visit: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/482729

                But it isn't just me: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/375080