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May 5, 2008 03:56 PM

Need resto reccos for picky parents

So my mom and her husband are visiting in two week's time and I need to impress them with a few very nice dinners out. I've lived here for a decade now so they've visited a few times before and I'd like to avoid repeating any place I've taken them before, which includes but is not limited to the following: Acquerello, Aqua, Boulevard, Chaya Brassiere, Chez Panisse, Gary Danko, and Oliveto.

Additionally, my stepdad is European and somewhat of a picky eater. He likes beef, pork, potatoes, and vegetables but eschews other meats and seafood of any kind. So any place we go to needs to have more than one option for a none-too-weird salad and a traditional beef or pork entree. Needless to say, he doesn't do great with tasting menus.

The price point is not of any particular concern here and I can't take them any place too informal. They are both fairly serious wine drinkers.

So far I have a Friday night reservation at Bix and Saturday night at Jardiniere, but could I be doing better?

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  1. You went to Aqua and he doesn't like seafood of any kind?

    How about Epic Roasthouse. Beef and potatoes galore.

    Epic Roasthouse
    369 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105

    3 Replies
    1. re: Scott M

      Yes we went to Aqua. He wasn't happy about it, but I believe they had a beef entree on the menu at the time.

      I've been to Epic once and found it a bit wanting, as I've posted on this board. In any event, it is all booked up for the evenings in question.

      We are also waitlisted for Quince on Saturday night.

      1. re: grishnackh

        Since he seems to be okay with Italian, what about Perbacco? Lots and lots of pork. Or how about a traditional steak house?

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Perbacco would be a maybe. Its a nice place for lunch but I am not sure it possesses the kind of knockout wow power that I am going for. As for steakhouses, as much as I love them, and I do love them, I don't think SF is a great steakhouse town. They are fond of the Beverly Hills Ruth's Chris and go often. I don't think any steak in San Francisco will floor them.

    2. How about Bay Wolf? Or Alfred's?

      Alfred's Steak House
      659 Merchant St., San Francisco, CA 94111

      Bay Wolf Restaurant
      3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

      1 Reply
      1. re: Janet

        Alfred's I love but if we got the service can be a little spottier than my mother likes. I wouldn't risk taking her there.

        Bay Wolf would be a good possibility but I was hoping to stay in the city this year. They visited me many times while I lived in Berkeley and we've hit plenty of the notable spots east of the Bay [Rivoli, Cesar, Chez Panisse, Oliveto, et al].

      2. My parents live in Southern California and love most of the restaurants you've mentioned. I haven't taken them to Bix but last time they were here we went to Acquerello and Jardiniere and they loved both of them. They also really enjoyed Incanto and Zuni (but Zuni may be a little too informal for what you have in mind). You may also want to consider Cafe Majestic.

        Cafe Majestic
        1500 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109

        4 Replies
        1. re: farmersdaughter

          Zuni is also almost always booked this late into the game. Thanks for the suggestion of Cafe Majestic. I've heard it is classy and quiet with good food, that just might fit the bill.

          Would you recommend it over Jardiniere?

          1. re: grishnackh

            Sorry, I haven't been to Cafe Majestic, but it's on my list to take my parents to next time they come, based on what I've read about it. You can't go wrong with Jardiniere, however. Big crowd pleaser.

            I'll also take them to Epic Roasthouse or Waterbar along the Embarcadero.

          2. re: farmersdaughter

            Acquerello may be a good pick. Upscale atmosphere, not too loud, solid North Italian. The one time i went we had the tasting menu, but the entrees looked quite good as well.

            Sorry! Just saw you had this listed in your list above!

            Acquerello Restaurant
            1722 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94109

            1. re: Calvinist

              I love Acquerello, but as mentioned above, they've been there before. I'd like to show take them someplace new this time around.

          3. What about Michael Mina or The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton?

            5 Replies
            1. re: meemster

              I've been to Michael Mina three times and have never been particularly thrilled by my meal. My mom also has a thing against hotel restaurants so I'd be loathe to take her there.

              The Dining Room is a possibility that I haven't considered. I took my mom and stepdad to a great brunch on the Terrace the last time they visited. Does the Dining Room still require male patrons to wear a jacket?

              1. re: grishnackh

                I'm confused - if your mom has a thing against hotel restaurants, I wouldn't take her to the Dining Room. It's very hotel-y, for lack of a better adjective.

                1. re: farmersdaughter

        've got a point there! The Dining Room is likely fussier than my stepdad would prefer anyhow.

                  Right now I am basically torn between Jardiniere, La Folie, and Fleur de Lys for Saturday night. Quince would probably be my top choice if I could get a table.

                  Bix is a lovely and unique enough place that I am comfortable taking with it as my Friday night choice.

                  1. re: grishnackh

                    Update: I am still locked out of a table at Quince, so I am probably opting for Acquerello over A16 for Saturday night and sticking with Bix for Friday.

                    1. re: grishnackh

                      People really love Fleur de Lys and it's beautiful and does not seems stuffy or formal.

              2. Thanks for all the help with this.

                Bix was fine but a little on the noisy side and overall a disappointment. Our table was in the middle of the room near the piano. The staff was more than polite but unable to move us to a table upstairs, so we just had to deal with the noise levels. My stepdad loved the Kobe bavette steak but my mom found her halibut entree to be just okay. My pork chop was properly cooked but otherwise unremarkable. The shared sides of fresh broccoli and truffled fries were great. We passed on dessert as the band had already started playing making further conversation difficult. Given the atmosphere and sound levels, I would have much rather gone to Epic where the food is just as passable and there is a nice view to stare at.

                Acquerello, on the other hand, was reliably wonderful. While the presence of seafood on half of the chef's tasting menu meant we'd be ordering a la carte, there were enough options for my stepdad to be able to choose an interesting repast for himself. Our three courses were accompanied by fantastic service all-around; from the waitress to the sommelier to the busboys, Acquerello does professional service like few other spots in SF. Bread service was excellent. First courses were of similar high quality with my folks both choosing the classic Parmesan budino and myself a perfectly-cooked quarter of squab over wild rice. Pasta courses were well-received all around, though I only tried my own veal ragu over pappardelle, which was delicious. The third courses also got high marks, my stepdad devouring the weekend's second plate of Kobe beef, my mother opting for a duo of lamb t-bone and sausage, and myself going for the seared veal medallion. All were well-seasoned and cooked precisely as ordered. We paired our meal with a delightful magnum of Barolo from their voluminous winelist. Stuffed with food and drink we skipped dessert in favor of coffee, which was provided in individuals pots with a bottomless plate of delightful biscotti. All in all, this was by no means a cheap meal but it was definitely a memorable one.