Michael Mina, Boulevard, Quince, Delfina.........
My wife and I will be in your great city for 3 nights celebrating our 25th anniversary. We will be staying at The Four Seasons and plan to have lunch 3 days and dinner 3 nights in your wonderful city. We are trying to decide between Michael Mina, Quince, Gary Danko, Rubicon and Aqua for dinner and/or Boulevard, Delfina and Per Bacco for lunch. Any help is kindly appreciated.
Lots of reports on all of those in the archive. Use the "Search this board" with e.g. title:perbacco to find the most specific topics, or use the Places search.
Robert makes very good suggestions. The SF board members are quite good about using place-links. These provide great jumping-off points for research. For example, here's the Michael Mina place-link:
the other restaurants can be research the same way. But since I'm already typing this, I'll comment on Michael Mina - I think it is the weakest - in terms of QPR - of the restaurants you have listed. Michael Mina was recently named one of the top ten most overrated restaurants in America by the Opinionated About survey. I agree entirely; you are likely to part with large sums of money for a decidedly mediocre experience.
For what its worth, from your list I would say the my favorites (within the context of what they are) are Boulevard, Quince, and Delfina (though that is 2 Italian restaurants out of three, and you should know Delfina is a more casual place then the others on your list). Rubicon is said to be very good and has a truly awesome wine list. Everyone I know says Mina is overrated.
Also, FWIW: You say this is your 25th wedding anniversery... I'm not certain exactly what you are looking for, but you should know that, imo, you haven't included any of the most romantic restaurants in the city on your list. Aqua is very much an uber power-lunch destination downtown, I don't know what it is like at dinner, I'm guessing pretty businessy, too, but I don't know... but the food is excellent. Perbacco and Boulevard, at lunch, at least, will also be mostly businessmen. (Of course, when you are talking about nice restaurants that are open for lunch, that is often what you are dealing with... Boulevard at dinner, by the way, can be fairly romantic)
If you wanted suggestions of really romantic restaurants to go to for dinner I would strongly consider: Fleur de Lys, La Folie, Acquerello, and The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton -- all of which are excellent and I would say specifically romantic restaurants (though La Folie is a bit more casul than the other four). The "word on the street" is that The Dining Room may currently be the best of those four, although my best dining experiences in SF were at Fleur de Lys (disclosure: last time I was there was about 2 years ago). Also, my best friend, who has been to Bouley, Jean Georges, and Le Bernardin in NY just went to Coi with his girlfriend last month and told me it was the best and most romantic meal he has had in the U.S. -- so, again, for what its worth...
Littleman: Please remember that the only way to become one of the most overrated restaurants is also to be one of the most highly rated. I love MM. The room, the service, the wine list, and the non-straightforward presentation.
On your list I also love Quince for a jewel box setting and lovely pasta; Delfina for its more casual approach, and Gary Danko for perfect execution of high end food. Most visitors love Aqua, my personal experience is mixed. Evenings at Aqua are a mix of business and society.
Okay, just to make your decision-making a bit more difficult, I'd think of a couple of different things. How about dinner at Ame, Quince, Dining Room at the Ritz, Acquerello or Gary Danko and lunch at Zuni, Perbacco, Boulevard or Delfina. Is Bar Tartine open for lunch? Gets rave reviews though I've not been there. If you were my friends and I were making recommendations, I'd add Ame and Zuni for sure (for dinner and lunch respectively). I agree that Mina is over-rated and though I like some of the items at Aqua, it is quite corporate and I'd go to Ame over Aqua any (and every) day! Enjoy your visit - congrats on your anniversary!
If this were my anniversary, these would be my choices (all alphabetical):
Dining Room at the Ritz
Sushi Ran or Fish. (Sausalito - take the Ferry)
Have a good time!
The only two I've tried are Boulevard and Michael Mina, and I would say Boulevard ALL the way. Michael Mina is an interesting experience, but I've had many, many wondrous meals at Boulevard. If you tell them it's a special occasion and you'd like a table by the window, under the bridge, they'll try to accommodate you.
Wholly agree with you with regards to Boulevard vis-a-vis Michael Mina. Dined at Michael Mina last night & wasn't quite sure what to make of his food:
Course One was American Kobe Beef & Foie Gras Shabu-shabu, where you do your own cooking on a table-top Japanese fondue pot filled with dashi broth. It's nice, but not unlike anything you can get from a Japanese izakaya anywhere;
Course Two: Premium Beef Tasting, where you get - American Kobe Short Rib with horseradish-whipped potatoes, natural jus; Grass-fed ribe-eye with creamed spinach & sauce au poivre; and Misami Kobe sirloin, served marinated mushrooms & sauce Bordelaise. It's one of those new-fangled concepts in Michael Mina where they make 3 small different-tasting portions out of a single main ingredient. Your entree tasted like the result of an Iron Chef competition with 3 different contestant-chefs producing 3 mini-tasting portions (give me a REAL steak!).
Course Three : Peanut butter & banana sandwich, which consisted of sourdough ice-cream, peanut ganache & brandied bananas. Strange, to think of it - I'd actually have preferred a real peanut butter sandwich than the sugar-laden avant-garde interpretation they offered.
I'm going back to Boulevard.
Another great place for lunch is Jeanty at Jack's. It has a beautiful dining room and great French food. For dinner, I would definitely skip Michael Minna and head to Aqua, Boulevard, and Quince. I liked Coi it has a great dining room and most of the food was good, but the waiter with the fake French accent gave us incorrect information on both food and wine and had too much attitude for my taste.
FYI...Delfina is not open for lunch. I do, however, think that it is one of SF's most special restaurants and highly recommend it. It is a unique place with wonderfully warm service, an entirely California/Italian wine list full of small producers and hard-to-find gems, and perfectly prepared rustic Italian food. Very fresh and very simple with many items prepared in-house and sourced from local producers. It is more of a casual neighborhood place, so it might not be "special" enough for your anniversary dinner but I would highly recommend it for one of your other dinners. I'm not sure when your trip is, but they do book out several weeks in advance, especially on the weekends. I would call ASAP.
For your other evenings, I will put in votes for Quince, Acquerello, Ame and La Folie. Aqua and Boulevard are a little too business-suity for my taste. I've had lovely meals as both Gary Danko and Rubicon, though I haven't been to either in a few years. I wasn't super impressed with Perbacco, but I've only eaten there once.
Enjoy your trip to SF!
i like quince for dinner. small room, kind of romantic. incanto works because the food is so good and the muni ride on the j-church line is pretty special. lunch at zuni is a no-brainer. yank sing at 11:30 a.m. is clearly worth a visit. deb is fond of perbacco and boulevard. both are decent dinner destinations.
I am actually in SF with my husband now for an eat-well vacation! We just went to Fleur de Lys for dinner last night. The ambiance was great, very romantic, but the food was just above average. Throw in the $400 price tag for the meals and you get an "eh" from me. I'm very glad I went because I've always wanted to go to the restaurant and eat the dishes designed by Chef Hubert Keller. He was actually there at the restaurant and we got a glimpse of his crazy hair, so that was cool! Anyway, glad I went, but I don't think I'll go back. Food was good, but not great.
Today for lunch, we went to Aqua. It is definitely a business power lunch joint, but who cares?!! We went at 1PM, so the business people were just leaving. We ordered the tasting (6 courses), which was PHENOMENAL! I can't imagine the dinner tasting would be much different than the lunch except for the price. It was only $65 for 6 courses and the wine pairing was $40. For dinner, the 6-course is $130. Wine pairing would be about $80-$90 I guess. I am not frugal nor looking for a deal, but I am cognisant of price to value in terms of food, service, ambiance, experience, etc. I definitely recommend Aqua in general and especially for lunch. We may go there again tomorrow!
We have rezzies at Michael Mina tomorrow night. I have been to MM twice and my husband several times in Vegas and Scottsdale. All times were great. I'm wondering if the SF restaurant may not be as good as the others? I hope not, for my sake!
Tonight is open. Not sure where we will go, but after reading though the posts below, my vote is Boulevard. Will let you know.
Have a great 25th anniversary!
Another shout-out from this corner for The Dining Room at the Ritz. The head chef, Ron Siegel, is a true genius, IMO, on a par with Thomas Keller.
I agree also that Mina is over-rated. The one time we went, I really liked the seafood but the meat dishes were mediocre at best.
this is very different from where you're suggesting, but i'm throwing it out there anyway: cafe jacqueline in north beach. it is a soufflé restaurant, that's been around for years (in fact i believe it's 25?) and is intimate, tiny and french and has that feeling like you've just stumbled upon a little bit of paris. the reason i'm suggesting it is i find it one of the most romantic places in sf. sharing souffle. sigh.