My proposed list of dining spots
My partner and I will be in San Francisco for 3 nights later in October. We are staying in Russian Hill, and want to experience a mix of trendy spots and smaller neighbourhood gems. Prefer more quiet atmosphere, but ok experiencing one night in a louder/scenier place. Quality of food is number one criteria. Atmosphere and service also important. Price is lesser criteria. We will have car, so willing to travel. My research has led to the following list:
- 1550 Hyde or Luella
- Laiola or Slanted Door
Thoughts are welcome!
My response is long overdue, and unfortunately I don't remember enough specific details to make the report helpful! However, I will report on where we went and general impressions. Starting point is Windy gave good advice. 1550 Hyde - enjoyed meal very much; great combination of good food, service & low key, relaxing atmosphere. NOPA - ate at bar (because long wait for table), and that proved to be very fortunate; great meal & cocktail advice and great service from bartender, interesting conversation with neighbor diner, and excellent chicken from their wood fired (?) oven, beet salad and pumpkin (?) dessert. Slanted Door - enjoyed the experience, but wouldn't rush to go back; good food and wine (great recommendation from server), sceney, interesting location (ferry building). When we return to SF next year, we will definitely go back to NOPA and will likely go back to 1550 Hyde.
Slanted Door is loud. But food and service are excellent for a 200 person restaurant.
When we were there 2 times during a week, their organization was perfect. The waiters were at the top of their game - no breaks in handoffs. We were watching the staff's every move.
Was impressed enough to call the owner to our table to tell him. Its a family business - I talked to Charles who was there that night and he was kind enough to tell me how they operate.
Its also the only Fusion place I came across with intelligent pairing of wines to their kind of food. Maria Lorraine will be sure to contradict me on this (and its welcome!), but I think Slanted Door made the right decision by including mostly German and Austrian white wines in their wine list. They told me that they get A LOT of flak from the CA wine growers' association about this. But we agreed 100% on that - the European wines taste crisper and cleaner and blends better with the Asian Fusion food they make.
Au contraire. Slanted Door's wine list is brilliant.
Mark Ellenbogen, the wine director, is hugely talented, and I admire him for his point of view. The wines on the list are precisely chosen, and pair brilliantly with Charles Pham's food. I wish I could dine there more often. California varietals and the "bigness" of many California wines don't fit the cuisine.
re: maria lorraine
Good to see hear from you again. How've you been?
Came across this good Uncorked article on Mark:
Its actually amazing to me how Charles and the Phan family keep Slanted Door shipshape. He told me that its like Broadway - you have to be 100% "on" every night. One of the family members is always on duty there to make sure things are running good.
They made a big bet on their new location (he told me the story of how it transpired) and it paid off with a lot of hard work and diligence - its really no piece of cake to run a 200+ seat restaurant and maintain the quality of food and service.
California varietals - like every flip side, there's a flop side - too much sun can be bad for white wines, I guess (not taking into account the grapes, methods of production etc).
Both Luella and 1550 Hyde were a couple of our most favorite places when we lived there. The ricotta fritters with honey dipping sauce for dessert at Luella were to die for, I hope they haven't taken them off the menu. I would say of the two, Luella tends to be the more quiet of the two, very understated, great food, good but small wine list.
The Slanted Door in the Ferry Building is fine, good views, fine food. However, it's almost always a zoo, certainly has a fairly high noise level.
Have a great stay.
1550 Hyde has wonderful food and wine, and like Luella, doesn't require any driving. Reparking in Russian Hill at night is not trivial.
NOPA is very scene-y (in a white, upscale, middle class kind of way). Suggest you go by late for a drink and a snack at the bar. They have great cocktails.