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Best chef's tasting menu in SF?

I'm visiting SF for a few days and am interested in an unforgettable tasting menu...

I'd ideally like to err toward new-american or french cuisine. I've heard good things about the french laundry, but it's a bit too expensive for me ($150--not too much, $250--too much). I looked at the menus for coi, ame, and acquarello, but preferred the menu I saw for Jardiniere, where I currently have reservations. I also looked at the menus for Michael Mina and Aqua and was impressed by both (and may end up coing to MIna)... However, that might change that based on your recommendations. Any thoughts?

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  1. In SF proper there's Coi, Ame and The Dining Room at the Ritz Charleton. In Los Gatos, about an hour south, there's Manresa. All are under, around $150. I'd go to Manresa. The others aren't chopped liver by any means however.

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    Manresa Restaurant
    320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

    Coi
    373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

    Ame Restaurant
    689 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

    The Terrace at the Ritz-Carlton
    600 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108

    2 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      I'd add Jardiniere to the SF list. My favorite in the city - although I haven't tried a ton of them.

    2. If you are interested in a high-end tasting menu with an Italian tilt, take a look at Acquerello (on Sacramento St. between Polk& VanNess):

      www.acquerello.com

      The tasting menu is $94 and the wine pairing is $68.

      1. If you are interested in going outside of SF (you mentioned TFL), look into Redd. They have a great tasting menu. 5 courses, each of you (assuming there'll be 2 of you) gets a different dish for each course. A lot of fun because you actually get to taste 10 different dishes. Best tasting menu I've had around here.

        www.reddnapavalley.com

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        Redd
        6480 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

        1. while i personally love coi and like ame, they are both more Asian influenced than French influenced with a bay area tendency towards the light (veggies, seafood) than the heavy (meat). i think the dining room at ritz carlton might be more up your alley. It is very SF but more French influenced. people have been a bit mixed about manresa on CH lately. Mina was fine...but was a bit boring to me.

          1. Quince could also be an option, although it is Italian influenced.

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            Quince Restaurant
            470 Pacific Av, San Francisco, CA 94133

            1 Reply
            1. re: Senor Popusa

              ooh. love quince's pastas. excellent suggestion.

            2. silks at the mandarin oriental is very good, too.

              4 Replies
              1. re: steve h.

                I don't think anyone has ever reported on the tasting menu at Silks. Would you care to elaborate on your experience?

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  hi ruth,

                  been there twice over the course of several years. details are foggy.

                  the room is drop-dead gorgeous. linen, crystal, flatware, china are what you would expect. a tiny light above the table highlights a small but interesting floral in the center. the room is quiet, almost subdued. relaxing might be a better way to describe it because the room is not stuffy. i did wear a jacket and tie both times out of respect.

                  the tasting menu takes advantage of smaller plates. there were some asian influences in the food but that's all they were, influences. wine pairings, by the glass, were more european inspired than west coast. northern europe, too. that surprised me.

                  in the course of our last meal there, we chatted with both the chef and the sommelier. the manager later joined us at our table. service was both pleasant and efficient. the tab did not reflect all that we consumed. i posted a report on your board shortly after the meal.

                  in short, deb and i will go back.

                  1. re: steve h.

                    modest memory jog: the parsnip soup was remarkable.

                    1. re: steve h.

                      Cyrus Restaurant in Healdsburg, which is a similar distance from SF as Napa/Yountville, is also amazing and should fit the New-American with French influences bill. It might just be hard to get a table, but then again the economy is falling apart so who knows.

              2. Just to post my experience at Manresa. 4 tasting dinners, one wine pairing and one premium wine pairing, 2 diners who drank soda. Over a thousand dollars! Not even close to being worth it. While there were some fine wines the pairings themselves were uninspired. Two or three items on the tasting menu were good, but nothing was spectacular. If you stick to their signature dishes you'll have a better meal for much less money. But even those weren't that interesting. Admittedly I only ate there once but I have heard the same things from other foodies who have eaten the tasting menu there.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Fladabosco

                  Agreed. We went there recently and had an underwhelming experience - we had ordered the tasting menu and also thought many of the dishes were either not that good or not interesting at all. This is unfortunate because we very much enjoyed our dinner on a prior visit a few years back. Not sure if we'll be going back: on one hand, we expect restaurants of this caliber to be much more consistent, but on the other hand, we really admire the chef and think he can do great things.

                  1. re: Fladabosco

                    The wine pairing with my meal at Manresa was one of the most impressive parts of the meal.

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/548333

                    1. re: Fladabosco

                      We actually eat at Manresa quite regularly, and I still consider it to be my favorite in the Bay Area. Agreed, I have had some items on the tasting menu that I found to be somewhat mundane or pedestrian, but overall, David Kinch's menu surpasses those of many of the better fine dining establishments in the Bar Area. Gary Danko's service is better (but the food is not) and The French Laundry has certain dishes that are more likely to wow one (but in a much stuffier atmosphere), but Manresa has the best combination of all the elements of fine dining done well, IMHO. Plus, Kinch's abalone in brown butter and his suckling pig are the two best fine dining dishes I've ever had in the Bay Area. Add to that his Arpege egg (which I have to say is as good as the Parisien original), and his tasting menu would get my vote as Best of the Bay. Have I had a number of meals in continental Europe that would exceed the quality of Manresa?...Yes. But I can't think of one here at home that I have had that was better.