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Special occassion- dinner in or near the financial district.

I'm staying at a hotel (Le Meridien) in the financial district in SF in a few weeks and want to plan a nice dinner with the girlfriend nearby to celebrate.

I've done a bit of googling and have found quite a few places so far:

Bix, Kokkari Estiatorio, boulevard, perbacco, tadich grill, lGitane

Now it's time to get the details and narrow it down. Which of these restaurants, or any other, would you recommend? I asked a few friends and many seem partial to Bix, so I'm leaning towards that at the moment. If you do recommend a place, then tips on what I should order are also appreciated too. thanks!

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  1. All of those restaurants are covered quite extensively on here, so try doing a search for each one to catch up on the reviews. They all have their positives.

    I wouldn't put Bix in the "special occasion" category. It has a lively bar and attracts a big after work crowd and usually has live jazz, food is okay but not memorable or special. Boulevard outclasses the others on your list as a special occasion place.

    1. What about Michael Mina's new restaurant RN74? It's an easy walk from your hotel. They have an amazing wine program, if that's of interest to you. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable. I've wondered how they manage to recruit such smart people.


      1. Also consider Piperade, very good food in an intimate [and by "intimate" I don't mean crowded] setting...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Rapini

          thanks, this looks like an interesting one as well

        2. My first thoughts were Perbacco and Boulevard. Tadich is an old-school fish-house, and not very "special occasion" atmosphere. Gitane is a bistro, and I think is a little more casual than you're looking for, and it's also not really a nice walk from your hotel (if that's what you were looking for). Kokkari is an interesting idea.

          The best way to do the research Shane mentioned is to use their places links, where all the discussions where they've been linked or mentioned are collected. The places pages can be found by going up to the "restaurants and bars" tab at the top of the page, choosing "san francisco" and putting the restaurant name in the search box.

          1. Kokkari or Boulevard fit. Perbacco's good but not as romantic. Personally I'd probably choose La Mar because I've been looking for an excuse to go there. Quince will be nearby once they move (supposed to be soon). There's also Zinnia.

            I wouldn't go to Tadich for a special occasion. It's fun but quite casual and they don't take reservations.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Thanks, I will cross Tadich off the list. La Mar sounds great, though the pics of the dining area i've seen make it look too casual for what i'm looking for- http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/Qbr2JG...

              1. re: nycfan

                La Mar is a little more casual that most of the places on your list. I've been several times, and I've been consistently blown away by the drinks, cebiches, and appetizers while feeling lukewarm about the entrees and entirely uninspired to try any of the desserts. As a result, it's become a place where I stop in for a pre or post dinner snack and/or drink, not a place to spend the entire evening.

                1. re: Pei

                  Thanks, Pei...I may stop by on my second night for appetizers and drinks. Care to weigh in on any other of the choices?

                  1. re: nycfan

                    I don't think you can go wrong at any of those places, though I haven't been to Gitane (very new) or Boulevard (too much debate over whether it's "worth" the money).

                    They really are all great restaurants, in different ways. Any disappointment you have will be because of style rather than because the restaurant didn't do a good job.

                    1. re: Pei

                      seems like a reasonable assessment

                  2. re: Pei

                    I think that's a good assessment of La Mar. It's a beautiful spot, and the drinks and fried potatoes were great. Ceviches were tiny. And other entrees were okay but expensive. More successful as a bar with snacks than a restaurant.

              2. I would pick Kokkari or Boulevard over Perbacco or La Mar for a special occasion meal. Kokkari vs Boulevard is a toss up - both restaurants do what they do extremely well. Check out the menus at both and see which style of food appeals to you more.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                  Thanks, both Kokkari and Boulevard are top contenders at this point!

                2. The food at Bix is good, make no mistake, but I think people are more drawn to the unique interior/vibe which leads to it being highly recommended, despite the food not being amazing.

                  1. No to Bix. Many better choices.

                    If price is not an issue I would go to Ame (frst choice) or Boulevard (second choice).

                    Ame is totally unique in its Japanese/French/Italian fusion. A beautiful, sleek dining room. Very professional staff but unpretentious. This is my special occasion restaurant in that part of town.

                    Boulevard feels like an incredible, upscale country club butwith just sublime (though very traditional French-influenced N. CA fare).

                    Perbacco is one of the best Italian restaurants in the city and a screaming deal. Tables are a little close together so that they can keep the prices down. Unbelievable house-cured meats.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: whiner

                      Thanks- completely forgot about Ame!

                    2. I guess I'd ask how old you are. Boulevard, Kokkari, and the like are places I'd send my uncle and aunt for an anniversary dinner. I'm not commenting on the quality of the food--just the somewhat middle-aged atmosphere.

                      The city is small. If you're willing to go a little further than the Financial District, there are less staid options for a date.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Windy

                        Thanks, I was a little concerned that we might feel out of place among the middle aged crowd that frequent most of these restaurants . we're in our late twenties. I'm definitely willing to hop on a cab if you have any suggestions.

                        1. re: nycfan


                          I turned 30 a couple of weeks ago (yikes!) and I don't feel out of place at Boulevard, especially not on the weekends. Kokkari is deffinitely mostly business.

                          Of course, in general, the more 'special-occasiony' a restaurant is, the older the crowd, just because 50 year olds have a lot more money, usually, than people in their late twenties.

                          That being said, price-no-object I would send you to Coi or La Folie -- very different experiences. Coi is mostly vegetarian (though not all) 11 courses cutting-edge cuisine. La Folie is more traditional Provencal French. Both have younger crwods that the other top-of-the-line restaurants in SF, though, @29 and 364 days, I was probably the youngest person at La Folie when I went for my birthday... but not by too much.

                          There are a ton of wonderful, young restaurants in SF, but, the younger the crowd, the louder the environment and less "special occasiony' I find them. A16, Delfina, NOPA, Laiola all have wonderful food, but they are all loud and feel more like "going out" -- you know, like "hitting the town" than they do a nice romantic dinner.

                          I would stand by Ame as my first choice and Boulevard as my second for you. (Unless you are looking for a price-no-object restaurant or find it really important for most people there to be in the same age range and don't mind a more bustling, louder, environment.)

                          1. re: whiner

                            It's less a matter of money than what I (over 40, unmarried) think of as marriedness. Or expense account dining. Ame fits in that category even though the menu's a little more adventurous.. More formal than intimate or romantic. And not all that...fun.

                            Gitane (yes, less married, less special occasion dining) is sexier than Kokkari. The bar at Bix, while not a food destination, is sexier than the atmosphere at Boulevard. I prefer the bar at Coi to the cocoon-y dining room. I did love La Folie although I agree it's quite traditional.

                            Agreed, Delfina isn't intimate, and the menu's not especially interesting. Ditto for NOPA.

                            Try a search on romantic or date on this board. It definitely depends on what you're looking for.

                          2. re: nycfan

                            What kind of a restaurant connotes "special occasion" to you? AME screams "modern" special occasion...love pulling up the hotel driveway & walking thru the sleek lobby, etc. Gitane - exotic yet cool, fairly small; great drinks & food is good value.

                          3. re: Windy

                            I love Kokkari, and am definitely not middle aged! But, I do agree that you should venture outside of the financial district for a more fun dinner.

                            1. re: JasmineG

                              appreciate the input- any specific suggestions?

                          4. you might want to consider silks in the mandarin oriental (fidi). deb and i have enjoyed a few meals there.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: steve h.

                              Have you been to Silks since Joel Huff left (about a year ago)?

                            2. Coi, if you can get a reservation.
                              It is walking distance from your hotel.

                              373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: bong

                                I'm willing to spend, but I think COI is a bit above my limit pricewise

                                1. re: nycfan

                                  Actually, compared to Kokkari (not sure about Boulevard), I don't think Coi would be that much more expensive.
                                  The "Lounge" at Coi is a cheaper option, with mostly the same food.

                                  If you can define what "special occasion" means for you, perhaps you might get better suggestions.

                                  If you are venturing outside of FiDi, You might want to try the new Pizza joint by Tony in Northbeach -- its still "almost" walking distance. The pizzas are really good, and there's the gimmick factor too.

                                  Tony's Pizza Napoletana
                                  1570 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                  1. re: bong

                                    The lounge at Coi has *exactly* the same food, except that you can also order from the lounge menu if you wish. You can also order the full tasting menu, or you can order ala carte from the tasting menu. Ordering this way and limiting yourself to five or six courses will end up cheaper than most meals at Boulevard.

                                    1. re: Paul H

                                      But it takes 11 courses to fill me up at Coi.


                                      3 courses at Boulevard comes out to about $60 (or less) usually and Kokkari is less than that. That is less than half the cost of the full menu at Coi.

                                      1. re: whiner

                                        thanks. i prefer 3-4 courses rather than 10 tiny ones

                                    2. re: bong

                                      Coi's tasting menu is $215 each with paired wines pre-20% tip, from what I can tell.

                                      Are you honestly saying a normal meal at Kokkari is in that range?

                                      I usually get out of boulevard at about $100 each with a glass of wine.

                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                        right, I've eaten at kokkari for around $70 per person

                                2. How about Masa's? Certainly appropriate for a special occassion if you are up for very expensive fine dining. That's about a 15 minute walk from le meridien if you don't hop on a cab.