Wedding gift-worthy restaurant in SF or Napa?
I'm attending the wedding of a couple who live in SF and would like to give them a gift certificate for a meal in their home city, or maybe in Napa. I'd like to spend about $200 and would like that to cover dinner for two with wine. The couple have fairly adventurous tastes, so I would not rule out any particular cuisine. I'd like it to be a place that feels special, not a neighborhood joint that they can go to any time.
I'm on the East Coast, so I'm utterly clueless as to what my choices are. Help?
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, but...
Consider Incanto. Creative Cal-Ital with an emphasis on head-to-tail dining. Chris Cosentino is something of a celebrity chef. $100pp will cover four courses and a nice bottle of wine, plus tax & tip. http://www.incanto.biz/sample_menu.html
Another option is Jai Yun (if they have gift certificates). Some claim it's the best Chinese food in the US. Many courses, chef's choice. Pick a price for your dinner (typically $45-85pp) and let Ji Nei do his thing. No wine list, but no corkage charge, either.
There are plenty of other good options. Even the most expensive places in town tend to be under $100pp excluding tax, tip, and wine. It might make sense to split the difference and assume that the recipients will pick up a small part of the bill. But at least these are a couple of possibilities for you...
I think you can do most of the mid-to-upper tier restaurants in the city for that (that is, everywhere that isn't a 5-course tasting menu type restaurant). A few would be:
Aziza -- Cal-Moroccan
Boulevard -- New American
Ame -- Japanese-influenced California cuisine
Perbacco -- Italian
For what it's worth, the first three are all Michelin-starred.
You will have to do some research on what might feel special *to them* and the price of same. The two-star choices are seriously out of your price range (Cyrus, for example, has their 5 course tasting menu at $100. The wine pairings are an extra $100. Without tax. Per person.) Of the 1-stars with good service, you'll still have trouble. Do the math. With a good bottle of wine. $160 + tax and tip = 200. $60 bottle of wine x 1, $10 app x 2, $25 main x2, $10 desert x 2, and you're out. Gary Danko's mid-size 5 course is $85/pp without wine. Acquerello is $75. Commis is $69, I think.
Since you're pricing yourself out of the name special occasion restaurants, you're into the stellar and interesting neighborhood restaurants, such as the two mentioned by alanbarnes. Boulevard will be almost exactly $200, if you do your math in advance and order from the low end of the wine menu - and is a destination.
Given the number of restaurants that continue to close in this economy, you might want to consider something like an Amex gift certificate and say you want to buy them a nice dinner at XX. That way they can use it anywhere and aren't left with something worthless in event of closure.
Does the $200 include tax and tip?
That could make the difference for some of my suggestions below.
One point I'd make:
You are cutting it close for some of my favorites.
There is no shame in pre-arranging the entire meal.
That way you can call ahead, tell the restaurant it's a wedding gift, arrange for a fixed course meal, and pre-select the wine so it fits your budget.
Some places, even if they don't have a fixed meal, might arrange a meal to fit your budget. It all depends on the place...
The couple gets to sit down, no menu, and be surprised.
For me, that's heaven.
I might recommend the following:
Kiss Seafood (japanese) is wonderful and unique. I bet you could do the omakase and several glasses of sake each for $200.
La Folie -- might be too expensive but it's my fave. If you prearrange a 3-course (they do 3,4, or 5) and a well-priced bottle of wine (perhaps a 1/2 of white then a full of red), you would certainly fit under $200 without tax/tip, but not sure of with tax/tip
I third Aziza. Great choice.
And also Boulevard.
I also love Nihon, another Japanese, hip and cool and special.
Price-wise they are all over the map, cuz you could spend $200 on a glass of scotch there, or 2 could dine comfortably for that amount. So this might be too tricky...
$100 per person will actually cover most of the good places (food, wine, tax, tip) in Napa. The only restaurants that would likely exceed that budget are TFL (obviously), Meadowood and Auberge. Thinking of a romantic dinner, which would factor heavily on decor and ambiance, I would choose Martini House (a booth by the open kitchen, or side-by-side seating in the love seats).