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The Dining Room or La Folie or Fleur de Lys or ?

I'm thinking i would like a big fancy dinner with close friends in a sumptuous restaurant, to celebrate my birthday. I have eaten at Fleur de Lys and I loved it. Not only the food, which I adored, but also the atmosphere, fancy tables, dishes, and the feeling of space between the tables, it just feels luxurious and yes, sumptuous to me. This is what I'm looking for. For example I've never been terribly interested in Michael Mina's because I HATE it's sterile decor. And although I like the food at NoPa (not the same league I know) I hated using a dish towel as a napkin, partially because i felt my Mom would yell at me for doing it ;)

Obviously I want French, or French influenced. I have not eaten at La Folie or at The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton but they have piqued my interest. Judging from the pictures they look like what I want, but I was hoping you CHers who have eaten at these places could tell me if these other places fit my needs, or maybe even have another suggestion. FYI French Laundry is out because i could never get a reservation in time (only a month away).

Thanks!

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The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

La Folie
2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

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  1. Addendum: would like to stay in SF proper as this means no one needs to be the designated driver! Cheers!

    1. Hey, San Diego hound here, but I am in SF all the time, and lived in San Mateo for two years.

      If you like Foie Gras, Rolland Passot is your man. I took a class from him on foie gras, and his knowledge of preparing this product is boundless. In my opinion, the food at La Folie is outstanding. I did feel the atmoshpere, while still very nice, was not as formal as Fleur de Lys.

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      La Folie
      2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

      1. The Dining Room for sure. La Folie is a close second. La Folie is a tad less formal, with slightly larger portion sizes if that's your thing. Siegel at the Dining Room is a bit more inventive in his tasting menus.

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        La Folie
        2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

        1. La Folie. Easy choice for me.

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          La Folie
          2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

          1. La Folie is pretty special. Bring an appetite.

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            La Folie
            2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

            5 Replies
            1. re: steve h.

              La Folie. sigh - easy choice for me, too. Friends send friends to La Folie... they loved it, too.

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              La Folie
              2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                1. re: Cynsa

                  I think The Dining Room and La Folie are comparable, but as others have mentioned, the former is more formal and the latter is more casual. Strictly in terms of food, however, I would say The Dining Room is better. Rolland Passot is good, but Ron Siegel is great.

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                  La Folie
                  2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                  1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                    The food at La Folie is very good, superior to most.
                    It's a mom and pop shop in the best sense (husband cooks, wife runs the front of the house with an iron hand). Very French. Portions are large but that's the way they choose to deal with their customers.
                    La Folie is pretty special.

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                    La Folie
                    2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                    1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                      The Dining Room is slightly more creative, but I think the food is better at La Folie.

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                      La Folie
                      2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                2. Both are wonderful but I'd go with La Folie. The Char in a corn fondue we had last summer is still on my mind. Need to get back to SF.

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                  La Folie
                  2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                  1. Fleur de Lys has always been one of my all time favorite restaurants, hearkening way back to the days when it was called 777 Sutter Street, and Hubert Keller was a little kid! I would be afraid of disappointment any place else, so I'd save the experimentation for another time and go for the sure thing. Whatever you decide, have a truly memorable and great birthday celebration!

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Caroline1

                      First time I went to Fleur de Lys was in about 1960. We went for drinks, and my date said he had something special he wanted to order for me. It was a Pousse-café. The bartender proudly made a theatrical production of assembling it. He put a glass funnel with a skinny stem into a tall cocktail goblet, then poured a layer of some liqueur through it. Then he poured another color of liqueur which made a layer under the first one. And so on until there were about six or seven layers. Amazing!

                      It came with a straw so I could selectively drink it. I don't remember how it tasted, but flavor was not the point of this creation.

                      1. re: Sharuf

                        Oooooh! Pousse cafes are such fun! But you have to know which liqueurs will float on top of which liqueurs, because if you pour them in the wrong order, you end up with a glass full of muddy water! They were HUGELY popular back in the 50s and 60s. We used to make them at home from time to time. No funnels! Just pour onto the back of a spoon and let is slip down the side of the glass very gently! And if calories were no object, a float of whipping cream on top with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cocoa, depending on what was in the glass. My god, you've stirred up the memories!

                        Edt: Oh, and for the record, this is the first time I've ever heard of pouring from the top down with a funnel! Makes sense. But we didn't have a skinny ended glass funnel, so we had to float layer on top of layer the hard way. <sigh>

                      2. re: Caroline1

                        And across from Fleur de Lys is a really great sushi restaurant, called Sanreku. The first time I walked in there I left over $100 poorer, and I was alone. But, take my comment with a grain of salt as I do not live on a city known for sushi, so the bar (sic) is perhaps low.

                        1. re: souschef

                          That's Sanraku. They also have a branch in the Lowes Metreon. Both branches get my thumbs-up. I have gone to the Metreon countless times more often for sushi than for a movie.

                          1. re: Paul H

                            Have you eaten sushi at Kirala in Berkeley? I used to go there all the time when I worked in Berkeley 15 years ago. I particularly enjoyed their deep-fried shrimp shells.

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                            Kirala Restaurant
                            2100 Ward St, Berkeley, CA 94705

                            1. re: souschef

                              No, I have never eaten at Kirala, but it generally gets good reviews here.

                      3. I have eaten at La Folie a few times, spread over a few years, and have always enjoyed it. I thought it was great that when my wife and I chose the "chef's menu", for each course we were not given the same thing, so we tasted twice as much, and enjoyed it all.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: souschef

                          That's a good point. I'm pretty sure Ritz Carlton does the same for its nine course menu, so you get 18 unique dishes between two people. My wife and I are celebrating her birthday there next Saturday but it seems La Folie is definitely a board favorite, so that might be next on our list!

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                          La Folie
                          2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                          1. re: klaw

                            Yes, that's true. We had 18 different courses between the two of us. It was beyond wonderful, to the point that we framed our menus and hung them in our living room.

                        2. Thanks for everyone's input! Unfortunately, these places were just outside of the other guests budgets, and in one case a person's comfort level. He'd never had french food before, and felt a little overwhelmed by these places. Not to worry, I shall take him to a few of my favorite Bistro's and introduce him to French food that way.

                          Since some had mentioned a steak house I decided upon The Big 4. Lovely atmosphere, and wonderful food. It's also only 3 blocks from my house, so it's quite handy! We all love the old school atmosphere, even if it is circa 76. And I don't mind a few octogenarians running around the place. They are usually more interesting than the young and hip crowd. Plus, we could hear each other perfectly even though is was a table of six. Read: no shouting about how fab our appetizer was nover the din of voices and hip music.

                          One person in our group was terribly late; about 30 minutes, but they held our table for us and in no way rushed us. We just enjoyed chatting over our cocktails in the lounge until she got there. (BTW Taxi service can be horribly slow in SF on a Friday at 8). We were all dressed up, ladies in fashionable dresses, with flowers in our hair and some with gloves, The men in suits, or dress shirts and slacks. And yes, I have proven to my Boyfriend that a good dress shirt and slacks is just as comfy as jeans. I may lose the tie battle though.

                          The dinner was wonderful, I had the heirloom tomato soup and the filet with the whiskey au jus, both of which were wonderful. Everyone really enjoyed their meals, and the service was gracious, warm, and the wine steward (although he always denies that title) is a hoot! He commented twice on how he would like to see more people like us in the restaurant. He steered us to a nice bottle of wine to go with our meal within our price range. I don't remember what it was though, my boyfriend handled the win ordering. I actually love this place and am quite happy that it's under rated. Makes it easier for me to get a table!

                          The service was good, but the waitress was a tad too friendly for the restaurant's price point, but it was prompt, with water glasses kept full, as well as cocktails and wine glasses. I guess at some level I prefer it to be a bit more aloof. But I will say that we really felt like the staff had a bit of a crush on us, they were so warm and welcoming. Everyone from the Maitre D' to the busboys. Heck, even the concierge in the lobby was gushing over us as we walked by.

                          We had after dinner drinks at Top of the Mark, a place that is truly just resting on it's laurels. I so wish it even slightly resembled what is was during Herb Caen's era. My father used to tell stories of how fabulous it was.

                          One day, after I'm permanently employed again, I will go to one of the places I asked about. Actually, I will go to them all if I have anything to say about it!

                          Thanks again for everyone's input!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cosmogrrl

                            Ain't nothin' wrong with steak and happy friends. Sounds like a wonderful birthday! And you don't look a day older! '-)

                          2. I would like to know if my experience at Fleur de Lys is unique. My wife and I had been anxiously looking forward to a meal at Fleur de Lys, for some time, the night we finally went, we were greeted by a very pleasant young woman who ushered us to the main dining room. On the way we were intercepted by a very stuffy man, presumably the Maitre d, who herded us into a side room where we recieved service from an unpleasant, ill informed woman.

                            Strangely, we were visited by the chef, who was very charming, informative, and friendly. My wife and I love to eat in restaurants, we usually we have a very good relationship with the service staff ( we were once compt a desert in Seattle because the staff liked us) and we are easy to please as long as the food is good and service nice.

                            With the exception of the chef, we found this restaurant very disappointing. Did we just catch them on an off night?

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Fred C

                              From my experience that would be a great big yes!

                              1. re: Fred C

                                Your experience is not unique. Over the years there have been periodic reports of bad/attitudinal service at Fleur de Lys -- more than any other restaurant in its class. I had an experience there that was so bad I'll never go back.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  And just so you know it isn't me with an ax to grind, last time Michael Bauer did a full review of Fleur de Lys he knocked it down a star, based in part on the fact that he rated the service only two stars (out of four).

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    that's true (although the review is almost three years old). earlier this year he did call it the most romantic restaurant in san francisco.

                                    1. re: ikb

                                      The review is from 2007, but it wasn't a new problem then. A problem that persists like that is generally sign that there's something systemic at the ownership/general management level.

                                2. re: Fred C

                                  i think if hubert keller is there you're likely to have a very good dining experience, but if not your results may vary.

                                  1. re: ikb

                                    Absolutely agreed - bad/rude service here is not uncommon, and whether your meal is good is very much dependent on whether Hubert Keller is in the kitchen that night.

                                    1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                                      Hubert Keller was in the kitchen that night. As I stated, he stopped at our table and was charming, entertaining and informative, and his food was exceptional. Sadly, by that time our experience was so soured, we probably will not return.

                                      Now, the Fifth Floor, that was the completely opposite experience!

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                                      Fifth Floor Restaurant
                                      12 Fourth St., San Francisco, CA 94103

                                      1. re: Fred C

                                        I've been reading this board for a long time (more than nine years), and to my best recollection there are only two upper echelon restaurants that have racked up significant (several, over a period of years, with complaints that didn't seem overly fussy) service complaints: Fleur de Lys and Oliveto -- and I haven't seen anything bad about Oliveto for a while.

                                        Windy and I ate at Fifth Floor for Dine About Town and thought the service was excellent; the best service I've ever had at a high-end restaurant was at The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton, where the waiter in charge of our table made me feel as if his whole purpose in life was to delight us.

                                        1. re: Fred C

                                          Yeah, we went to the Fifth Floor recently and thought everything was pretty good - the service, the atmosphere, and above all, the food.

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                                          Fifth Floor Restaurant
                                          12 Fourth St., San Francisco, CA 94103