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Mar 15, 2011 07:53 AM

The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton - any recent experiences?

We have reservations at TDR next month for a special get together with two other couples. In light of Michael Bauer's review in the Chronicle last Sunday, we are reconsidering. Are there others with recent experience at TDR that agree with his dropping the stars from four to 2.5? Within the past year, we have been with these same two couples to Acquerello, La Folie and Quince, but none of us have been to TDR in years.

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

Acquerello Restaurant
1722 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94109

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  1. i did find it interesting that he didn't mention that siegel had hired a chef de cuisine, who's presumably in charge of the kitchen, which makes me wonder if that had somethign to do with the slip.

    however if anything, i would think that if the review really is true and they were coasting on autopilot, they'd be at the top of their game after the review came out as they'd be working hard to show that it's not the case.

    also, given bauer's frequent columns about how this past year was the best year for restaurant openings in a long time, i sometimes wonder if he's really desperate to find any reason to cut restaurants out of the top 100 to add new ones, but this is a pretty serious demotion

    1. Here is my review I published on my site. Hopefully it works out for you.

      The Bay Area of San Francisco is full of interesting modern restaurants, all of which have taken French cuisine and turned it into something their own. That's why this is one of the most interesting gastronomic regions of the world. Despite this wealth of avant-garde restaurants, here you can still find an American version of the grand restaurant.

      The Dining Room in the Ritz Carlton is one such grand restaurant. Featuring elegant chandeliers, plush carpets and expensive china, the decor is undeniably grand. Indeed, the staff are trained to perfection and will not make a single mistake during your meal. Everything they do is designed to make you feel comfortable and at ease. And besides the good service and luxurious surroundings, this restaurant has another strong point: The wine list. Well-chosen, it represents remarkable value for a restaurant of its class. However, all this cannot make you forget the one grand weakness of the place: The food.

      Chef Ron Siegel loves French food, but he adds lots of Japanese products and techniques in his cooking. French/Japanese is not an easy style to cook, and here you feel that the food suffers from an identity crisis. Somehow the dishes are not really French, nor are they truly Japanese. Thus, most are mediocre. A sashimi of big eye tuna served with Ponzu and freshly grated wasabi is problematic as the product quality is poor. The fish is devoid of taste and very dry, spoiling such a simple dish. The abalone with shitake mushrooms, miso and a dashi broth is no more convincing either since the abalone is chewy and flavourless, and lacks the little something that would lift the dish a bit.

      Despite such uninspiring dishes, there are signs that this kitchen can deliver. One sign is the Sonoma duck with hot foie gras. Here, both products are cooked properly and have good flavour. But the finest moment in the Dining Room comes with the dessert: a few preparations deftly balancing sweet and bitter flavours create a light and refreshing end to a meal here.

      Afterwards, you cannot help thinking that the Dining Room is not about the food. Clearly it caters to wealthy, conservative diners who seem to care more about seeing and being seen in these ever so grand surroundings, rather than eating grand food.

      For the pictures you can look on my blog

      4 Replies
        1. re: qli

          What was the date of your visit(s)?

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I have visited the place 4 times during the last 3 years. It's because of the superb winelist that I visited the place more then once. The last visit is from early September 2010 ....

            1. re: qli

              So you feel that the food quality has been consistently mediocre over those four visits in three years and not just a drop as of six months ago (Sept 2010)?

              And your desserts were . . .?

        2. i think you should go and see for yourself.

          at its best, TDR is better than all the other restaurants you mention. even if it has slipped a little, you probably will still have a very good meal.

          i'd be interested to know if you agree with Michael Bauer.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ikb

            You are probably right. After having made the reservations well in advance of Bauer's reviews, I still went to both Fish Story and Lafitte after his one star reviews of both those restaurants were published. We had good food, service and ambience at both of those restaurants. Those, however, were initial reviews of new restaurants. The Dining Room review, though, comes after extremely favorable reviews and comments from Bauer over a long period of time and this is a much higher price point restaurant. I do not always agree with his reviews and, frankly, question some of the places he thinks so highly of. We still have several weeks to decide whether to keep this reservation and, if we do go, I'll report back.

            1. re: bobpantzer

              Bauer's more likely to overrate a hit-and-miss place than to underrate a consistently good one. He's recognized at most places he goes, so places where the average customer experiences erratic food and/or service can sometimes give him a false impression of consistency.

              On the other hand, that review must have been a wake-up call for Ron Siegel.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I agree with both of your paragraphs. I am going to follow the Opentable reviews over the next few weeks just to get a sense of current comments as compared to older ones. In his first comment, above, vulber makes the point that, in reaction to this review, the restaurant is likely to come to the top of it's game over the next several weeks.

          2. My wife and I have eaten dinner at TDR several times over the last few years, and we have always been more than happy with the food and drink. (We almost always ordered the tasting menu.) Tonight we returned, not having been there for almost a year. We found the food as good as ever, the service as good as ever, the bread and napkins as good as ever, and the wine pairings, which we didn't remember being on offer, interesting and judiciously chosen.
            We often chuckle at Michael Bauer's not picking TDR as one of the 100 best restaurants in San Francisco for the Chronicle's Best 100 list. We think this is an example of reviewing rumors and not food.
            We plan on returning again soon, with our daughter, a committed vegetarian, for the vegetarian offerings are as good as the carnivores' choices.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Michael Rodriguez

              Bauer said he dropped it from the 2008 Top 100 because of the rumor that Ron Siegel was going to take over the Myth space.


            2. Wondering if you kept your reservation and can update us?

              The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton
              The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94108