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Jun 6, 2011 02:48 PM

Monterey, SF and Napa Valley Recs

My wife and I will be doing an 8 day trip which will start out in Monterey for 2 days then the Napa Valley (staying in Calistoga) for 2 days and then finishing up in SF for 4 days.
Certainly this is a foodie area and lots of excellent choices. What are some of your favorite places? My wife loves sushi and we both love seafood. I figure we will hit some Mexican at some of the many markets. As a dedicated home cook we don't eat out a lot since home meals more often than not trump restaurant meals but this will be a week of eating out. Our food choices are varied except my wife doesn't eat pig. As well as those recommended where would you stay clear of?

The big destination places like French Laundry,Gary Danko and others require advance bookings. With just two weeks to go these are most likely not an option. I'm looking for really good food and can splurge for some expensive meals as long as it's worth it. As I mentioned I cook a ton and we don't go out a lot so to splurge a few times a year is okay. I just want the food to be better than what I can do at home. Too often it's not. Hanging around CH too much

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  1. scubadoo97, I am sure you are a great cook (your posts seem to indicate it), but I can't imagine that you have perfected every cuisine... The Bay area has a dozens of great ethnic restaurants,unique fusion restaurants, and many creative chefs... I also cook a ton, but am constantly inspired and influenced (even with the cuisines I am great at cooking) by the food scene here. I'm sure even the best chefs in the world could find inspiration here.

    Anyway, more information about what kind of cuisines you are looking for/interested in would help with the suggestion process... there are many many kinds of seafood restaurants.

    Some suggestions to start: Since you will have a car, Manresa (definitely a splurge) is not that hard to get reservations for... and is a good example of what the area has to offer (they are an hour south of SF). If you really want food you absolutely can't make at home, Coi (also a splurge) does crazy molecular gastronomy (and isn't always fully booked).

    Aziza is a personal favorite... Cal--Moroccan food; quite unique.

    Bar Crudo is a sure bet for good seafood.

    Up in Napa, Redd is terrific Cal-Asian. I also love Ad Hoc for perfect simplicity and exceptional ingredients (better than what I can get even with all the farmer's markets).

    For Mexican, I wouldn't count on finding the best stuff at the markets... you'd be better of trying some of the restaurants (or a truck) in the Mission or stopping in Redwood City on your way out of Monterey to one of the many great taco places. Once again this depends on the kind of Mexican food you are looking for...

    2 Replies
    1. re: lrealml

      Thanks Irealml. The above statement was made tongue in cheek but where I live there is a fair amount of truth in it.

      This is exactly what I'm looking for. Keep em coming!

      1. re: lrealml

        There are enough high end splurge restaurants that some dedicated calling around and flexibility on time (early is good) might land you something. I would highly recommend Manresa, even though it is an hour south, although they tend to some unevenness (sometimes better than TFL, sometimes serious missteps but still very good, especially to the thoughtful palate). Also be aware that as good as opentable is for this kind of thing, most restaurants keep quite a few tables outside OT, since OT has quite stiff charges. Atellier Crenn is very hot right now and unless you make fir Popsicles at home, I bet you'll be eating things you don't eat at home. +1 on COI too.

        You might also try asian. Between burmese, a couple of stand-out thai, and regional chinese (hakka), there's a few things that might be worthy.

        Good luck in monterey - I've never really found places down there I liked. Hopefully the chow board that covers that area is helping you out.

        Manresa Restaurant
        320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

        373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

      2. San Francisco has so many options that it's nearly impossible to know where to start. But I'd second lrealml's suggestion to try stuff that's fundamentally different than what you cook at home, whether it's based on different techniques, different ingredients, or a different cultural heritage.

        As far as technique goes, COI is a good choice unless there's liquid nitrogen and sodium alginate in your kitchen cabinets. I've never been to Manresa, but hear good things about it, too.

        There are a handful of places that have made a name using unusual ingredients; for example, Incanto shaves Sardinian cured tuna heart over spaghettini with some egg yolk and parsley. Good stuff.

        But my focus would be on foods from different cultures. Yucatecan pollo pibil at Poc Chuc, Vietnamese bo bảy mon (beef seven ways) at Pagolac or Dungeness crab at PPQ, tea leaf salad and samusas at Burmese Kitchen, XLB dumplings at Bund Shanghai, anything on the menu at Lers Ros Thai, ditto at Aziza (Moroccan with a strong California influence and a Michelin star), the Basque tapas at Piperade, and on and on and on. Plenty of info on the boards, or post more specific questions for more specific answers.

        Discussions about Monterey are supposed to be on the California board, but I'll toss in a plug here for Passionfish - innovative (occasionally fusion-y) seafood dishes and an extensive and well-considered wine list priced at retail (no restaurant markup).

        Have a great trip!

        5800 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121

        Manresa Restaurant
        320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

        373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

        Incanto Restaurant & Wine Bar
        1550 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94131

        Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen
        452 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

        1015 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111

        655 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

        PPQ Dungeness Island
        2332 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

        Poc Chuc
        2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        Lers Ros Thai
        730 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA

        Bund Shanghai
        640 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA

        4 Replies
        1. re: alanbarnes

          Thanks Alan and all those that tossed out suggestions. I know there are more great restaurants than in my entire state in SF so eating well should not be a problem. I think we have reservations at Passionfish at the moment. I'm a sucker for anything ethnic. Not enough time nor stomach space for all I'd like to try.

          I trust opinions on CH more than Yelp or other review sites so keep them coming. Still compiling a list. Never know what part of town you will be when it's time to eat.

          1. re: scubadoo97

            Passionfish is ok... not great. Just don't get the Maui Maui.
            Nearby, The Red House Cafe is cute and good for breakfast/lunch.
            Don't miss the macaroons at Carmel Bakery (if you like macaroons); good cannolis too.

            1. re: lrealml

              Where would you go in the Monterey area?

              1. re: scubadoo97

                The Monterey area is discussed on the California board, so please post a separate query there for questions outside the SF Bay Area. Thanks.

        2. Monterey is off-topic for this board; you need to ask about that on the California board. It would help to know where you're coming from to get a better idea of what's available here that you don't have at home.

          Manresa and COI are definitely great suggestions for a splurge, though I've found COI to be much tougher to book than Manresa. Maybe that's changed a bit now with the room revamps at both places. Both places are high-end Northern Californian at its finest, with very personal takes on the cuisine. If you go to Manresa, do not miss the Into the Vegetable Garden dish.

          La Ciccia is fabulous for Sardinian food, and is a wonderful homey establishment. We cook a lot of Italian at home, so we're leary of random Italian places where as often as not we can outcook them. No such worries at La Ciccia!


          Manresa Restaurant
          320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

          La Ciccia
          291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

          373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133