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I wish I could take my friends to Pok Pok in PDX, but our babysitters won't work that late, so where in the SF/Peninsula/East Bay area should we go?

Taking some friends out to a celebratory dinner (so semi-$$$ is OK). We're all parents exiled to the Peninsula by our kid's educations, but can get up to the city, or east bay for occasions.
Our guests like asian cuisines, one is not a big sushi fan, but a good sport who finds alternatives on the menu, they like spicy, like fusion...We're up for for anything food-wise, but this time feeling like getting a little more fancy than our usual strip-mall discovery places.

Suggestions?

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  1. Lers Ros.

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    Lers Ros Thai
    730 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA

    3 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I wouldn't consider Lers Ros for a $$$ celebratory dinner. Maybe Ame?

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Pok Pok isn't any fancier than Lers Ros, although the neighborhood's a little nicer.

      1. In spirit I think the closest to Pok Pok may be Betelnut in SF for fanciful fusion. It has a good chef who does interesting off-menu specials including suckling pig. Supposedly it's the only place in the Bay Area to get beggar's chicken (really entombed in clay). If you really can handle heat or stronger flavors, ask for it because they season for milder palates. In Berkeley, Ippuku has wonderful Japanese small plates in an austerely beautiful setting with a fascinating soju/sake list. I believe they only reserve tables for 6 or more but what fun tables they are.

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        Betelnut
        2030 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

        Ippuku
        2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

        1 Reply
        1. re: rubadubgdub

          pok pok is very adamant about not being fusion. plus betelnut caters to the marina crowd and covers all their food in sweet sauces.

        2. I'll second Lers Ros....

          1. kopisusu, it's an interesting request that you pose b/c my impression of Pok Pok is that it's quite a casual place with most of the seating outdoors under tents. However, the limited inside seating has more of a bar/izakaya vibe that I think is similar to Betelnut/Ippuku. Is it that you want the great tasting food of Pok Pok but slightly more upscale environment? Lers Ros doesn't have much for ambiance and the Tenderloin location can be tough for some, but the food is excellent.

            9 Replies
            1. re: rubadubgdub

              While Pok Pok is def casual in it's setting, Andy doesn't pull his punches when it comes to deliciousness AND correctness of his dishes. I'm looking to feel that kind of excitement about the menu in a place that's a few steps above the formica & florescent light places we've eaten at down here. And a full bar or thoughtful, interesting wine list should be a criterion, I'm thinking (god I love the tamarind whiskey sour at Pok Pok) , so that hoists the bar a bit, possibly out of the tenderloin...

              y'all will probably hate me for this but Slanted Door is on our short list of proposals, just to let you know what's being bandied about on our end

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              Slanted Door
              Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

              1. re: kopisusu

                I actually think Slanted Door is a fine choice for all that you want although I think the food there is less vibrant than Pok Pok. I find it rather subtle for my taste.

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                Slanted Door
                Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                1. re: kopisusu

                  Slanted Door has a great wine list and I always enjoy my meals there but I only go when someone else chooses. I'm not even big on the atmosphere, feels to me like a 1960s airport departure gate.

                  Really great Asian food in a nicer atmosphere with a good wine list, Soi 4 in Oakland is the only place I can think of. Upscale places almost always tone things down.

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                  Slanted Door
                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Very similar feelings about Slanted Door, but considering the factors of enjoying adult time with our guests and a desired celebratory atmosphere, SD's overall scoring is pretty high. All the guests travel/traveled pre-kid A LOT, all around the world, so we're sanguine about the tradeoffs in food vs. elegance. From the suggestions, I'll check out Soi 4 and Ippuku (though we're too small a party to score a res, which is hard when you need to be home at a certain hour) Most recent update pushes our possible dates to Dec, so plenty of time for suggestions. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts so far...

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                    Slanted Door
                    Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                    Ippuku
                    2130 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                2. re: rubadubgdub

                  There aren't tents at Pok Pok. (Has anyone on this thread actually been there?)

                  Yes, some of the seating is outside. It is nothing like Betelnut or Slanted Door.

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                  Slanted Door
                  Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  Betelnut
                  2030 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

                  1. re: Windy

                    I worked with Andy in the kitchen at Zefiro (and I think was technically his boss at one point, you can see how that worked out!) so we all OG and whatnot. And I call "exhausted-by-children" every so often and escape to PDX to eat at Pok Pok, among other places, at least a couple of times a year. So yeah, I've been to Pok Pok.

                    1. re: Windy

                      There were definitely communal tables with tarps over them (what I call tents) there a few months ago, perhaps to ward off the rain?

                      1. re: rubadubgdub

                        Maybe at the patio at the Whiskey Lounge across the street?

                        1. re: Windy

                          Nope, though I enjoyed WL very much as well. I had to request to sit inside at Pok Pok.

                  2. Not Thai fusion—but what about Skool? Right ambiance, very interesting fusion of Japanese and Mediterranean. Love it.

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                    Skool
                    1725 Alameda St, San Francisco, CA 94103