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Visiting in December - Thoughts on Current Line-up

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We'll be visiting for 4 days in December. Here is our current line-up. Any insights would be appreciated.

Monday:
Lunch - Bocadillos or Nopalito
Dinner - Ame

Tuesday:
Lunch - Wayfare Tavern
Dinner - Frances

Wednesday:
Lunch - Perbacco
Dinner - Benu

Thursday:
Lunch - Michael Mina
Dinner - Baker and Banker

We're also considering Contigo, Cotogna and Incanto, which aren't taking reservations yet. Interested in thoughts on replacing our current list with any of the 3 above. Tnx.

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Perbacco
230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Bocadillos
710 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Contigo
1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Wayfare Tavern
558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

Benu
22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Cotogna
490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

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  1. Cotogna and Incanto are my two favorite Cal-Italian places though I wouldn't miss Perbacco.

    I like Bocadillos but Contigo would be my first choice for tapas in SF.

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    Perbacco
    230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

    Bocadillos
    710 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

    Contigo
    1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

    Cotogna
    490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

    1. If I limit myself to the places you are already considering. I would make the following replacements/changes.

      Skip Bocadillos/Nopalito and go to Cotogna for lunch on Monday

      Skip Baker and Banker and do Thursday dinner at Incanto

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      Cotogna
      490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

      1. Where are you visiting from? I'm not overly crazy about Nopalito, but if you're from somewhere that you can't get Mexican, then maybe it's a good choice.

        1. I went to Benu and could not imagine a restaurant where I would be less likely to go back. The food was pretentious and not that great. The portions were small and the service staff were very rude. It was really expensive. There are so many better restaurants. I would go to Fleur de Lys rather than Benu or Gary Danko or Boulevard or almost anywhere else. For me it is not price, it is about food and service.

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          Gary Danko
          800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

          Benu
          22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

          9 Replies
          1. re: ptrefler

            ptrefler's opinion about Benu is an outlier. Lots of people comment about the serving sizes there, but I haven't heard many, if any, complaints about the quality of the food or the service (though the decor is sometimes characterized as cold and austere).

            A lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of the food at Benu: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/726791. The short version is that some people think the food is excellent, whereas others feel it lacks "soul" and does not quite reach the heights expected. No one thinks the food is "not that great."

            I've personally been several times and find the food interesting and sometimes great. If you go, however, you should be warned about the tasting menu: last time I went it was 18 courses and lasted three and a half hours. Not too much food, since the serving sizes are relatively small (a single bite in some cases), but a lot of time to commit to a meal. And be careful with the wine pairing. Unless you have a high tolerance for alcohol, I would advise telling them to pour lightly. Or send it back, though that's a shame given the quality of the wine.

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            Benu
            22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

            1. re: johnq

              I think the reports on Benu may be somewhat self-selecting: the people who go there are the people who are pre-disposed to like that style of food and that kind of experience and/or people for whom a meal like that is not a big investment. I personally have zero desire to eat there, given what I've read. It just doesn't appeal to me. So I'm not going to report negatively, I'm just not going to report at all.

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              Benu
              22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I would assume that somewhat unique restaurants like Benu have far more disappointed diners than those that are based on very familiar concepts. For instance, if you don't like red meat, you are unlikely to be disappointed by a steakhouse since you probably won't eat there. And if you have to eat in one for a business dinner, you will likely have low expectations, so little risk of disappointment. A more unique place, like Benu, will attract diners who don't know exactly what to expect, but have really high expectations based on publicity and high prices. Some of them will like the food; others will find the experience not to be to their liking and write disappointed reports. A first-time dinner at a place like Benu should simply be viewed as an expensive gamble.

              2. re: johnq

                Three of five stars is well short of "not quite reach the heights": http://www.chow.com/restaurants/91758...

                My one friend who went to Benu thought the food was lame, that the Korean touches were too weak. There are numerous reports online from people who thought it was pretentious, inconsistent, and/or not nearly as good as it should have been for the price.

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                Benu
                22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Your link shows Benu with 4 1/2 stars, so I'm not really clear where your three star comment comes from.

                  Maybe you can direct me to some chowhound reviews that characterize the place as awful. Everything I've seen rates it as somewhere on the spectrum from good but not worth it to excellent. And it's present on quite a few lists of the best restaurants in the city.

                  I'm pretty comfortable characterizing ptrefler's characterization as an outlier. It's by far the most negative thing I've seen about Benu. Possibly your friend feels the same way, but given that he's not posting and you apparently haven't eaten there I'm not sure what your basis is for disagreement.

                  Incidentally, I'm not sure I'd advise the original poster to put Benu on his list. In my opinion the food ranges from good to superb, but I'm not sure it's worth the price. Or, put differently, there are other places that provide more bang for the buck. But I didn't want him to write it off based on a single post that appears to be considerably outside the mainstream.

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                  Benu
                  22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                  1. re: johnq

                    Scroll down to "Benu 02-26-11": three stars, "very un-relaxing," staff "looked miserable," "formal atmosphere ... taken to the extreme and it felt out of date," "kind of bland," "completely unmemorable," "food saturated with as much butter and cream as possible," "left underwhelmed," etc.

                    Most of the reports I've seen have been positive, but there's a significant minority like that one or worse.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Typical of a "negative" review of Benu: some of the dishes were very good, others not so much, on balance the reviewer was underwhelmed. Three stars is not exactly glowing, but on the other hand it's not terribly negative either.

                      Quite different from ptrefler's comments. He absolutely hated the place. I don't know of anyone else who's reacted that way.

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                      Benu
                      22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                      1. re: johnq

                        Read the one-star reviews on Yelp if you want to see hate.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Ah, yes, the one-star Yelp review. Generally worth reading for amusement value if for no other reason. There is no establishment in the world so exalted that some yahoo won't trash it on Yelp. French Laundry has numerous one-star Yelp reviews, one of which calls it "French Dirty Laundry." Another reviewer claims the food was so terrible she literally vomited as she walked out the door. You can't make this stuff up.

            2. I am not a fan of Frances and feel it is vastly overrated.
              I'd trade it out for one of the others you are considering (or La Ciccia, Aziza, Kiss....)