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Help me fill in the blank: Fleur de Lys, Incanto, ________?

I have five dinners to plan for early January, and Fleur de Lys and Incanto are booked. Fleur de Lys will be the only "high-end fancy" that we want to do, and we're trying to avoid getting stuck in the French / Italian rut. Any suggestions? We've already been to Aziza (loved it), Zuni Cafe, Spork, Delfina, and Chez Panisse.

One or two of the nights will be in Oakland. I've heard good things about A Cote and Camino, but don't know which one to choose, or if they'll be too much like the ones we've already booked.

Would love to hear your suggestions.

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  1. Why are you doing these "old school" high end fancy places when you can do Benu, Saison, Ame, Crenn, COI? Basically, just eat your way through the michelin guide. Just avoid Spruce - Michelin missed on that one.

    If you're going to be in a french/italian rut, how about Aquerello, Rivoli, Oliveto, Qunice?

    For american, how about plum?

    A cote is good, very good, but it's more of a mid-range that punches above its weight. Very nice cocktails, even better wine list. Cozy inside. Favorite dish is their mussels. I think of it as a thursday-night-when-feeling-celebratory-but-not-special-occasion kind of place. Given what you're saying, why not go someplace more fun like Boot and Shoe?

    Kind of like Zero Zero, NOPA, Absinthe, many others of the same class. Try eating more of the good neighborhood places, I'd say.

    1. They're nothing like Incanto or Fleur de Lys. Other places worth checking out in Oakland / Berkeley include Dopo, Great China, Barlata, and Wood Tavern.

      Anybody been to Plum since the chef left?

      10 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I think tied with Wood Tavern on that list should be Camino. Across the board excellent.

        1. re: epicurious_sf

          Settings of these two rests are very different. Wood Tavern is more of a neighborhood restaurant in a small space (also need a rezzie as they are continuously busy). Camino is more of a destination in a handsome, expansive room, and they're unique in that everything is cooked on an open fire. I favor Camino bc of its perfect cocktails and handmade everything.

          How about Ippuku, a fab izakaya in Berkeley? Very Japanese but their focus is not sushi. Instead you order delightful small plates cooked over charcoal accompanied by extensive shochu selections.

          The new American places are working for me right now: Commis (Oakland), Bar Agricole.

          I haven't been in a while but there are German places with a tons of personality, such as Suppenkuche, Walzwerk, Schmidts, if you want casual but still tasty.

          And I have to list House of Prime Rib for a red meat fix--it's tops.

          1. re: rubadubgdub

            I get the sense that the OP is looking for more of an "only in the Bay Area" kind of a place, but I'd second Ippuku if you're up for Izakaya in a cool atmosphere. Last week, the chef's choice yakitori was excellent, their fried crab ball was creamy and superior to any crab cake I've eaten elsewhere, and the chicken tartare was odd yet great (skip the nori). The grilled mochi and age-dashi dofu are regular winners, but I've never been into their seasonal salad (right now it's chestnut & persimmon) or their grilled squid.

            1. re: hyperbowler

              Interesting, I do think of these places as only in the Bay Area or at least unique in their own way based on quality of ingredients, chef skill, or atmosphere.

              1. re: rubadubgdub

                Oh, my comment was specifically about Ippuku---the dishes are certainly excellent, but other than the dungenous crab, and being a rare US place to serve chicken tartare, I didn't get a sense that the menu couldn't have come from LA, Vancouver, or even NY. Then again, I've only had Izakaya in the Bay Area and Toronto, so I don't have a good sense of what the staple dishes are.

                1. re: hyperbowler

                  If you happen to live in one of the cities you mentioned then maybe you won't find Ippuku to be "only in the Bay Area". But still only maybe. Relative to the rest of the country Ippuku is pretty unique (Yakitori places are still not that common even and Ippuku produces some well above average). Even in those large cities there are only a small number of places that compare to Ippuku - and that's a subject of debate. Anyway, I think it qualifies.

                  I recommend the Chicken tatare, not as a novelty dish so that you can brag to your friends, but because it's genuinely good and also it's hard to find.

                  1. re: boris_qd

                    Agreed on the tartare. I ordered it as a novelty, and to push my comfort zone, but will order it every time I re-visit. It's that good. Seriously good.

              2. re: hyperbowler

                I don't think that any of the non-Japanese restaurants mentioned are any more "only in the bay area" than ippuku.

                In fact, I would say they are less so. The issue you may be bringing up is that ippuku is distinctly Japanese, and therefore may not (for you) evoke images of the Bay Area, which is obviously not in Japan. Maybe it's easier to do that with an Italian restaurant.

                But there are very few places in the country where you can find a shochu bar of that quality - or that serves raw chicken.

              3. re: rubadubgdub

                "Wood Tavern is more of a neighborhood restaurant in a small space (also need a rezzie as they are continuously busy). Camino is more of a destination in a handsome, expansive room, and they're unique in that everything is cooked on an open fire. "

                I have found it next to impossible to get an Open Table Reservation at Wood Tavern. On the other hand, I've rarely had an issue as a walk-in at Camino, and often we have dinner in the 'bar' area.

                Camino is certainly more expansive - with the beams and high ceilings - but the informal wood tables, communal seating, are pretty casual. And it is definitely as much of a neighborhood restaurant as WT.

                The cocktails are good, but they are even better at Boot and Shoe down the street. Arguably, quite a bit better.

            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              Yes Robert...Been to Plum several times since Ron has taken over...was there last night, in fact. Fantastic short ribs with braised red cabbage, peanuts and dehydrated ginger chips, yummy confit mushrooms in a japanese type dashi-ish broth, shaved radishes and carrots, also a fun tangle of frittered onions, and a steamed steelhead with turnip puree and "chiccarrones de pescado" (my phrasing: actually deep-fried fish skin)
              Bar good too.

            3. I would look at either Commonwealth (in SF) or Commis in the East Bay. I wouldn't do both but one or the other would be a good contrast to some of your other considerations.

              1. Some other suggestions...

                Lolo's
                Izakaya Sozai
                La Ciccia

                And for the record, I'd go to La Folie over Fleurs de Lys.

                1. Thanks for all of the suggestions. If you were going to pick one place in Oakland that's not really French or Italian, with awesome food and a relaxed / casual atmosphere, what would it be?

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: vonmoishe

                      À Côté, Hibiscus, Bocanova, B, Wood Tavern, Plum

                      1. re: vonmoishe

                        ippuku (well, it's in berkeley), camino is a close second

                      2. Bellanico is ALWAYS under the radar! But I guess it is Cal/Italian...I love Hibiscus. I think Tamarindo is wonderful! O Chame has delightful udon...

                        1. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. It was very helpful! I settled on my top choices, many from among your suggestions, and my wife made the final cut. Here is the official dinner lineup for my upcoming trip: Lers Ros, Fleur de Lys, Ippuku, Incanto, Camino. I'll do my best to report back when all is said and done.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: vonmoishe

                            Great list except maybe for Fleur de Lys, reports on that place have been pretty mixed in the last few years.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I agree with the previous sentiment that FdL should be swapped out for La Folie. Never thought FdL was worth the time and money the several times I've dined there.

                              1. re: Eugene Park

                                Well, you all convinced me to switch from FdL to La Folie. I then convinced my wife. Getting a reservation....not so easy. They're not open on Jan. 5. Neither is Benu, my other choice. Any other suggestions to go along with Lers Ros, Ippuku, Incanto, and Camino?

                                1. re: vonmoishe

                                  Did you call Benu and La Foile directly? If not, I'd call and ask to be put on a waiting list. cancellations are not unknown.

                                  1. re: vonmoishe

                                    I might suggest some new American places that employ well-honed technique with imagination. In this vein, I've had great meals at Atelier Crenn, Commis (in Oakland, excellent value too), and Saison, which I daresay I enjoyed more than the ones I had at Benu and La Folie. But I think that's bc my personal preference is less butter/cream. The food at La Folie is reminiscent of Gary Danko, although I haven't been to either in a while so maybe I'm talking out of my ear. The service at GD still stands in my mind as one of the best I've ever had. It made the meal.