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A sunday night celebratory meal with a vegetarian

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Friends -
We are in SF from NY for two days only to celebrate daughters grad school graduation. This is a tough one for me, to finally get to SF and have so little time to sample the eating riches.. We are taking her, together with two of her friends out for a celebratory meal on the Sunday and Im having a little difficulty finding a place that will be delicious and interesting both for us and for her -shes a vegetarian. As well as being a place where talking is possible

Most of the places I was looking at - La Folie, Incanto, Barbacco, SPQR, Cotogna etc have no availablity at least at a reasonable hour.

Any feedback on Firefly or Zazie?

Any Chinese or other asian restaurant that is really high caliber and good for a couple hours of convivialty. Note, we will not have a car so we are looking in SF only.

Finally, I would be interested in trying really topflight Burmese, Thai, Malaysian or other SEA food on this visit. (Shes en route to India so south asian is not on the table) It looks like the board recommends Burmese Kitchen and Lers Ros any other top choices in these categories, and any that would be doable for this special meal??

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  1. Recent topics on good places for mixed vegetarian & non groups:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/799722
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/843674

    1. Hi, Jen! Looks like you've done some homework (like the good chowhound I know you are!). But did you try calling those restaurants directly? A lot of places don't put their prime slots (or at least, not all of them) on Open Table. Barbacco is good, but more casual than I think you want for a "celebratory meal. Perhaps you were thinking of Perbacco.

      Aziza seems like the perfect place for this kind of dinner.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Yep, came here to say Aziza. I'm a vegetarian and looove it there.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          i love Aziza's interesting cocktails and the bastilla. Great choice for celebratory meal.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            we snagged Aziza for the last night (yes!), but they dont have capacity for 5. We have finally reserved at Zuni for the Sunday - they swear they have lots of vegetarian friendly offerings.
            Im sorry we didnt get to plan this ahead. Still hoping for some good burmese, or maybe some mexican food (Nopalito??? =- were staying in the area) to round this out.

            1. re: jen kalb

              Excellent! I think you were on the right track with Burmese Kitchen. But like a lot of SEA food there are hidden animal ingredients like fish sauce and dried shrimp, so if that's a problem for your vegetarian, be sure to ask. There are lots of discussions about what to order at Lers Ros that you should check out.

              1. re: jen kalb

                Zuni's menu is pretty short. The current sample menu's pretty typical, 16 dishes, vegetarian options are the fritto misto, three salads, lentil soup, and the excellent gnocchi and boring bowl of polenta that are always on.

                Going to a Burmese restaurant with a vegetarian is a bad idea. That said, Burmese Kitchen has "VEGETARIAN FRIENDLY" in big letters on their sign, so I think you can trust them.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  thanks for the concern; I saw enough on the Zuni sample menu to satisfy my daughter and the guy on the phone said without prompting that they typically will have have an equal number of veg specials on offer so I think we will be fine. I will definitely report back since statements like yours on other threads, and yes the boring polenta on the menu, were among the reasons that Zuni was not on our short list.

                  She is 28 and not a doctrinaire or religious based vegetarian. fish sauce and such is fine with her - though she will not eat hunks of fish and meat, she will eat dishes made with broth and she has been known to turn a blind eye to little bits of fishy things from time to time and to pick out porky bitsor shrimp from other dishes (enjoying the flavor they contribute) Shes eaten burmese with us before, out the the burmese food festival in Queens so Im not worrying.

                  having lived through her vegan years and trips to Paris and Italy where we had to help her find food (it was a joyless process in those places) Im much happier now and she is a perfectly able and actually adventurous decider.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Zuni is one of my "go-to" places in San Francisco. The oysters are fresh and tasty, the bread above average. Both the chicken and the burgers are well documented but the salads and the pizzas are worth mentioning, too. I like the string fries. Beer and wine selection is decent. They are capable of a solid gimlet and a very serviceable bloody mary. This is not fine dining, just a cool place that's been around for some time and seldom disappoints. Take the "F".

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Zuni's one of my favorite restaurants in SF, just not the most vegetarian-friendly.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I had a bad experience with my (veg) sister in the 90's. The OP has seen the menu, so you're warned, but all the "good stuff" has meat or fish. I agree with RL, it's not terribly friendly. In comparison, taking my sister to Village Pub in woodside, they have a similar not-particularly-friendly menu, but the pasta-with-mushrooms dish was exquisite and she's still raving about it.

              2. Firefly is good but casual. Probably not what you had in mind for a celebratory meal. Try The Slanted Door for Sunday dinner. It's got seafood, atmosphere, vegetarian, great waterfront views.

                1. Have you looked at Millennium? I think it is great for a celebratory dinner and is vegetarian.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: calumin

                    Millennium's not just vegetarian but vegan. Used to be also low-fat, not sure if that's true any more.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      It is vegan, very expensive though. it's great for a celebratory dinner (I think, but then I'm vegan), the tempeh bathed in coconut curry sauce with roasted vegetables tastes like sex, and the fried oyster mushrooms are salty/crackly/juicy good, esp with a drink. I like the drinks but your daughter needs to wait a while for those. Definitely not low-fat anymore; that's crazy. The only part of the menu that doesn't thrill me are the desserts. I've had better, much better, for half the price.

                      I will be coming back here on my next work trip, no matter how little time I have.

                  2. Well here's my report.

                    the ZUNI CAFE dinner was a lot of fun and we thought the food was pretty excellent, the service and wines also. The females present all started the ball rolling with aperol cocktails the pater familias with an anchor steam. A very nice Strasserhof Alto Adige white and the slightly oaky Soliste "Narcisse" Pinot Noir carried us well through the evening. (very helpful wine advice was given)
                    There were sufficient vegetarian choices - on the appetizer side we had grilled favas with chorizo, deep fried asparagus with onions and an excellent sauce, a clam dish and a salad - daughter had an soup (asparagus, potato sorrel or such - she had it under control) and ate some of the favas and asparagus - the latter was the treat of this first round

                    For the main courses we shared the roast chicken, a rare tuna with salsa including nopalito which I liked very much and a very nice lamb dish with white bean puree, which was also popular. Vegetarian daughter enjoyed her ricotta gnocchi with mushrooms, etc.

                    Dessert was not a main thing here - the Victoire cake was fairly average, but I very nuch liked the tart tangerine granita I closed with.

                    I just have to say however, that though we all enjoyed the chicken it was not 10 times better than a Costco Roast Chicken. It was impeccably cooked to just the right point and the skin was very nice but as others have said, in the end it is just a roast chicken. I will however be inspired to try to garnish the next Costco chicken I buy in the manner of this one.

                    Our second dinner was at AZIZA, which was pretty darn good, with reservations. I had been looking forward to the moroccan angled cuisine but when I saw they had an extensive tasting menu ($95), were willing to do vegetarian adaptions and wine pairings at a reasonable price ($30 per person) I succumbed. disadvantage was that we were tired having been walking all day, so we burned out before the end of this 13 course extravaganza. Other disadvantage was that I can imagine eating this meal in any number of top range restaurants around the world - the range of ingredients were global and the techniques very refined and exquisite - each bite was delicious and the flavor sensations were exceedingly diverse, with no missteps (until the very last mignardise - which had chopped strawberries and something that reminded me of slightly soggy special-K. Several of the dishes were outstanding and flavorings such as verbena, tiny pepper leaves , green strawberry and bottarga (in addition to very nice moroccan-spiced squab, wagyu beef, etc) made every spoonful of interest. Unfortunately I did not bring home the menu, so I cant paint a full picture. Wines were all interesting an enjoyable and included a fine sake. A very pleasant event (3+ hours) so not recommended for tired travellers.

                    Lunches - chat at VIKs in Berkeley, and at Lers Ros on Larkin. The former was quite good and a scene on sunday afternoon - the latter friendly and very respectable thai food. We had the fried catish salad, the wild boar in a chile sauce with shredded galangal , green peppecorns and some kaffir lime leaves and what they call silver noodles (cellophane) with some relatively bland ingredients, a good contrast to the fire-ry boar dish. Liked the boar a lot but the meat was not succulent - more (not a criticism) toward a cartilage like texture. I was a little disappointed at the amount of iceberg with the fried catfish but the sauce and flavor overall was excellent. I wish this restaurant was down the street from me in Brooklyn! Friendly service, too.

                    So thanks, San Francisco! Seems like I barely scratched the surfact but what we scratched off was excellent!