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After Manresa and French Laundry

My partner and I are coming up to the Bay Area for a long weekend in June. We have a Saturday night dinner reservation at Manresa and a Sunday lunch reservation at French Laundry. We are staying in the city (Mission) and still have Monday night free. Where shall we go next!

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  1. Are you looking for a break from those, or more of the same?

    1 Reply
    1. re: bbulkow

      I've been considering that. My extravagant mind was thinking Coi or Crenn to keep the theme going, but I think something more down to earth might be in order (and they are not open on Mondays).

    2. Mission = burrito

      1. Monday suggestions: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/754626

        Personally I'd cancel either Manresa or the French Laundry. I can't imagine eating two meals like that so close together.

        17 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          And it's a lot of driving in those two days. djquinnc would basically drive home from Los Gatos, sleep and then need to head off to FL.

          I'd cancel Manresa. My opinion may be in the minority, but I found the place to be over-rated and over-priced. I'd go instead to Commis in Oakland--closer in, better food and value--our current favorite special meal.

          For Monday, I note that Gary Danko and Quince both serve on Monday, as does Piperade (maybe not in the same category, but very good IMHO and worth a meal).

          1. re: Rapini

            Have to agree with Commis, one of the best meals of my life. Go for the wine pairing, the sommelier was great fun to talk to and the wines well matched.

            1. re: Rapini

              Haven't been to Manresa, but I spoke to the French director of a documentary on restauranteur Michel Bras and he told me that the meal he ate at Manresa last Saturday was the third best of his life. Didn't ask him what #1 and 2 were.

              1. re: Rapini

                I was considering Quince, but it looks like it has become significantly "elevated" from the last time I looked at their website (I'm probably not picking the right adjective). I've wondered about Cotogna, as I love Italian the most - esp. pasta. On my last visits, I found both Perbaccco and Flour+Water quite lovely on their own merits. although my second visit to Flour+Water wasn't as consistently good as my first.

                1. re: djquinnc

                  If you liked Flour+Water, definitely check out Cotogna. There are a dozen or more places in SF doing menus more or less like that, I think Cotogna's the best.

                  Seems like Quince is going for a second Michelin star and has gone even further in the Frenchy direction.

                  1. re: djquinnc

                    Another possibility--casual, good, open Monday: Delfina.

                    1. re: Rapini

                      Delfina is a great antidote.

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        We will be staying walking distance from Delfina. Thanks for the confident recommendation. Plenty of friends speak quite highly of meals had there.

                  2. re: Rapini

                    I wanted to report back that I had always filed your recommendation for Commis in the back of my mind. I just had a work trip up North this week and dined alone at the counter. Along with Manresa and Annisa in NYC, it is one of the most memorable meals I've had this year - the food, the attentive and warm service, and the ambiance. I loved watching the meditative, mindful way that the cooks were preparing the food. There was this one dish - "goats milk and honey, candy cap mushrooms with sunchokes and yarrow" - I could eat this every day. Chef James has something really remarkable going on up there and I am eager to return upon my next jaunt up North.

                  3. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Absolutely disagree - we have been eating at Manresa one night and then the next day driving to Yountviile and eating at French laundry that evening for years.

                    1. re: lizziee

                      This is dinner one night and lunch the next day.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Dinner and than lunch is a bit much but if you don't live in the Bay Area it makes sense. Also you could in theory order prix fixe at Manresa and the tasting menu at TFL but if you're going to travel that far, might as well go for the tasting menu.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          If the choices were French Laundry for lunch, or no French Laundry for lunch, I would go to French Laundry, regardless of where I ate the evening before.

                          I would switch it up on Monday though. How about Sushi Ran in Sausalito? Or maybe Jai Yun? Or Slanted Door, or Burma Superstar for something less expensive.

                          1. re: calumin

                            The best antidote of fine dining is something rustic yet light. Asian food usually works great.

                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Usually we go to Manresa on Wed night for dinner, then drive to Napa - light lunch and then dinner at French laundry on Thursday night. Trust me it works out perfectly.

                          1. re: lizziee

                            Obviously mileage varies. If you know from experience you enjoy it, that's great, but when I ate at Manresa, I couldn't look at food until about 6pm the next day.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              After an extended tasting menu at Manresa, I got a Double Double and a milkshake.

                              YMMV

                    2. Canteen

                      oops... they are closed Mondays.

                      Would have been a nice, casual but wonderful contrast to your other high end meals.

                      1. You will have a lovely, memorable time dining at both even if you only get to taste a bit of each course of the lunch and the early morning drive up to the French Laundry should be beautiful with mist off the vineyards (get up early!)

                        Book a spa treat somewhere for Sunday afternoon if you can or visit stunning Point Reyes for an appetite stimulating before/digesting walk after lunch on Sunday and then on Monday explore the City and, if possible, make a reservation at the Michelin-starred Moroccan restaurant Aziza in the Richmond, which is open Monday night (but not Tuesday).

                        You sound like savvy, experienced Bay Area visitors for getting both those reservations, so you've probably already done the Ferry Bldg (for breakfast/lunch/brunch and stuff to carry home on Monday) but that leaves wandering the Mission for tacos or a hippie breakfast at Boogaloos.The tofu scramble and pile of potatoes are great.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: rccola

                          Aziza has been on my radar for a while. Sounds like a good treat, and a nice switch up from the uber high end stuff we will have had the days prior.

                          I'm always able to sneak a trip to the Ferry Building when I visit! Still haven't had that porchetta yet - hopefully I can cross that off my list too.

                        2. My perhaps too often written choice would be Aziza. One of my best meals in last three years.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            Reservation made for Aziza - very much looking forward to it, and reporting back!

                            1. re: djquinnc

                              Please to have the basteeya (or however he writes it).

                              I want to go so badly but my husband won't. Says we have enough weird food right around here.

                              1. re: rccola

                                Go by yourself, it is that unique.

                                1. re: rccola

                                  Or with friends!

                            2. AQ for a lower priced but high quality meal. State Bird Provisions for a lower priced and unique serving with carts and trays.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: tjinsf

                                To me, AQ, Bar Tartine, and St. VIncent are doing the most interesting food in SF. While the menus are quite different, there's something generally similar in their approach that I think is unique to this area.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Haven't gotten to try out the new menu at Bar Tartine since the changes, anything in particular to try. Agree about AQ, still my favorite newer place.

                                  1. re: tjinsf

                                    The dishes on Bar Tartine's current menu are all new to me, so I have no idea.

                              2. I am happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed my meals at Manresa and French Laundry. Manresa was a wonderful respite after the long trek up from LA. The room itself was warm and soothing. We opted for the full tasting and I believe that we made the right choice. I don’t think I’ve ever quite had a meal like that where the skill was so refined but the food was so fresh. Kinch really has a way with the veg. The “Into the Vegetable Garden” lived up to the hype. We left satisfied but not over served.
                                Our lunch at FL felt a bit more labored and earned. It’s one thing to see Yountville on a map, but another to get there from SF (although the drive was lovely). And it was much, much warmer when we arrived. What can I say – it totally lived up to my expectations. As clichéd as it may sound, I probably had the best lobster and the best steak preparations to date. Service was on point and very warm (much more relaxed than the more detached service I experienced at Per Se this past March.) But it is a lot of food, and a lot of rich food at that. I don’t think having a 5:30pm tasting menu the night before had any real bearing on my ability to digest the FL menu. I was quite hungry when we arrived at 11:15 and did not eat a single meal the rest of the day (except for a late night salted caramel cone at Bi-Rite). Now, I really know firsthand why FL is such a remarkable experience. The effort it takes to get the reso, the pilgrimage up to the restaurant, the cost, and the journey back is a lot. And all that effort was completely worth it. This may be a once in a lifetime thing, and I’m glad I did it.
                                Having said all this, I really feel that Manresa was more my speed in the end. The flavors, the environment, the amount of food – I can see Manresa easily becoming a special occasion journey for me in the future.
                                On the last day of my trip, I also got to go to Cotogna for lunch and Aziza for dinner. Cotogna was a bit of a disappointment. Our server was, for lack of a better word, out to lunch. She took forever to get to our table and it was forty five minutes until we got our app – the sformato, which my partner effectively called “just spinach cake”, and an under seasoned one at that. When our pastas finally came, we were delighted, but I was kind of over it at that point. And truth be told, pasta that good can be found at a number of places in both LA and SF nowadays with much better service.
                                Aziza was a joy. The ambiance. The flavors. The constant smiles from all of the staff. We ordered a la carte rather than the tasting menu. From the spreads to the soups to the couscous, it was all and all a wonderful night and a great way to close out our SF trip. Can’t wait to come back soon and have some more culinary adventures!

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: djquinnc

                                  Glad you liked Aziza. Thanks for reporting back.

                                  1. re: djquinnc

                                    >> [re: cotogna] pasta that good can be found at a number of places in both LA and SF nowadays with much better service.

                                    i agree completely.

                                    1. re: Dustin_E

                                      I'm from San Francisco but I've travelled and rented apartments across 12 regions of Italy and I must go even further and say the pasta at Cotogna is not all that special—too much reliance on butter. The service wasn't great either when I went there, but I can get over it for the price. Flour + Water's pasta tasting menu is the only place I know in SF that can match what you would find in locally well-regarded Italian trattoria, usually on 3/5 courses.

                                      As for Manresa vs. the French Laundry, I too would prefer Manresa but would agree that they are totally different styles. It's like L'Arpege fresh, simple, vegetable focus (and often serves Passard's iconic egg) vs. Le Meurice's lavish, rich, and fresh take on the classics.

                                      But I must say I was pretty disappointed by TFL compared to the other 3 star places in the Western hemisphere and I can't remember anything from the meal besides the brioche. It reminded me too much of other famous places around the world that are past their prime and resting on their laurels—the food was technically perfect, but the flavors had been kind of lost and lacked imagination. Admittedly, I've only been to TFL when Timothy Hollingsworth was CDC and I heard better things back when Corey Lee or Thomas Keller himself was in charge.

                                      If you can afford a meal at TFL, you could probably fly to London and have something much more savory at the Ledbury or at Passage 53 in Paris, all for the same price. Or spend a bit more and call ahead for truly mind blowing meal at the Fat Duck or Da Vittorio (Brusaporto, Italy).

                                      I know there are others who have voiced the opinion that the Bay Area has a lot of good, but barely any great, restaurants and I must agree. The only place I've tried around here that, IMHO, can really hang with other great restaurants of the world is Corey Lee's own place, Benu.

                                      1. re: W42

                                        My bone to pick with Manresa is the inconsistency. I started eating there more seriously only about two years ago, and since have done various meals from their Citrus evening, to the full 12 course several times, to the more limited courses. One of those meals - out of about 6 - was a palate changing odyssey worth every dime, minute, and calorie. One meal had a service bobble so bad that - had it been my first meal - I would have never gone back. I love that manresa keeps their tastes fresh, doesn't over-repeat their excellent dishes, but the level of inconsistency keeps them from the third-star level.

                                        I was very happy with a few of my dishes at Saison, but it seems they have focused on repeating that one menu. In contrast with Manresa, which seems to continually take chances.

                                        My TFL meal was during the Corey Lee period, and I still would not place it with the best of Manresa's days. I have not eaten at Benu yet.

                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                          I've had the same inconsistent problems with Manresa; two exceptional and wonderful means and two that were extremely problematic (one made me violently ill). With that inconsistency, I've not bothered returning as it is too much of a crap shoot.

                                          From my FL experiences, I've preferred my Hollingsworth meals were far superior to the Lee meals. I've had two meals at Benu and both were very, very unmemorable. I have no desire to return.

                                          I haven't been to Saison since they've changed to the more expensive set-up and am not inclined to do so.