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Jun 24, 2012 08:33 AM

Toddler-friendly dining weekend, please help me! Also, Acquerello or La Folie for only adult dinner?

Hi All,

I have relied on this wonderful site for my past eating forays in your wonderful city and hope you can guide me in the right direction again. We are staying in the Financial District (myself, husband, eighteen-month-old son, and my mother/aka nanny so that we can have at least one adult dinner) on June 29th-July 1st. I have reservations on Friday night at La Folie for our adult dinner, but also made a reservation at Aquerello on Saturday night and have to pick between the two, please help me decide if you have dined at these places. Here is my very loose/sparse eating itinerary:

Lunch- Pit stop in Oakland at Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen or something better in San Francisco?
Dinner- La Folie or family dinner at Thanh Long or Mission Chinese

Breakfast- Farmer's Market
Lunch-Great ramen place or Poc-Chuc (is it really good) or great burrito joint
Dinner- Aquerello or family dinner at Tony's or some other casual, yet Perbacco-esque place that will not shun a toddler?

Breakfast- Brenda's or Just For You (love beignets) or is there a new must try place?
Lunch- Ramen place or Poc-Chuc (is it really good) or great burrito joint

Price is not a major concern and we will have a car and are willing to travel for great food. Some of our past favorites are Perbacco, Tartine Bakery, Aziza, Roli Roti Sandwich, Brenda's, Humphry Slocumbe's, Boulettes Larder, etc. Thinking about checking out Dynamo Donut and Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous on this trip too. Worth it? Would like a really good Asian and Italian place that will welcome our little guy if possible. Thanks for any suggestions!

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  1. Ristorante Ideale on Grant in North Beach might fill your Saturday family dinner requirements.

    La Folie will not disappoint as the adult destination. Bring an appetite.

    3 Replies
    1. re: steve h.

      Thanks for the Italian recommendation, I had Ideale and Ristorante Milano written down as possibilities from some of the posts on this site. Would either of these be more toddler-friendly over the other/have highchairs? Which has the best food? Thanks for the vote on La Folie, I have heard great things about the place and am leaning toward it more than Aquerello.

      1. re: Hopester

        Ideale is an infant-friently restaurant. They open at 5:30 p.m.. Ask for a table by the front window (two two-tops pushed together) when you make your reservation. They have highchairs. The food is Roman and staff is gracious. Ask your waiter for advice. Prices are very reasonable. Dress is informal. Never been to Milano.

        La Folie is pretty special.

        1. re: steve h.

          Thanks Steve, Ideale is now on the list. I appreciate your advice. Any suggestions for a lunch, possibly a great sandwich or burger place?

    2. The key no matter where you end up with a toddler in SF, is to eat dinner early. As in 6 or before. The restaurants are less crowded then, staff more accommodating and friendly etc.

      Casual places like Mission Chinese etc. are a good bet. Second North Beach as a good place to go for Italian that is more family friendly.

      3 Replies
      1. re: goldangl95

        Thanks for the early dining tip! Have you eaten at Mission Chinese? I have seen mixed reviews for the place and really want to pick one outstanding Asian place for our trip as I am the designated itinerary planner and have all the pressure on my shoulders. Any other Asian suggestions if Mission Chinese isn't worth our time? What about Thanh Long?

        1. re: Hopester

          I'm not sure the food at Mission Chinese is very toddler friendly. Thanh Long is way out in the Outer Sunset, which prompts me to ask, what else are you doing and how are you getting around? If you're going to be out in Golden Gate Park, then Thanh Long isn't unreasonable, but I wouldn't trek all the way out there (and back) with a toddler. Even then, if you're looking for Asian in that area I'd choose Hakka over Thanh Long. If you want Vietnamese, then Bodega Bistro is a lot closer to where you're staying.

          Since you live in California, I'd go to La Folie and have foie gras before it's banned!

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Hi Ruth,

            Unfortunately my son has not developed our sense of eating adventure just yet, so I will most likely feed him before we go out and offer him a few bites of whatever we're eating in the hopes he will grow to love all foods : ) We are planning on going to Golden Gate Park, but I will definitely check out your reccomendations since they are so much closer. We have our own car and thanks for the second on La Folie. I have never had foie gras and am looking forward to trying at such a revered establishment. Any suggestions for Sunday breakfast that would trump Brenda's?

      2. I finally tried La Folie (in the lounge part, less formal but you can order off the main menu). In my opinion, the quality does not justify the price. The only great thing was the foie with cherry sauce. Lobster was tough and the only generous portion was the foie. Service was great and the bartender gave us tastes of wine so we could decide which to order.

        I was surprised to find 2 small orchid plants in the restroom; one with just stems, no flowers, the other with half dead flowers.

        I really expected to love this restaurant and would not go again. I have heard very good things about Aquerello.

        6 Replies
        1. re: walker

          Unless something has changed, the lounge at La Folie reeks of (artificial) truffle oil. I didn't even like sitting there for a drink, let alone a meal.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Well these are not good reports at all. I would hate to spend that much money and not have a great experience. Maybe I should stick to something I know such as Perbacco or Aziza? What about Marlowe or Wayfare Tavern? I know they are in a totally different bracket than La Folie and Acquerello...

            1. re: Hopester

              The comment about the truffle oil was about the lounge, not the restaurant. The restaurant doesn't smell like truffle oil.

              I've been to both Acquerello and La Folie in the past two months and they were both excellent. I think they are both great values considering the quality, service, and all the special extras (the amuses at La Folie, the candy cart at Acquerello, etc). If you're really interested in trying foie gras, you should go with La Folie, which does a better job of showcasing the foie, in my opinion.

              Of course, you can have a bad night at any restaurant, so I understand not wanting to risk the higher price. But these types of restaurants really do bend over backwards to make your night special, so it's really just about speaking up to let them know you're not happy with something. At both restaurants people next to me weren't happy with a course and they were asked if they wanted to pick something else or have it removed from the bill and the servers were extremely nice about it.

              1. re: bluex

                Thanks for the clarification, I have wanted to dine at La Folie for some time and have never tried foie gras, so we will keep our reservation. Looking forward to it!

                1. re: Hopester

                  Frankly, I think you should find a way to get a little fois under your belt at other restaurants before, so you can appreciate it.

                  For example, Salt House has a fois gras appetizer currently, which you can eat at the bar anytime. As does Boulevard, One Market, Chez Papa, Jardinere,

                  (Fringale has a fois gras terrine, which isn't worth the trip, Gary Danko has it but is a crowded trial, isa may have already removed, le charm also only has a terrine)

                  There's probably a dozen more; that's the set the comes to mind and is pretty relaxed about no reservations at the bar

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              We ordered that truffle popcorn and enjoyed it but the longer we sat there and smelled it being made for other tables, the less we liked it. I pity the workers who have to smell it all night. We did see smudges of black on the popcorn so I think some real truffles are involved.

              I only sat in the lounge because my two friends refuse to dress up, ever. One bad thing about eating dinner in the lounge .. the tables are low and it's awkward to eat from them.

          2. I dined recently at Central Kitchen around 5:45 because that's the only time we could get a reservation. I counted at least 6 kids there. It didn't seem to be an issue. Great atmosphere and absolutely fantastic food. The tasting menu is a really good value. The bread and butter they serve there is freakin' addictive.

            1. We've gone to La Folie 4x in 13 months. Even when it isn't perfect, it's excellent. And yes, we love foie gras, although personally we preferred the foie gras in Armoricaine sauce done by Bistro 29/Santa Rosa. We're not overly fond of the current craze for sweet, really sweet, and extra-sweet with foie gras and liver that seems to be sweeping into too many places lately.

              La Folie always has the cold foie gras torchon and the seared foie gras. We were there on June 7th, in fact. The best foie gras dish was a third menu item - seared scallop with foie gras Rossini. One large perfect scallop with a small lobe of seared foie gras on top, served with a Madeira truffle sauce. DIVINE!

              The other two foie gras dishes - we've had both every time we've gone - vary throughout the year. In their current incarnations we are so-so on them; Chef Passot has done combinations we've liked much better (our October 2011 dinner was perfection, start to finish - March and this June, still excellent but not as flawless).

              Assuming it has not changed, the torchon is served with caramelized onion-strawberry compote, a thumbnail sized, tiny perfect brioche, and a completely superfluous squab quarter glazed with a smoked apple BBQ sauce. The torchon was lovely on the brioche with a dab of the compote. The squab was good, but didn't add anything to the plate except quantity.

              Seared foie gras: This was served with a sauce based on caramelized cherries and aged maple syrup. Too much/too sweet sauce, but foie gras was superb as always. La Folie serves a bigger serving of foie gras than most places, and we appreciate that. One thing we did not like AT ALL was the brilliant green swath of pureed tarragon on the plate. Fortunately we could avoid it, but this is the third time (three different dishes, different restaurants) we have encountered this puree. It tastes of nothing but unadulterated licorice and is simply unpleasant.

              Tasting of Passot Roe always changes but we liked this particular version (third time we've had it). The vanilla-scented salmon caviar topping sounds weird but is delicious – and I don't like salmon caviar normally. Tempura duck egg is my fav appetizer. Beet salad had too much vinegar this time for my taste. Goat cheese tatin is fabulous, although the romescu they added this time was a little too garlicky.

              Entrees: Skip the tenderloin with the beef marrow custard, it's overwrought. Lamb rack is utterly fabulous – and larger than you'd expect. Skip the pigs-foot terrine unless you're doing a 3-course or are starving – it's very rich and a little too big, although tasty. Lobster risotto was super-rich but luscious.

              We usually finish with just coffee. Desserts are good but not mind-blowing, so we prefer to avoid feeling bloated afterwards.

              *** Another consideration for you, if you're not sure about foie gras, is Fifth Floor (in Hotel Palomar) on 12 Fourth Street @Market St., downtown San Francisco. We've eaten there twice in the past year, and both times Chef David Bazirgan's cooking has been outstanding. Service is excellent; restaurant is quiet but more contemporary in feel than La Folie.

              2 Replies
              1. re: tre2012

                Thanks tre2012 for the the very detailed report! Glad that you have mostly positives to say and I will try that scallop dish for sure. I am really looking forward to our visit and will definitely report back. Thanks again!

                1. re: Hopester

                  Go with Acquerello! An underated gem!