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Sep 1, 2012 10:22 PM

Alternative to Commonwealth?

Hi Chowhounders,
I live in Humboldt County and am coming to the city in October to celebrate my wedding anniversary. My favorite restaurant in San Francisco at the moment is Commonwealth, but as we've been there the past couple of visits I'd love suggestions of other restaurants that are doing similar adventurous food. We're staying at the Huntington Hotel, so somewhere in the city would be good, though we're happy to take taxis. Thanks in advance for any and all advice.

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  1. AQ. Similar on the innovative food scale.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        St. Vincent and Bar Tartine are both good, but would you say they are innovative the way Commonwealth is? I feel like Commonwealth is more elevated and creative than either of those two, which are homier, more gastropub type fare. I don't know if this qualifies any more in terms of creativity, but the OP may want to check out State Bird Provisions, which has some fun, unusual dishes and is a unique dining experience because of the dim sum style service. If sportcat is willing to go to the East Bay, Commis is doing food that I think any fan of Commonwealth would enjoy, and is appropriate for a special anniversary dinner.

        1. re: possumspice

          I agree that Commis or State Bird Provisions sounds more up their alley then the more casual atmosphere of say St. Vincent.

          1. re: possumspice

            I haven't been to Commonwealth yet, but from reports and photos, the creativity and presentation are similar to what they're doing at AQ.

            St. Vincent and Bar Tartine don't have fussy presentation but the food's as original and different as anywhere.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Well, one thing this thread has accomplished is making me get a reservation at AQ. Can't believe I haven't tried it yet!

              1. re: possumspice

                Thanks for such great suggestions!

                I've made a reservation at AQ for the night we're in the city. I'd also love to go to State Bird Provisions but the first available reservation is Oct 31st and we're in the city the previous weekend. Has anyone had luck just showing up and waiting? I was thinking we could go at 5:30 and just try a couple of dishes and then on to AQ at 8 for our dinner reservation. Does this sound doable?

                1. re: sportcat

                  You'll probably have to show up 15+ minutes before opening to get a spot, depending on the day. I went with a party of 2 at around 5:20 a few days ago and we were the last ones to get seats, with more people waiting in line after us. Sounded like the Bon Appetit thing had made State Bird much more crowded now.

                  Incidentally, I go to Commonwealth a ton, and I think AQ is exactly the right suggestion for something of similar style.

                  1. re: splonk

                    Thanks for the info. splonk, and all Chowhounders for your suggestions. I'll report back after my visit.

                  2. re: sportcat

                    We showed up at State Bird Provisions last Saturday night at 6:30 pm with no reservations; they put our name down for a table at 8:15 so we went and had cocktails at a nearby bar in the meantime. Annoying that they won't put names down unless you are physically present, but in the end it was SO.WORTH.IT. Bottom line: the whole city was insanely busy with fleet week tourists yet they were able to get us in anyway with no reservations. I'd definitely do it again in a heartbeat, can't wait to go back.

          2. thanks for the info.,danceswithchickens, we might try and do the same; we're in the Berkeley
            for a couple of nights before our anniversary night in SF, so we could
            drive over and try our luck. I'll report back.

            1. Oops. I meant Berkeley, not "the Berkeley".

              1. Dear Chowhounders,

                Thanks for your recommendations! We had a very enjoyable meal at AQ. Highlights were
                chicken “crispy and poached”, autumn squashes, coffee & sage
                beef poached in mushroom tea, green walnuts, horseradish & rye
                potato with costal plants, oysters, roe & radish milk.
                The chicken was my favorite dish of the night, and I thought it surpassed Commonwealth’s poached hen breast, which I love. The poached breast was very tender and the crispy (thigh, I think) was perfectly caramelized. The chicken was served with a winter squash soup that was poured into the dish on serving. The beef was cooked sous vide and came with a horseradish dumpling sitting in an intense broth, both of which were delicious and complimented the meltingly tender beef. Other less memorable dishes were the Brussels sprouts, mutsu apples, beer cream & cured ham—this in large part because the Brussels sprout component of the dish was a few fried leaves, and as a Brit who loves her sprouts I prefer a more substantial bite and sprout flavor. We also had the duck confit, camargue rice, “cinq épice”, salad of quince & chicory, which was fine but nothing special.

                We finished with walnut nocino, bittersweet chocolate, crème fraiche, barks & roots. This was also delicious, but only if all components were eaten together. The barks and roots were used to flavor ice cream.

                When I booked the table I mentioned that it was our anniversary, and when we were seated at our table our server immediately brought glasses of prosecco for us, compliments of the restaurant, which I thought was a nice touch.

                We stayed in the city that night at the Huntington Hotel and walked to Contraband Coffee in the morning, for their wonderful coffee and Dynamo donuts. We tried the bacon and also a pistachio donut and both were delicious. The bacon had a hint of onion and the pistachio was flavored with lemon.

                All in all we had a great anniversary. Thanks again for your help.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sportcat

                  Thanks for reporting back! One thing I like about AQ is that they do the hospitality thing (like comped drinks or desserts for special occasions) well. When I went recently for a friend's birthday I emailed them to make a special request, and not only were they willing to accommodate me, they were enthusiastic about it and exceeded my expectations in the execution. Unlike some places these days where the chefs see themselves as auteurs for whom you are supposed to be a reverent and appreciative audience, AQ treats its customers like, well, valued customers!