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Oct 28, 2012 01:07 PM

My itinerary for a visit next month

I've done a bit of research and think I have my dinners all lined up, but would appreciate any comments regarding what I've chosen - whether I should nix something on the list in favor of something else (perhaps Commis?), specific dish suggestions, etc.

Also, I'm completely open on lunch/brunch selections, and I'd definitely like to work in some Asian and Latin American places, so please recommend away! If I've forgotten any information that would be helpful, let me know. :)

Thursday (in SF)
Lunch: ?
Dinner: Benu (most likely a la carte)

Friday (in SF)
Lunch: ?
Dinner: Atelier Crenn (most likely 5-course menu)

Saturday (SF>Sonoma)
Brunch: ?
Dinner: Incanto

Sunday (Sonoma>Palo Alto)
Brunch: ?
Dinner: Manresa (full tasting)

Monday (Palo Alto>SF)
Lunch: ?
Dinner: State Bird Provisions

Thanks in advance!

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  1. You're from new york, you eat throughout the region including the outer boroughs, you're out here trying to eat mostly at high end places that might do something slightly different or amazing than you're going to find in NYC, prefer complicated multi-ingrediant tastes, right? That kind of detail helps a lot.

    ( Mini-rant about why people asking for advice don't give information about what they like, their food experience, where they are coming from. We have thousands upon countless thousands of restaurants! )

    Are you really staying in Palo Alto, or are you staying in Los Gatos near Manresa? Where should lunch be? If you're going to be near the Stanford Campus, I would send you to Cool Cafe, which has delightfully complex sandwiches in the great environment of one of the largest collections of Rodin outside paris. If you have to eat downtown, I'll ask if you'll be drinking wine for lunch. If no, I might choose Reposado, if yes, Zibbibo. If you can range a little further, or are coming up from Los Gatos, I would say Aachi Aappakadi in Sunnyvale (pay no attention to yelp), and if you like coffee I'd send you on a two-fer of the upscale fusion viet buffet at Xahn [ you can sample just about every of their dishes, which is fun, even though I think their food is B+ to A- ] and then an espresso at the single origin bar at Red Rock Cafe (four barrel beans). It's a good local scene in both places. If you're coming back up to the airport, you might check if our new two michelin-one-stars are serving lunch on monday and if you can get a rez; they're on the way, or Melanie's great list of ramen - some of here favorite places are in San Mateo.

    Brunch in Sonoma - everyone raves about Fremont Diner. That'll be sunday morning and, thus, er, difficult. Start early or be prepared to wait.

    If you get into Los Gatos early, check out the hot chocolate at Fleur de Cacao. Paris-grade. If you like wine, detour up to Ridge if they're still open. I didn't realize they were in the "judgement of paris", or that they took 1st place at the 20th year reenactment.

    Hope that helps.

    20 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow

      Neither All Spice nor Wakuriya serves lunch and both are closed on Monday, but does it even make sense for someone visiting from NY to go to an Indian or Japanese restaurant?

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Why should someone from NYC visit SF and eat at all? Arguably, there is _nothing_ out here now that is being done at a higher level in the greater NYC. SF and NYC are linked with a chef conveyer belt that moves from here to there. I had been complaining about the lack of decent coffee, but there's a sightglass in midtown now. If you eat Brooklyn as well as Manhattan, you'll get good bread (and the bluebottle out there).

        With that in mind, where might someone get a new thought or insight? Say what you have said about michelin, the OP is interested in that kind of target, and is hoping to find something interesting and different --- michelin places often have one or two great or surprising dishes per meal, even to the most jaded. Also, one can go home and talk about the indian place that got a michelin star. All Spice and Wakuriya might suffice - but they're closed.

        1. re: bbulkow

          Seems to me BrickPM did a pretty good job of identifying some of the places that are doing something different than what there is in NY. The worse the weather in NY, the more extreme the advantage of the local produce here, particularly at Manresa (which has its own farm).

          I'd maybe drop State Bird (which I haven't tried yet but reports are pretty mixed), do Incanto on Monday (since it's open), and go to AQ on Saturday instead.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            AQ looks very tempting, I'll definitely consider it. Seems very reasonably priced, too.

          2. re: bbulkow

            Well, I mean, the OP has to eat somewhere, right? Might as well eat somewhere tasty. SF may be inferior to NY as a whole, but it is still one of the greatest food cities in the world.

            As far as Michelin-type places, I guess one may as well just consult the Michelin Guide for advice about that, heh. Otherwise, burgers are indeed much better in SF; I'd probably squeeze one in for lunch somewhere.

            It's been a long time since I've been a regular NY diner, so take my citywide comparisons with a grain of salt, but assuming it's more or less the same, SF also has the edge in Burmese. I'd never had Burmese food until I moved here. It's worth sparing a meal for a proper tea leaf salad.

            I'd probably squeeze in some happy hour oysters too.

            1. re: dunstable

              I'd love to do lunch at a Burmese place. Two have been mentioned in this thread so far: Little Yangon's and Rangoon Ruby's. Are these the two best? Any others I should look at?

              And I'm always happy to eat a burger. Any consensus on the best place(s)? I tend to like a thick burger with fairly straightforward toppings - more Spotted Pig than Shake Shack, if that helps.


              1. re: BrickPM

                It's hard to find a consensus on the best burger in SF, but you might find an excellent thick burger with straightforward toppings at either Marlowe/Park Tavern (same owner) or Spruce.

                1. re: BrickPM

                  Zuni Cafe's burger is great, though they use focaccia instead of a bun. Not served during dinner hours.

                  1. re: BrickPM

                    Little Yangon's the best I've had overall. Burmese Kitchen makes the best tea leaf salad.

                    I haven't heard of Rangoon Ruby before, just opened in June. The chef-owners reportedly worked at the Burma Superstar branches in Oakland and Alameda.

                    1. re: BrickPM

                      There have been no first-hand board reports of Rangoon Ruby's. It's slightly upscale, and in Palo Alto, which isn't a good sign, but it's been very crowded since it opened, so may be good. Sorry I can't be of more help --- just identified the target.

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        Which would be kind of the opposite of Little Yangon - Although the folks are friendly and the food is authentic, tasty and inexpensive, it's nearly empty every time I go for lunch, and even though you can hear the microwave oven in the back most of the food comes out lukewarm.

                      2. re: BrickPM


                        The board went through some very long burger posts in late 2009 and 2010; the "burger wars". There are so many upscale burgers in SF it's very hard to keep track.

                        Here's a recent slideshow by Grub Street of what they think the top 50 burgers are, which shows pictures so you might have a chance at choosing a short list.


                        There's a blog which ONLY covers burgers in SF - and has a handy map

                        This list notably covers a few places neither of the others do

                        And there's places on neither list, like Pearl's, BurgerMeister, The Ramp, etc. You wouldn't go wrong with NOPA's, 4505, or even Epic Roasthouse. Best burger and a view might be the 5th Floor.

                        Umami Burger is well regarded, but it's an LA chain, so few mention it's existence. People willing to talk about it say it's a mighty fine burger. (it is mentioned in the "top 50" slideshow linked above


                        My favorite? Honestly, I get good burgers where I live (like VIllage Pub's 1 michelin star burger), so when I get up to the city it's not so much about the burgers. That being said, I've always like Mo's because they have real charcoal, and love the Serpentine burger - 9pm at the bar at Serpentine is a pleasant place to be.

                        1. re: BrickPM

                          Like you, I typically favour the straight up approach to burgs *but* I make an exception for the Mission Bowling Club burger. Wow, that sucker is good. I rearranged my itinerary for our upcoming Nov trip just so we could go again. YMMV but I say give it a try.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            The Mission Bowling Club burger is a variation on Heston Blumenthal's recipe, which is pretty original.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              All the more reason to try it in SF for $10 or $15 (with fries) in SF :-).

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Indeed. It's a wonderful but ridiculously labor-intensive dish that no sensible chef would put on a menu.


                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Yes. Wakuriya holds up against my favorite Japanese places in NYC.

                    3. re: bbulkow

                      Cool cafe is closed Monday (and Tuesday). Even on the days they're open, they stop making food pretty early. Agree about the setting, though. And the museum is free!

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        "You're from new york, you eat throughout the region including the outer boroughs, you're out here trying to eat mostly at high end places that might do something slightly different or amazing than you're going to find in NYC, prefer complicated multi-ingrediant tastes, right?"

                        Pretty much nailed it, thanks :)

                        I will be staying in Palo Alto Saturday night after eating at Manresa. Reposado's menu looks good, I've got them pencilled in for now. The two new one-stars are Keiko a Nob Hill and All Spice?

                        Thanks for the response.

                        1. re: BrickPM

                          If you miss your burmese fix, you can lunch at Rangoon Ruby's, which is right downtown. I haven't eaten there yet because it's been mobbed every time I go by.

                          At Reposado, there should be some specials involving pumpkin, or get the street tacos. If you want _real_ street tacos, the board favorite (and my favorite) is a 10 minute drive up the peninsula at Tacos Los Gemelos, where the $1.25 tacos are hecho los manos.

                          All Spice and Wakuriya, in san mateo. Neither are open for lunch.

                      2. Judging from your profile you''re coming from New York?

                        Burmese for lunch. Little Yangon's an easy stop on the way from Sonoma to Palo Alto.

                        You're planning to head to Sonoma after dinner on Saturday?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Thanks, Robert. Great suggestion. The only Burmese restaurant we had in New York closed several years (I believe). And correct, spending Saturday night in Sonoma, then heading down to Palo Alto/Los Gatos.

                          1. re: BrickPM

                            You're having dinner at Incanto Saturday, driving to Sonoma afterwards, having dinner at Manresa Sunday, and then driving to Palo Alto afterwards?

                            Do you have particular reasons for going to Sonoma and Palo Alto? That's an awful lot of driving in the dark on a full stomach.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Yup. I don't get out there all that often (last time was 2008), so I've got a few friends I need to visit, and they very inconveniently live all over the area :)

                              1. re: BrickPM

                                Which is the only reason to drive up to PA after dinner at Manresa. One tip: if you get the wine tasting menu, don't get the premium menu. It's higher-brand wines, not better wines. I've had both a few times and the standard tasting has a bit more verve, let alone saving you a little cash. I also would NOT do a cocktail. I went in just to have a cocktail a few months ago, and it's not worth the tongue-fuzz at the beginning of a long culinary journey.

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  I had the same experience, got one of each pairing and the cheaper one had the most interesting choices.

                        2. I'm trying to figure out the Saturday SF>Sonoma (and back to SF for dinner) than Sunday Sonoma>Palo Alto thing...

                          Are you driving to Sonoma on Saturday and then back for dinner? But back to Sonoma on Sunday before heading to Palo Alto? That is a whole lotta driving...

                          Where are all your hotels? That would help a bit.

                          And, what others have said - hit a Burmese place for lunch at some point!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: CarrieWas218

                            Per a post yesterday BrickPM is visiting friends in Sonoma and Palo Alto.

                          2. consider jai yun and/or sawa.

                            keiko's a nob hill is also worth a look.

                            1. It will add to your mileage, but consider Chez Sovan for lunch on Monday:

                              Total hole in the wall. (Yes, it really is that place on the corner with bars on the windows.) The payoff is outstanding Cambodian food. Take two friends. Get the catfish amok, beef with green beans, chicken curry.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: fadista

                                Here's my post from last year on Chez Sovan in San Jose.

                                For me, it's not worth driving an additional 20 minutes each way for lunch when the OP is already covering so many miles. Lots of other worthwhile Southeast Asian choices in and between Palo Alto and SF and no need to go even further south.