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Oct 29, 2012 11:40 AM

Romantic Unforgettable Restaurant in or around Bay Area/Marin for Special Occasion?

I'm spending a long weekend over NYE with my little lady (unbeknownst to her!) at the Ahwahnee in Yosemite Nat'l Park and plan on popping the question to her on the 31st. We're driving back into the city late afternoon or early evening on Tues, Jan. 1st.

I would like to make reservations somewhere really special for this night, as it will be our first "engagement" dinner. I was considering either Saison or Benu. I also really want to take her to that goat farm (they offer seasonal barn dining) just across the bridge; I forget what it's called- Harley's maybe? I'm not sure how the quality of food compares to the surroundings, but it looks really special.

I want to find a place with really great ambiance; somewhere romantic and intimate. I just read that Saison was moving into some old 1800s building, but I'd think it would be too soon after switching kitchens to risk the night. I've never been to Benu before and have been wanting to try it ever since I moved to SF, but this is more about the lady. I think she would enjoy that and I'm keeping it as an option, though modern/contemporary French would be my preferance and most well suited to the occasion. It's the cuisine of amour afterall... and I'm from Montreal. I want to avoid anything that remotely resembles a hotel banquet room though!

I'm taking her for early tea service at the N.M. Rotunda just before the long haul to Yosemite (same morning), and then to the Garden Court at The Palace the following Saturday. I would ideally like to find the equivalent of these settings in a dining venue, but with a more refined and unique or interesting seasonal menu. Some really iconic or historic San Francisco building-landmark to dine or snack at, or else somewhere in one of the neighboring counties that's more rustic and intimate. I've even considered the Dining Room at Meadowood, though a trip out to Napa from Yosemite just for dinner, only to return to SF might be tolling; especially after countless flutes of champagne! I haven't been to the Dining Room at the Ritz and am not sure what the ambiance is, but something evocative of a ritzy old grand dame with equal (modern) kitchen and service would be ideal. Does anyone have any suggestions?


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  1. I would consider Top of the Mark - if the weather is clear, you will have an incomparable view of the city that is stunningly romantic and intimate - if just for a glass of Champagne (but eat elsewhere).

    Also, have you mapped how far the drive is from SF to Yosemite? If you are starting with tea in the Rotunda, you are not going to get to Yosemite until quite late. In light of that, I would forget about adding Napa or Sonoma to the trip; just too much time in a car.

    1. Harley Farms, with the goat dairy is in Pescadero, which is south of SF on Highway 1, no bridge required. They offer a couple of dinners each month. But according to their web site they are booked for November and December and January dates are not listed yet.

      1. How about La Folie? That kind of meal seems more romantic to me than a 20-course tasting menu.

        The Dining Room at the Ritz no longer exists and Ron Siegel has moved to Mina.

        Saison's supposed to move to its new location in the first part of December so that's iffy.

        1. The Dining Room at the Ritz is no more. La Folie might be a good choice. Have drinks at Top of the Mark and then take the cable car to La Folie. Sounds romantic to me! If it's one of those clear, crisp winter nights it would be breathtaking.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Thanks! We've both been wanting to go for drinks at Top of the Mark forever as well!

            To clarify for Carrie's post above... we aren't driving to Yosemite for one night. We're leaving on the 28th (after an 11am brunch at the Rotunda - on the road by 1:30pm!) and then driving back to San Francisco on the 1st in the late afternoon/evening. Even with terrible weather conditions that drive is no more than 5 hours max. so we should be fine.

          2. The decor at La Folie looks exactly like what I am trying to avoid:


            It looks more like a place you'd want to bring an out of town business exec to close a deal than a romantic space to spend an evening with your new fiancee. This is the problem I'm continually encountering as I try to find a suitable place for a really special and memorable meal.

            4 Replies
            1. re: OliverB

              I don't think that photo captures the feel of La Folie with its usual nighttime lighting. It's definitely not a business-dinner atmosphere.

              How about Acquerello? They bill it as Italian but the cooking is very French to me.


              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                acquerello would be a great choice.

                keiko's a nob hill would also be a really good choice.

                1. re: Dustin_E

                  Heartily agree on the Acquerello suggestion for this particular occasion. Excellent food, tables well-spaced and that old world kind of service that is rare. Oh, let's not forget the cheese cart.

                  You will leave feeling very special. Let them know the occasion, they will be take service to the next level, if that's possible.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The brown dining room in the back of La Folie is as romantic as a morgue. Be sure you don't get stuck there.