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Two nailed down need advice on the third choice

Going to San Francisco in Feb. both myself and my partner have been many times and just miss it. The two restaurants we have decided on are Atelier Crenn and Incanto (the later has been on my list for so long I'm checking it off this time). The up in the air third is split between the following and this is where I need help. AQ and Sons and daughters just from reading their menus, both sound fantastic. The dark horse is oliveto in Oakland just because I have been on their mailing list for so long and everything they do sounds so good.

Anyway any feed back is appreciated. Thanks:)

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  1. I would say no to AQ and that is only based on my one dinner there, which, as a local, did not make me want to rush back. Food was fine, good, but not great by any means. Cher grayelf, with me that night, from Canada, concurred. I've not been to Sons and daughters. I cannot praise Atelier highly enough, it was absolutely the best meal i've ever had. Olivetos is an old standby, and by most accounts does not disappoint, tho i personally haven't been in years. Incanto is. Great pick too, tho maybe i'd not do two italians on a short trip even tho they're different... with the caveat that i were going to do that, one of them should be Cotogna.

    1. And I would say AQ over Sons and Daughters, but it might be an easy decision if you have a preference between a set menu (S&D) and an a la carte menu (AQ-although AQ has a tasting menu option too).

      Also, I'm pretty sure S&D is just wine, and AQ has great cocktails. So that might also help you make your decision.

      1. Oliveto is good but so is a handful of similarly-styled restaurants: Perbacco, Barbacco, etc...

        I would throw in a completely different bent to your trip and recommend the likes of Aziza or Quince...

        1. AQ is great. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/815841

          Oliveto's great but probably as similar to Incanto as it gets around here.

          1. I like slightly less experimental food than Atelier Crenn and AQ. With that in mind, I'd suggest also looking into State Bird Provisions and Frances.

            4 Replies
            1. re: goldangl95

              I don't find AQ's food very experimental, it has modernist touches but always in the service of flavor.

              I haven't been able to bring myself to go to Crenn as the food seems like a parody of molecular gastronomy.

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  Way too Frenchy for me, though for that precise reason I can see how it might be a top choice for anyone into modernist cuisine.

                  It's certainly interesting, and I'd probably enjoy myself if someone took me there, but I can't bring myself to spend $500 to find out. One meal at WD-50 was more than enough modernism on my own dime.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    it's really more japanese/frenchy. we spent that much on two of us, but we only had 4 glasses of wine/bubbly total. I'm sure you'd enjoy it too. but yes, while i'd love to do it again, it's really hard to justify.

            2. I'd pick AQ over Sons and Daughters, my meals at Sons and Daughters have been inconstant in terms of dishes and service. Also AQ is a lower price point and has both a la carte and prix fixe. I would suggest doing a tasting menu at Atelier Creen and then a la carte at AQ.

              Also Sons and Daughters has a creepy 15 percent service charge which is shared by all staff which I believe includes management and is rather shady to me and seems to be against labor laws.

              If I am paying over 100 dollars already, trust me to tip at least 18 if not more and have it go to the non-managerial staff.

              Oliveto is nice place but not a destination place. It's a nice neighborhood place but there are other Italian places just as good in SF.

              4 Replies
              1. re: tjinsf

                There numerous labor laws and court / board decisions regarding gratuities, but a restaurant can do whatever it wants with a service charge.

                I don't see anything creepy about it. Chez Panisse has been doing it for years. It's standard in France.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Having grown up in France I can assure you having a charge for service nor any mandatory fee is not standard. if fact tipping isn't even common.

                  And actually I check and tips can NOT be pooled and given to management legally. The Cafe Gratitude got in trouble for this very thing. No doubt by calling it a service charge they are sidestepping that, doesn't make it any less douche than the jackasses charging healthy SF "fees".

                  1. re: tjinsf

                    Seriously doubt that the service charge is there to enrich the management. More likely it's for the kitchen staff to reduce income discrepancies between front of the house and the back of the house that are due the high minimum wage in SF combined with the lack of a tip credit in California's minimum wage law. A dishwasher may make minimum wage. A waiter may make the same minimum wage plus tips and the restaurant can't legally make the waiter tip out the dishwasher. That can lead to large differences in income and the service charge addresses that problem. Coi does the same thing.

                    1. re: tjinsf

                      California labor law and court and board decisions restrict how tips can be pooled, but service charges are not tips.

                      http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_tipsan...

                      In France, most menus say "service compris," which means the service charge is included in the prices. I've read in travel guides that 15% is required by law and places that are service non compris / en sus must add that charge on the bill.

                2. If you are going to the East Bay then you are better off with Commis than Oliveto. I have been to AQ several times and I have found the food a bit uneven as there are often 1 or 2 dishes that miss the mark for me. I have had a "pork and beans" dish that was way oversalted to the point of inedible and scallops that had a strong iodine flavor. I prefer Commonwealth to AQ.

                  I would also add Frances or Rich Table for well done meals without the molecular gastronomy elements.

                  1. I'll just point out that if you want to go to Oliveto, it's incredibly easy to get to from SF, since it's literally across the street from the Rockridge BART station. Takes less time to get there from downtown/Union Square than it does to get to Incanto by public transit. However, since you're locked in to Incanto, Oliveto might be too similar to eat at on the same trip.

                    1. Thanks for all the info:) So I'll nix Oliveto since we are going to Incanto. AQ over Sons and Daughters based on feed back.

                      How about Chinese? We have dined at R&G and one other place in china town (I want to say Max was in the name) I was researching Jai Yun but their website is no longer up so I have little to go but some great recs for them laced in other chowhound threads.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: chris2269

                        Jai Yun's great and unique. They now take reservations through Opentable:

                        http://www.opentable.com/jai-yun

                        1. re: chris2269

                          Jai Yun is absolutely amazing. don't expect it to be anything like R&G, though.