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San Francisco Itinerary: REVISED

lhenry Dec 22, 2012 06:53 PM

Thank you all for your suggestions, I have changed my itinerary a bit with your help.

January 3-6

Day 1:

Lunch at Z&Y

Dinner at Perbacco (Not quite sold on it yet, should I go?)

Day 2:

Lunch at Cotonga

Dinner at Kokkari Estiatorio

Day 3:

Lunch at Yank Sing

Dinner at Gary Danko's/ Atelier Crenn (I am 3rd on the Waiting list at AC, hoping for cancellations)

  1. t
    tjinsf Dec 27, 2012 12:11 AM

    Do you want to do two days of Italian? What about doing dinner at Cotogna instead of Perbacco and lunch at Zuni or the ferry building?

    11 Replies
    1. re: tjinsf
      lhenry Dec 27, 2012 10:15 PM

      I would do something similar, but I am finding it very hard to get a dinner reservation at Cotogna. And, I don't mind two days of italian food in a row either.

      1. re: lhenry
        grayelf Dec 28, 2012 11:02 AM

        We were warned off even trying for a dinner reso at Cotogna and have stuck with lunch for both of our last two trips. Really an outstanding choice, especially if you happen to be there on a sunny day. I would love to go for dinner someday as well to see how the room looks at night.

        1. re: grayelf
          Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2012 11:15 AM

          I've gotten dinner reservations at Cotogna.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            mariacarmen Dec 28, 2012 12:34 PM

            well, of course - you are a local. i'm sure it's more difficult for people from out of town to get reservations when they have limited dates and times and are trying to juggle other reservations. it is pretty obvious that some people do get reservations, or the place wouldn't be full, would it.

            1. re: mariacarmen
              Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2012 12:43 PM

              I used the Opentable link on cotognasf.com.

              It seems like they black out 6-10pm except on Sundays. I don't know if you can get a res during that time if you phone.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                grayelf Dec 28, 2012 04:50 PM

                Despite the warnings, I did try for dinner resos at Cotogna in November (phoning about 6 weeks ahead IIRC). Checked OT repeatedly and called as well, asking for Wed-Sun options. Still no dice. "Settled" for lunch :-). Also flamed out on Rich Table. Will have to call even earlier next time!

        2. re: lhenry
          tjinsf Dec 28, 2012 04:44 PM

          are you making reservations only on open table? I would call the restaurant directly and see if they have anything not on OT and also get on a wait list if there isn't anything available. I find in SF that I can often get a table that way especially if you prefer to eat later which is often a good thing if you are doing big lunches.

          1. re: tjinsf
            lhenry Dec 28, 2012 04:52 PM

            No I am using both methods. We are currently on AC's waiting list, and we also hate eating late so that really isn't an option. Our dinner is usually 5:30 or 6:00.

            1. re: lhenry
              tjinsf Dec 29, 2012 03:29 AM

              well that's actually great that you like to eat so early, if I were you I would just go or call right at opening time which is around when you want to eat and you may be able to do walk in for Cotogna. Most people here do not eat that early.

              1. re: tjinsf
                calumin Dec 29, 2012 06:04 PM

                That's a good point. I went to Cotogna on a weekday about three months ago and remember them not taking reservations but I was able to go early (~5:30) and get a table.

                1. re: calumin
                  lhenry Dec 29, 2012 07:35 PM

                  I will have to wait and see next week. Hopefully I can get in for dinner when they open, but I am happy with the collection of restaurants so far if I am unable to get in.

      2. a
        aasg Dec 23, 2012 09:37 AM

        Perbacco is great. If it is on your list, you should keep it there.

        Another place I really enjoyed was Mandalay for Burmese cuisine.

        For your last night, if you are looking for a very nice meal for the final night, I know that Fleur de Lys gets mixed reviews, but I went there in August and had fantastic meal. The swordfish dish was the best fish dish I have had.

        4 Replies
        1. re: aasg
          dunstable Dec 24, 2012 06:43 AM

          Yah, I always tell tourists to save at least one meal for Burmese food. I too like Mandalay, although Burma Superstar is the most popular.

          1. re: dunstable
            mariacarmen Dec 26, 2012 01:45 AM

            Agree with this too, mandalay is much better than superstar. The only thing b superstar has over on mandalay is it is in a fun walking neighborhood.

            1. re: mariacarmen
              grayelf Dec 26, 2012 09:06 AM

              Green Apple Books is close to Mandalay (bought my copy of Table Hopper there).

              For the OP, be sure to only order Burmese items at Mandalay. They have some Chinese dishes on the menu also, not worthy.

              1. re: grayelf
                TeacherFoodie Dec 29, 2012 09:57 AM

                I have to pipe in about Mandalay and Aziza. They were both highlights on my trip to SF in March. At Mandalay we spoke to the server to make sure that we got Burmese items, as greyelf mentioned. The tea leaf salad was so good that when we returned to Toronto we tried to find a way to make it ourselves! Also, Aziza is fantastic because their dishes are unique and expertly prepared and presented. I have heard people complain about service at Aziza but when we were there service was great. I hope you have a great trip. San Francisco is one of our favourite cities!

        2. Ruth Lafler Dec 22, 2012 07:09 PM

          Don't forget Saturday morning at the Ferry Building.

          25 Replies
          1. re: Ruth Lafler
            mariacarmen Dec 22, 2012 07:10 PM

            second that.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler
              wally Dec 22, 2012 08:30 PM

              Portland does have a rather fantastic farmer's market.

              1. re: wally
                grayelf Dec 23, 2012 09:21 AM

                That is true, wally, but having done both markets more than once as a visitor, I could see a Pdx visitor wanting to make time for the FPFM. But only on Saturday (Tues and Thur not worth it IMO). The setting is pretty amazing, plus you get the architecture and shops in the Ferry Building as well. And I daresay that overall the prepared food options are a wee bit superior at the Ferry Plaza. Plus the OP could do a quantitative analysis on who's line is longer, Roli Roti or Pine State :-).

                Re the OP's list, the main choice I'd rethink is Perbacco for dinner if he can get in at La Ciccia. Portland has some very fine Italian options but AFAIK no Sardinian, so that would be cool. La C is also such a lovely neighbourhood place. It is family run so has an especially warm vibe. I've never experienced the people waiting that has been reported recently on another thread. Just the great food and service.

                1. re: grayelf
                  nocharge Dec 23, 2012 10:47 PM

                  I think any recommendation of La Ciccia should come with the disclosure that if you are staying in downtown SF, it takes a little bit of effort to get there. Most likely, the roundtrip journey will take well over an hour if you take Muni or cost you over $50 if you take a cab. And there's no full bar, which could matter for people who care about cocktails. It's definitely a great neighborhood place, but if you're staying downtown, it's main allure is most likely the novelty factor of being Sardinian, which is certainly somewhat unusual. Other than the novelty factor, I don't find it worth the effort of getting there given that there are many great restaurants that are more conveniently located. Including places like Perbacco.

                  1. re: nocharge
                    Robert Lauriston Dec 24, 2012 10:03 AM

                    What makes La Ciccia special is that the owners are so warm and welcoming. That wouldn't count for much if the food wasn't delcious, of course. It also has a remarkable wine list.

                    Cocktails have no place in an Italian restaurant. In Italy, they call a place that serves cocktails an American bar.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      grayelf Dec 24, 2012 05:21 PM

                      We stay near Union Square and have no trouble getting to La Ciccia -- just hop on the Muni and relax, it drops you in front of the resto. It's really no further than going to Incanto and better, IMO. Can't speak to the cost of a cab as we've never bothered. The wine list really is pretty phenomenal. And for me, being able to eat Sardinian food is more than a novelty, it is a privilege, especially in such a setting. By contrast I found both Barbacco and Perbacco a bit sterile, though the former less so, and the food is better for my taste at La Ciccia. Since the OP is already going to my other favourite Italian place, Cotogna, I was suggesting he might find La C a more interesting option as I feel like I've eaten at places similar to Perbacco in Portland. Also I've been back to La Ciccia four times and it always delivers. Perbacco didn't impress me enough to return, nor did Barbacco. That is all :-).

                      1. re: grayelf
                        mariacarmen Dec 26, 2012 01:41 AM

                        Totally agree that getting there is not that big a deal, and so worth it. and yes,cotogna is much better, and consistently, than perbacco.

                    2. re: nocharge
                      Atomica Dec 26, 2012 06:04 AM

                      La Ciccia is dead easy to get to on the streetcar, and if one wants good cocktails, Rock Bar is very short walk.

                      1. re: Atomica
                        nocharge Dec 26, 2012 08:49 AM

                        While it may be dead easy to get there, it's still a 30-40 minute trip each way from Union Square and 50-60 minutes each way from Fisherman's Wharf (if the good people at 511.org are to be trusted). On the plus side, you get the privilege of experiencing Muni, a universally beloved form of transportation. Whether it's worth it depends on how you like to spend your time, but I think it's fair to point it out in the context of downtown alternatives like Cotogna and Perbacco.

                        1. re: nocharge
                          Atomica Dec 27, 2012 08:57 AM

                          The sarcasm comes through loud and clear. The streetcar is not generally unpleasant. It's not the BUS. As for whether or not it's an interesting trip, I'd say that depends completely on the rider.

                          1. re: Atomica
                            hill food Dec 27, 2012 12:36 PM

                            just getting there is half the fun. plenty of good story fodder is to be found. and no futile block circling praying for a space. I found early on as much time is to be wasted on that alone as waiting for the next bus/street/cable car.

                          2. re: nocharge
                            c oliver Dec 27, 2012 07:07 PM

                            We used to live a block from 24th and Church and the J-Church was my transpo five days a week. I would NEVER disqualify a place on that basis. Never.

                            1. re: c oliver
                              calumin Dec 27, 2012 07:17 PM

                              I used to live three blocks from 24th and Church and bought a car specifically so I wouldn't ever have to take Muni again!

                              Seriously, the last day I spent waiting a half hour for a Muni streetcar to then watch three cars come at one time was a very good day.

                              If the OP does go to La Ciccia, I would recommend taking a taxi -- at least on the way there, to eliminate the issue of potentially missing the reservation. If they will be in the Mission or downtown / SOMA, the taxi shouldn't be that expensive.

                              1. re: calumin
                                c oliver Dec 27, 2012 07:24 PM

                                Different strokes.

                                1. re: calumin
                                  nocharge Dec 27, 2012 10:08 PM

                                  The cab fare estimates from taxifarefinder.com seem to be around $28 one way including tip from Union Square and $36 one way including tip from Fisherman's Wharf. I'll happily pay that once in a blue moon to experience Sardinian food, but hardly on a very regular basis. I do, however, think it should be part of the disclosure when discussing the restaurant. After all, this is a forum where a lot of people bemoan the prices at Yank Sing. Spending 70 bucks on roundtrip cab fare from Fisherman's Wharf may well be more than the cost of an entire meal at Yank Sing.

                                2. re: c oliver
                                  nocharge Dec 27, 2012 09:38 PM

                                  Who said anything about disqualifying it? I'm just saying that the location should be discussed as part of evaluating the whole package just like food, service, ambience etc. If I lived very close to La Ciccia, I would eat there a lot. But I live downtown and don't go there very often because I don't think it's worth the effort. I commute to work on Muni streetcars and that experience gets old pretty fast. Disqualifying it? No, but the location should be mentioned as part of the equation.

                                  1. re: nocharge
                                    c oliver Dec 28, 2012 08:17 AM

                                    I think you make an excellent point. When we lived in Noe Valley, we rarely went downtown for a meal. We might STAY downtown after work, particularly on a Friday night. Thanks for pointing that out.

                                    1. re: nocharge
                                      Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2012 09:36 AM

                                      I've found the J pretty reliable at the off hours I take it to go to Incanto and La Ciccia. It's only about 20 minutes from Powell St. station to Church and 30th, and there's a great view of the city over Dolores Park.

                                      People recommend Aziza all the time without getting all worked up about the equally time-consuming bus ride.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                        nocharge Dec 28, 2012 10:01 AM

                                        I think the location should be part of the equation for Aziza as well. There is a reason why many good restaurants have at least contemplated moving downtown and some have actually done it. (The list of "at least contemplated" would include Aziza, Saison, and Quince.)

                                        1. re: nocharge
                                          Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2012 10:21 AM

                                          Anyone who comes to SF with a main focus on eating should stay somewhere more central than Fisherman's Wharf.

                                          Location should be of equal concern for any restaurant, but people can easily figure that out for themselves using 511.org.

                                          1. re: nocharge
                                            dordogne Dec 28, 2012 11:42 AM

                                            Indeed, it was reported some time ago that Lahlou would be moving Aziza to Jackson Square, but I've seen no indication of a move in progress.

                                            1. re: dordogne
                                              pamf Dec 28, 2012 11:51 AM

                                              It was reported in the Chronicle a couple of months ago that Mourad Lahlou is going to open a downtown restaurant in the old Pacific Bell building on New Montgomery.


                                              Apparently the Jackson Square thing fell through.

                                              1. re: dordogne
                                                Ruth Lafler Dec 28, 2012 11:52 AM

                                                I thought deal now was he was moving Aziza to 140 Montgomery.

                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              mariacarmen Dec 28, 2012 10:28 AM

                                              I agree - and especially for people here on vacation, traveling through a city to get to places is part of the package. that's why we consider some places destination restaurants - they are worth the time/effort to get to them. if someone staying in or near Fisherman's Wharf just wanted to do easy, they could go to Bubba Gumps.

                                  2. re: grayelf
                                    sambamaster Dec 28, 2012 12:55 PM

                                    The difference between Roli Roti and Pine State is not in the length of the line, the former is worth eating, the latter is just so mediocre (I'm from the south and can't stand their product...it is SO overrated). Roli's porchetta is more like the real thing, even though it is still an imitation...nothing in Portland comes close.

                                    Z+Y is also something you can't replicate in PDX. There are some new Sichuan places there now, but are all just average. Z+Y is superb.

                                    Also, in my opinion, Portland USED to have a good Italian place, Alba Osteria, but the city wouldn't support it, so they closed. It was one of the most "authentic" Italian places in the USA. A carbon copy of food I'd had in Piemonte. So a decent Italian choice in SF would be worthy of the time invested...La Ciccia would be a good choice. Perbacco and Incanto are overrated in my opinion. just my two lire!

                              2. Robert Lauriston Dec 22, 2012 06:58 PM

                                What's your interest in the Rotunda? The architecture? Lunch or afternoon tea?

                                Do you live somewhere that you can't get international French food like Gary Danko's?

                                25 Replies
                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  lhenry Dec 22, 2012 07:02 PM

                                  I don't know, maybe because its at Neiman Marcus. I was actually thinking of dropping that and exchanging it for Z&Y, then putting Cotonga in where Z&Y once was. Does that sound better?

                                  1. re: lhenry
                                    mariacarmen Dec 22, 2012 07:05 PM

                                    Yes, there's really no reason to go to the Rotunda unless you just love the architecture. Cotogna is excellent... also, hold out for AC - WAY better than Gary Danko. really special. and not just frenchy - it's more japanese-frenchy.

                                    1. re: mariacarmen
                                      Ruth Lafler Dec 22, 2012 07:07 PM

                                      You can have afternoon tea and enjoy the Rotunda and the popovers.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                        lhenry Dec 22, 2012 07:17 PM

                                        If we have time for afternoon tea I would love to have it at the Rotunda, but it all depends on if we feel up for it and can fit it in.

                                      2. re: mariacarmen
                                        lhenry Dec 22, 2012 07:18 PM

                                        Okay then I'll switch out the restaurants like above then.

                                        1. re: mariacarmen
                                          hill food Dec 26, 2012 02:05 AM

                                          the Rotunda's architecture? - not one of Philip Johnson's better efforts. more of a Damien Hirst preserved animal than a spatial expression.

                                          1. re: hill food
                                            Robert Lauriston Dec 26, 2012 10:02 AM

                                            The stained glass skylight retained from the City of Paris is what I was thinking of.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              mariacarmen Dec 26, 2012 10:08 AM

                                              yes, that's what i meant as well.

                                              1. re: mariacarmen
                                                hill food Dec 28, 2012 10:07 PM

                                                I understand, but IMHO that's just a preserved fragment, window dressing. </contextual integrity snob>

                                                1. re: hill food
                                                  mariacarmen Dec 28, 2012 11:50 PM

                                                  whatever. i don't want to go to the Rotunda.

                                                  1. re: mariacarmen
                                                    hill food Dec 29, 2012 12:14 AM

                                                    aww I wasn't being snarky at anyone here, only the folks who bankrolled that thing.

                                                    the other (newer) options posited sound far more interesting anyway.

                                                    1. re: hill food
                                                      mariacarmen Dec 29, 2012 02:26 AM

                                                      i knew that, me either! so hard to sound how you mean to be heard unless you over-explain.... and agreed.

                                        2. re: lhenry
                                          Robert Lauriston Dec 22, 2012 07:51 PM

                                          Cotogna's one of the best SF restaurants open at lunch.

                                        3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          lhenry Dec 22, 2012 07:04 PM

                                          I live in Portland, OR, and while I can get international french food, it isn't quite on the same level.

                                          1. re: lhenry
                                            Robert Lauriston Dec 22, 2012 07:53 PM

                                            You might want to consider La Folie in place of Gary Danko. The menu seems more local and seasonal to me. Very French, very good.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              lhenry Dec 22, 2012 08:32 PM

                                              also instead of Atelier Crenn?

                                              1. re: lhenry
                                                Robert Lauriston Dec 22, 2012 08:35 PM

                                                I'm not interested in modernist cuisine except as a spectator sport, but if you are, Crenn seems to take it farther than anyone else around here.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                  smatbrat Dec 23, 2012 12:10 PM

                                                  Im using that quote!

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    Dustin_E Dec 26, 2012 11:56 AM

                                                    i feel similarly to robert re modernist cuisine, though i've tried a lot of the places

                                                    Crenn is definitely sf's best approximation of the molecular aspects of paris' ledoyen and tokyo's ryugin, so if you're interested in modernist cuisine, crenn is a good choice.

                                                  2. re: lhenry
                                                    mariacarmen Dec 22, 2012 08:35 PM

                                                    Robert doesn't believe in AC. hahahaha. just kidding.

                                                    in all honesty, if you're just looking for really good French food, go to La Folie. AC is very expensive, and if you're not looking for the fanciness/playfulness of a menu that flirts with modernist/molecular gastronomy, maybe it's not what you're looking for. i'm not being dismissive of your needs/tastes, but if you want straightforward French food, AC is probably not what you're looking for, and you may be bummed to spend the money to get something very different. i personally can't see anyone being disappointed with a meal there, honestly... but it is very pricey. for me, probably a once-in-a-lifetime splurge. maybe twice. heh. (and by the way, I've not been to La Folie, i've just heard great things about it, and i know it is also expensive.)

                                                    1. re: mariacarmen
                                                      steve h. Dec 23, 2012 08:05 PM

                                                      La Folie is pretty special. Put yourself in chef's hands, get some advice on wines and bring an appetite.

                                                      1. re: mariacarmen
                                                        Dustin_E Dec 26, 2012 11:53 AM

                                                        my family lives in portland, and visits me in sf frequently. (and i was actually there this morning.)

                                                        z&y, cotogna, yank sing, gary danko are all good choices. i've actually taken my family from portland to all of them.

                                                        perbacco and kokkari are also both good, though in my view, neither are too terribly far from what you find at a really nice place in portland (maybe similar to paley's).

                                                        la ciccia would be different, but it is a far and not that interesting trip.

                                                        i have been to la folie, multiple times, and am not a fan. their only redeeming quality was the absurd quantities of foie gras they served, and they don't even have that going for them anymore. their cooking is imprecise, unbalanced and gaudy. just my opinion.

                                                        danko or crenn or keiko's a nob hill (my favorite) all offer something you won't find in portland. just pick whichever one you think looks like it fits your tastes.

                                                        I like these as something you can't get in portland:

                                                        House of Prime Rib
                                                        Garlic Crab at Crustacean
                                                        Ino, Akiko's or Kiss for some sushi.
                                                        han il kwan or seouls garden for korean food
                                                        hakkasan for upscale chinese food

                                                        though take a look at them and see if they suit your taste.

                                                        1. re: Dustin_E
                                                          Robert Lauriston Dec 26, 2012 12:07 PM

                                                          Keiko sounds like a good choice for upscale French. Great wine list.


                                                          1. re: Dustin_E
                                                            walker Dec 27, 2012 06:55 PM

                                                            I agree with you about La Folie; for a long time, I looked forward to trying it and was sure I was going to love it. I did not even like it very much. Did not think it was worth the $$.

                                                            (this is a reply to Dustin)

                                                    2. re: lhenry
                                                      tjinsf Dec 27, 2012 12:14 AM

                                                      Do you want something at the level of Castagna Restaurant (not the cafe next to it)? I would say Atelier Crenn is more like that than La Folie. I find La Folie to be charming in a take your American in laws to a fancy french place way but I would prefer Keiko for something mindblowing.

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