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San Francisco Itinerary: REVISED

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)

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  1. 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

      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

        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

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

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            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

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

            1. re: mariacarmen

              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

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

                  1. re: mariacarmen

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

                    1. re: hill food

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

                      1. re: mariacarmen

                        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

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

            2. re: lhenry

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

            3. re: Robert Lauriston

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

              1. re: lhenry

                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: lhenry

                    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

                        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

                        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

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

                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            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

                                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

                          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.

                      3. Don't forget Saturday morning at the Ferry Building.

                        25 Replies
                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Portland does have a rather fantastic farmer's market.

                            1. re: wally

                              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

                                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

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        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

                                          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

                                          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

                                            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

                                                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

                                                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

                                                  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

                                                    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

                                                      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

                                                        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

                                                          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

                                                            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.

                                                            http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                                                            Apparently the Jackson Square thing fell through.

                                                            1. re: dordogne

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

                                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            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

                                                  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!

                                            1. 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

                                                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

                                                  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

                                                    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

                                                      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. 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

                                                  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

                                                    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

                                                      I've gotten dinner reservations at Cotogna.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        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

                                                          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

                                                            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

                                                      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

                                                        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

                                                          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

                                                            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

                                                              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.