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eliminate 3 out of 5; final itinerary decisions for 3 night stay

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cubicles Jun 13, 2013 02:07 PM

Hey all, after a ton of research on these boards, I've narrowed down my dinner options in your beautiful city to 5 choices. as background, my SO and I come from NYC and will eat anything, and enjoy both white tablecloth as well as hole-in-the wall places. on this trip we plan to do our ethinic/neighborhoody eating during the day, and focus more on mid-tier/fine dining for dinners. I prefer experimental cooking (not necessarily only technique-wise but the combining of odd/surprising flavors and textures as well). The SO enjoys good food, period. She'll enjoy creative cuisine if its well done, but doesn't search it out as I do. For some final background some of our favorite places in NYC are EMP, Momofuku Ko and Blue Hill on the high end, and Louro and annisa as more mid-tier. we also really enjoyed red medicine in LA and zaytinya in DC.

We will also be eating at Commis on the way into the city from Yosemite. That is the only meal set in stone. The other 2 dinners are up for grabs.

In no particular order, here are our 5 options:

Rich Table: hadn't really considered it before, but read a bunch of good things recently and the menu intrigues. is on the same level as some of the other best mid-tier restaurants in SF?

Atelier Crenn: if we are going to do one true fine-dining place, I've decided this is it. It is much more appealing than Benu or Coi and while Saison looked amazing as well, I just can't justify that price. Along those lines, is Crenn worth it? Since we have almost no end of fine-dining options in NYC, is Crenn good and/or different enough to merit a visit, or are we better off sticking with more mid-tier places?

AQ: Seems to be right up my alley, and people seem to think its excellent as well as cutting edge.

Slanted Door: I know it touristy, I know it may be past its prime, but is it still worth a visit as an "only in SF" place? As long as the food is truly excellent, if its a little more $ than it should be I dont really care. that's what vacations are for.

Commonwealth: the menu and idea seem interesting, but it seems to get hit or miss reviews. seems to invite a direct comparison with AQ, in terms of mission/purpose. which is better?

While I have done a ton of research and think these are the best places for us, if anyone truly thinks theres a can't miss place that I've leftt off, please let me know. As always, thanks so much for your helpful input!

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  1. Scott M RE: cubicles Jun 13, 2013 02:27 PM

    Considering you are going to Commis. I would suggest doing AQ and Rich Table.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Scott M
      smatbrat RE: Scott M Jun 13, 2013 02:29 PM

      I would agree 100% AQ and Rich Table

      1. re: Scott M
        j
        JonDough RE: Scott M Jun 13, 2013 02:48 PM

        I would remove commonwealth from your list. I like Commis and AQ more.

        I haven't been (it is on my list) but have you looked into sons & daughters?

        1. re: JonDough
          p
          pauliface RE: JonDough Jun 15, 2013 07:11 AM

          Went to Sons & Daughters June 8. I do not recommend. I think perhaps their new menu is not as good as the previous. It's the only explanation I can think of for all those good reviews in May. To me, it was fussy, not enough food, not successful, and way too much money for what we experiencedl.

          Stick with Atelier Crenn for your high end meal.

          1. re: pauliface
            j
            JonDough RE: pauliface Jun 17, 2013 08:42 AM

            Thanks for the update on Sons & Daughters.

            1. re: JonDough
              p
              pauliface RE: JonDough Jun 17, 2013 09:14 AM

              You are welcome. Also, since I see there's a lot of talk here about Coi vs Benu vs Atelier Crenn, I'll weigh in. When you are spending that much money on a meal, it needs to be great....

              Atelier Crenn is the clear winner. This was a delicious, imaginative, interesting dinner created by a chef with a truly unique, very current/forwrad point of view. Also, the wine pairings were fantastic.

              Next up, I'd choose Benu, although I personally won't return. This meal was very nice, although kind of 'expectedly unexpected'. There were some standout courses, though overall I don't really remember much about the meal, which is telling. We were in a side room that really felt like siberia, which truly annoyed me for a restaurant at this level.

              I disliked Coi. Several courses completely did not work and none really blew me away. The wine pairings were laughable; we were joking that they were selecting them with a dartboard in the kitchen.

              I should also add that my other favorite high-end place is La Folie. While more French and less current-modern-tasting-menu, they always deliver a fantastic meal.

              1. re: JonDough
                mariacarmen RE: JonDough Jun 17, 2013 11:56 PM

                hmmm.... i usually agree with pauliface... but you're right, i went in May, and LOVED it Sons & Daughters. however, Atelier Crenn is above and beyond. every taste we had was not only beautiful, imaginative, and surprising, but absolutely jaw-droppingly delicious. if you eat nowhere else, do AC. and i love commis too.

                1. re: mariacarmen
                  p
                  pauliface RE: mariacarmen Jun 18, 2013 06:24 AM

                  mariacarmen -- perhaps the menu changed for the worse between may and june. So many people said good things in May, and my dinner was just not that good. Sadly, if that's the case, I don't have the cash to throw away on inconsistency in the hopes of hitting them on a good month.

                  I will also mention that another couple approached us outside after the meal to ask what we thought. Because, they too had been severely disappointed and could not understand why the restaurant was getting such good press.

                  1. re: pauliface
                    mariacarmen RE: pauliface Jun 18, 2013 07:38 AM

                    Wow, i agree. The quality of their preparations should not change from month to month.

          2. re: Scott M
            c
            cubicles RE: Scott M Jun 16, 2013 08:23 AM

            thanks Scott. I think that's what I was leaning towards anyway. If we weren't going to Commis as well, would your recommendations change?

            1. re: cubicles
              Scott M RE: cubicles Jun 17, 2013 10:59 AM

              If you weren't going to Commis then my recommendation would be Rich Table and Atelier Crenn

            2. re: Scott M
              c
              calumin RE: Scott M Jun 16, 2013 08:41 PM

              I'd agree with many others and take Commonwealth off the list (whether you go to Commis or not). I'd also take off Slanted Door.

              I haven't been to Rich Table yet so can't comment on that. AQ is fantastic and I have really enjoyed my meals there. But I think Atelier Crenn is in a different class. It is a bit quirky though and if modern isn't your thing then you might want to skip it. But it's near the top of my list of best restaurants in SF.

            3. g
              goldangl95 RE: cubicles Jun 13, 2013 04:36 PM

              Commonwealth v. AQ - can often be decided by whether you want cocktails or not. As Commonwealth doesn't serve liquor. Commonwealth is quiet and more reverent than AQ. As to the food, I would say they are on the same level - AQ is more fun -but I wasn't blown away by my meal there.

              Atelier Crenn is a uniquely SF place. It's not for everyone - it's reverent and earnest - not at all humorous or cynical. The staff there is incredibly well-meaning but not very polished. The food presentations are incredibly beautiful. Some of the dishes are amazing - some of the dishes are decidedly less so. There's only one bathroom.

              I would replace Slanted Door with a Cal-Italian place. I know you will find plenty of Italian in New York BUT it really has had an amazing moment in SF. They are better at dinner but many have lunch options too - Locanda, Cotogna or Incanto are the ones I always recommend but there are many many others.

              While not very mid-tier formal, if you do want a more Asian place maybe namu gaji?

              1. a
                amydeastbay RE: cubicles Jun 13, 2013 05:34 PM

                I have to disagree on the AQ vs. Commonwealth. I definitely find the food at Commonwealth more consistently interesting and flavorful, plus the service at Commonwealth is far, far better than at AQ. I've been to both several times and like them both, but AQ has yet to reach the level of Commonwealth. When I was there a few weeks ago, the servers bumped into me repeatedly while rushing by, our initial server went AWOL for most of the meal, other servers weren't informed enough to place the right dishes in front of the right person, and at one point one our entrees were delivered to the table behind us before the server realized this was a mistake. The food itself was a mixed bag; my softshell crab was ample and excellent, while my husband's fish (I think it was seabass) was tiny and very simple in both its taste and presentation. In contrast, our last meal at Commonwealth was strong across the board and our visiting friend--an adventurous eater--thought it was fantastic, too.

                1 Reply
                1. re: amydeastbay
                  Scott M RE: amydeastbay Jun 14, 2013 12:22 PM

                  One thing to keep in mind is OP is going to Commis. So you will get high level of service and refinement of food at Commis, no need to go to Commonwealth. The overall experience of AQ would work better when juxtaposed with the Commis .

                2. t
                  tjinsf RE: cubicles Jun 13, 2013 05:45 PM

                  I would keep AQ for sure. I would keep Creen if you want to see a more Californian approach to high end fine dining and if you want a high end experience. You can get similar technique at EMP or Le Bernardin but I think she puts her own touch on the dishes too. I've preferred my meals there to Saison.

                  I prefer AQ to Commonwealth although I don't think they are a direct comparison. I find Commonwealth to be issue with consistancy, dishes aren't as interesting and service can be very laidback.

                  Slanted Door is a miss. The quality of food has gone down so much.

                  Rich Table is upscale comfort food with some tweeks. It's pretty good not must have unless you really enjoy upscale comfort food which isn't my thing.

                  Also I still like State Bird quite a bit even if others think it's overrated. It's just such a nice combo of good interesting food in a casual setting.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tjinsf
                    c
                    cubicles RE: tjinsf Jun 16, 2013 08:31 AM

                    thanks tjlnsf! I think AQ is now a definite. I had looked at state bird provisions, but unfortunately they are already booked up for when we will be there (August 1-4) and I'm not big on waiting in long lines or eating dinner at weird times when there are other excellent options.

                  2. w
                    W42 RE: cubicles Jun 14, 2013 12:11 AM

                    Go to Rich Table. Worth the hype if you can get in.

                    I don't know what it is about Atelier Crenn that you find more appealing than Benu or Coi, but I thought my dinner there was far more style than substance. I'm impressed by beautiful and artistic presentations as much as the next modern art lover, but the rap on Crenn was definitely justified and kind of reminded me of Sant Pau in Catalonia (just because the fish cakes are shaped like Mondrian Squares doesn't prevent them from tasting bland). Also, I'm not one of those folks who dislikes modernist or molecular cuisine—I love Alinea and The Fat Duck—but Crenn's flavors disappeared or were far too sweet. I would strongly recommend Benu instead for much more unique dishes that are both tasty and creative, all paired by arguably the sommelier, Yoon Ha.

                    Skip Slanted Door—you've probably read all the good reasons why it's overpriced and forgettable. But to spell it out, the food is not "truly" excellent and you can get comparable upscale Vietnamese in many, many cities around the world now.

                    AQ can be hit or miss, but when it hits it is better than Commonwealth (which is more consistent and also good).

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: W42
                      c
                      cubicles RE: W42 Jun 16, 2013 08:38 AM

                      So it looks like you'd say Rich Table and Benu. Coi I just haven't heard many people say its a "wow" meal. Benu I've heard good things, but the atmosphere of the place (or at least what I perceive the atmosphere to be) doesn't particularly appeal, and the overall experience just looks more fun/memorable at crenn. I love amazing food withe great technique at a fancy white-table cloth place, but we have tons of that in NYC (Per Se, EMP, Jean-Georges, etc). What do you feel sets Benu apart or makes it SF-specific? From reading reviews and blogs, right now Crenn seems to be producing food that is totally different from what one can get anywhere else, including at the more cutting-edge/molecular places in NYC, such as Corton, atera, or wd-50. also, from reading recent reviews from people I trust, she currently seems to be hitting her stride with many more stunning hits than mediocre dishes or misses.

                      1. re: cubicles
                        g
                        goldangl95 RE: cubicles Jun 16, 2013 10:29 AM

                        In the end I enjoyed Benu much more and recommended it to others, but admittedly Atelier Crenn has more interesting conversation points.

                        For me, Benu's atmosphere is very stark and minimalist. Runs like clockwork - supper efficient, friendly but not chatty. Wine pairings are really inspired. The food was flavorful and interesting and well presented. We had a very good experience there and would go there again over Atelier Crenn once the tasting menu has cycled through some more changes.

                        Atelier Crenn's atmosphere is warm and a bit cramped. Staff seem to be buzzing around everywhere - friendly and rushed. More chatty (but in a good way). Things don't seem seamless but like I indicated above seem effortful.

                        Dessert is out of this world. The dishes are conversation pieces and there was a dish of venison I had there that still stands out in my mind. However, there were also dishes that were poorly conceived or fell apart. Their wine program was being changed the last time I went so not sure how it is now.

                        One thing that also didn't work for me (which I hate to carp on because it's not their fault but can be an issue esp. if you get the wine pairings) . Is there is only one unisex bathroom and it's in the main dining room. Lines of 2 to 3 people happen.

                        1. re: cubicles
                          w
                          W42 RE: cubicles Jun 16, 2013 08:02 PM

                          I think I need to explain that Benu's cuisine is actually fairly distinct from "great technique at a fancy white-table cloth place." I assume you've actually looked at the menu or at photos of courses, but I'll spell out that the food at Benu is pretty unique and completely different from what you would find at The French Laundry, Jean-Georges, Per Se, EMP etc.

                          Benu's food—not the environment or kitchen rigor—is more like Momofuku, or any of the famous modernist places in Japan (probably why David Chang thinks Benu might be the best place in the US). There's a pan-Asian inspiration to most dishes that are all done with a kind of east-west molecular/modernist fusion. If it wasn't for the discipline and efficiency in the kitchen, you would have no idea Chef Corey Lee ran The French Laundry for many years based on the just the food.

                          Crenn still seems more interested in creating beautiful visual artwork from poetic ideas. Thus, a lot of courses don't always taste that great or come together in any particularly special way where you wish you could eat more of it or again. Also, I'm not the biggest wine expert, by any means, but Crenn's wine list is relatively small and I really didn't like the pairings I had.

                          From what I've heard just this past week, much of Crenn's menu actually hasn't changed since last summer. As always, chowhound is a pretty limited sample for doing research and while there are fans here, you should know that Crenn hasn't really taken off yet locally—it's usually not more than half full and anyone can get last minute reservations so long as it's not Fri/Sat at 7 pm.

                          Also, my recommendations would not change if you weren't going to Commis, but Commis might be the best of all the places already on your original list.

                          Finally, I didn't find my one meal at Coi years ago to be all that tasty or memorable in terms of flavors.

                          1. re: W42
                            CarrieWas218 RE: W42 Jun 23, 2013 02:27 PM

                            I will disagree that Crenn's menu has not changed from last year.

                            Here is my report from dining their two weeks ago and -- having dined there at this same time last year -- can attest that it is remarkably different.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/905838

                            1. re: CarrieWas218
                              Ruth Lafler RE: CarrieWas218 Jun 24, 2013 12:03 PM

                              I think for restaurants working with seasonal ingredients, the menu may look superficially similar from year to year, because that's what's in season, but that doesn't mean the treatment of the ingredients is at all similar.

                      2. o
                        OliverB RE: cubicles Jun 16, 2013 11:42 AM

                        Skip Commonwealth.

                        I was there last winter and had a terrific experience but returned earlier this year and had a really boring and disappointing meal. It's not up to par with the others.

                        Also, I haven't read through this whole thread and everyone's responses but if the consensus hasn't already been to scratch off Slanted Door, then I'll advise it. You can get just as good in NYC. If you want real local flavor, why not go to Tadich or one of the classic institutions with old San Francisco ambiance? Slanted Door is fine in terms of food, but I wouldn't suggest it to a New Yorker with 3 days in the city.

                        1. h
                          HoosierFoodie RE: cubicles Jun 17, 2013 10:06 AM

                          Haven't been to Commonwealth but I would lean towards dropping Slanted Door. Its fine for lunch if you have reason to be in the area (Perry Building is fun).

                          Been to Atelier Crenn and Coi in the last year and I would recommend Atelier Crenn. We really, really like Atelier Crenn and would return. Given so many SF options I would go to Coi again...if someone else is paying!

                          1. p
                            pauliface RE: cubicles Jun 17, 2013 11:11 AM

                            Also, regarding Rich Table...

                            The past 6 months, I've tried Rich Table, State Bird Provisions, and Bar Tartine. I group them together as similar, in that they all seem to reflect a very current feel, similar price points, informal, cozy, comfortable, house-crafted ethic.

                            State Bird is a first-time stunner, but to me it does suffer from dim-sum syndrome. They bring everything by and it all looks so good and you want one of everything and oh god this is great and... before you know it you are uncomfortably stuffed and you barely know what happened to you. The food is amazing though, so much so that I took friends back, and, well, did not like it nearly so much the second time.

                            Rich Table, we all had a mixed reaction. Some things were good, some very good, but all the best stuff was in the beginning and well, I'm not so hot to go back.

                            Bar Tartine. Now we are talking. This was my favorite of the three. The food was amazing, personal, homey and home-madey, and I cannot wait to go back. I would return just for the pickle assortment, but the meal stayed at just as high a level throughout. This felt like food I could eat all the time, in a good way. But maybe it's my Hungarian blood talking...

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: pauliface
                              g
                              goldangl95 RE: pauliface Jun 17, 2013 11:36 AM

                              My take on State Bird is a little different. I think it would be the perfect quirky neighborhood restaurant if it was allowed to be that. Instead, it's so difficult to eat there that once you do, one is expecting something transporting and unexpected.

                              Instead, the concept is fun. Most of the dishes taste fine. Some don't quite work. If I could stop by once a month and see what's going on in the kitchen - would love it. It's not their fault, but I expect something more from a restaurant that requires so much effort. On a plus note - it's relatively cheap for the city.

                              1. re: goldangl95
                                p
                                pauliface RE: goldangl95 Jun 17, 2013 11:42 AM

                                I totally agree with you.

                                1. re: goldangl95
                                  Scott M RE: goldangl95 Jun 17, 2013 11:45 AM

                                  I agree on State Bird. I went before it was terribly difficult to get in but found it rather hit/miss. They bring the food by the table and everything looks/sounds good but there were only a handful of dishes that "wowed". It was fun and different but I am not tempted to go back due to the required effort to get in.

                                  1. re: Scott M
                                    i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream RE: Scott M Jun 17, 2013 01:22 PM

                                    What would you all say are the must-haves at state bird? I have a reservation but there are only 2 of us so I want to order smartly.

                                    1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream
                                      a
                                      absc RE: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream Jun 18, 2013 09:18 AM

                                      Keeping in mind that the menu changes often: The State Bird (fried quail), the bread with burrata, the duck liver mousse, at least one raw fish item and something with either kimchi or sauerkraut.
                                      That said, we loved both the duck and pork ribs on our last visit.

                                      1. re: absc
                                        i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream RE: absc Jun 18, 2013 06:26 PM

                                        Thanks, I'm looking forward to seeing how it lives up to all the hype. It definitely helps that I got reservations.

                                        1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream
                                          a
                                          absc RE: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream Jun 18, 2013 07:25 PM

                                          A reservation does help. I brought my very demanding mother when she visited in April and she loved the food. Beyond the food, she raved about the service. They really do a great job making people-even my overly picky 11-year-old--feel welcome.

                                  2. re: goldangl95
                                    t
                                    tjinsf RE: goldangl95 Jun 17, 2013 02:46 PM

                                    "If I could stop by once a month and see what's going on in the kitchen - would love it."

                                    I don't know I've been going since the first week they opened and I still find it enjoyable. I kind of feel that was the intent to be a more casual place serving creative food and that's how it was the first 3-4 months. I'm hoping with them expanding into the space next door and with people being fickle that it will be easier to get seated. I think the dishes have improved and it seems like they are still adding new things.

                                    I think it's hard to live up to the hype and people have this idea that it's going to be some fancy white linen level place and it certainly isn't that.

                                    1. re: tjinsf
                                      g
                                      goldangl95 RE: tjinsf Jun 17, 2013 03:20 PM

                                      I didn't mean a white linen level place - put another way - I went thinking I'd taste a new combination of flavors - or a new twist on an old standby. Instead (for me) it was mostly the type of food that can be found all over SF (e.g. pork belly, fried bird, dungeness crab salad) done in the usual spectrum of ways. I was expecting more from the food - the atmosphere was exactly as expected.

                                      @ i-eat-a-lot-of-ice-cream. My favorite dish was the state bird. It was perfectly fried.

                                    2. re: goldangl95
                                      mariacarmen RE: goldangl95 Jun 18, 2013 12:02 AM

                                      i agree with you.

                                    3. re: pauliface
                                      o
                                      OliverB RE: pauliface Jun 17, 2013 06:16 PM

                                      I've been to Bar Tartine three times already and have never had a memorable meal. The bread, appetizers and side dishes are always stand-out but I've yet to enjoy a main and have given it several chances. We'll now only go for wine and appetizers.

                                      1. re: OliverB
                                        p
                                        pauliface RE: OliverB Jun 17, 2013 09:49 PM

                                        I loved the mains. The spaetzle dish was unbelievable to me. And the farmer cheese dumplings were great as well. Friends got the chicken, which was a huge portion and looked beautiful, but I tasted it and was happy I'd ordered the spaetzle.

                                        1. re: OliverB
                                          t
                                          tjinsf RE: OliverB Jun 18, 2013 02:38 PM

                                          I feel the same way about Bar Tartine.

                                      2. c
                                        cubicles RE: cubicles Jun 18, 2013 11:37 AM

                                        Thanks for all your help and lively discussion. I think I've decided on crenn and AQ. However, I have a couple of other questions.

                                        1. For Crenn, thoughts on the larger versus smaller tastings? I generally would go for the larger one as a first time visitor, but coming right on the heels of Commis and packed into a day/trip with a lot of other eating, I think I'd lean towards the shorter menu, if its as good. Any opinions from people who have had both?

                                        2. cheap/ancillary eats: Looking for recs, in particular with regards to ice cream, coffe, pastries and other snacks. As of now have Humphrey Slocombe and Bi-Rite as must-dos for ice cream, with a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous if we find ourselves in the area/have time. Is it on the same level?
                                        For coffee, so far I'd earmarked Four Barrel and Ritual. Are these good bets? Any others that stand out/are must trys? I generally prefer espresso while my SO prefers french press/aeorpress/pour overs. for pastries, I have Knead, Tartine Bakery, and Arizmendi Bakery as definites. Any others I should check out? We plan to hit up the farmer's market on Saturday and try to get to Roli Roti at the same time. Also, hoping/planning to get to Una Pizza as a late snack/early dinner #1 on Saturday.

                                        Again, thanks for all the input/suggestions and keep em coming!

                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: cubicles
                                          g
                                          goldangl95 RE: cubicles Jun 18, 2013 11:43 AM

                                          Bakeries: Craftsman and Wolves and/or B Pattieserie may be worth checking out.

                                          1. re: goldangl95
                                            w
                                            W42 RE: goldangl95 Jun 18, 2013 03:06 PM

                                            I've only had the longer menu at Crenn, so I can't compare, but I would say that even that was not a ton of food nor are any of her creations particularly rich/heavy/filling.

                                            b.patisserie is seriously one of the best bakeries country. If Belinda Leong can show people other signature creations beyond her kouign amann, she may one day be talked of globally just like the places she has worked (years at Manresa and Pierre Hermé, stages at Noma and Martín Berasategui).

                                            I've only been impressed with one thing at Craftsman and Wolves, and that was something they sold before Werner opened his permanent store. But admittedly I haven't tried a wide sampling there in the Mission recently.

                                            Ritual is a little more limited in terms of selection than Four Barrel. Other well-known local places include Philz and Sightglass.

                                            Fair warning, Roti Roti might have the longest line of any stand at the Saturday farmer's market. If you're here on a Thursday afternoon, they also have a stand at the Ferry Building market then and the line is much more manageable.

                                            1. re: W42
                                              c
                                              calumin RE: W42 Jun 19, 2013 01:51 PM

                                              Interesting -- b.patisserie is really good, but I didn't know her background.

                                              Martin Berasategui is the best restaurant I've ever been to in my life. Pretty much perfect at every level.

                                          2. re: cubicles
                                            t
                                            tjinsf RE: cubicles Jun 18, 2013 02:44 PM

                                            you'll be fine with the smaller one at Creen especially if eating other things. I will say the portions are smaller than normal for the USA.

                                            Mr. & Mrs. to me is on the same level as bi-rite and HS, they do as many tricks as HS but I find HS almost always too soft. The plus of HS and Bi-rite is that they are in walking distance of each other.

                                            If I was going to Mr & Mrs. I would do a coffee at Piccino, a tartine at Chocolate Lab (with maybe a stop at the chocolate store next door) and then an ice cream at Mr. & Mrs. with maybe a visit to the little French cheese shop around the corner.

                                            1. re: tjinsf
                                              grayelf RE: tjinsf Jun 18, 2013 03:56 PM

                                              Fries at Serpentine still good?

                                              1. re: grayelf
                                                t
                                                tjinsf RE: grayelf Jun 18, 2013 06:21 PM

                                                spooky, just ate there last night but didn't have the fries, the veggie potato gnocchi was excellent though as was the seared scallop on a green pea puree.

                                              2. re: tjinsf
                                                Ruth Lafler RE: tjinsf Jun 19, 2013 10:28 AM

                                                Just remember that Mr & Mrs closes at 6 and often runs out of popular flavors before then.

                                                As to the question about whether it's on the same level, I think it's on the same level as Bi-Rite and better than Humphrey Slocumbe, which I like in theory better than I do in reality.

                                                1. re: tjinsf
                                                  c
                                                  cubicles RE: tjinsf Jun 23, 2013 02:03 PM

                                                  thanks, sounds like a nice mini-food tour. we'll definitely try to fit it in one afternoon

                                                2. re: cubicles
                                                  p
                                                  Prabhakar Ragde RE: cubicles Jun 18, 2013 05:55 PM

                                                  For coffee, I would put Sightglass and Blue Bottle over Ritual. Second on the kouign amann at b.patisserie and Thursday Roli Roti. You should try the ice cream at Smitten, made to order with liquid nitrogen. Pricey but lovely texture.

                                                3. c
                                                  cubicles RE: cubicles Jul 15, 2013 10:10 AM

                                                  **UPDATE**

                                                  So I just found out we will have to return our rental car to the san fran airport on thursday night, making a trip to Commis quite impractical (we are coming from yosemit). The question: is it special enough to justify driving pretty far out of the way/returning the car super late and then having to come back into san fran? If we have to nix it the other options i was considering are flour + water, incanto, baker and banker, aziza or gitane. Of those, is one the clear winner?

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: cubicles
                                                    mariacarmen RE: cubicles Jul 15, 2013 10:42 AM

                                                    Commis is pretty special - those places you listed (i haven't been to baker & banker) don't compare with it at all, in my opinion. but a detour like that may just mean you should do something in the City. i'd choose Incanto over all of those.

                                                    1. re: cubicles
                                                      g
                                                      goldangl95 RE: cubicles Jul 15, 2013 10:45 AM

                                                      I like all of these:

                                                      flour + water, incanto, baker and banker

                                                      1. re: cubicles
                                                        Ruth Lafler RE: cubicles Jul 15, 2013 11:09 AM

                                                        I'm not sure that Commis is any more out of your way than any of those other places, especially Aziza. Could you be more specific about your logistics?

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                          c
                                                          cubicles RE: Ruth Lafler Jul 15, 2013 06:07 PM

                                                          so we'll be coming from yosemite and returning the car to sfo. to do commis, we'd have to drive to oakland, then drive to sfo to drop off the car, and finally have to get back to our hotel late that night. we're staying on sutter near hyde, so if we ate somewhere in the city (baker and banker is a <10 min walk for example), we'd just drop the car off at sfo on our way in, and then head to the hotel before heading out to dinner.

                                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                          c
                                                          cubicles RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 15, 2013 06:21 PM

                                                          After more fully looking at it, you're right, time-wise its only adding about 15-20 minutes to the trip. However, the question is are we really going to want to drive from commis to sfo and then get back to our hotel at 11/12 or whenever we get out of or 9:00 reservation at Commis. Eating somewhere nearer in the city would allow us to drop off the car first, and just have to worry about getting back to the hotel after dinner.
                                                          I guess the take-away is commis is doable, but then I come back to is it worth it? the SO and I love food and plan our vacations around it, so if, as mariacarmen seems to think, it is orders of magnitude better than the other options, I will certainly sacrifice a long day of driving/late night to experience something unique and special. On the other hand, while I rarely find myself blown away by italian food, i do feel our itinerary is slightly lacking without a single cal-italian experience during our 3 dinners in napa and 3 in sf, so maybe adding incanto wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

                                                          1. re: cubicles
                                                            Robert Lauriston RE: cubicles Jul 15, 2013 06:31 PM

                                                            A meal at Commis can easily take 2-1/2 hours. I assumed your reservation was much earlier. I would not sit down to dinner there at 9:00 with all you have to deal with after.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              mariacarmen RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 15, 2013 09:59 PM

                                                              oh right, i agree with this.

                                                            2. re: cubicles
                                                              w
                                                              W42 RE: cubicles Jul 16, 2013 10:03 AM

                                                              If you plan vacations around fod, I would say Commis is pretty unique and memorably better (and can be a little more expensive) than the other options you listed.

                                                              But that said, it's no fun going into a nice meal stressed and I don't like driving a long distance after a late meal either. Have you considered dropping off the car earlier and taking BART to Commis? Note, I've always been ok walking around the BART stations on both ends of your trip—UN Civic Center and MacArthur—but you may want to take a taxi to/from the BART stations if you're not comfortable late at night.

                                                              If you want a Cal-Italian option—one that is actually more traditional Italian really—I think Flour + Water is actually the best of the bunch and getting a late table is possible as a walk-in. I haven't been as impressed by Incanto, especially recently and I think the local Chronicle reviewer downgraded it, and I usually like the offal thing. Aziza is really good and unique too.

                                                              1. re: cubicles
                                                                Ruth Lafler RE: cubicles Jul 16, 2013 11:32 AM

                                                                I guess my question is really about the logistics of dropping your car off and then heading back into the city, regardless of where you decide to have dinner. It's both time-consuming and expensive to get from the car rental back downtown, and presumably you will be schlepping your luggage as well. If you're flying out early the next day, it would be better to change your hotel reservations to be close to the airport. If not, it would be worth it (IMHO) to arrange to drop off your rental downtown.

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