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high end for dining alone in SF ?

high end , any cuisine
could be at bar , or tasting counter , or just comfortable place for dining alone
Thank You

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      1. La Folie and Fleur de Lys both have a bar. Been more than a year since i've been at either, though.

        1. Perbacco (230 California St, SF) for quality Italian.

          1. The salon at Quince is pretty fancy.

              1. how high end?

                gary danko

                are my favorite places to dine alone at the bar, and i've visited each of them multiple times alone.

                la folie

                are also high-end, and have bars, but for some reason sitting alone here for a meal feels a bit more awkward. quince in particular i'd actually rather sit alone in the main dining room.

                atelier crenn i've dined alone in the main dining room, which was nice. i asked them to speed up the courses, which was a good choice.

                i haven't been to the new saison location, but the old location had a very nice counter to sit at.

                coi and benu don't have counters, and i probably wouldn't want to dine at these places alone.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Dustin_E

                  I did Saison after work one day. There is a more casual "early" menu at the bar which has fewer courses and was lots of fun alone!

                  1. Yes, it depends how much you want to spend. Also, do you have any preferences on what you value in a dining experience? For example, Atelier Crenn is a lot more creative in its presentation, whereas somewhere like Quince feels a bit more formal.

                    Saison is probably the very best that San Francisco, if not perhaps all of California, has to offer. I say that without having tried all the top high-end places in the Bay Area and in LA, but by the end of the year, I will have, and I doubt anywhere will top Saison. In terms of food, I find Saison to be better than Quince, Atelier Crenn and even Manresa, and certainly leagues above Gary Danko, Fleur de Lys, Acquerello, and La Folie. Also, it's very comfortable to dine solo at Saison, especially in the lounge area. While the lounge offers a small sampling of dishes from the tasting menu, the cost can add up quickly given the portion size and personally I think the tasting menu is a better overall value, if you have the time and it fits the bill. You have the tasting menu from the lounge as well.

                    Commis in Oakland is a great option for high-end dining at a significantly lower price point. It's not too far from SF, and unless you want to stay in SF proper, it deserves your strong consideration.

                    Commonwealth is another good option as well. It's in the Mission district, and is probably the most casual/relaxed and least expensive of your high-end dining options in San Francisco. The food is good, though, and certainly worth a look if you want to stay in SF and spend about $75p/p.

                    AQ is alright, i've been half a dozen times but it's mainly for dates/outings with others, it's solid but I wouldn't rush there and I would not choose it for a vacation meal unless I really wanted to be in that part of SF. With the tasting menu at AQ's counter, it can get close to Commis, but I would not call AQ "high end;" it's solid mid-tier, good for SF, but not destination dining if you're coming to SF on vacation. I wouldn't call Perbacco "high end" either, but it's still pretty nice and the food is not bad. SF has many fun and solid places like SPQR, Rich Table, etc. although it sounds like you're looking for high-end specifically.

                    Here's my recommendations, for what it's worth. If you're $80p/p (before tax/tip) sounds about right, consider 1) Commis in Oakland, or 2) Commonwealth in SF. If price isn't much of a consideration, Saison is $248p/p before tax tip, but i think it's unbeatable. It's a 3+ hour meal for the tasting menu, but the food is incredible and, in my opinion, probably the best you will find in SF Bay Area. But, it just depends what you're looking for, as SF has a lot to offer!

                    28 Replies
                    1. re: kyee87

                      Thanks ; price no object .
                      I prefer Asian food in general and all Japanese cuisines specifically , so Kappa is appealing .
                      But I'm looking for something more unique to SF .
                      And I don't really enjoy tweezer food .

                      1. re: kid cha

                        The meal I had at Saison (before they moved, new place does not have a chef's counter) reminded me of kaiseki.


                        I think the restaurants that are the most unique to SF are mostly in the midrange, e.g. Bar Tartine, La Ciccia, Incanto, AQ, St. Vincent, Namu Gaji, Cotogna.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Thanks ; I was already looking at Namu Gaji .
                          I'll check out the others .

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              I don't know. Does it have some local angle that the Michelin endurance tasting menu places in NYC don't have?

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                It's heavily Asian inspired, which is what it sounds like he's looking for.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Agree. It's a unique enough restaurant and it has Asian influences. However, it wouldn't really appeal to me personally as a solo diner since I prefer to eat at the bar when I'm by myself and Benu doesn't have one. But other than that, I've had great meals there. Ame could be another possibility.

                                  And in defense of Michelin, I think the two-star places in SF tend to be pretty unique in their own ways. It's among the one-star restaurants that you find the more generic fine-dining places like Danko.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    The main complaint I've heard about Benu was that it wasn't Asian enough.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      I would have a hard time understanding a "not Asian enough" complaint since I don't think the place pretends to be serving any specific authentic ethnic cuisine. It's just a pretty unique restaurant with some Asian influences. I guess you could walk into the House of Prime Ribs and complain that it's not Asian enough, but it wouldn't make much sense.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        That's a weird complaint to have. My understanding its the chef is cooking in the style of the French Laundry with the flavors that appeal to him. Since he is of Asian background, some of the flavors he enjoys working with are not European. I don't think he has ever said he was creating an asian restaurant or even an asian-fusion restaurant.

                                        1. re: goldangl95

                                          Have you read the menu? Almost every dish is a riff on some Asian classic or contains very Asian ingredients such as kimchi.


                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            I've been to the restaurant - I found it an effortlessly good meal. It doesn't change the premise of my previous comment. To have a false-advertising charge (e.g. we thought we were going to a high-end asian restaurant - but it was really more like every other cal high-end restaurant) is a strange comment to make.)

                                            If I open a restaurant making food with the ingredients that appeal to me, at any one time I may really like to use asian ingredients with western techniques (or western ingredients with asian techniques!)

                                            But for my food to be judged on whether it is "asian enough" instead of whatever my food is "good enough" is strange.

                                            And that may not have been the criticism that's just what I took from it.

                                          2. re: goldangl95

                                            it's hard to not think of it as asian or asian fusion when more than half the menu is very clearly asian, mostly chinese:

                                            thousand year old egg
                                            faux shark fin soup
                                            xo sausage
                                            beggar's purse / treasures
                                            cold noodles
                                            salt and pepper squid
                                            geoduck clam
                                            xiao long bao
                                            sesame and umeboshi

                                            not that any of this has any bearing at all on how good or bad of a place benu is.

                                            1. re: Dustin_E

                                              Why is it hard? I don't judge Cotogna or Quince on whether it's Italian enough. Because while the cuisine clearly has Italian influences and is Italian inspired - the goal of the restaurant is not to remind you of Italian food - and therefore falls short of its when it's not Italian enough.

                                              It's just - I wouldn't want anyone to be judging Benu on an asian "authenticity" scale - there is no way to "win" that one.

                                              1. re: goldangl95

                                                If a chef uses the word "kimchi" on a menu and what you get is below-average kimchi or not kimchi at all, someone who eats real Korean food all the time may think it's not a good dish. (Meanwhile, someone like Michael Bauer who spends most of his life in the Michelin bubble may think it's breathtaking.)

                                                That was one of my complaints about Morimoto, but the complaints I heard about Benu were similar.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Subpar kimchi is a different complaint than "not Asian enough." I have had not-so-great kimchi in restaurants that definitely made the claim to be Korean, had menus in Korean, were run by Koreans, etc. In such a case, my complaint would be "the kimchi here is not that great", not "this place is not Asian enough."

                                                  1. re: nocharge

                                                    My friends were disappointed that none of the interesting-sounding Asian and fusion dishes on the menu were very good compared with the originals that they were riffs on.

                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    yeah, that was my take on benu -- that it would appeal more to people who don't normally eat "real" asian food. so effortless, but not in a good way.

                                                    but someone here mentioned very good things about their wine pairings. and a couple friends who know a lot more about chinese food that i do really like the place, so i'm curious to hear more dissenting opinions.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      I'm still confused I must confess. Are we grading on an authenticity scale? or tastes good scale?

                                                      An authenticity scale as nocharge and others have noted is inherently problematic - who gets to say what "real kimchi" tastes like? And why should a chef be hampered by tradition and authenticity when that's not what he is striving for in the first place?

                                                      I like food that tastes interesting and flavorful for my palate - I happen to eat a ton of Asian food - but even if I didn't. I would expect that one wouldn't have to have "bonafides" (I've been to Hong Kong! I've eaten in Korea!) in order to say whether a high-end tasting menu (with no claims on authenticity!!) is worth trying.

                                                      1. re: goldangl95

                                                        >> My friends were disappointed that none of the
                                                        >> interesting-sounding Asian and fusion dishes on the
                                                        >> menu were very good compared with the originals
                                                        >> that they were riffs on.

                                                        that was exactly how i felt about the place.

                                                        >> And why should a chef be hampered by tradition and
                                                        >> authenticity when that's not what he is striving for in the
                                                        >> first place?

                                                        it's fine if he strives for something different, but the end product should justify the effort he put on himself and required from the diner to appreciate something non traditional. things are usually traditionally a certain way for a reason.

                                                        1. re: goldangl95

                                                          "Are we grading on an authenticity scale?"

                                                          kid cha said, "I prefer Asian food in general."

                                                          Ruth Laffler said in that case maybe Benu, since it's heavily Asian inspired.

                                                          From all I've heard, if you go there because of the reputed / apparent Asian influence, you might be disappointed.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Gee, Robert. After all these years you don't know how to spell my name?

                                                            Benu is clearly Asian-influenced in both the ingredients and inspiration of its dishes. The fact that some people think the results aren't a good "riff" on the ingredients or fall short of the dishes that inspired them doesn't negate the source of the influence. In other words, the concept of the food clearly has a strong Asian influence, regardless of your opinion of how well the concept is executed.

                                                            But I guess I see what you mean, i.e. that they would be disappointed not because it wasn't Asian enough, but simply because the Asian concepts weren't well executed. I think you can say that of any restaurant where what's on the plate doesn't live up to your expectations, which I think was goldangl95's point.

                                                    2. re: Dustin_E

                                                      I with goldangl95: if a restaurant doesn't promote itself as being Asian, then it's ridiculous to complain that it isn't Asian enough. Now, if you want to complain the that nominally Asian elements aren't handled well, that's a different complaint.

                                      2. re: kyee87

                                        One of the plusses about Manresa is their constantly changing menu, where I think Saison stuck with mostly the same menu for months (if not longer), right?

                                        This is of no interest to the one-time eater, who prefers more consistency than Manresa's chance-taking - but that's what I love.

                                        One further point about "specifically SF" places. The highest end places are more in that particular international caliber, albeit with local ingredients. The two goals are somewhat in opposition.

                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                          Saison's menu can change daily based on what's available.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            How much is saison changing now-adays?

                                            A few years ago (saison 2.0), there was a thread about Saison and then I ate there, and ALL of the dishes discussed were ones I had that night. The other people in the thread had the same experience (as each other).

                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                              I think the speed with which Saison's menu changes varies depending on how often the best ingredients they can find change.

                                              When I went to 2.0, the two dishes I was most excited about were the langoustine and the aged birds, and I got neither. A Flickr set from a meal a few days earlier had maybe 23 of 26 dishes the same, two that were similar, one that was different, plus one extra. A couple of interesting things I saw in the pantry and asked about were for future meals.


                                      3. If you want something interesting and unique to SF, I would the Chef's Counter at State Bird Provisions.

                                        Otherwise, you cannot go wrong with Saison.

                                        31 Replies
                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          Of course you can go wrong with Saison. Their attitude can outstrip their abilities.

                                          1. re: mdg

                                            Yes, the attitude at Saison is always something that could rub some customers the wrong way no matter how good the food is. (And it would be hard to come up with a place in SF that has food that is more delicious.) But attitude is not uncommon at places that can get away with it. Just look at Momofuku Ko in NYC.

                                            1. re: nocharge

                                              Someone from NYC might not even notice what we would consider attitude in SF!

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                What "attitude" are people speaking of?

                                                I have never had a problem with Saison (pre or post reno)

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  The my-way-or-the-highway attitude. On the scale between "the customer is king" and "the chef is king", this place is firmly on the side of the chef. Take the substitution policy. They seem to be much less eager to accommodate people with dietary restrictions than, say, Coi.

                                                  1. re: nocharge

                                                    I find their arrogance refreshing.

                                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                                      Insensitivity training is under appreciated.

                                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                                        Even when one of the main dishes on the menu is an utterly flavorless disaster, most likely due to inept sourcing, and nobody cares? I've got no problem with lack of substitutions etc., but nobody is perfect, not even the Saison chef who thinks he is.

                                                      2. re: nocharge

                                                        It's just a different business model.

                                                        I don't find it problematic, as long as you know it going in. And for people who are surprised by this, it's more of a "you" problem than a Saison issue.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Yes, and the "Soup Nazi" business model was pretty successful, too, and more of a "you" problem for those that didn't like it.

                                                          But seriously, I haven't had a problem with Saison (other than clueless service when they were in the Mission), but I can see how their attitude could rub some people the wrong way. That's all I'm saying.

                                                          1. re: nocharge


                                                            I think as long a business is up front about it, it almost becomes a non-issue.

                                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      The NY Times noticed it.

                                                      "One of them began around the second time the restaurant played Phil Collins. At Saison, if you don’t share the chef’s taste for ’80s pop, you are out of luck. And that, combined with the length and cost of the meal, the occasional self-indulgence of the menu and the obliviousness of the servers, made the restaurant feel arrogant in a way that few places these days do."

                                                      1. re: nocharge

                                                        Note that the "One of them began around the second time the restaurant played Phil Collins" complaint referred to Pete Wells's first visit, and on his second they seemed to have improved things.

                                                        Except for the music.

                                                    3. re: nocharge

                                                      didn't the chef get some coverage when, after someone left an unfavorable online review, he responded with:

                                                      "you know nothing about food. go travel the world for 10 years, and then come back and tell me how good my restaurant is."

                                                      1. re: Dustin_E

                                                        I went to Kappa tonight .
                                                        Having been in Japan for only 2 months and basing on that I thought the food was not that good .
                                                        I loved the couple running the restaurant , and loved the service , and respect the food traditional they are keeping alive
                                                        but the execution is just not there ,
                                                        There were moments , and flashes , but overall , no .

                                                        1. re: kid cha

                                                          For a lovely Japanese set course meal in Japantown, I would recommend Kiss, which to me is considerably better than Kappa.

                                                          For better still, there is Wakuriya in San Mateo, a proper Kaiseki restaurant. But getting there and back (as well as getting a reservation) is a much more difficult proposition.

                                                          As for the rest, I prefer Atelier Crenn for modern high-end, and La Folie for more traditional French high end. I did not think Benu or Coi or Quince were worth the money. Saison is the hardest to gauge; I enjoyed the experience but all the criticisms leveled here are valid and the wine pairings sucked. That said, if I had the money and it was a first time, I might still go. I'd go there before Coi or Benu for sure.

                                                          Oh and I'm the only one in San Francisco who feels this way, but AQ bugs the hell out of me and I dislike the food at Frances.

                                                          1. re: pauliface

                                                            When you come to san mateo, you can try the innumerable izakaya, yakitori, ramen, sushi shops. There's a lot of good japanese food in San Mateo --- various other postings.

                                                          2. re: kid cha

                                                            Ah. Kid Cha.

                                                            I see you mention a specific love of Japanese, which is my favorite, so I will say a bit more on that front:

                                                            I'm sorry that only Kappa was mentioned before I showed up. It is okay, but to me nothing special, though others here recommend it often.

                                                            As I've said, in that vein you are better off at Kiss and best off at Wakuriya in San Mateo.

                                                            Beyond that, for Sushi the best to me in town is Ino sushi. He is a dour man with a sushi nazi reputation and he uses too much wasabi, but to me his is hands down the best. Then there is Yume in alameda. Harder to get to but almost as good with a giant scallop to die for. If you go a rung down from there, you get to Sushi Aka Tombo and Zushi Puzzle. In all these cases you want to sit at the counter and order omakase.

                                                            For (non-sushi) less high end but still very good and interesting you should look into Kappou Goumi on Geary. This place is great but they do not take reservations and there can be a wait. They have a vast menu organized by fish type and under each fish several preparations. The chef here used to be at my favorite spot in SF (kiku of tokyo) but they closed. That place had more gracious service and some lovely set meals but Kappou's food is up to the same level.

                                                            For Izakaya style, we have the ultra refined Izakaya Yuzuki (forgot about them. For non-sushi they are probably tied with Kiss). Then next we have Izakaya Sozai (more genuine izakaya style, very neighborhoody and well priced) and Chotto in the marina (also excellent, a bit more trendy upscale feel, and I like their food more than others on this list).

                                                            I say that if you like japanese food, you can throw away the rest of this thread and just visit all these places in turn and you will have a great visit. (!!!!!!)

                                                            1. re: pauliface

                                                              Thanks !
                                                              I went to Ino Sushi my first night here .
                                                              Yes ; this is the real thing .
                                                              Reminds me of an old time sushi shop you would find on a side street in the Ningyocho section of Tokyo .
                                                              Actually I was going to go to Kiss but they are on vacation till the 16th of Oct .
                                                              The local sitting next to me said she thought Ino was better than Kiss .
                                                              2nd night I went to Yuzuki .
                                                              Best tofu I ever had !

                                                              I'll look into the other places .

                                                              1. re: kid cha

                                                                Ah, so it looks like you are alrady discovering my favorites!

                                                                Ino and Kiss should not necessarily be compared, as they are trying to do different things. Ino is sushi only.
                                                                Kiss creates a 5 to 6 course meal that incorparates a sushi course and a sashimi course. The sushi and sashimi he serves are pehaps comparable in quality to Ino, but not quite as good, smaller bites and almost never any unusuall kinds of fish. However, these 2 courses are incorporated with other seasonal courses that complement them beautifully.

                                                                If you can possibly get to Wakuriya, I urge you to do so. It's worth the drive and, if I understand you correctly, you will enjoy it immensely.

                                                              2. re: pauliface

                                                                @ pauliface - Have you had omakase with Kiyoshi-san at Koo recently?

                                                                Oh, and I used to be Aka-Tombo's #1 fan and advocate, but sadly can no longer recommend it based on my last couple of meals there.

                                                                1. re: od_sf

                                                                  Hi od! I have never been to Koo.
                                                                  I take it you like it? Any particular pointers or highlights or good times to go?

                                                                  1. re: pauliface

                                                                    Hi pauliface, I think you would be pleasantly surprised. I usually ask to bypass the tsumami (other than one course of sashimi) and just go for 12 to 15 nigiri courses. Recent highlights included kohada, iwashi, sanma, hirame, engawa, and Hokkaido uni. He does a great job sourcing his neta and I really like his shari as well (although in my opinion it could be just a touch more vinegared). All omakase meals automatically get fresh grated wasabi at no additional cost. I like to go early evening (6 PM) when the restaurant is not busy, so as to have my chef's mostly undivided attention during the meal. This creates a nice pace with a new nigiri being offered every 2 minutes or so, which I think is optimal. I rarely pay more than $100 PP (including drinks and tip) which is fantastic considering the level of quality. I recommend you give him a try and would love to hear what you think.

                                                                    Edit: oh, and the three chefs are all nice guys and generally jovial (although still very serious about their work) , which is quite different to the atmosphere at Ino.

                                                                    1. re: od_sf

                                                                      Okay! We're going to try Koo tonight.

                                                                      It's been a while since a nice sushi meal; I'd been gearing up for a visit to Ino but we are going to try Koo. I'll write back with my impressions tomorrow.

                                                                      Thanks od, and thanks Dustin....

                                                                      P.S. Bypassing snacks? That is not my way. Especially the first time I will have no free will and express no special requests (unless asked, in which case I've got requests for however many times he asks: it's mirugai, uni, ikura, eel, salmon skin, tako, and saba in that order!!!).

                                                                      1. re: pauliface

                                                                        To a Sushi Nazi, you might want to be specific about the kind of eel !

                                                                        1. re: pauliface

                                                                          How was it? I was there last night as well (from 5:30 until 7, at the bar) and had a sublime meal. Had katsuo, toro, hamachi toro, kamasu (amazing!), sanma, aji, hirame, kanpachi, really amazing kohada, and more. Really great. October and November are my favorite months for sushi.

                                                                          1. re: od_sf

                                                                            Hah! We were there starting at 8 in the center two seats.

                                                                            In a word, fantastic, and I will return.

                                                                            As I said, it was my first time there. So I'm going to post the rest of my reaction in a new thread momentarily.

                                                                      2. re: pauliface

                                                                        koo is definitely worth a try. a good friend and sushi fanatic prefers their omakase to ino's.

                                                                  2. re: kid cha

                                                                    sorry you didn't like Kappa. Thanks for reporting back, though. looks like you win this one, pauliface :-) do you know sake? if so, what did you think of kappa's sake selection? (i don't but am curious how it stacks up.)

                                                                    to be fair, though, i think both manhattan and tokyo set a pretty high bar for japanese food.

                                                                    glad you thought ino was good. did you do omakase? any pieces in particular you thought were better than others?

                                                                    i agree kappou gomi (especially their seasonal menu -- their all the time menu i've found less good) and atelier crenn are good recommendations. i like chotto as well, but suspect perhaps their standards might be slipping recently.

                                                                    1. re: Dustin_E

                                                                      Kappa has a short well curated sake list .
                                                                      Had the omakase at Ino where it was all good ; no pieces in particular were better than others .

                                                          3. commonwealth is worth the 65 for the tasting menu. i cook for a living and am blow away everytime i go