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help for a tired palate

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Birthday dinner coming up. Every time I eat out these days I find myself disappointed. Haven't happily floated out of a restaurant for the longest. What is the restaurant that comes to mind when someone asks--where's your favorite place to eat? Thanking you, hounds.

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  1. What are some of the places that have and have not disappointed you in the past? That'll give us an idea of what to recommend (price, location, etc.).

    12 Replies
    1. re: bobabear

      I live in Oakland. I used to like A Cote, until I didn't. I used to like Oliveto, until I didn't. Places like Plum, Commis, Haven don't thrill me. Best meal I had in the past decade was at Laurent Manrique's Aqua. Is he still around? Had a great meal at Campton Place when he was there. Second greatest was at Acquerello, many of years ago.

      Used to like Barlata, until I didn't. Looked at Duende's menu, was not moved. Wanted more small plates. Ate at that Italian joint in Old Oakland last year, the one that changed to Desco, was not moved. I want to have a memorable meal!

      Thanks, Robert.

      1. re: essvee

        I've had several good visits to Manrique's new place Aquitaine. It's a casual wine bar with southwestern French food, really good despite for the bizarre lack of foie gras. But if you're in the mood for the kind of sophistication and polish of Aqua or Acquerello, that might not be right.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Can't find a menu online for Aquitaine. Found some pics of a menu, the food sounds like what I like. Not a drinker, though, wondering if the place is overtly wine-centric?

          1. re: essvee

            Wine's one of the draws for me, but I don't see why you'd have to drink it to eat at Aquitaine. It's a restaurant.

        2. re: essvee

          Have you actually been to Haven? Because I wouldn't put it in a category of "places like Commis" -- it's certainly not tweezer food! I had one of my birthday dinners there and was pleasantly surprised that the food was not nearly as fussy or precious as the menu descriptions made it sound.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Fussy and precious is indeed how it sounds. Have not been. Love the epithet "tweezer food."

            1. re: essvee

              Wish I could take credit, but "tweezer food" is not original.

              I know what you mean about palate fatigue -- restaurant menus seem palate-numbingly similar these days.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                "restaurant menus seem palate-numbingly similar"

                Looking at my credit card statement, I see that in the past month or so I've been to InoVino, Haven, Oliveto Cafe, Hog's Apothecary, Mediterranean Wraps, Sha Bistro, Bartavelle, Aquitaine, Bowl'd, Fonda, Galette 88, Kiraku, Little Yangon, A16 Rockridge, Comal, Darda, and Napoletana. Even the Italian places aren't all that similar.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  But if you take out all the places that aren't the kind of place one would go for a special occasion dinner (and please, don't argue with me about how YOU would be happy to have a special occasion dinner at those places) you're left with:

                  Haven
                  Aquitaine
                  A16 Rockridge (maybe -- a bit too casual and noisy for my idea of a nice dinner)
                  Comal

                  Granted, those aren't similar, which is probably why you ate at them and not all the places that *are* similar.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    For special occasions my favorites are À Côté, Haven, Zuni, Chez Panisse, and Perbacco. I don't see them as very similar.

                    Aquitaine and Comal are as casual as A16 or more so.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Zuni is utterly casual, no? (I am in the minority but I would never send anyone there for anything other than a martini and oysters)

            2. re: Ruth Lafler

              The food I had at Haven the other night, first since the chef change, was if anything even less fussy than before.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/920332

        3. La Ciccia

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            There have been so many rec's for La Ciccia that I'm excited to try it this Sunday as my husband's surprise bday dinner! Give it a try, essvee?

            1. re: bobabear

              I shall go at one point but the menu does not excite me right now. Last bleen times I've gone Italian I've been less than pleased. So I'll put it on the list but not for this time.

          2. I am most consistently pleased by Pizzaiolo these days. (I liked Duende quite a bit the one time I went but did not float out--more of a stagger under the weight of generous portions.) Pizzaiolo's salads and other starter dishes consistently interest and satisfy, if they have fish on the menu it is always wonderful, and the pizza is stellar, as are the desserts. I always leave thinking I should go more often. I recognize it is not the same polished sort of place as Acquerello etc., however. But for food consistency and enjoyment, it's at the top of my list right now.

            1. Have you ever tried La Folie?

              They make great solid French food that is neither old style nor totally modern. They have never disappointed me over the course of many years now.

              8 Replies
              1. re: pauliface

                Never think to even look. Their menu online is absolutely gorgeous, just what I'm looking for. Yow.

                http://www.lafolie.com/menu_dinner.pdf

                1. re: pauliface

                  Wah. Open Table says they have no tables until 8 on Saturday. That's too late for me. Back to square one.

                  1. re: essvee

                    They may not put all their tables online, you might phone them to check.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Yes, definitely telephone them.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Got a resie for Saturday. Will report back. Thanks all.

                        1. re: essvee

                          Hoping the line cook who was ruining our last two dinners at La Folie has had his salt/garlic/sour heavy-handedness thoroughly smacked with a wooden spoon.

                          Otherwise, we've loved the goat cheese tatin, the "tasting roe", the tempura duck egg, any fish dish, and if you're a hungry meat eater, the lamb chop is massive and amazing.

                          The lobster and mushroom risotto is phenomenal but super-rich. Sadly, with the foie gras ban you can no longer be wowed by Passot's exquisite handling of it. His foie gras with spiced peach consomme ranks in our memory at the same level as La Bourgogne's (real) Dover sole in champagne sauce - truly sublime.

                          We usually skip dessert, they aren't that remarkable.

                          Have a great time!

                          1. re: jaiko

                            I also love the duck egg and the lobster risotto.
                            And the quail/squab dish.
                            For dessert I've loved the souffle, though it was a different version than I see on the current menu.

                            Note also: I believe that if you want they let you pick two dishes from the same category, if that is your preference. They are quite flexible...

                          2. re: essvee

                            How did it go?

                    2. i made a general topics post that i thought of based on this post
                      feel free to discuss
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/921085