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4 Nights in San Fran - Help me narrow it down!

d
dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 11:41 AM

Hey everyone,

Heading to San Fran at the start of March and I'm trying to plan out what restaurants we are going to. I've narrowed down the list a bit but I'm open to other suggestions.

We're there for four nights and are planning to go to State Bird Provisions on one of them and Mission Chinese for another (or we may go for lunch?). For the remaining two nights we wanted to do one nice dinner and maybe something more budget-friendly or a seafood place for the other.

Night 1: Mission
Night 2: State Bird
Night 3: Gary Danko/Boulevard/Acquerello/Coi/Saison/Quince/Kokkari/SPQR/Atelier Crenn or something along those lines
Night 4: Open to anything as long as it's not too expensive... I've looked at Nopa/Nopalito, Bar Tartine, Yank Sing, Sotta Mare, etc.

Also where's the best place for seafood? Anchor Oyster Bar? Hog Island?

  1. d
    dyzfunctioned Feb 4, 2014 03:59 PM

    So for anyone who is interested, I ended up settling on the following (when accounting for where I could get reservations and such).

    Day 1
    Dinner: Nopa

    Day 2
    Breakfast: Brenda's French Soul Food
    Late Lunch: Zuni
    Late Dinner: Somewhere in the mission - Namu Gaji, Delfina or Gajalee, whatever we can get in to

    Day 3
    Breakfast: Hollywood Cafe
    Lunch: Sotto Mare
    Dinner: Kokkari

    Day 4
    Breakfast: Mama's
    Dinner: La Ciccia

    Thanks for everyone's help. Unfortunately there were a few places I wanted to try I was unable to get into. I'd like to give a big shoutout to Emmanuel at Nopa who was kind enough to secure me a reservation despite OpenTable being fully booked. Fantastic customer service.

    I'll also be spending a few days in the Napa Valley but am a bit more limited in that regard as we need to structure things around wine tastings. Managed to get a dinner reservation at Redd and a lunch reservation at Sol Bar though so we're looking forward to that.

    7 Replies
    1. re: dyzfunctioned
      Robert Lauriston Feb 4, 2014 04:18 PM

      Restaurants often have openings that don't show up on OpenTable, never hurts to call.

      1. re: dyzfunctioned
        v
        vulber Feb 4, 2014 06:45 PM

        you'll have no problem getting into gajalee. you'll have plenty of trouble getting into delfinawithout a reservation. unsure about namu gaji, but i actually prefer their lunch menu to their dinner menu; cheaper and more ineresting.

        be prepared for enormous lines at mama's and brenda's. for that long of a line, i prefer dottie's (or mision beach cafe, though it's a step above greasy spoon). kate's kitchen is also great for brunch with not as big o faline.

        1. re: vulber
          d
          dyzfunctioned Feb 5, 2014 09:23 AM

          Yea, we're going to a show downtown that ends around 8:30ish so we won't be in the Mission until 9:00 or so. We're basically just going to see where we can get in that's decent and maybe go to Monk's Kettle or somewhere similar afterwards.

          I figured most the popular breakfast places would involve long lines though I didn't know of too many alternatives. I was in San Francisco last year and managed to get into Mama's without too much trouble.

        2. re: dyzfunctioned
          bbulkow Feb 5, 2014 08:36 AM

          As someone who rarely gets reservation more than a day or two in advance, and still manages to dine fairly well, let me make a case for barbacco instead of kokkari. Same side of town, much more interesting food (especially if you like wine), and fills up around 7pm. I just checked OT right now, there's a table at 6:30 for today. Also easy if your party is only 2 - I don't think they reserve the bar. I would also take AQ over Kokkari, my previous visits have been without reservation on the early side. If you don't like wine, and have a yen for simply and gorgeously prepared fish flown in from across the globe, Kokkari is a good fit.

          1. re: bbulkow
            d
            dyzfunctioned Feb 5, 2014 09:22 AM

            Kokkari isn't at the top of my list but it was the one place my girlfriend really wanted to go.

          2. re: dyzfunctioned
            Robert Lauriston Feb 5, 2014 09:26 AM

            Mama's and Hollywood Cafe seem like wasted meals to me unless you live in Asia or somewhere where you can't get good American breakfast.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/769813

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              d
              dyzfunctioned Feb 5, 2014 09:29 AM

              Thanks for the links. I didn't concentrate too much on breakfast spots so it's good to have some other options.

          3. m
            MagicMarkR Feb 3, 2014 02:26 PM

            Adding to your list, I might suggest "Gather" in Berkeley. I often suggest this place because I find it really quite unique to the bay area and quite reflective of its food "ethos." Almost everything I've had there has been excellent and thoroughly original. Also, while the tab can add up if you let it, it is quite reasonably priced. Finally, it is easy to get to by BART, and an opportunity to visit the east bay. They also have an excellent brunch.

            3 Replies
            1. re: MagicMarkR
              bbulkow Feb 5, 2014 08:30 AM

              My friends who have been to gather - veg friends - have been quite unimpressed. There are quite a few reasons to visit the east bay, but by all accounts you'd need a special interest in their style of food to go out of your way to Gather. Although, I wish I had first hand experience to offer. Sorry.

              1. re: bbulkow
                b
                BAnders Feb 5, 2014 08:39 AM

                Have to concur with your friends, FWIW. I had a decent brunch there once but my few dinners have involved dishes with muddy flavors and left me wishing I'd gone elsewhere. And I think the pizza is better at Pizzaiolo, Dopo, and any number of other restaurants in the East Bay.

                1. re: bbulkow
                  Robert Lauriston Feb 5, 2014 09:15 AM

                  I think Gather has hit its stride as far as the food. I've been really impressed with the creativity and flavors the last few dinners I've had there. Not necessarily worth the trip from SF but one of the best choices in Berkeley / Oakland.

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/876404

              2. d
                dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 02:30 PM

                I was planning on taking a day trip to go to the Russian River brewpub - is there somewhere in San Fran that serves a wide variety? Save myself a trip.

                24 Replies
                1. re: dyzfunctioned
                  Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 02:32 PM

                  Toronado always has a lot of RR.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    grayelf Jan 14, 2014 03:04 PM

                    Toronado is a great place to go in the afternoon. The happy hour seems to last all day. It is my favourite beer joint (so far) in the city. So far we haven't been hugely blown away by the local craft beer we've tried but the Russian River stuff is worthy. They have nice barrel aged sours too (Beatification, Consecration, Supplication).

                    J car to La Ciccia from Union Square very doable for a visitor (I'm from Vancouver) and recommended. Get the octopus stew and bring a straw for the broth. Like Vancouver, SF doesn't have as much "obvious" seafood as you might think. We had lovely petrale sole at Sotto Mare but the sand dabs were (sob) overdone. Tadich is fun but pricey, with a perpetual long line at dinner, and you have to be really careful what you order. Lunch at either would be my preference over dinner.

                    Congrats on bagging a reso at State Bird. Total fail for me so far :-).

                    1. re: grayelf
                      d
                      dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 03:20 PM

                      Fantastic - frees up a day to explore SF if I don't need to make a trip to Santa Rosa.

                      1. re: grayelf
                        Dave MP Jan 14, 2014 03:39 PM

                        Just a note that when I ate at State Bird, there were quite a few seafood items on the carts. We ordered almost exclusively from the carts/trays, and I think only had two things from the printed menu. One of those was the quail, though, and it was excellent.

                        1. re: Dave MP
                          d
                          dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 03:45 PM

                          What's the odds/wait time on getting in at State Bird? We had reso's for 4 as we were meeting another couple but they just told me they may have to cancel.

                          1. re: dyzfunctioned
                            Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 03:50 PM

                            No reservation, minimum 90-minute wait, three hours is not rare. If your friends cancel, phone the restaurant and change the reservation to two.

                    2. re: dyzfunctioned
                      d
                      dunstable Jan 14, 2014 02:33 PM

                      Minibar always has a decent selection of them. I was there this weekend and they had Pliny the Elder, Supplication, Damnation, and Blind Pig.

                      1. re: dunstable
                        d
                        dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 03:30 PM

                        Not too far from Toronado - might have to go to both!

                        1. re: dyzfunctioned
                          h
                          hyperbowler Jan 14, 2014 05:40 PM

                          +1 on Minibar

                          Minibar has the advantage of being less crowded and noisy than Toronado. Their Russian River selections are (certainly used to be) in bottles rather than on tap. That's not necessarily a bad thing ...

                          1. re: hyperbowler
                            m
                            macsak Jan 14, 2014 07:01 PM

                            can you expand on that thought?
                            bottles rather than tap, not a bad thing?

                            mahalo

                            steve

                            1. re: macsak
                              h
                              hyperbowler Jan 14, 2014 07:18 PM

                              The advantage of the atmosphere at Minibar offsets any reduction in enjoyment I'd get from not getting a draft pour at Toronado. YMMV.

                              1. re: hyperbowler
                                m
                                macsak Jan 14, 2014 09:49 PM

                                ah, ok

                                thanks

                                aloha

                                steve

                                1. re: macsak
                                  grayelf Jan 15, 2014 07:49 AM

                                  Minibar on the list for next visit but Toronado makes me happy because of its (lack of) atmosphere. I like how seriously they take beer there too. I haven't seen that in some of the other places we've tried, paired with the quality and variety at Toronado.

                                  1. re: grayelf
                                    h
                                    hyperbowler Jan 15, 2014 08:11 AM

                                    It might be worth opening a thread to find out which places in San Francisco have the widest Friday of Russian River beers, both in terms of bottles and/or drafts. Minibar is not a destination stop in and of itself, but has the advantage of being on the divisiadero Corridor and just fairly empty during earlier hours.

                                    http://russianriverbrewing.com/bay-ar...

                                    1. re: hyperbowler
                                      m
                                      macsak Jan 15, 2014 09:47 AM

                                      widest variety or widest friday?
                                      :)

                                      1. re: hyperbowler
                                        d
                                        dunstable Jan 15, 2014 10:11 AM

                                        Additionally, on the same block is Corkage, which does not get nearly enough credit for being an excellent sake bar.

                                        1. re: hyperbowler
                                          grayelf Jan 15, 2014 10:57 PM

                                          Nice link, hyperbowler. I've been on the Russian River website at least a half dozen times and never thought to see if they had a list of outlets, duh. V. handy.

                          2. re: dyzfunctioned
                            Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 03:47 PM

                            A couple of other great places for local beers are City Beer and Monk's Kettle.

                            Toronado can get crowded on weekends or holidays, go on a weekday afternoon if you can.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              d
                              dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 03:49 PM

                              Is the food worth staying for at Monk's Kettle or is it best to just go for drinks?

                              1. re: dyzfunctioned
                                Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 03:55 PM

                                I had a good meal there last month. If I were making plans to eat in the neighborhood, I'd reserve at Bar Tartine, Izakaya Yuzuki, Namu Gaji, or Gajalee, but if I were at Monk's Kettle drinking and got hungry, I'd eat there.

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/928322

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  Dave MP Jan 14, 2014 04:04 PM

                                  I like the idea of Gajalee. Also a nice choice if you're interested in seafood.

                                  1. re: Dave MP
                                    d
                                    dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 05:05 PM

                                    Thanks, you guys have been a huge help.

                                    Between State Bird, La Ciccia, Bar Tartine, Nopa, Gajalee, Zuni for dinner and Sotto Mare, Mission, Yank Sing, etc. for lunch I think I've got a pretty good grasp. Definitely going to check out Toronado and Monk's Kettle too.

                                    1. re: dyzfunctioned
                                      Ruth Lafler Feb 12, 2014 03:13 PM

                                      That sounds like a good representation of the SF restaurant scene. As people on this board will always tell you, what's special about the restaurant culture here is that there are a lot of really good -- and unique -- restaurants that are not of the expensive, tasting-menu, Michelin-star genre.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    grayelf Jan 14, 2014 05:05 PM

                                    Be sure to try the pretzel at Monk's Kettle. It gets super crowded at the bar so going at a non-peak time would be good.

                            2. d
                              dunstable Jan 14, 2014 02:29 PM

                              Dump Gary Danko from that list. SPQR is a nice place, but not exactly in the same range as the other restaurants in that list. Ditto Boulevard, which is excellent but not so posh.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dunstable
                                d
                                dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 03:21 PM

                                Thanks for the feedback. What would be your favourite?

                              2. d
                                dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 02:00 PM

                                Follow-up to above (more specific - sorry for using San Fran instead of San Francisco)...

                                Heading to San Francisco at the start of March and I’m trying to plan out which restaurants I should visit while there. We are there for four nights and I’ve already made plans to go to State Bird Provisions, Yank Sing and one of Nopa/Nopalito (if timing works out with us being in the right area).

                                We are staying in the Union Square area and are willing to make a trip for the right restaurant but for dinners it would be most convenient if they were in the Union Square/Financial/Mission area.

                                Looking for:

                                Seafood Restaurant: seafood is not great where I’m from. I’ve looked at Sotto Mare and Tadich’s Grill but would love extra feedback.

                                Oysters: See above - I’ve heard about Swan/Anchor/Hog Island but are these just touristy? Where’s the best?

                                Best/unique dining experience: hoping to go out for a nicer dinner (~$200 or less per couple with or without drinks, though cheaper is fine). I’ve looked at a variety of restaurants - Boulevard, Acquerello, Saison, Coi, Atelier Crenn, Gary Danko, La Folie, etc. The cuisine doesn’t particularly matter, I’m just looking for the most enjoyable overall experience and food. Romantic is a bonus but not necessary.

                                Breakfast: All I hear about is Mama’s and Hollywood Cafe - are these the clear standouts?

                                On that note I'd also love to hear about places with great craft beer selection. There's so many breweries in California that I don't have access to in Canada.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: dyzfunctioned
                                  c
                                  ceekskat Jan 14, 2014 03:17 PM

                                  "Boulevard, Acquerello, Saison, Coi, Atelier Crenn, Gary Danko, La Folie, Quince, etc." To help you narrow this list...

                                  I second crossing off GD- food was okay, rest. was LOUD, tables close together. Not a "fine dining" experience for us.

                                  Quince - elegant, plush, tasting menu starts at $115pp
                                  SAISON- $248pp before drinks

                                  1. re: ceekskat
                                    d
                                    dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 03:23 PM

                                    Thanks for offering your thoughts. Coi is definitely out of budget then.

                                    1. re: dyzfunctioned
                                      c
                                      ceekskat Jan 14, 2014 03:27 PM

                                      Sorry, I had edited at same time. Saison is $248, though Coi is also expensive @ $195pp...wow, I didn't realize it has gone up so much in the last couple of years.

                                      1. re: ceekskat
                                        d
                                        dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 03:30 PM

                                        At that price I'd rather make a trip to TFL :)

                                  2. re: dyzfunctioned
                                    n
                                    nocharge Jan 14, 2014 07:54 PM

                                    For oysters, I'd take Waterbar over tourist traps like Swan and Hog Island. Good selection of oysters and a considerably more comfortable ambience. Zuni is good, too.

                                    1. re: nocharge
                                      Melanie Wong Jan 14, 2014 11:32 PM

                                      Have you been to Hard Water yet for oysters with a view?
                                      http://static.squarespace.com/static/51364d9fe4b055d8b61af131/t/52d38903e4b098a9f53f95e3/1389594883544/HW%20dinner%201-9%28new%20-%20full%29%20copy.pdf
                                      http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_det...

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                        n
                                        nocharge Jan 15, 2014 12:59 PM

                                        I have been to Hard Water but haven't had their oysters. Great location but feels a little cramped and spartan compared to Waterbar. Great whiskey selection, though.

                                  3. Dave MP Jan 14, 2014 02:00 PM

                                    It looks like you are coming from Canada (and not the coastal part), so given that I would say:

                                    - Agree that you should do Mission Chinese for lunch, if at all. You might also enjoy other Chinese meals, whether in Chinatown, or Oakland's Chinatown, or out in the Richmond/Sunset (nice to combine the latter w/ time in Golden Gate Park)

                                    - State Bird is fun. Do you already have a reservation? Or are you planning to wait for a table?

                                    - I really like Bar Tartine and it's unlike any restaurant I've been to anywhere in the world. Definite California influence, which is nice, and nice space. Not cheap, but not super expensive.

                                    - La Ciccia is a Sardinian place in Noe Valley that has great seafood. I love the octopus stew.

                                    - Nopa also has good seafood and when I've taken visitors there, they've really liked it. Nopalito is even more casual.

                                    - Hog Island is fun for seafood, especially if it's a nice day. Although apparently the Sf branch is closing until Spring? http://hogislandoysters.com/bars/san-...

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: Dave MP
                                      d
                                      dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 02:05 PM

                                      This is great feedback, thank you.

                                      - I heard Mission Chinese was a really unique experience. Maybe it's just a tourist thing though, if it's not anything particularly noteworthy it's not a must hit.

                                      - I do already have a reservation for State Bird. It was on my must try list.

                                      - That sounds like the type of thing I'm looking for, I'll look into it more.

                                      - I saw La Ciccia but it looked pretty far away from where we'll be staying. Is it easy to get to?

                                      - Thanks for the note about Hog Island, I completely missed that.

                                      1. re: dyzfunctioned
                                        w
                                        wally Jan 14, 2014 02:11 PM

                                        Oysters are great at Zuni.

                                        1. re: wally
                                          d
                                          dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 02:21 PM

                                          Sounds like Zuni's is going to have to be part of the itinerary. Better for lunch or dinner?

                                          1. re: dyzfunctioned
                                            Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 02:30 PM

                                            Zuni serves oysters, Caesar salad, and wood oven chicken all day. It's one of my favorite places for a blowout meal but it's good for just a burger (not on the menu at dinner) as well.

                                            Nopa's kind of like Zuni so maybe don't do both.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              d
                                              dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 03:29 PM

                                              I think you guys have sold me on Zuni so maybe I'll leave out Nopa's.

                                        2. re: dyzfunctioned
                                          Dave MP Jan 14, 2014 02:15 PM

                                          Mission Chinese is indeed a unique experience. I personally am not particularly amazed by it (although I did really like certain dishes). There's plenty of debate on Chowhound about its merits. This discussion will be helpful if you go: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/756691

                                          La Ciccia isn't super close, but you could take the subway there, and then take a cab back. The entire city of SF is only 7 miles by 7 miles, so no place is really out of reach. I think it's worth the trip, and you get to see a less touristy neighborhood.

                                          1. re: Dave MP
                                            d
                                            dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 02:22 PM

                                            Great, thank you.

                                          2. re: dyzfunctioned
                                            Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 02:21 PM

                                            La Ciccia is right on the J subway / streetcar line. Probably my favorite place for seafood.

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7825...

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              d
                                              dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 03:23 PM

                                              Based on feedback here that might be where we end up going. It was lower down on my list but it's great to hear opinions on it.

                                        3. Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 12:16 PM

                                          "Gary Danko/Boulevard/Acquerello/Coi/Saison/Quince/Kokkari/SPQR/Atelier Crenn"

                                          I don't see a common thread there. Acquerello, SPQR, and Quince are the three heavily French-influenced Italian places. SPQR's very casual and less expensive than the others. Coi, Crenn, and Saison are maybe the three most radically modern places in the area. Kokkari's very good, very traditional Greek.

                                          I'd do Mission Chinese for lunch. Good and worth a visit but the dishes are somewhat hit and miss.

                                          Yank Sing is lunch only.

                                          Chowder in a bread bowl is not something you'll find at a good restaurant. It was invented by Boudin to sell to tourists. I think you can get it at their outlet at SFO so as not to waste a meal or endure Wharfland.

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            d
                                            dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 12:28 PM

                                            Thanks for the reply. I know there are several different cuisines and types of restaurants in the above grouping and I perhaps should have not grouped them together. They are all restaurants that I had heard good things about from friends and I think they all have Michelin Stars except for Kokkari?

                                            Thanks for the tip on Yank Sing and Mission.

                                            1. re: dyzfunctioned
                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 12:44 PM

                                              Michelin stars are not a good guide to finding the best of SF for anything other than French and Cal-French restaurants.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                d
                                                dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 12:54 PM

                                                Is there a source you would recommend? I know Michelin Stars aren't the best source which is the reason why I'm here asking for input rather than just going with the highest rated Michelin restaurant.

                                                1. re: dyzfunctioned
                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 01:07 PM

                                                  I think Chowhound's the best source, but you need to be more specific about your likes and dislikes to get solid recommendations.

                                                  Jonathan Kauffman and Patricia Unterman are the most reliable local critics.

                                                  http://jonathankauffman.com
                                                  http://untermanonfood.com

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    d
                                                    dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 01:15 PM

                                                    Thanks for the links I will go check those out.

                                                    In the future I will try to be more specific - I was simply looking for input on what food or dining experience is unique or the most worthwhile in SF. I've done some research which helped shape the above list. For example, I love sushi but have heard that SF isn't really the best place to have it. I don't come from somewhere with access to great seafood so I want to be sure to go to at least one seafood place (such as Sotto Mare) and an oyster bar (Anchor/Swans/Hog Island).

                                                    1. re: dyzfunctioned
                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 01:22 PM

                                                      Zuni might be in a class by itself as far as oysters.

                                                      Some recent discussions of where to get the best seafood:

                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/919744
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/913831
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/906992

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        d
                                                        dyzfunctioned Jan 14, 2014 01:31 PM

                                                        Thank you for your help. I've been reading other topics on the board and will make my original post more specific.

                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              n
                                              nocharge Jan 14, 2014 01:32 PM

                                              Not being an expert on Greek food, I've always wondered how "very traditional Greek" Kokkari really is. The opening chef was a Frenchman, Jean Alberti, from Strasbourg, which is in Alsace and pretty far from the Mediterranean. He had a very obvious French accent and used to hang with the major French chefs in town, the likes of Roland Passot and Hubert Keller. He had excellent credentials and got a three-star review from Bauer. So I asked him why he didn't cook French food and he said that he thought that it was a crowded field. I then asked him how long it took him to learn Greek cooking. His answer came in a slightly disdainful tone complete with a French accent: "A week."

                                              1. re: nocharge
                                                Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 02:16 PM

                                                Unterman wrote the original Chronicle review and directly addressed that issue.

                                                http://www.sfgate.com/default/article...

                                                Samos, an upscale Greek place that opened two years earlier, had some Frenchified dishes. Maybe that's why it didn't last.

                                                I was just contrasting Kokkari as traditional vs. the French-Italian fusion and modernism of some of the other places on that list.

                                                1. re: nocharge
                                                  r
                                                  Ridge Jan 21, 2014 09:53 PM

                                                  My heritage is Greek. I would say that Kokkari captures the essence of Greek cuisine more than any other place I have tried in the Bay Area. From the cinnamon scented roasted meats to the grilled octopus to the dips they get it right. It is very high quality traditional Greek food, albeit pricy. As to the chef being French, Greek cuisine is influenced by French cuisine, for example the Béchamel on top of Pastichio and Mousaka are French inspired, so its not that unusual.

                                                  1. re: Ridge
                                                    n
                                                    nocharge Jan 22, 2014 02:55 AM

                                                    A friend of mine grew up in Greece and used to run a restaurant. She is not a particularly big fan of Kokkari. I personally have too little knowledge about Greek food to have any strong opinion about the authenticity of the restaurant. I really like the ambience of the place although I wish that the bar was a little larger since it tends to get completely packed.

                                                    As to the French chef who opened the place, he left like a decade ago. He went on to open Shikumen Bistro in Shanghai, China together with George Chen who used to run Shanghai 1930 on Steuart St.
                                                    http://www.sfgate.com/restaurants/diningout/article/A-taste-of-France-via-San-Francisco-in-2518846.php
                                                    Interestingly, the article refers to Kokkari as "Greek-inspired", not the most enthusiastic endorsement when it comes to authenticity in my books, but what do I know? I guess in terms of being authentic, "Greek-inspired" is better than nothing.

                                                    Shikumen didn't last and George later opened Roosevelt Prime Steakhouse.
                                                    http://www.rooseveltsteakhouse.com/ab...
                                                    Last time I ran into George a few years ago, I asked him what happened to Jean. He said that he worked as a restaurant consultant in Macao.

                                                    1. re: nocharge
                                                      r
                                                      Ridge Jan 22, 2014 10:28 AM

                                                      Interesting about the chef. Greek food is pretty simple. It's not heavily seasoned so the quality of the ingredients is very important. It has similarities to Turkish, Italian and Spanish cuisine. But in a way Greek food is more Zen, more basic, more primal. Most people in California are not well aquatinted with Greek food and most of the Greek restaurants here are mediocre and feature things like Humus(not Greek at all, only found in certain Greek places like Cyprus). To me Greek food is a simple Greek salad with really good veggies and salty feta, grilled Octopus, Marides (fried smelt), grilled lamb chops seasoned with oregano and lemon, loukomades (Greek donuts). Many of these dishes have similar counterparts in other cuisines (grilled octopus is common in Spain, there is a Turkish version of Mousaka, etc.); it could be argued that Greek food is not as distinctive as some cuisines. The thing that defines Greek food for me is balance and having the basic flavors of the ingredients shine through. One would think this would be a perfect fit with California cuisine but for some reason people just don't get it right here. Kokarri is authentic Greek food but it's fancy elevated Greek food. Being fancy and elevated does not mean it's not authentic.

                                                      1. re: Ridge
                                                        n
                                                        nocharge Jan 22, 2014 06:45 PM

                                                        When Kokkari first opened, the joke among people who, like myself, are not into Greek cuisine was that the only reason that the food was edible was that the chef was French.

                                                        Anyway, I used to know the French opening chef. Here is another article:
                                                        http://www.sfgate.com/recipes/article...

                                                    2. re: Ridge
                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 22, 2014 10:51 AM

                                                      The current chef isn't French, though he cooked in France and at a lot of French places in the US.

                                                      http://www.kokkari.com/about/staff.ph...

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