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to chez panisse or to not chez panisse, that is the question

coming to SF from NY for a week, have never been to SF. Love farm to table, have wanted to go but am reading some not great reviews. Know there is a difference of opinion, was wondering what the general consensus is. no other restaurants planned as of yet.

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  1. I've been eating there a few times a year since the 70s and find it reliably good. Anybody who claims it has gone downhill has no credibility with me.

    The downstairs prix-fixe is one of the best values among more expensive restaurants in the area, and its prices are at the low end of the high end.

    The upstairs is relatively expensive compared with places with similar menus and top-quality ingredients, but it's also open later, which is often how I end up there.

    A couple of typical experiences for me, one up and one down:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/845522

    7 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      have you been there recently? I have been reading other posters itineraries and boy am I confused. We are focusing on California cuisine, seafood, maybe a visit to Chinatown for a meal. Any other rec's would be most appreciated.

      1. re: daisylover

        I was there in March and had a very nice meal.

        Any way, Chez Panisse is the mothership for all California cuisine and farm to table sorta stuff.

        A lot of the negative comments are stuff like, "I could cook that at home." And indeed you could if; a) you have a wood oven, b) had the training and c) had the same vendors to source from

        Some people do have wood ovens but I don't think anyone has the same vendors. They get stuff no else gets and with the farm to table stuff, that makes a difference.

        What CP excels at is handling stuff with a deft hand, especially delicate stuff like seafood/fish and produce. I'd go but don't over think it or believe any over-hype. Also it's not the kind of meal that will blow you away, however if you like fresh stuff and can notice subtly, might be worth it.

        1. re: ML8000

          Even when I buy at the farmers market from the same vendors CP uses, sometimes they've skimmed the cream of the crop. And they have some sources I don't, for example, I've never found hazelnuts to equal theirs.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            In March they served tangerines as one of the dessert options which were only available to CP. I didn't bother remembering the name because...well I can't get them. They were tasty and heirloom.

          2. re: ML8000

            I agree with your deft hand comment. For some of these items, if you can cook them at home, you must be a damn fine cook. Timing is impeccable, pastry is tender. They don't abuse fat and salt.

            I am probably biased, because I had some really formative experiences at CP. I will never forget their:

            1) goat cheese crostata
            2) chicken under a brick -- everything that a chicken should be -- bursting with flavor and a perfect crisp skin
            3) almond cake with fall fruit compote

            1. re: ML8000

              I read that sometimes too and think that people default to the 'I could cook that at home' criticism when they find dishes to be simple. I've never found the food at CP to be overly-complicated which I find refreshing and ironically, exciting! It's a showcase for some of the best ingredients in the US and the chefs seem to know when to stop manipulating them. Have fun!
              JeremyEG
              HomeCookLocavore.com

        2. Why would you not go?

          Robert is correct.

          "best values among more expensive restaurants in the area, and its prices are at the low end of the high end."

          Plus I would go to Commis in Oakland for the same reasons.

          Good bang for your buck on high end dining.

          And the odds are you will have a truly fantastic meal.

          1. I had dinner in the downstairs dining room last month and it was very good. I think it depends on your expectations. There are nicer more refined and more expensive restaurants in the Bay Area. There are also many chefs who have gone on from CP to open their own restaurants and so CP is no longer as unique as it was at the beginning of the farm to table movement. Still, I enjoyed my meal and even though it would not be my #1 pick at that price, it would still be in my top 5 or so.

            1. Go to Chez Panisse. Avoid SF Chinatown.

              1. The restaurant is very special. I can't understand how someone who appreciates good food would not like it. It's simple, down to earth, farm to table, well sourced and well prepared food. We go about once or twice a year and it's allways a memorable experience. I went a couple of months ago and was going to post a review but never got around to it. We had an excellent meal. A link that has my reviews of last years meals:

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/886741