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Looking for coconut brownies in L.A.

I did call just now, and they won't make them. Thanks for the tip, though; others have brought their stuff to work, and it's good.

Jul 16, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Looking for coconut brownies in L.A.

We have a coworker's birthday coming up, and this person's favorite dessert is coconut brownies. I don't know where in town I can find them, though. Does anyone know what bakery might sell them? If worse comes worst, I can probably substitute Buttercake's dream bars, but we want to give this person what he likes.

Thanks in advance!

Jul 16, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Visiting SF in July: Recommendations?

Well, that sorts Zuni for us. Next time! Both Out the Door and 54 Mint are really close to our hotel, so they probably make better choices for us on the day we're leaving. I think the location of Brenda's is fine as long as it's not a terribly divey place inside (e.g., the Pork Store).

I'm definitely going to the Ferry Building - I have stuff to get from Boccalone, after all - but I'm not sure we'll get there in time for the Farmer's Market. (We were there on a Saturday last year, but the market got rained out.)

And I'm definitely putting Humphry Slocombe on the agenda; I hope it's warm to give us frequent excuses to get ice cream that weekend! Thanks for the tip on that!

Jun 11, 2009
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF in July: Recommendations?

Okay, I think I've got a good sense of where we'll be going next month. I wanted to get good variety and unique places, while also trying to find reasonable prices. Here's what our food itinerary looks like right now:

SATURDAY:
Lunch - Café Bastille
Dinner - Dosa

SUNDAY:
Brunch - Brenda's
Dinner - Incanto

MONDAY:
Breakfast - Tartine Bakery
Lunch - possibly Zuni Café, 54 Mint, or Out the Door

We're going to try to hit Bourbon & Branch and the Tonga Room, too. The prix fixe options at both Dosa and Incanto - the Cucina Povera menu - seem really appealing. One friend's a big francophile, and Belden Place is close to our hotel. I have some back-up places for dinner - Laïola and A16. We may do brunch at Suppenküche if the day brings us to Hayes Valley. My friend is happy the Blue Bottle Coffee café is just two blocks from our hotel. (And so am I!)

I'm saving Larkin Express and a hunt for a really great burrito when my dive-oriented friend (the one who loved the Pork Store) is with me.

Any comments for tweaks or better substitutions are welcome! So are notes about really good food places that might fit in between - good ice cream (in addition to Bi-Rite and Mitchell's), good coffee, good chocolate, whatever. Oh, and good drinking.

Thanks for your help, guys!

Jun 10, 2009
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF in July: Recommendations?

Lunches are still pretty much undecided - whether we eat at Larkin Express, Out the Door, 54 Mint, etc. may largely depend on what we're doing and where in town we're at - but I think I have the dinners settled.

I think I've got our dinners settled, though. For Saturday, I'm thinking Dosa on Fillmore will fit the bill, and Incanto's Cucina Povera deal sounds good for Sunday night. We're trying to be reasonable with spending, and the prix fixe offerings seem a good deal. If either one of those doesn't work out for some reason, I'm keeping Laïola as my backup.

Now I've got to work on finding the right brunch for Sunday...

May 29, 2009
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF in July: Recommendations?

Thanks for the Maverick feedback. It's off the list.

Our hotel is really close to Gitane and 54 Mint; I'm going to do some more research on those, too.

May 26, 2009
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF in July: Recommendations?

The Fillmore Dosa is pretty much a lock. It seems good for my friends, who aren't hardcore ethnic eaters but who like the exotic and who enjoy going someplace that looks nice but want to be more casual and not pay and arm and a leg.

I've been thinking about Larkin Express, too. If we're around the Tenderloin, that seems like a good lunch stop. Out the Door in the Westfield mall is walking distance, so that may be a stop, too. Or Sentinel, which is just a few steps away from us.

Two other places I'm curious about are Maverick and Suppenküche. I'm thinking of Suppenüche for Sunday brunch; any opinions on this place? And is Mavierick worth a trip? It's a little more than I like to spend on Southern food, but it at least seems to have more personality than Spork, Range, or Bar Tartine.

There really are too many options! How's the Tonga Room, too? Worth a visit?

May 26, 2009
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF in July: Recommendations?

I guess I should rephrase that: L.A. proper doesn't excel in Indian food. Sure, there's Little India in Artesia, but that's a bit of a schlep. Paru's has pretty good, but pretty much any other place I've visited that's not in the SGV is little more than okay.

May 26, 2009
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF in July: Recommendations?

The San Francisco Chowhound board sent me in the right direction for my trip last November, so I'm canvassing here to see where we should eat on our next long weekend in San Francisco in late July. I was thankful to get confirmation on Tartine, SPQR, and Burma Superstar for my last trip; all of them were truly superb. Blue Bottle Coffee was fantastic, and the Ferry Building was a food lover's marvel. And I don't think I would never have found the Pork Store without Chowhound's help.

This time, I'm going with a friend who is a little, um... fancier. And the only place I'm looking to revisit is Bourbon & Branch. Of course, San Francisco had more awesome restaurants than we were able to cover in a long weekend, so I'm looking for some insight into more places. For evenings, I think we want something with great food but not terribly formal and fussy - no Gary Dankos or Michael Minas. One of the fun breakfast places would be great, too. It was great to go to Burma Superstar as Burmese food is woefully underrepresented in Los Angeles; We'd love to find another laid-back restaurant like that, too.

We'll be staying in SOMA, near the Museum of Modern Art. Any recommendations for bars and restaurants are welcome. Places we're considering include:

* ZUNI CAFÉ - I'm very curious about this place as it seems to be so divisive. People either seem to love it or hate it. Is this worth a meal?

* TADICH GRILL - I appreciate the old-school qualities of the oldest restaurant in the city, but I wonder if it might be a bit like L.A.'s Musso & Frank Grill, which is heavy on atmosphere but serves bland food that never progressed past the 1940s.

* A16 - We loved SPQR, so the chef's other restaurant is high on our list.

* DOSA - Indian food is not something in which L.A. excels. But again, there are many negative remarks on the web about this place, too.

* LA TAQUERIA - We'd love to get a superlative burrito in SF, but is La Taqueria's worth the trip, or is it all hype?

* DOTTIE'S TRUE BLUE CAFÉ - Is this a truly great breakfast? Or should we go to Mama's? Or Kate's Kitchen? Or would a more upscale breakfast at Canteen be best?

We'd also really like to try cuisines that are especially great in San Francisco. L.A. excels in Japanese, Thai, and Chinese (thanks to the San Gabriel Valley), but San Francisco has Burmese and Basque cuisine, as well as better Indian food. Recommendations for great bars are welcome, too. We passed the Alembic last time, and it looked like fun. The Tonga Room is also intriguing.

Thanks in advance! I look forward to your responses...

May 23, 2009
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Quick Bites: Street and Bottega Louie

You're right on the mark. Again, the food is very much like decent-but-uninspired hotel food, but it's nice to have an option like Bottega Louie where it is. It's good if you live in the neighborhood but nothing to cross town for.

Apr 11, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Quick Bites: Street and Bottega Louie

I was there for lunch today. (It was convenient for a friend coming off the Red Line.)

It took forever to get anything from our actual server, while the backservers were so eager, they brought me a coffee I didn't order. Otherwise, they were less intrusive, although I really can pour my own water.

The risotto in the arancine was undercooked and unpleasantly chewy, and even though I was told they would be removed from the check, they weren't. (At least I wasn't charged for the coffee I didn't order but kept.) I had the lasagna, which was okay, but there seemed to be no ricotta between the many sheets of pasta. My friend's fettucine was just olive oil, cherry tomatoes, and arugula; he wasn't really thrilled with it.

The pâtisserie counter was chaos. One has to move around to see the full selection and order, but then other people are getting drinks at the same register. The macarons are decent - the meringue shell was so fresh it flaked - but the fillings on all but the lavender were rather hard, not soft like a good example. The raspberry and passionfruit flavors were ho-hum, but the rest were very nice; the lavender is, I think, the real winner.

Apr 11, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Quick Bites: Street and Bottega Louie

I was brought a salt shaker with pink salt in it when I ate, but the pepper was the ridiculous giant mill. I said I'd take some, meaning I'd have it on the potatoes, but the backserver started grinding over the frittata instead. I took a bite, though, while he peppered the potatoes, and realized some pepper would help the rather bland frittata.

The service is a little... clingy, but I find that happens a lot in newer restaurants. I think they'll relax in time. And they were a little less obtrusive as more tables started to come in.

I'm sad to hear the pâtisserie closes early. I was looking forward to being able to run over and get macarons for work the next day. That's such a disappointment that we still have no casual place to go later at night in Downtown. Their late hours were what I found most appealing.

Apr 11, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Quick Bites: Street and Bottega Louie

Located on a stretch of Highland with little foot traffic, surrounded by commercial buildings, and ironically oriented with its back to the street, Susan Feinger's STREET feels sort of hidden - despite being in eyeshot of Mozza. Entering off Highland, one sees a charcoal gray building - nothing to look at aside from the neon sign - and enters into an riot of black, red, and orange. The room feels sexy and modern but also a little fun, a sort of cross between the ambiance of Border Grill and Rivera.

The service was eager to please when we went, although the kitchen was having trouble keeping up with demand. For a good twenty minutes, people being seated were asked to hold off from ordering while the kitchen caught up, and our table was the last to get the cumin-dusted millet marshmallow puffs as they had run out - at 8:00 P.M. (That's a shame as they were pretty tasty.) The backserver was as enthusiastic as our server, which shows that the staff is really invested. At one point, we were brought a dish we didn't order and sent it back; the next day, we noticed we had been charged for it. (We were feeling pretty good from a lot of drinks when the check came, so we didn't really pore over it at the table.) I e-mailed the restaurant just to let them know of the error so they can be aware going forward - they are just getting started, after all - and they made quick amends to take care of it. Very classy.

As for the food, no, if you're a devotée of gritty, authentic ethnic food, Street may not wow you. (However, as ethnic food maven Jonathan Gold is friendly with the Border Grill chefs, I suspect he will be surprisingly generous in his review.) Portions are not big, though the prices can be. Our server told us the $35 Globe Trot really only works for a party of two as it delivers an appetizer, noodle dish, salad, entrée, and dessert. We got the impression from her that the more one pays, the more the dishes have to get split - though she may have not explained it right.

The dishes we ordered:

- The paani puri had an authentic Indian taste, and it was a shame the silver dollar-sized stuffed pastries went so fast.
- The Cuban potato cake was a bit more complex in flavor than the (also excellent) Porto's version - stuffed with something more like picadillo - and came with a poblano cream sauce. But it was a bit small even for the three of us to split.
- The shrimp noodles were basically a shrimp chow mein that could be had in Chinatown for half the price (and twice the portion), but the addition of pork belly was a nice touch.
- That pork belly appeared again in the Vietnamese corn - essentially fresh corn and pork belly, very tasty.
- The Thai bites may have been the hit of the night, with onions, peanuts, dried shrimp, and other condiments to be added on a collard green leaf smeared with tamarind.
- The New Jerusalem salad rivaled the Thai bites for compliments. Olive bread coated in cumin is tossed with cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and cubed Jerusalem artichokes, making something both rich (from the cumin and olives) and refreshing.
- I did not pick the Korean short ribs, and they were perhaps the least successful dish. The short rib slices had what seemed like a spicy miso sauce on them, and the Asian pear salad accompanying it tasted of just sliced pears - underwhelming.
- The Turkish doughnuts were really quite good - like fried balls of creamy bread pudding in texture, soaked in syrup and served with sour cream. They weren't too sweet, especially with the sour cream - a very nice way to end the meal.

We also got through a good chunk of the cocktail list. The "signature" Canton Ginger Kick was, I thought, the least successful of the drinks we had. There was pretty much no discernable ginger flavor from the Canton, so it pretty much tasted like lemonade and vodka. The Ode to Audrey also was a letdown - the cognac and sugar just seemed to turn champagne into ale. They do make a proper mint julep, and the Sazerac Manhattan was a little sweeter rendition of the classic. They didn't have the ingredients for the Singapore Sling that was listed, so I was given a Godfather - bourbon and amaretto. Not my thing. They have a good cocktail program, which is headed up by a bartender from The Association, but it's not yet on the level of Rivera, Comme Ça, or Osteria Mozza.

I know the concept of high-end, fancy, expensive street food has been controversial here and on other sites. I think the food largely works at Street, but I would like to see portion size increase by 20% or prices drop by 20%. If one is familiar with Border Grill's reinvention of earthy Mexican dishes into their more polished renditions, one knows exactly what to expect. And it works: One of my friends hates a lot of South Asian and Southeast Asian food and is not a cuisine explorer, but she loved everything put in front of her at Street. The restaurant is a pretty fun way to pass an evening. My own concern is that the focus of the menu is actually pretty limited: There is a Swedish salad, Moldavian meatballs, and the Cuban potato cake. Otherwise, the food is pretty much all from Asia; it's Asian Border Grill. Or a much classier, better-traveled RockSugar. There's nothing from sub-Saharan Africa, little from Europe, almost nothing from Latin America. North America gets a nods on the lunch menu only. I'd like to see Street go down a few more culinary streets as the menu progresses.

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The first impression that hit me at BOTTEGA LOUIE was "White." Whiteness just glares out from every oversized white wall with no decoration. It's like a tribute to drywall. Actually, that was my second impression: My first impression was of two men vigorously polishing the brass rails outside the door. In addition to the massive expanses of blank drywall, there is shiny polished brass everywhere. Even the toilets are shiny brass. Bottega Louie will likely single-handedly insure America's brass polish industry won't feel the pinch of the recession.

The store looks classy in a Disneyesque way, with the marble floors and Empire-style maître d' station. There are pastries piled up at the front door, but the deli case was empty that morning. The grocery selections are high-end and pricey, but I wonder if there really is a market for $6.50 packs of blueberries when Ralph's is a five-minute walk away. The bar/café area is just in the door, with a group of small stone-topped tables clustered around. The restaurant is in a larger room beyond, with tables covered in butcher paper. The flatware is real silver.

The food is... nice. I went for breakfast and ordered the ham and Gruyère fritatta and roasted potatoes. I am not a big fan of eggs, but the excellent fritattas at BLD have had me reconsidering this position. Bottega Louie's fritatta was plain eggs with chunks of ham and cheese - not the most exciting or innovative dish, frankly. The potatoes were small red fingerlings with some onions and peppers - a fancy version of O'Brien potatoes. A segment of baguette comes wrapped in paper, like a Christmas firecracker, along with butter and jam. (A diner beside me puzzled why the bread was not warmed.) Nothing was bad, but nothing was terribly inspired, either. Frankly, it all struck me as the sort of food one gets in a nice hotel. (Pete's Café is the sort of stuff one would get at a Sheraton; Bottega Louie serves food fit for a Westin.) The food is perfectly nice, but it lacks the sort of excitement and passion one finds at a good restaurant. The strong, dark coffee tasted as if they used the same beans for espresso in their drip machine. For a high-end place that Bottega Louie aspires to be, though, I expect god quality cubed sugar (like La Perruche) instead of lots of packets.

The service was good. The servers were friendly and efficient, not even letting a used sugar packet sit on the table. My coffee cup did not sit empty, although when the server cleared it without asking me, she returned and apologized. (I was finished, so it was not a problem.) I could do without the silly pepper service, though. Those giant mills - :"Tell me when to stop!" - are very Red Lobster circa 1989.

I had to stop at the pâtisserie and try their offerings, too. The almond croissant also had that taste of commercial bakery croissants; again, it was good but not sublime. The Earl Grey and vanilla madeleines tasted good, but they seemed to be turning a bit stale. The canelés, though, were spot on. I especially enjoyed the orange flavor. (They didn't have the macarons ready at that hour of the morning.)

One on hand, Bottega Louie is not the most exciting restaurant, even in Downtown. On the other hand, it is so nice to have a nice bakery and open, bright eatery in that part of Downtown, especially one that is opens as early and late as Bottega Louie is. It is a very welcome addition for people in and around Downtown, but it is not really what I would call a destination. Still, I'm sure I'll be back some morning soon.

Apr 11, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Cecconi's: A Restaurant for People Who Don't Love to Dine

We'll skip the question of quality; clearly your experience of Cecconi's was much different from mine. But the question of value compared to Mozza is much more cut-and-dry:

Entrées at Cecconi's range from $20-$38, with many being around $26. Full servings of pasta are around $14-$16. This is comparable with Osteria Mozza. The pricing for the $15-$18 pizzas is comparable with Pizzeria Mozza. Given that Mozza offers wine by the larger quartino while Cecconi's only offers it by the glass - and Cecconi's has a smaller selection of lesser quality for comparable price - shows lesser value on Cecconi's part. And the cocktails were comparatively priced, but Cecconi's does not have a specialized cocktail program like Osteria Mozza, and their cocktails, well - they're not even in the same ballpark. (Order a Negroni at Osteria Mozza, and the service comes with a orange peel flamed by the server and top-shelf gin. A Negroni from Cecconi's is lower-quality well gin and a thick orange wedge stuck on the side of the glass. I've had better Negronis at Taylor's.)

So ignoring the quality of the food offered, prices are comparable between Mozza and Cecconi's, and sometimes Mozza even offers much better value for money.

Mar 05, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Mama's Hot Tamales - First Time

Not a fan of Mama's Hot Tamales here.

It's sad that Mama's Hot Tamales' quality has really taken a slide over the years. I live in the neighborhood, and I used to go often. I've seen their hours shrink, the availability of the tamales dwindle, and the quality of the food get worse and worse. They seem to only make the tamales in small groups and freeze them, and so their tamales generally lack freshness, and their masa in the Mexican tamales is ho-hum run-of-the-mill Maseca style, nothing like the toothy, fresh ground goodness of La Indiana, for example.

They were a good deal when they still had the carts in the park across the street and sold the tamales for $1 a piece. The tamales would be fresh back in those days, but that was about four or five years ago. Yes, I like that it's a philanthropic enterprise, but I also want quality for my money, and as Mama's prices go up and quality goes down, I find less and less reason to go there for tamales that are average at best.

Mar 01, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Cecconi's: A Restaurant for People Who Don't Love to Dine

Well, I think it's a warning for certain types - foodies, for lack of a better term. Cecconi's struck me as the resurrection of Morton's for a new age - younger, sexier, hipper, but still a destination not for food but for the crowd. But instead of having power players sequestered neatly at their tables, Cecconi's has the hot and trendy piled on display in the center of the room.

Apparently the London Cecconi's, which is close to one of that city's high-end shopping districts, functions in much the same way, with papparazzi hanging around outside to get photos of Madonna and Gwenyth Paltrow as they leave from dinner - most likely one consisting of six quail eggs and a slice of pizza like a woman at the table next to me. My friend and I got quite a few looks of longing at our meat-bedecked table by the skinny young things as they passed by, as if to say, "I remember when I used to eat. It was nice..."

Feb 28, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Cecconi's: A Restaurant for People Who Don't Love to Dine

I really wouldn't call this week a "soft opening" at Cecconi's. Soft openings rarely pack the place to the rafters as Cecconi's is doing; what I witnessed Thursday night is one of the hardest openings ever. Yes, there was a discount on food, but all other aspects of a soft opening - lower levels of bookings, more attentive staff - were not there. And, frankly, no openings publicized by Daily Candy could ever be considered "soft."

Feb 28, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Cecconi's: A Restaurant for People Who Don't Love to Dine

The waiter was Mike. He was well-meaning but, well, not there. The room was just... ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculously loud last night. Maybe if we weren't jammed right into the thick of it, we might have enjoyed it a little more. But sitting wedged up under that insane bar scene, with everyone looking like they're waiting to go to Paris Hilton's house? Yikes.

If a restaurant is comfortable with great service, I can forgive less-than-astounding food. If the food is off-the-charts awesome, I'll endure a somewhat annoying dining experience. But a loud, obnoxious room with scattershot service for ho-hum food? No way.

From the looks of all the agents and B-list celebrities in the crowd last night, Cecconi's will be the new industry restaurant. Hopefully it will thin the posers out of Mozza and make getting a table there a little easier.

Feb 27, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Cecconi's: A Restaurant for People Who Don't Love to Dine

Sorry, I was writing in a hurry, and there was a lot of diagonally-striped marble floor to cover...

Feb 27, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Cecconi's: A Restaurant for People Who Don't Love to Dine

The 50% discount mention is buried in there, as well as the allusions to having staff in from Cecconi's London location. There are hints to its being the first week of Cecconi's operation, but I also think that the poor level of service was exceptional even for a first week. If they were not prepared to serve that level of customers yet, they should not have booked so many. I was at the opening weeks of both Comme Ça and Osteria Mozza, for example, and neither restaurant showed nearly the same problems as Cecconi's did - and by the well-heeled clientele pouring in to drink, I doubt that a food discount was pushing them in the doors. Gradually building up to full capacity to let the staff get its bearings would have been the wise thing to do.

Feb 27, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Cecconi's: A Restaurant for People Who Don't Love to Dine

The very start of my dinner at Cecconi’s is indicative of how everything went: The restaurant had absolutely no record of my reservation, not searching under my last name – even trying various misspellings – or my first. It was suggested I wait at the bar and return in ten or fifteen minutes – I arrived early – and come back to see what could be done. The bar, right inside the door, was a mob scene, like what one would find in Hollywood around eleven on a Friday night. But this was the sleepy commercial elbow of Los Angeles/West Hollywood at eight on a Thursday.

I told the hostesses the bar was impenetrable, stating my inclination to wait right at their station rather than get lost in the sea of chattering party people who had come to have a liquid dinner. I was seated immediately. In a doorway. Right next to the bar.

So, on the plus side, my issue was resolved quickly and with a pleasant demeanor. On the minus side is the fact that I had an issue at all, and the resolution was less that satisfying. Welcome to Cecconi’s.

Cecconi’s is not a restaurant for people who love food. The fact that so many people had come to Cecconi’s not to eat should attest to that. The bar at the heart of the restaurant was swarming with the young and trendy as they nursed glasses of wine in clusters, some of them waiting an hour or so for a table, and many more of them just there to drink, apparently. The volume of the restaurant, with what seems to be an entire quarry’s worth of marble inside, was frighteningly loud; Mozza seems like a hushed lending library in comparison. The room seemed small and claustrophobic with the great crush of people at the center, too. Tables are placed in doorjambs between the terrace and the interior, and our seats originally had our backs to the aisle before the manager who waited on us most of the evening repositioned us (and the table beside us) from the traffic.

Again, the mixed nature of Cecconi’s came into play with the service. We had a waiter, but in the nearly three hours we were there, we only saw him three times. When a table was reset behind us, a wine glass hit the floor. When a wine glass hits a marble floor, the effect is something like a hand grenade: My friend had a shard of glass in the neck of her sweater. Fortunately, she was not cut, but there was still broken glass beneath our feet when we left. We waited long gaps to get served, dirty cutlery was not immediately changed, bread plates were never brought, and we waited so long for our check, we probably could have just walked out on the bill in the crowd, and no one would have known.

One of the managers actually did the bulk of our service – a lovely woman from the original London Cecconi’s named Janine (sp?). She was what pulled the experience out of the fire for us. She provided excellent service – and, frankly, a manager is not a waiter, so her serving us went above and beyond. When she told my friend that, as a manager she did not accept tips, my friend very nearly left no gratuity. We let her know that, through all the problems we had with our experience – the glass, the lost reservation, the poor waiter, and on and on, she was the one thing that made our experience good. In appreciation for our feedback, instead of the 50% discount on the food, she gave us a 100% discount, which was very gracious of her. All we had to pay for were our drinks. She said that, as they were getting started this week, they were looking for that sort of feedback, and she knew what Cecconi’s was about from the London restaurant, and they were trying to get their staff here up to par.

Now to the food:

I started with a nondescript negroni some of the cicchetti while waiting for my friend to join me, ordering the octopus with lemon and olives and the roasted bone marrow. The bone marrow was fantastic, coming with toast rounds, roasted garlic cloves, and sea salt. The garlic was sweet and creamy, though getting it out of its peels was a bit messy. The octopus was nowhere near the level of Osteria Mozza’s wonderful version, being a bit chewy and slightly fishy in taste, served with potato cubes, roasted grape tomatoes, and olives.

When my friend joined me, we started off with the veal meatballs and the ahi tuna tartare. The meatballs were good, quite firm and plump in a bright tomato sauce, but both the meatballs and the sauce lacked the richness of Pizzeria Mozza’s version. (Sensing a theme here?) The tuna was not my choice, and my friend regretted it – she thought it too lemony and underseasoned, but the fish was fresh. We followed by piling on meat-heavy dishes. The artichoke and burrate crostini was totally forgettable. The osso buco was the hit of the night, with the veal falling off the bone (and with the bonus of more marrow), though I thought the cooking sauce could have had a little more personality. The carpaccio was good, but the strong caponata and Venetian dressing (essentially a very lemony mayonnaise) drowned out a lot of the meat’s flavor. Probably the best dish was the pappardelle with housemade sausage, which had a nice meaty cream sauce with onions. It was the one dish with the right balance of complexity and simplicity of the best Italian food.

We opted for the blood orange cake with caramel and yogurt for dessert. The cake had the texture of something like French toast, and the caramel, with bits of orange zest, was more like warm marmalade. It was good, though, and not too sweet, although what made it blood orange and not, say, Valencia escaped me. The wine options by the glass are not huge, though mostly Italian. My wine was okay, but nothing great. My friend asked to get a taste of a Super Tuscan on the list, which never arrived. The manager Janine then brought her a full glass on the house. (That was good because it tasted something like gasoline – not a winner.)

When all is said and done, the food is sometimes quite good, sometimes mediocre, but never anything truly remarkable. Cecconi’s is not Mozza but any stretch of the imagination. What could set it apart could be impeccable service and an inviting atmosphere, but having dinner in a room something like a trendy nightclub with waiters’ scrambling like Keystone Cops really does not compensate for that. There were celebrities in attendance, and Cecconi’s will likely pop up on the ubiquitous Chowhound “Where Should I Go for Star Sightings?” threads, but is it a restaurant for people who love great food and elegant dining? No – at least for now, they need to look elsewhere. With the boisterous noise levels, the poor floor layout, the huge party crowds bulging from the center, the chaotic if well-meaning service, and the food quality that never rises above quite good, Cecconi's is apparently a restaurant expressly designed for people who don't love to dine.

Feb 27, 2009
Woolsey in Los Angeles Area

Visiting SF 10/31: Opinions for Dining on Our Trip?

Yeah, we're in that area Saturday, and we're not going to have time for Zuni on Sunday - it's all coming together as I meticulously overplan...

Oct 08, 2008
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF 10/31: Opinions for Dining on Our Trip?

Another question - Is Bi-Rite Creamery worth the time?

Oct 08, 2008
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF 10/31: Opinions for Dining on Our Trip?

Ah. Maybe it's just the elegant little website that gave the impression. (Sadly, the breakfast/brunch offerings aren't listed, but dinner looks really good.) Canteen is definitely on my radar, and, with so many great dining options overflowing my list just for breakfast, I have a feeling I'm going to come back to try them very soon.

Oct 08, 2008
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF 10/31: Opinions for Dining on Our Trip?

The Haight location is actually perfect for where we're going that day, so the Pork Store is almost certainly just what we're looking for. Canteen seems nice but rather fancy; since we're going to Tartine the morning before, I think Canteen will wait for another visit, but I'm very glad to know about it.

Oct 08, 2008
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF 10/31: Opinions for Dining on Our Trip?

Zuni is off for time reasons Sunday, so Tadich may be on...

Oct 08, 2008
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

My first In-N-Out Burger experience - questions

Oh, most definitely it's not fast. SoCal folks are used to the long delays at the In-N-Wait.

Oct 07, 2008
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF 10/31: Opinions for Dining on Our Trip?

We're going to be on transit, so it will narrow our options. Also, we're limited with time and will be looking to stay in the city.

As for atmosphere, I think we're less concerned with "nice" as opposed to "unique."

Oct 07, 2008
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF 10/31: Opinions for Dining on Our Trip?

Scrap Giordano Bros. Saturday. I cannot for the life of me figure out where to eat in the Chinatown/North Beach/Nob Hill area. (Tadich Grill would be nice to visit if it didn't cost an arm and a leg.) Any help here would be nice. We may end up back in Japantown at a noodle joint...

Oct 07, 2008
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area

Visiting SF 10/31: Opinions for Dining on Our Trip?

I think I have a more refined dining itinerary for our trip. Here it is:

FRIDAY

Lunch: BURMA SUPERSTAR
Dinner: SPQR or PIZZERIA DELFINA (Pacific Heights) - leaning heavily toward SPQR
Drinks: BOURBON & BRANCH

SATURDAY

Breakfast: TARTINE
Visiting the Ferry Building Marketplace, Chinatown, and North Beach
Late Lunch: GIORDANO BROS.

SUNDAY

Breakfast: PORK STORE
Lunch: ZUNI CAFÉ

I'm not quite sure about whether we'll stop at Giordano Bros., though it seems like a San Francisco landmark sort of place, fun and affordable. There seems to be no sort of consensus about where to eat in Chinatown - and, frankly, L.A. has a Chinatown, as well as all the amazing food in the San Gabriel Valley communities like Monterey Park. Is there anywhere with really great Chinese food (or just atmosphere) that should be visited? Or what is the place to be visited in North Beach? It's hard to cut through the static on these areas.

And is the famous chicken served at lunch at Zuni? Yeah, yeah, I'm a tourist, but that's what I want to have when I go...

Oct 07, 2008
Woolsey in San Francisco Bay Area