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Any top restaurants near LAX for anniversary dinner?

Thank you to everyone for your advice. I'm really impressed by how many people gave jumped in and provided such helpful information. After reading all your postings and looking at the menus, I made a reservation at n/naka. The menu really looks interesting, especially the vegetarian one for us ( although I was amused by the Angus beef ribeye course on the vegetarian menu they have on their web site). Anyway, we're not strict vegetarians, that's the winter 2012 menu, and it all looks good. We're not going until 9 PM so, hopefully, will not experience the worst of LA traffic. I'll post another message after we go there. Once again, thanks to all for your generous help.

Aug 13, 2013
stebro in Los Angeles Area
1

Any top restaurants near LAX for anniversary dinner?

My wife and I will be visiting from San Francisco, attending a conference near LAX that coincides with our anniversary. We're looking for a good, upscale restaurant in the area to celebrate. To give you an idea what we like, some of our favorites in LA are Bazaar, Red O, Mozza and Hatfield's.
Really like creative cuisine. Not into steak houses. I'm willing to drive as long as it's not too far (20 minutes or so) from our hotel. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

Aug 12, 2013
stebro in Los Angeles Area

Former Chicagoans coming for a visit--looking for excellent restaurant

We moved from Chicago to San Francisco eleven years ago. We'll be back for a couple of days in September, staying on the Mag. Mile. We're looking for an excellent restaurant for dinner. We like french/asian/fusion/creative cooking. We have been to Alinea (great), Topolobambo, and Aruns on previous visits. We're thinking about Tru this time because we remember it from the days when we lived there. I know there are lots of new places that we're not familiar with. Is Tru still a good choice or would you recommend someplace else? Thanks.

Jun 23, 2012
stebro in Chicago Area

Quiet place for afternoon drink near Union Square

I'm looking for a place near Union Square to meet and have a glass of wine with three other people at 3 PM on a weekday. Ideally, it would be quiet, comfortable, have a good wine by the glass selection, and be close to the St. Frances Hotel. I would appreciate any suggestions.

May 21, 2012
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

WIneries in Napa Valley

One that is off the beaten track is Patz and Hall. They make excellent Pinot Noir. They also offer more elaborate tastings if you reserve in advance. Their tasting room is in an office park, so you won't get a winery experience or be surrounded by beautiful scenery.

Apr 07, 2012
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Bistro Vis a Vis-Greenbrae

It was hard for me to evaluate the food because I was so turned off by the rude treatment. However, I would say that it was mediocre at best.

Apr 05, 2012
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Bistro Vis a Vis-Greenbrae

I had a very strange--meaning bad-- experience. I was waited on by the owner. I ordered fish tacos and she recommended a Zinfandel to go with this dish. I am a very active member of ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) and know a lot about wine. I commented that it was unusual to pair Zinfandel and fish tacos.Her sarcastic response:"Obviously I would suggest something bad so you would get pissed off and not come back." I asked what she thought about another wine on the list. Her response: "I don't understand what you want to know." I said that I wanted to know what the characteristics were and whether she recommended it. "I don't know anything about your taste" she replied, refusing to provide any information. She then recommended the Zin again stating "you seem to be on a low budget and this is only $10 a glass." She then forgot to serve part of my order. I don't know how to explain her gratuitously rude behavior but I have never encountered a server--much less an owner--with such a chip on their shoulder. I almost got up and walked out before my order arrived. I will not be back.
A word to the wise for anyone who might consider going to this place---don't.

Apr 05, 2012
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Americans seeking Sydney restaurant advice

We'll be in Sydney in late February, following a cruise. We're staying at the Four Seasons for several nights and we like good restaurants. Our favorite cuisine is "fusion" style that blends Asian, French and other influences. We also like fresh seafood. We will be dining pretty well on the ship, I think, so we don't need extremely expensive restaurants or heavy dining. Would appreciate any suggestions.
Thanks.

Jan 29, 2012
stebro in Australia/New Zealand

Critique my Wine Country Plans

We enjoy Redd very much. Auberge du Soleil should be fun for drinks and Buchon for breakfast. Never fond of Girl & The Fig. On our last visit, it was expensive and not that good.
You can do better. Haven't been so Solbar. There are tons of choices around Yountville and Sonoma, as I'm sure you know. La Salette in Sonoma gets good reviews (haven't been there either).

Jan 25, 2012
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

French Laundry

If you've ever been the the FL, you know that the portion sizes are tiny (but there are lots of courses). The pasta course was maybe three bites. The waiter wasn't nearby so my wife and our friend both finished it. Perhaps they should have stopped after the first bite! Anyway, as I said before, this is no ordinary restaurant and we felt they could have responded to customer input in a much better way.

Jan 25, 2012
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Paul K vs. Bar Jules for pre-ballet dinner

We used to go to Paul K regularly before performances. The last time we went, we allowed nearly two hours for dinner. We ordered promptly and waited, and waited, and waited. I asked the server about our order and he said that everything was fine and it should be out in a couple of minutes. Twenty minutes later, nothing had arrived. By this time, we had about 30 minutes remaining. I went over to the open kitchen and told the chef, who said "I'm just cooking your order now." When I asked why he was just cooking an order that we placed an hour ago, he walked away, I found the manager who said "What do you want me to do?" Bottom line--we have not been back for obvious reasons. In that neighborhood we like Absinthe and the Boxing Room both of which have very good food and service.

Jan 24, 2012
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

French Laundry

Thanks for the interesting replies. Before this last visit to the FL, I would have agreed that it's a higher level than Gary Danko. It wasn't true this time. As to whether we feel our experience gets better or worse when we return to restaurants, the best I can say is it depends. We've been back to places that we thought got even better. We've returned to places that were big disappointments. Of course, it's sometimes hard to say whether your memory and the passage of time have changed your perception.
The comment about gentlemen not counting their change reminds me of Harry Stimson (Secy of State in the 1920s-30's) who famously said about decoding secret messages from other countries: "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail." Unfortunately, being that kind of gentlemen does not win wars or get you good treatment in restaurants.

Jan 24, 2012
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

French Laundry

We had lunch at the Laundry last week with four friends. My wife and I had been there twice before, both times for dinner and it was several years ago. My wife and one friend ordered the vegetarian menu and the rest of us ordered the standard one. Some quick comments: Those who ordered the vegetarian menu were the happiest. It's not that the regular menu wasn't good. In fact, it was good and that's the problem-- It wasn't consistently excellent to outstanding as we remembered from prior visits.

There was one problem with the vegetarian menu. The handkerchief pasta arrived cold and hard. My wife and the friend who had this dish both said the same thing. They informed the waiter, who responded with an explanation of how the pasta was made and how they served it al dente (as if we were at fault for not appreciating it). Cold and hard is not the same as al dente. When his explanation didn't work, he said that he would inform the chef. Although the dish already had been consumed by the time the waiter was informed of the problem, I found his reaction very disappointing. He should have offered to replace the dish with something else (which probably would have been declined considering the number of courses). This is the French Laundry not the Olive Garden, there is no excuse for undercooked pasta, and notifying the chef did nothing to rectify the problem. All in all, I thought our lunch failed to rise to the heights expected at the French Laundry or to be worth the stratospheric price. You can have as good an experience at Gary Danko for about half of the French Laundry price and without having to go through the reservation hassles. I give the Laundry three stars, factoring in the price (270/person not including tax or wine).

Jan 24, 2012
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

El Paseo update

We were there last weekend. We had to wait about 30 minutes past our reservation for a table. After we got a table ,the service was very good. I thought the food was quite good too. I'm not a big steak eater so I ordered scallops and really enjoyed them. I think they've changed the menu and lowered the prices. Our friends, who have been there before, said they may have switched from prime to choice beef. Also, I thought it was surprisingly reasonable.

Dec 07, 2011
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Cupola (San Francisco)

Just had dinner at Cupola in the Westfield Center on Market St. We originally had reservations at a different restaurant in the area but, based on Michael Bauer's review last Sunday, we canceled and switched to Cupola. We were fortunate to have a table directly in front of the open kitchen, which allowed us to talk to the chef. He was very friendly and happy to provide recommendations. As Michael Bauer said, the Festa dinner is an amazing bargain. For $30/person (there were 3 of us), we had an assortment of delicious appetizers, a huge "dome" salad, a pumpkin parmesan terrine, pulled mozarella, three pastas, two pizzas and two desserts. At other restaurants, this might be called the Chef's tasting menu and be a lot more money. But it wasn't just the quantity and variety--everything was excellent. We ordered one of the cheapest wines on the list (Hahn GSM for $28), based on Bauer's comments about the list being overpriced. While this wine is $12 at the winery, it was very nice and we didn't mind the $16 premium. Cupola is kind of off the beaten track, being on the fourth floor of a shopping center. It was quite busy when we arrived and I hope they succeed and retain the Festa menu.

Dec 01, 2011
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Dinner at Quince--Below average food, above average prices

We go to dinner regularly with two other couples, generally at one of the more upscale restaurants in the area. This week we tried Quince. The atmosphere and service were very nice but that's where the positives end. Unfortunately, we disliked the food and thought it was grossly over priced. The dishes we ordered looked good and they didn't taste bad but there wasn't a single dish that any of us had that was better than OK. The food was just very ordinary--not what you would expect at a restaurant with Quince's pretensions and prices. The bill for the four course menu came to about $350/couple including two bottles of moderately priced wine that we shared, tax, tip, and an extra charge for SF health insurance. Of all the restaurants we have tried--Gary Danko, Acquerello, Cyrus, Murray Circle, Masa's, Michael Mina, Madrona Manor, Botega, Marche au Fleurs and others--all six of us agreed that Quince was clearly at the bottom of the list and yet was more expensive than most of the others.

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Quince Restaurant
470 Pacific Av, San Francisco, CA 94133

Acquerello Restaurant
1722 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94109

Masa's Restaurant
648 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

Madrona Manor
1001 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Murray Circle
601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA 94965

Sep 01, 2011
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Help for visiting San Francisco chowhound

Thanks, everyone, for your advice. The concierge at our hotel recommended Takami sushi, which hasn't been mentioned. Not everyone in our group eats sushi, but it looks like they have a variety of other choices.
Does this sound like a good choice?

Apr 09, 2011
stebro in Los Angeles Area

Help for visiting San Francisco chowhound

My wife and I will be in LA for several days in late April. We like creative, unusual restaurants including what's sometimes called "fusion." We're staying at two different hotels, the London in West Hollywood and the Omni downtown. So far, we have reservations at Bazaar, Red O, Gordon Ramsay (which is in the London) and Noe (because we're staying at the Omni that day and going to the symphony after dinner). Are these good choices? Any that we should eliminate? Any other restaurants that we should add?

Also, we're meeting family for dinner one night in downtown LA. They're not as big into food as we are, and cost is more of an issue. We're looking for a really good, reasonably priced restaurant, preferably not too far from the Omni (but we can always take a cab). One place that sounded good is Drago Centro but, looking at the online menu, it may be too pricey for the others. We're open to suggestions and would consider any nationality of restaurant.

Thanks for any help!

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Drago Centro
525 S. Flower St., Suite 120, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Red O
8155 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Mar 31, 2011
stebro in Los Angeles Area

Disappointment at Paul K

The decision to comp our wine at Paul K seemed to be the waiter's. That was nice and he was doing his best to get our order but the kitchen wouldn't cooperate. It's the kitchen and the management that I fault for not caring. Here are some alternatives in the neighborhood that we have enjoyed. First, Absinthe has been very good. We went there last week and it was everything that Paul K should have been--attentive service, friendly staff and excellent food. They also have a great wine list. Absinthe has become our favorite restaurant in the area. Sauce (which is next to Paul K) can be very good. We noticed some new restaurants in the neighborhood, including a Thai restaurant and a new place where Breezy's used to be, across the street from Absinthe. Don't know how good they are but we'll check them out.

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Paul K Restaurant
199 Gough St., San Francisco, CA 94102

Oct 11, 2010
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Disappointment at Paul K

We made a 5:30 reservation at Paul K and told the waiter we had to be out by 7:00 to attend the opera. The appetizers arrived promptly. We then waited about 35-40 minutes with no sign of our main courses. People who arrived at the same time and even after us were getting their orders and we were still waiting. The waiter came over and said it would just be a minute. Ten minutes later, I approached the waiter who was talking to the chef at the counter by the open kitchen. The chef said our orders were cooking. I told him that we placed our order an hour ago. He shrugged his shoulders and walked away. I spoke to the manager, who went to check, and eventually our orders arrived--an hour and ten minutes after we were seated and twenty minutes before we had to leave. The food was good but Instead of a relaxed dinner with time for coffee and desert, we ate quickly and paid the bill. The waiter--who we know from prior visits and who is great-- told us that he had decided to comp our half bottle of wine--a nice gesture. On the way out, I told the manager that we were regular customers (we've been to Paul K 15-20 times) but that something was very wrong and needed to be fixed. He said "you're right but I don't know what I can do about it." How about a sincere apology (which we never got)? How about finding out what caused the problem and fixing it?

I understand that mistakes can happen, but the lack of response and the clueless, helpless attitude gave me no confidence that anyone really cared. Sorry, Paul K, there are too many other choices to come back.

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Paul K Restaurant
199 Gough St., San Francisco, CA 94102

Oct 06, 2010
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Namu review

Went there for the first time last night.
Positives: Many of the dishes (the fresh fish, salads, lamb chops, small plates) were very good to excellent. Server was very nice and provided good advice on what to order. The menu has so many interesting things, it's hard to narrow down the choices.

Negatives:
-Parking! You can drive around for a long time looking for a space.
-We waited over 20 minutes beyond our reservation because a table wasn't available. Namu is small and, if turnover isn't as fast as anticipated, you'll be kept waiting.
-After we were finally seated, it was late and we were hungry. We hoped that, after being kept waiting for a table, we would be served quickly. No server approached for over 10 minutes.
-Although the server was very nice, the service attitude is lacking. At times, we were pretty much ignored. After bringing the desert menu, the server engaged in lengthy conversation with the chef and another employee. Their backs were turned to us and we were unable to get their attention. Finally, I went up to them and asked if we could order desert. They really seemed to resent the interruption. Guess I'm old fashioned, but I always think the customer should come first.

Noise! My ears are still ringing.

The food is good enough that we would go back--if it weren't for the parking, noise and service lapses. Unfortunately, those are big enough negatives to keep us from going back.

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Namu
439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

Feb 13, 2010
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Jason's Restaurant-Greenbrae

I really liked Jason's Restaurant when it was located in San Rafael and went there many times. Last night, I had an early (5:15) dinner at their Greenbrae location. I checked their web site before going there, and they begin dinner service at 5:00. When I arrived, the hostess was busy doing other things but showed me to a table. I was the only diner in the restaurant, although the bar was active. I waited at the table for a long time but saw absolutely no servers, busboys or anyone else. I was beginning to feel invisible. My presence was not acknowledged, I was not offered water, and no one approached me about ordering. Finally, I got up to leave. When I passed the hostess stand, I commented on the reason for my departure. The chef/owner, Jason, approached and said there were no waiters working (despite the fact that they were open for dinner) but that he would make sure I was served. I returned to my table and the bartender approached. She asked how I got seated at this table (as if I had just walked in and seated myself). I told her the hostess had seated me, and she responded that the hostess hadn't told her. I ordered tomato bisque with crab and a scallop appetizer. By now, a waiter had appeared and he repeatedly referred to me as "my man" as in "here's your soup my man." The tomato bisque arrived without the crab. I pointed this out to the waiter, but he said the tomato bisque didn't come with crab (contrary to what it says on the menu). Another waiter overheard and corrected him. The soup was returned to the kitchen. The correct soup finally appeared and it was excellent, as were the scallops. As I left, I walked past the hostess who was talking to another employee and did not acknowledge me or thank me for coming. Too bad that the good food is undermined by bad service, bad attitudes and generally incompetent dining room management. I had planned to e-mail Jason's about the experience, but their web site contains no e-mail address.

Sep 09, 2009
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco Chowhound seeks LA advice

We're coming to LA in September. Among the restaurants we're considering are Citrus,
Osteria Mozza, Craft, Sona and Mako. We're staying in the Westwood area and like creative cooking, including fusion and interesting combinations of different cuisines. We've already been to Hatfield's and Luques. We would appreciate any advice.

Aug 21, 2008
stebro in Los Angeles Area

Trader Joe's Low Sodium Soup

Trader Joe's recently introduced a new line of low sodium organic soups that are really good. Most prepared soups are loaded with sodium, generally ranging from 500-1200 mg per serving--up to 50% of the recommended daily sodium allowance. Many soups that are labeled as "low sodium" still have 400-600 mg per serving and the really low sodium soups tend to be tastless. TJ's organic tomato, squash and tomato/red pepper soups have 140mg of sodium/serving and are delicious. For people on a low sodium diet like me, they are really welcome. Even if you're not on a low sodium diet, the amount of sodium in normal prepared soups is bad for you. My only personal stake is that I want TJ's to continue stocking this product and introduce more flavors. Try it, you'll like it.

Mar 08, 2008
stebro in Chains

Sonoma and Napa Winery Clubs

We live in Marin and make frequent trips to the wine country. We enjoy some of the winery clubs, primarily for the special dinners and other social events that many of them have. We just got the bad news that J Winery is discontinuing food pairings at its tasting bar (one of the big attractions for us) and we probably will quit their club and join another one. Can anyone recommend a winery club that has a good calendar of member events, good wines and doesn't require a huge annual purchase commitment?

Jan 19, 2008
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Big Island Restaurant Advice

We're heading for the Big Island next week, spending five nights at the Mauna Lani and five at the Four Seasons. Which restaurants would you recommend at these hotels? Since we don't want to indulge every night and will need a change of pace, are there good and reasonable restaurants outside the hotels that aren't too far away? Thanks!

Nov 29, 2007
stebro in Hawaii

Vineyard Dining in Napa/Sonoma

Don't waste your time going to the restaurant at Coppola's Geyserville winery. It's a pizza parlor, and not a good one. The service was terrible. The interior has been trashed with cheap decorations. Really sad because Chateau Souverain, which used to be at this location, had a wonderful restaurant with great atmosphere. It was a treat to go there. Not any more.

Sep 11, 2007
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Vineyard Dining in Napa/Sonoma

Haven't been to Domaine Chandon in several years, but it has always been very good with great atmosphere, although pricey. Domaine Chandon is the only winery in the Napa Valley that has a restaurant which is open to the public. Other possibilities around Yountville are Redd, Bistro Don Giovanni, Ad Hoc (Thomas Keller's newest restaurant--no menu choices), Bistro Jeanty, Bouchon.

Sep 04, 2007
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Help us plan our Napa trip

All the wineries you mention are relatively large and attract lots of tourists. Some of them are extremely crowded and busy. You also should include some of the excellent smaller wineries that are more private and give you more personal attention. Some examples: Joseph Phelps, Jarvis, Caymus, Burgess, Storybook Mountain, Far Niente, Duckhorn, Quintessa. Most require an appointment, so you have to call in advance. Some charge for tours/tastings (Jarvis is pretty expensive but worth it)--but just about all the places you mention also charge. There are many others. You can pick up magazines and maps that list the wineries and their visitor policies at almost any winery in Napa. Tra Vigna is also a very busy place. I prefer some of the really good smaller restaurants--Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, Redd (Yountville), and Terra are good.

Aug 23, 2007
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area

Any recommends in Marin County?

If we're branching out beyond Sausalito, Mill Valley and Tiburon, I would add the following:
-Picco in Larkspur-Pizzeria Picco is good, as stated above, but Picco is really excellent with great small plates and reasonable prices.
-Insalata and Fork in San Anselmo
-Marche Au Fleur in Ross
-Sol Food in San Rafael-another stand in line and take a number place, but the Puerto Rican dishes are really good.

Aug 20, 2007
stebro in San Francisco Bay Area