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What is the most exciting restaurant you've eaten at in the SFBA recently?

Ha! (sorry) I've been in a bit of eating rut, one of those times where it feels like it's all the same. But I am curious if anything exciting has come out this year that people are super jazzed about? A few mentions on this board of places that are at least relatively new to me:

Kusakabe
Monsieur Benjamin
Stones Throw
Verbana

about 7 hours ago
goldangl95 in San Francisco Bay Area

SPQR or Perbacco? [San Francisco]

First, I think both are totally safe to take out of town guests to. The flavors at Cotogna are more conventional and so more likely it'll be a hit than SPQR but no one is going to be like this is a dud.

I agree SPQR is more unique in genre as Cotogna has up to the fight competitors (as I mentioned above Locanda, Flour + Water as examples) around the city.

I just am more satisfied with the flavors at Cotogna (more intense and home-y?) than the lighter more french/cal influence at SPQR.

Additionally, I find the Cotogna room far more comfortable than SPQR - where I always felt I was going to elbow or run into someone and it was super hot. The atmosphere somewhat distracted from the more delicate/intellectual food they're trying to go for. I am a fan of how SPQR uses uni.

about 7 hours ago
goldangl95 in San Francisco Bay Area

SPQR or Perbacco? [San Francisco]

I 4th that SPQR is like a very cramped version of the atmosphere at Cotogna. It does not have the more formal business account feel of Perbacco.

I'd put SPQR as Californian food with heavy French and Italian influences - reminds me somewhat of the food at Quince in terms of inspiration (obvs Quince is very different in other aspects). Spqr (unlike the name implies) is no longer trying to be authentic to Italian cuisine but is borrowing a bit from everywhere - it's somewhat dropped the Italian part of Cal-Italian.

I liked my recent meal there, but it wasn't super memorable the way Cotogna, Locanda and Flour + Water can be when they are performing at their best. SPQR is less Italian than those 3.

A "special" dinner in SFBA -- your thoughts much appreciated

Nevermind. They got rid of the short tasting menu too.

A "special" dinner in SFBA -- your thoughts much appreciated

What about Quince? They have a short form tasting menu - granted it is still $$$ but it's cheaper than a full menu at Benu.

I 2nd that If you didn't like AQ you probably won't like Commonwealth.

Favorite sushi in SF right now?

Hmmm yeah that's the pricepoint where I start to get angst about NorCal sushi. I know on my next trip to LA or NY, I can get something that will be awesome at that pricepoint, but I've been so burned on sushi here that the idea on spending 2x the price for a 10% jump in quality is hard to stomach (not saying that Maruya is necessarily just a 10% jump).

Favorite sushi in SF right now?

how does the pp point compare? For example Sushi Sam's we always leave under $75 (and usually under $50 pp). Is Maruya more at the $100 level?

Our next nice Dinner - Central Kitchen, Outerlands, or Rich Table? [San Francisco]

I haven't eaten at Central Kitchen yet, so can't say - but it may be as simple as it's easier to get a reservation there than any of the others you suggested (except Commonwealth - which OP if you didn't like AQ I wouldn't try Commonwealth).

Dining ideas for weekend in SF

Some good suggestions on this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/988758

4 nights in San Francisco - any recommendations on where to eat?

Kin Khao for innovative Thai (though pricier than normal Thai food and doesn't have Pad thai)

Go to a bakery either B Patisserie, Knead or Craftsman and Wolves

Taqueria Cancun and La Taqueria in the Mission both make good traditional tacos and burritos.

More conveniently on your side, Tacolicious is OK.

You may want to try Limon Rotisserie, affordable, food is good, and it's not too pricey. Dosa is unique to the area and is still in your price range (without cocktails).

Foodie ISO must eats in SF: Been a decade for me...

Have lunch at the Ferry Building and wander around - great place to get a feel of the producers in SF.

I'd go to Dosa on Fillmore (is that considered Asian?). Nothing like it in LA/SoCal.

If you have the patience to wait, and it's a nice day, I'd suggest El Techo de Lolinda. For drinks and appetizers to a full meal.

We do Cal-Italian really well: options include Cotogna, Locanda or Flour + Water

Definitely go to a bakery! Besides what is at the ferry building try B Patisserie or Knead or for something different Craftsman + Wolves.

For something molecular gastronomie kind of out there (but also may end up not being to your palate): AQ or Commonwealth

If you like central/northern european flavors (lots of brining, pickles and some bitter flavors), you'll not find anything like Bar Tartine.

Chennai Kings now open in Mountain View

Came here again with a group so got to sample more dishes:

Tamarind soup was so spicy I couldn't stomach it, and I eat almost Southern Thai level spicy.

The dosas remain average. Ordered the paneer and onion. Decent flavor, less greasy than last time, a bit limp for my tastes. Chutneys are OK.

Ordered two briyanis (mutton and chicken) spicy, both had a satisfying flavor - was not spicy at all compared to the tamarind soup. The layering of the rice was well done. A competent rendition.

Fish curry was meh - not much flavor and the fish itself was OK quality. It had a dull spice blend and the coconut milk only added texture not much flavor.

Chicken tikka masala was fine.

Watching cricket was fun.

It's one of the few non Andhra places that are doing both meat and veg South Indian, so I will probably continue to support them. The menu itself, however, is somewhat hit or miss.

Chilaquiles in the south bay?

I really like Ruby's Taqueria in Sunnyvale, but I have not had their chilaquiles (it's on the menu for breakfast).

ALL SPICE in San Mateo; what should I order?

I think reviews for mid to high end cuisines are inflated in the peninsula and South Bay. I also do really appreciate what they are trying to do, it just didn't quite work for me, but it is in no way a bad or overpriced meal - it just doesn't match the best food SF has to offer. It is definitely worth a try if the price point and location makes sense for you.

First time to Nopa [San Francisco]

Please report back! There has been one disappointed report on NOPA and am curious on whether:

1) They honor reservations (e.g. you're not waiting an hour past your reservation)
2) How the food compares to other Californian/New American cuisine places

I like being on the main floor in a booth as well. I figure with a restaurant like this it's futile to find a quiet spot regardless so may as well enjoy the action.

Maruya on 16th, best sushi in SF?

Icebox for half a day isn't actually that huge a difference ... or put another way. . .it's not the constraining factor. In Japan, you will also be served fish that's about the same amount of 'old' - by nature, the fish market is in the morning, and if you have sushi for dinner - that's a good 12 hrs later and that's at the top of the top places. At many places you could have fish that's 1 to days old after it arrived in harbor (and again the fish was on a ship on ice for some time as well).

Sourcing, pickiness, knife skills, care with the sushi rice, wasabi and sauce quality and judgment, and creativity count for a lot more than a 6 - 12 hr differential in freshness. (also note NYC has excellent sushi and is an additional 6 hrs away from CA).

Also one of my favorites, uni is often sources from S. California, and salmon, and sweet shrimp are often pretty local as well.

Pre-show dinner near Orpheum [San Francisco]

Don't do Jardiniere unless it just becomes default. The food is very very average for the price and SF. I'd do Monsieur Benjamin's in a heartbeat (even though I haven't been there yet!) before Jardiniere it's that unsatisfactory food wise. Service is great, but they survive due to location and convenience nothing else.

Maruya on 16th, best sushi in SF?

It's a short drive to LA, so you should do it. The marvel of LA sushi is how good it is for the price - it doesn't require ridiculous planning ahead/reservations, and it's all very matter of the fact.

Kiriko is my nostalgia favorite, but I just went to Shunji and it was really good as well. You can feel the quality without getting the omakase fyi if the price is an issue.

For some people it will blow their minds, but as I noted on another thread - don't expect that "wow." It's too much pressure on something that's based on degrees of care and quality.

Just note the differences, note that it's better, spend what you can afford and marvel at how easy it all was =)

Where to Dine in SF for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner... seafood dinner places too? More on the casual side but reallllllly good?

Hog Island in the Ferry Building for Shellfish.

Traditional American grilled fish or fish in a butter caper sauce?: Tadich, Sam's

A little more modern: Watergrill

A formal seafood sitdown more traditional in style: Farallon

None of those restaurants really represent SF as it is right now. It's actually decently hard to find a place dedicated to seafood! Bar Crudo can be variable but good, Skool I really enjoy the flavors but service can be slow and patchy.

Honeymoon October 4-12: SF, Napa, Carmel, Big sur - please help

They asked for one great tasting menu place *shrug*. I took that to mean not a place like La Ciccia (well-done, regional Italian).

Maruya on 16th, best sushi in SF?

Does anyone have an inside scoop on this? Why is the sushi so not up to par here. Does the best fish just not come to the area at all? Is Mayura paying an ultra premium to get better fish?

Alternative to State Bird? [San Francisco]

Right I think we've been running into this problem a lot on this board lately:

I think the board did fail if NOPA has gotten really bad about reservations across the board, or the food has gone downhill in creativity or ingredients in the past 6 months and no one has noticed. So apologies to the OP if that's happened.

But in terms of restaurants, I've hit my head against a wall repeatedly in figuring out what to recommend (OP not your fault) because I don't see anything obviously "wow" about SF Cuisine, it's about consistency, good produce, and a care about sourcing - these aren't by its nature things that wow most people. Our Michelin 2 star restaurants (say Atelier Crenn or Saison) wow people but that was clearly not what the OP was looking for:

1. SF is throwing out a lot of the same type of restaurant which is our own bad. Because its mostly the type of restaurant that can now be found across the US and somewhat globally (see #3 below but also gastropubs and bistros are popping up everywhere)
2. The request for no ethnic really strips out the diversity available in SF which is one of our strengths. (which has now happened on repeated requests or "I can get Thai at home" or "Mexican at home" type of responses).
3. Cali cuisine is now somewhat a global phenomenon. Yes we have more of it, and yes our produce is better. But unless you are eating here for a week to just see how deep the quality runs, or really care about produce - you're not going to be blown away by a meal that you can get 90% there at home. I was annoyed by the quality of the white peaches I had at a recent dining experience in LA - most people woudn't care or certainly wouldn't be wow'd by excellent peaches to care about that 10% difference in produce.
4. Formal and molecular gastronomie cuisine isn't very representative of SF say compared to Chicago. I'd say our formal cuisine is more my style - again more produce focused and lighter. Less obsessed with prestige ingredients, but again coming from NY you already get something close there.
5. The new innovative frontier that's left to us is creating unexpected and unfamiliar tastes out of European cuisine (say Bar Tartine), and that usually makes people unhappy. Most people don't want to eat "bitter" food, or "bland" food, or food that's flavored by pickles or licorice.
6. Or you have State Bird which came up with a gimmick *shrug*

Alternative to State Bird? [San Francisco]

For its burger? I'm confused about the possible derision on that comment. It's a neighborhood restaurant that's open all day from 11 to 11 (or so), yes during that time many people come there to hang out and get the burger but they get plenty of other items. State Bird also has "low brow" items on their menus (See ice cream sandwich, pancakes etc.) - it's part of what SF and Cali cuisine is all about. The flavor profiles/ingredient list at State Bird are no more innovative than NOPA or Frances the standards of innovative neighborhood Cali cuisine (same category State Bird is in). None of them are using much or any molecular gastronomie and none of them are using more "out there ingredients" than rabbit or squid (which are really not that out there). None of them are experimenting with out there flavor combos e.g. using more bitter, green, or sweet elements in ways that really challenge the palette.

Bar Tartine is low on the pandering flavors I love (lots of unami, and salt and spices), its a very subtle flavor profile - mostly coming from pickled ingredients, herbs and the base vegetable and meat elements themselves.

Honeymoon October 4-12: SF, Napa, Carmel, Big sur - please help

Bakeries in SF: B Patisserie, Knead, Craftsman & Wolves (non traditional)

Tasting Menus:

In Carmel - Aubergine. Classic cal-french. Safe but tasty - nothing too unconventional in either taste or texture. A comfortable room and service. Desserts were fine.

In SF -

Atelier Crenn - really beautiful plating, some unique tastes but mostly uses familiar ingredients and taste profiles to those who keep up with food trends. Some foams and smokes of molecular gastronomie but not a lot. A little more vegetable/seafood focused than a traditional tasting menu. Great desserts. The room is casual, but service is pretty formal. Wine program was in flux the last time I went, some report it's up to snuff now.

Benu - the room is expertly managed, the space is stark and modern (which I like but isn't for everyone). Staff is friendly and efficient. The food has some asian influences but is grounded in standard cal-french techniques (the chef here used to be the chef de cuisine at the French Laundry). If you are familiar with Chinese/Korean/Japanese food and have had tasting menus before, the flavors are familiar though different than the standard Cal-French. Wine program is excellent, and I believe they have improved their dessert offerings since I went.

Quince - The room is more formal and white tablecloth, but still cozy and warm. Service is inviting and not overly stuffy. Cal-Italian influences instead of Cal-French but hews a bit more to the traditional tasting menu formats and tastes. Wine program is excellent. Dessert is fine. It's a very effortless, harmonious experience here, but the food doesn't stick out the same way it does at Benu and Atelier Crenn - but I enjoyed my experience here the best.

Saison (the one I have yet to go to!) - by all reports uses the most unique ingredients and is also the most casual, you're not going to see the standard parade of tuna, duck, and steak. It's not going to feel romantic/standard white table cloth if that's important to you. It gets a fair amount of press as the chef has a very strong vision of what he wants. I'm not sure how great the desserts are.

I have not been to Coi or Gary Danko - and they do not get much love on this board (esp. not Gary Danko). They are, however, favorites in SF.

In Napa, there's French Laundry, of course, and Meadowood. French Laundry is one of the most famous restaurants in the United States, so if you can swing the reservation it may be worth going. I haven't been in a few years, so my experience may not be as pertinent. It is the best representation of the standard Cal-French menu. There will be some unexpected ingredients and unexpected flavors, but mostly it will be items you've come to expect (standard cuts of duck, beef etc. with standard savory flavors) just done better and more consistently than anywhere else. It's a warm cozy space, not overly formal in service. Excellent wine list. Pretty good desserts.

Meadowood I haven't been to. From reports the setting is nice and the menu is a bit more experimental and a little bit more molecular gastronomie based than the French Laundry. Not sure about their desserts etc. Setting is supposed to be nice, but not as cozy as the French Laundry.

If it turns out all the tasting menu options I listed are too pricey, there is always AQ for experimental tastes/ingredients and more molecular gastronomie in style, or Chez Panisse downstairs for Cal-French classics. Commis is a bit more pricey and is somewhere between AQ and Chez Pannisse.

Impressing out-of-towners in the East Bay

I like to give visitors a sense of place more than trying to impress (which can set you and them up for disappointment). If we had all the time in the world to center around food:

So I'd go to north Berkeley and show them around the gourmet ghetto and either grab a pizza at cheeseboard or go to the chez panisse cafe. If they like wine, there's some great wine stores in N Berkeley.

I'd head to 4th street Berkeley and walk that area to sit down and eat either go to vik's or iyasare. There's a sake factory and some urban wineries down that way along with the Sierra Nevada tasting room.

I'd show them Berkeley Bowl.

I'd head up to Rockridge and walk around that area. Eat at Tara's organic Ice Cream and Wood Tavern.

I'd go up to to Lake Merriit area, to the Fox theater, and then down to Jack London square.

SF Chowhound Report (Gjelina, Saddle Peak Lodge, Son of a Gun, Shunji)

Thanks all for the feedback, the visit really mad me miss LA, and due to convenience etc. we ended up not eating a lot that I love (al pastor tacos, soon dofu, etc).

Unfortunately, we only come down to LA with time to explore and enjoy food about once or twice a year - so Shunji omakase may lose out to my two nostalgia favorites - Sushi Masu and Kiriko (the smoked salmon when I first had it totally changed my opinion on smoked fish). Good to know that the omakase can change and vary upon repeated visitations.

Sep 03, 2014
goldangl95 in Los Angeles Area

SF Dining with a tall Building & Great View

Note that on good weather days there is often a sizeable wait to get up to El Techo. It's casual - foodwise but the food and cocktails are good.

SF Chowhound Report (Gjelina, Saddle Peak Lodge, Son of a Gun, Shunji)

I used to live in LA but only visit now infrequently, missed out on a lot, but got to try a few spots I was curious about.

Gjelina has been a favorite of mine for years, I find the flavors (a lot of unami and acidity and salt) match my own taste buds. Its creative but still comforting. setting is very Venice but not too scene-y, service is good. This time went for brunch and was happy as ever with everything from the crudo to the pizza. While we have a ton of Cali/new American restaurants in SF - Gjelina could compete and win among our best.

Saddle Peak Lodge is quite the trek out, but it is also a beautiful drive. Atmospheric if you like hunting lodges, animal heads etc. The patio was having a bug issue so we sat inside. For brunch, the wild game sausages were a hit, and everything else was satisfying and up to par, if somewhat generic, brunch food. Service was great.

Son of a Gun focuses on seafood and did not gel well with my palate. A couple of the dishes had very intense celery green flavors that overpowered the key ingredients. The white peaches were a little underripe and a couple had brown spots leading the fuzzy peach skin taste and texture to interfere with the other tastes in the dish. I found the shrimp toast unbearably rich between all the mayonnaise and butter, and the fried chicken sandwich mediocre - the breading was bland and hard, the chicken dry, the mayonnaise slaw topping uninspiring. We did have a really good coconut sorbet here, that was creamy, refreshing and full of coconut flavor. Service and cocktails were good.

Shunji has excellent sushi rice. Good flavor warmth and texture. I really enjoyed the custard with truffle and uni, a cooked hamachi dish, the tomato square, and the sweet shrimp nigiri. We were served the standard, safe run omakase by Shunji's 2nd who did a great job. Next time I am not sure if I would do the omakase or just order a la carte. Service was great and the house sake was excellent.

We stopped for dessert and drinks at Upstairs 2. Good food and wine, a quiet conservative spot. The Sauternes I had by the glass was lovely.

Jubba, Somali in San Jose

I went here a few days ago and still going strong. Ordered the sports plate so we could try two types of meat (we went with chicken and goat) and two types of bread (injera and chapatti). It's a very hearty meal and agreed that it reminds me a lot of Peruvian Saltado. The meat is of good quality - worth a try. Very casual diner/cafeteria style atmosphere and service.

San Jose, Half Moon Bay and Sausalito

San Jose:

Amber India right in Santana Row has solid standard N Indian fare. A little pricey due to location.

Santouka ramen in the Mitsuwa Japanese grocery store. It's cafeteria style and can get packed but you should be OK if you go at a slightly off time and the line moves quickly.