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Help: Business Dinner for under $40 pp?

My friend will be hosting two auditors from HK for two weeks and need to have dinner with them for the majority of those two weeks, if not everyday. Though they may be able to splurge for a meal or two, the general budget is no more than $40 per person all inclusive. According to him, the auditors are not big eaters and probably won't drink much. He is looking for something that is within walking distance to FiDi or somewhere that is easy to find parking. Chinese, Japanese, and anything that is not too adventurous for the Chinese palette would be good. As a guide, I had suggested Perbacco and he said that would be to adventurous. Looking forward to all your suggestions. Thanks!

Sep 29, 2008
purple gator in San Francisco Bay Area

Baking Macarons - Egg Beaters whites?

If you need to beat the egg whites to a soft peak (or any peak) before incorporating other ingredients, make sure that the "egg beaters whites" are not pasteurized egg whites. Pasteurized whites do not whip properly and would not form peaks. I recently used an egg-whites-in-a-carton product to make financiers, which turned out fine since no beating was required, and there was actually a warning on the carton stating that the pasteurized whites do not whip properly and are not recommended are using in angel food cakes, pancakes, or anything that requires incorporating air into egg whites.

Jul 14, 2008
purple gator in Home Cooking

Trip Report: An SF Girl's First Adventure to NYC

I guess I was not clear but I thought the food Fanelli's was competent. We definitely could have done a lot worse from just aimlessly wandering. I am not a beef person, so probably would not have ordered the burger even if I knew the burger is great.

We went to Patisserie Claude in the mid afternoon and did not see any chocolate croissants. Claude was nice to the people who appeared to be regulars but it is hard for new customers to become regulars with that kind of attitude. I have never been scolded by a service provider anywhere in the world, regardless of the language spoken, until Patisserie Claude. There is a difference between brisk and just plain rude.

Mar 09, 2008
purple gator in Manhattan

Trip Report: An SF Girl's First Adventure to NYC

Saturday

The approximate wait for a two top at Balthazar was two hours so we decided to wander around SoHo and found Fanelli’s Café. I had the French toast with bacon and eggs while T had an omelette with fries. I like the fries here better than Penelope’s, they are thinner and the inside is not as mealy/dry. T thought that the fries were fried in old oil since the fries were quite brown on the outside but not overcooked.

I enjoyed all of the chocolates from Kee’s but the chocolate covered crème brulee was absolutely delicious. I regret not buying more of them the moment I bit into one. I still dream about these and wonder if Kee’s would ship them to California. I gave one to my coworker about a week old and he said that it was still delicious. The lychee-rose macaron was also delicious.

T and I shared a chestnut tart and a pear and custard tart from Patisserie Claude. Though the pastries were good, they are neither better than pastries from some of the better patisseries in SF nor up to the standards of Paris, and definitely not worth it considering the attitude that Claude was dishing out. Actually, I thought the chestnut paste pale in comparison to those from higher-end Chinese/HK bakeries.

With the possibility of T having to attend a business meeting after dinner, we chose the three-course prix fixe at Eleven Madison Park to make dinner a shorter one and no wine. A variety of complimentary hors d’oeuvres and the cheese gourgers arrived before we order. Everything was good but I can only remember the foie gras mille feuille now. After some discussions, I chose the scallop crudo and suckling pig confit while T opted for the crab and avocado roulade and beef tenderloin. The amuse bouche was a veloute that was flavorful and creamy but not heavy. It was served in something that resembles a traditional Chinese tea cup and was a good portion, not just a shot. The scallop was sliced paper thin and came with a bit of sea urchin. Unfortunately, the sweetness of the scallop was somewhat overwhelmed by the vinaigrette. I still prefer live scallop sashimi from a Japanese restaurant instead. I had a bite of T’s crab and avocado roulade and thought it was good but I have had similar dishes elsewhere before (the avocado and crab tower from Pesce in SF). T said that the seasoning was uneven with some bites being too salty. The pork was also good but again, not very exciting. The skin was nicely crisped but this would not be impressive to anyone who is familiar with Chinese roast pork. T said the beef tenderloin was good and tender but too rich. I am not a big fan of beef and did not get a taste. For dessert, we shared the pineapple and pecorino soufflé with thyme ice cream and the coconut panna cotta with mango. The soufflé had a pronounced pecorino flavor. I just wished that the pineapple flavor is stronger. The thyme ice cream was delicious and refreshing. I wanted to lick the block of ice that it was serve on. We both loved the coconut panna cotta with mango. Coconut and mango is a common flavor combination in Chinese fruit-based desserts (and one of my favorite combinations) but this is the first time I have encountered it at a western restaurant. The two flavors were balanced nicely without one dominating the other. The panna cotta was very smooth and creamy but not too rich. The desserts were a nice finish to the meal. Mignardise consisted of some chocolates, cookies, and pate de fruits. All were good but I cannot recall the flavors now, except a passion fruit one. Overall, we thought the food was delicious but the flavor combinations were somewhat predictable (except the desserts); whereas, the flavor combinations at Jean-Georges were more exciting and new.

The service was good but not as good as Jean-Georges. Though our server was graceful and attentive, she did not break a smile the entire evening. Our server at Jean-Georges did everything with a smile. I do want to note that when T had to go outside to take a phone call, a manager (I believe) happens to be by to fold his napkin and he was considerate enough to keep me company. The dress code was no sneakers and t-shirts. T wore a sweater and jeans while I wore a nice silk tunic and jeans. Both of us felt rather under-dressed. Most (if not all) of the male patrons had jackets while the females wore dresses or trousers.

Mar 03, 2008
purple gator in Manhattan

Trip Report: An SF Girl's First Adventure to NYC

Friday

We decided to stay in and skip breakfast due to the snow. Lunch at Jean-Georges was delicious and a great bargain. We decided on just two savory courses to save room for dessert. After perusing the menu, I settled on the foie gras brulee and steam black cod with lemongrass consommé. T decided on the tuna ribbons and bacon wrapped gulf shrimp with papaya mustard. We started off with a trio of amuse bouche – quail egg with asparagus and rosemary salt, candied grapefruit, and a miso soup shot. The quail egg was cooked so that a thin film of the egg white encapsulates the yolk but the yolk was still completely runny. It was probably the most memorable thing I ate this entire trip. The candied grapefruit was a good palette cleanser. The miso soup was a shocker (not in a good way). It was so intense that it almost tasted medicinal, kind of like the yeast pills that I used to take as kid for stomach ailments. Needless to say, I did not finish my shot. The foie gras brulee was delicious and probably my favorite dish of this trip. The caramelized pistachios offered a great textural contrast to the foie while the sour cherries and white Port gelee cut the richness nicely. Though it was a generous serving of foie, I did not feel heavy after eating it. I did not try the tuna ribbons but it also appeared to be a generous serving and T loved it. The black cod was cooked to perfection. The consommé was poured tableside and complimented the fish nicely, not overwhelming it. However, being Chinese, I prefer my steamed fish to be served at a hotter temperature. This was a bit too lukewarm for me. T also loved the gulf shrimps. He was especially enamored with the papaya mustard, wanting to eat it all straight up. I had a taste of the sauce and thought it was interesting but could not really taste the papaya. For dessert, I the Citrus, which consisted of a chocolate poppy seed cake, Meyer lemon curd with halva powder, and Kaffir lime infused jicama noodles with tangerine and limoncello granite. T had the Apple, which consisted of apple confit with pine nut sponge, smoked raisin, tamarind ice cream, and granny smith-fennel sorbet with crispy candied fennel. We both thought that the desserts were weak compared to the savory courses. Of the two desserts ordered, Citrus was the better one. Lastly are the mignardise, which looked better than they tasted. Overall, this is still a delicious meal at an exceptional nonetheless. Service was excellent. Our main server was gracious and warm while professional. It was clear that the entire staff worked as team.

A note about the lunchtime dress code and its enforcement, I had specifically asked over the phone if it is acceptable to wear dark denim and was told no. I was quite irritated to see that a number of patrons were wearing jeans with shirts without a collar; with one gentleman wearing a sweatshirt and washed-out jeans combo (I kid you not). I have no problems with complying to any dress code on fair weather days, but on a wet and snowing day like this Friday, I would like to know that I have the option of wearing jeans if that is more practical (of course, I will still wear the appropriate clothing on top).

Dinner was at Degustation. Again, we chose five dishes to share. We started with the croquettas and a salad. The croquettas were crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. They were heavenly. The salad was perfectly dressed but nothing earth-shattering – it was our attempt to get some vegetables. Next were the scallops and loin of lamb. The scallops were very sweet but smaller than the ones at Perilla. These were also seared perfectly on the outside but cooked all the way through. I do not like lamb and did not get a taste but T said it was good. Last is the pork cheeks with morcilla. The pork cheeks tasted of delicious porkiness, not too porky which can sometimes happen with pork cheeks, and cooked tender but still toothsome. The morcilla was delicious and not what I expected blood sausage to taste like. I also had a cava and blood orange juice cocktail, which looked and tasted like orange soda with a slight alcoholic kick. This was disappointing especially at $11. Overall, while the food is good, we do not think it was good enough to justify the price tag. Each plate was about the same size as or smaller than Perilla’s appetizer but almost double the price (except the croquettas). Afterwards, T said that he could not really remember what we had because the plates were so small, he did not get enough of a taste. Considering the size of the restaurant, service was very graceful and smooth.

For dessert, we went to WD~50 and had the three-course tasting for $35, which is a $10 increase from what is listed on the website. The amuse was the soft white chocolate, potato, malt, and white beer ice cream. It was good, especially the white chocolate since I generally do not white chocolates. The tasting consisted of the passion fruit tart, sesame, argan oil, meringue; jasmine custard, black tea, banana; and cherry covered chocolate, molasses, lime. The best of the bunch was the passion fruit tart. The meringue balanced the tartness of the passion fruit nicely. I have no idea what argan is but the oil reminded me of a concentrated sesame oil. I do not really remember what the jasmine custard tasted like. The cherry covered chocolate was more interesting conceptually than taste. The mignardise were a salted butter marshmallow and chocolate cookie ice cream bonbon. Both were delicious, especially the marshmallow – puts Jean-Georges’ to shame.

We had asked the server which desserts were included in the tasting and, none of the ones she said were included. Diners are allowed to make requests for the tasting but we decided not to base on her answers. T is very sensitive sourness and therefore, does not like passion fruit. Basically, the three desserts that did end up in the tasting are the three that T does not want, though he did end up somewhat enjoying them (or so he says). The problem is that when I told the server that T does not like passion fruit when the tart arrived, not only did she not apologize for misinforming us but was also reluctant to offer replacement of another dessert. Being the gentleman that he is, T told her it was fine even though I was pressuring her to replace the dessert.

Mar 02, 2008
purple gator in Manhattan

Trip Report: An SF Girl's First Adventure to NYC

Thursday

Breakfast at Penelope’s definitely sated our hunger from the red-eye. I had the omelette with mushroom, bacon, and swiss; while T had one with mushroom, tomato, and ham. Too well-done (as in almost overcooked) seems to be the theme of the food. I like my omelettes still a bit wet, which this was not. The fries were well crisped on the outside but the center was too mealy/dry. I find this to be pretty typical breakfast food, not something I would stand in line for on a Sunday morning. Am I missing something?

We had a pepperoni and mushroom pie at Grimaldi’s. The first slice was delicious but the pizza cooled quickly and the remaining slices were not as good. I was surprised to find the couple (who appears to be locals) next to us had no problem finishing a large while we were struggling to finish our small.

The wicked hot chocolate from Jacques Torres was the perfect drink to have in hand while walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. The heart of passion (dark chocolate with passion fruit ganache) was mediocre and lacked passion fruit flavor.

We were not too hungry from lunch and decided to order five appetizers to share at Perilla. The appetizers were divided into two courses – the first with the skillet braised cuttlefish and the red lady apple salad; and the second with the seared scallops, duck meatballs, and halibut cheeks. My favorites were the cuttlefish and the scallops, though I found the pumpkin seed praline weird and tasted more like sweetened cocoa nibs. The cuttlefish was very tender and flavorful. The scallops were seared perfectly on the outside and still rare in the center, just the way I like them. Both T and I were disappointed with duck meatballs. Though they had a spicy kick, we thought they were dull and lack depth. Oh, and we have no idea why the cavatelli was on the plate, they were dense and bland. It was probably a mistake to have the last three dishes come out together. The duck meatballs sat and cooled while we were eating the scallops and halibut cheeks, which were also quite good. For dessert, we shared the blood orange cheesecake. The name was somewhat misleading, we thought the cheesecake would have blood orange in the batter but it was actually plain cheesecake with blood orange syrup. The cheesecake was surprisingly light and had a nice tang.

Mar 02, 2008
purple gator in Manhattan

Trip Report: An SF Girl's First Adventure to NYC

Thanks to everyone for making my first trip to NYC a delicious one. Unfortunately, most New Yorkers are not as helpful as the ones on this board. Below is a list of places we visited. I will post each day as a separate reply.

Thursday
Breakfast – Penelope’s
Lunch – Grimaldi’s
Dessert – Jacques Torres
Dinner – Perilla

Friday
Lunch – Jean-Georges
Dinner – Degustation
Dessert – WD~50

Saturday
Brunch – Fanelli’s Café
Snack – Kee’s Chocolates/Patisserie Claude
Dinner – Eleven Madison Park

Sunday
Lunch – Junior’s @ Grand Central

Overall, we were able to keep it to our budget of ~$100/person/day +/- $20 because I had some dinning certificates from Opentable but also because we typically do not drink, one cocktail or glass of wine at most.

Mar 02, 2008
purple gator in Manhattan

Fresh Cheung Fun (Rice Noodle Rolls)

While researching the board, I read in one of the threads that there is a place in Chinatown that does fresh cheung fun (eg: pour the batter in pan and steam). Can anyone provide more details? Thanks!

Jan 31, 2008
purple gator in Manhattan

Dinner: Perilla vs. Tavern Room @ Gramercy Tavern vs. Bar Room @ the Modern?

Thanks for all the advice! Perilla, it is!

Okay, for our Spanish night... Degustation or Casa Mono?

Jan 28, 2008
purple gator in Manhattan

Dinner: Perilla vs. Tavern Room @ Gramercy Tavern vs. Bar Room @ the Modern?

As I have posted here before seeking your advice, we'll be visiting NYC from SF for 3.5 days in mid-February. So many options, so little time... I've narrowed down dinner for one of the nights to these three restaurants: Perilla, Tavern Room @ Gramercy Tavern, and Bar Room @ the Modern. Based on food and the overall bang for the bucks, which would you choose and why? Also, what is the typical wait for a two top at the Tavern Room during prime dinner time on a Thursday night?

For reference, our tentative food itenary for the other days is lunch at Jean-Georges with dinners at probably Degustation/Alta and Eleven Madison Park.

Thanks for all your comments!

Jan 26, 2008
purple gator in Manhattan

First Time NYC Visitor From SF

Thanks for all the comments thus far! Also wanted to note that the $100/person/day is not hard set, we do have a bit of wiggle room.

Any recommendations on the Sunday brunch?

Jan 10, 2008
purple gator in Manhattan

First Time NYC Visitor From SF

Hello All,

I will be visiting New York for the first time from San Francisco in February along with a friend who's mostly been only for business. I've read through the board and came up with a tentative plan below. We are not big drinkers and are hoping to keep an average food budget of about $100/person/day.

Day 1 (Thursday)
- Lunch: Grimaldi's & hot chocolate @ Jacques Torres
- Dinner: Perilla (open to other suggestions)

Day 2 (Friday)
- Lunch: Jean-Georges (How far in advance do I need to make lunch reservations? What do patrons typically wear during lunch? We are visiting either the Met or Natural History in the morning and don't want to dress too formal if not necessary.)
- Dinner: Degustation/Alta/Pamplona/Suba??? (Which one? I'd like a Spanish restaurant since that's something not prevalent in SF)
- Dessert: WD-50 (Will they be too busy to accept a dessert-only party?)

Day 3 (Saturday)
- Breakfast: Union Square Green Market? (Is the market even worth visiting in the middle of winter? What are some cheap breakfast eats around the area?)
- Lunch: Open, something casual and cheap
- Dinner: Eleven Madison Park (or another "splurge" restaurant that's uniquely New York)

Day 4 (Sunday)
- Brunch: Preferrably at a restaurant that takes reservations, opens no later than 11 AM, and is in a neighborhood where we could grab food for our flight home.

We are staying in Midtown East on Lexington in the upper 40s, are there any good breakfast (pastries, bagels, coffee, espresso, etc.) spots nearby?

All recommendations are much appreciated. Thanks!

Jan 09, 2008
purple gator in Manhattan

SF: Nua -- No thanks

Have been reading the reviews here for a long time and enjoyed many delicious foods from them. Here is my first review, hope it will be helpful.
________________________

Had a date night at Nua in early October. Though it was Columbus Day weekend and fleet, the restaurant was not particularly busy compared to the rest of North Beach. Between the two of us, we shared:
- Red crimson & Bartlett pear-marche salad ($9)
- Grilled baby octopus & chickpea salad ($10)
- Baby summer squash and seafood carnaroli risotto ($22)
- Porterhouse pork chop with crispy polenta ($24)
- A souffle ($8?)
- Another dessert that I do not remember ($8?)

The marche salad was refreshing enough, if a bit boring. Though the grilled baby octopus was flavorful, it appear to have never seen the grill since it lacked the smokiness that grilled octopus would develop.

Entrees only continued to go south. We were surprised at the minuscule portion of the risotto. It has an entree price tag but the size is comparable to an appetizer-size risotto at other restaurants of similar price range. We just sulked it up and assumed that this is a normal serving size at Nua. The risotto itself was short on rice (the first time I have encountered such a problem with risotto) and felt more like a thick rice soup than an actual risotto. When ordering the pork chop, the server noted that the chef recommends serving it medium and asked if we were okay with it, which we responded with a "yes." However, the pork chop arrived well done with not a hint of pink. It was also rather dry with not one drop of juice when cut (unlike the juicy pork chops at Myth or Bistro Jeanty, to name a few places that do pork chops well). So, both entrees were below expectations.

When we were 90% finish with our entrees, the risotto at the next table (who appeared to be regulars) arrived and theirs was twice the size of ours, no exaggeration. I asked the server about the difference in size when he was clearing the table. The server quickly apologized and later sent over the owner. The only explanation offered was inconsistencies in the kitchen. I responded that a kitchen should not be inconsistent to the point of where some servings are twice the size of others and that such significant difference in servings are unfair to patrons who have to pay full price for half portions. To which, the owner replied that the seafood is the most items of the dish and it is kept exactly the same in each dish. In addition, his exact quote was "you should be satisfied because I'm going take the dish off your check." If he was trying to chastise a patron for making a complaint, he succeeded completely, but if he was trying to apologize for his kitchen's inconsistencies, he failed miserably. The verbal exchange had gotten rather uncomfortable at this point and I decided not to further pursue it because my date is not a confrontational person. Had I continue this conversation, I know he would become very uncomfortable and our otherwise wonderful evening would be ruined. In the unlikely event that the owner of Nua reads this review, please let me remind you that a risotto is first and foremost a rice dish. The seafood may be the most expensive component but it is still nonetheless just an accompaniment, the rice is the main ingredient. When the rice is reduced by half, the balance of this dish was thrown off. It became a thick seafood with rice soup, instead of a creamy risotto with seafood. More importantly, never tell a customer that s/he should be satisfied because you are removing an item from the tab. The customer is here to patronize your restaurant and ordered knowing the prices of the dishes, obviously s/he could afford to pay for it. Oh, the table of regulars also ordered the pork chop. Although I could not see the pork chop myself, I asked my date to spy and it was served medium, just to add insult to injury.

Despite the above exchange with the owner, we (or I) decided to stay and order dessert because the service from the server and busboys had been really good throughout the night and I have a major sweet tooth. The souffle was good but a tad too sweet and smaller than the ones at Range and Myth (though at about the same price). I do not remember what the other one was so I guess it was not that interesting and good. Should have just gone to Naia for gelato.

Total for the evening with 1 glass of wine, the risotto removed, and an 18% tip (because the servers and busboys really do deserve it) was around $90. Including the risotto, the dinner would have been upwards of $110. Even without the fiasco with the owner, I would not rush back base on the food. Good mid-range restaurants are a dime a dozen in the Bay Area, I would return to Range, Zuni, Myth, Perbacco, Pesce, Jeanty at Jacks, and so many more before I would even reconsider going to Nua again.

Nov 18, 2007
purple gator in San Francisco Bay Area

Napa - No Reservations?

I was last there in April and talked to Peter (I think that's his name, who may be either the assistant manager or head waiter). He said that they don't know the menu until the day of but they typically serve seafood or something light on Fridays, something rich on Saturdays, and something whimscal on Sundays. The weekend that I went was monkfish on Friday, pork tenderloin on Saturday, and beef shortribs on Sunday.

Jun 18, 2007
purple gator in San Francisco Bay Area

First Dinner in Paris

We will be arriving on a Sunday in May for our first trip to Paris. Our hotel is located on rue de Turbigo near the Republique. I would like to have recommendations for our first/welcome dinner. I'm looking for a small bistro in the ~20 euros/person range, preferrably not too far from the hotel, that would set a wonderful start to this trip.

Your help would be much appreciated. TIA!

Mar 30, 2007
purple gator in France

Restaurant Reservations (Trattoria Cibreo) in Florence

Since breakfast is not included in our hotel reservation, recommendations for breakfast would be appreciated, too. We'll be staying on Via de' Tornabuoni, so cafes near there are preferred. Thanks!

Mar 27, 2007
purple gator in Italy

Restaurant Reservations (Trattoria Cibreo) in Florence

I just found out that we will be in Florence for three days during "culture week," when all the state-owned museums will offer free admission. Therefore, we expect that Florence will probably be extra busy. So far, I have reservation for 4 Leoni but we would also like to eat at Trattoria Cibreo. Does anyone know whether or not Trattoria Cibreo takes reservations? I've read elsewhere that it doesn't. If it's true that they don't, for those who've eaten there, what is the best time to go for dinner and how long should we expect to wait for table?

Recommendations for snacks and lunches are also welcome.

TIA

Mar 27, 2007
purple gator in Italy

Help: Mid-priced first date restaurant needed!

Thanks for the suggestions! I will definitely look into Bistro Aix. I've been to A16 twice and just have to say that it's really not my cup of tea. Plus, it's all booked as well.

Dec 04, 2006
purple gator in San Francisco Bay Area

Help: Mid-priced first date restaurant needed!

Hi, I need help in choosing a first date restaurant in SF. Both of us are in our mid-twenties. My date is a recent transplant from LA and he has had time to do the touristy things in SF. I'm looking for a restaurant that is easy for conversation but not too quiet, a little cozy but not too romantic. Since it's a first date, I want something that is mid-priced with entrees topping out at ~$20.

I like Range but it's a bit loud and all booked. How about Perbacco? How's the atmosphere there? Or maybe Rue St. Jacques? Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Suggestions for after dinner venues are also welcome. I thought maybe we could go CAV if he likes wine. Or maybe Cafe Roma or Greco at North Beach? Anyone been to Harry's Bar or Lion's Pub on a Sat or Fri night? Are they too much of scene? I've only been on Sunday nights and during happy hour.

Thanks!

Dec 04, 2006
purple gator in San Francisco Bay Area