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Dining Talk 2004


katlitish
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Reservations at the Chez Panisse Cafe upstairs are much easier to obtain, especially for lunch. I've called a day ahead and been successful several times.

Perhaps I'm "clueless" :wacko:, but have a completely different opinion of Fleur de Lys. I have had some quite remarkable meals there over the years, all of which I paid for myself. The current pricing structure makes it much more reasonable than it used to be, especially with the wine pairings. It is a very formal place, but I like the atmosphere and the food has never disappointed me.

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I posted about the my meal at Mina a month ago

Thanks, I guess I hadn't looked far enough down the list. There have been no replys in over a month, which sort of reinforces my notion that the Restaurant MM has become instant ho-hum.

Yet M. Bauer seemed chagrined that his newspaper's policy prevented him from awarding it 4 stars on the spot......

Edited by Gary Soup (log)
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don't know much about MM (except all the folks I work with say he's a tool) i just relocated here from DC and have yet to hit a lot of high end restaurants yet...work keeps getting in the way...I will say the following though

1) Globe was really really weak last time we ate there (August 04) it was like someone came in and replaced the kitchen crew with people who have never seen a box of salt..the front of the house was rather surly and lame too...shame ...it was really fuckin' good before

2) check out B44 in belden alley(spelling?) great food, killer desserts...just a cool little joint

3) San Francisco has more restaurants than DC...but it also has more overated & overpriced ones too...choose carefully...avoid crap like Farralon

listen to Black Sabbath..often

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  • 2 months later...

As part of my birthday gift this year, my parents and I are going into the city for the best dinner I can find- price no problem. I realized a month or so ago that i have never had foie gras, caviar, or even duck, so i decided to change that.

Right now, im looking between the critically acclaimed Fifth Floor, and Mina, which ive heard is excellent. Which one should i take them up on (or, is there an even better restaurant that Im overlooking?)

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Fifth Floor recently lost its amazing chef, Laurent Gras, and I would give it some time before Melissa Perello hits her stride there. She is very young and very green. (I will decline details on how surprised I am that she inherited that position. I don't think she will last. That is based solely on one meal I had this summer, which was not in her then-restaurant, Charles Nob Hill.)

May I please suggest that you consider Manresa in Los Gatos? Jay Rayner from the London Observer visited recently, on a weeks-long trip in the states. He ate at Per Se and wrote an article about Thomas Keller, titled something like "Is this the best chef in the world?"

And then he went to Manresa. And then he had his socks knocked off. Or bonnets, or biscuits, or whatever the Brits call them. :wink:

Read this.

I finally got to go myself, and I had foie gras two different ways (and I hate foie gras) but I loved David Kinch's foie gras, so I guess he can make anything taste good. Actually, brussels sprouts would be the litmus test. I want to shave my tongue after I taste them.

From everything I've read of Mina, I would decline. It seems self-conscious and pretentious to a painful point, and who can enjoy a meal in those circumstances?

That is seriously one more reason I suggest Manresa. We were so comfortable there, and it can't possibly be because we are ultra-rich and stylish and carried our network devices in there. I did see people who were very, very dressed-up, and I also saw little old Asian ladies in nice pantsuits. It seemed to me that one could dress up or be moderately dressed-up and enjoy the evening freely.

Hey, I just realized you're the one who made that post in the Alinea thread. I liked your post.

When is your upcoming birthday?

Ciao for now.

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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...best dinner I can find- price no problem.

I agree with tanabutler about Manresa. Right now I think the two best restaurants in the Bay Area are The French Laundry and Manresa. Manresa is much more reasonably (?) priced and it is not difficult to get a reservation. If you are looking for the best food possible, Manressa is probably better than anything in the City right now.

If you go, be certain to get the tasting menu, and to mention that you have read the London Oobserver article. If they know you are going there for the food you will be treated to an amazing repast. Warning: such a dinner can last three hours or more.

There is an extensive Manresa thread here on eGullet.

I also agree with the advice on Mina and Fifth Floor. With Chef Gras recently leaving and Melissa Perello recently installed, Fifth Floor is a gamble now, at best. I've eaten at Mina and was not overly impressed. If you have your heart set on eating your one-great-meal in San Francisco, the two best choices these days are Gary Danko, and The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton now that Ron Siegel and his crew have taken over.

Edited by chaud-froid (log)
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Another vote for Gary Danko.

Check out their website if you'd like an idea of what they offer. You'll surely have some wonderful choices of dishes with fois gras, lobster, etc. Also nice, is that if you see a dish that you really like that is listed as an appetizer, you can request it for a main dish. That is, you can create your own 3-, 4- or 5-course meal. They also have a very good cheese course; the cheese is wheeled to your table for choosing.

The dining room is understated but elegant; the service excellent; we had one of the most special dinners we've had in SF there.

Another place that was at that level for me is Aqua. Only caveat is that I have not been there for a number of years so I do not know where it is right now in terms of quality. (I know there is a different chef). It is a more dramatic room. The food and service were luxurious and very good.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Rihgt along with everyone else -- if you are set on staying in the city, Gary Danko is THE choice. If you don't mind a bit of a drive, go down to Manresa. I think it really depends on what is a bigger priority, location or quality. There is something special about being 'in the city' for a nice meal, but the drive down to Los Gatos would ultimately prove more exciting, taste-wise...

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I had a meal at Gary Danko recently, to give them another chance since my friends seem to quite like them, unfortunately they continue to underwhelm me. The food was good, but nothing at all spectacular about it. I am certainly not a fan.

The famed cheese cart also was a little disappointing. The cheese were left out standing in the open air and was sweating by the time we had them. There was also really nothing much on offer that I couldn't get from Cowgirl, 24th st., or the cheese board. There was nothing offered in the way of interesting taste pairing with the cheese, so I don't know what the big deal was.

For a high end restaurant, Gary Danko was amazingly crowded. The servers brushed against the back of my chair, knocking down my little purse more than once. The guy who was serving cheese at the table next to be kept bending down to get stuff from the cart, and he was right up next to me, so his you-know-what was right up at my eye level quite a few times.. :shock:

The wine list was so precious it was hard to believe, the mark up was so huge as to be unreasonable.

Michael Mina, on the other hand, I am curious to go back again. Yes, the meal I had there was spectacularly underwhelming, but since they were closed for many weeks during the strike, I suppose they had a chance to fix some of the service/execution problems we faced before the closing. I am quite willing to give them another chance.

Also, I haven't tried Ron Siegel at the Ritz yet. Perhaps soon.

Edited by pim (log)

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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...

For a high end restaurant, Gary Danko was amazingly crowded.  The servers brushed against the back of my chair, knocking down my little purse more than once.  The guy who was serving cheese at the table next to be kept bending down to get stuff from the cart, and he was right up next to me, so his you-know-what was right up at my eye level quite a few times.. :shock:

The wine list was so precious it was hard to believe, the mark up was so huge as to be unreasonable. 

...

It is pretty cozy in there... Both times we were there though we had a spot in a corner so we did fine.

I also do remember that the wine was marked up quite a bit in comparison some other high end places.

It's still on my list to go back to though; we had a nice dinner there with very good food.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I really enjoyed my meals at both Manresa and Danko, but would definitely give my overall vote to Manresa. The best dishes at Danko were GREAT - the poached oyster with caviar app., the lobster tail with chanterelles and tarragon, lamb loin, but the overall meal at Manresa was more exciting for me, more unusual and an incredible progression of things. The other things I tried at Danko - a sea bass dish, the seared tuna app, both foie dishes actually, were mostly at least good but not really so transcendental. Also the food is very very rich, I was fuller after 5 courses there (I tried rather a lot of my friend's too) than after 11 or whatever it was at Manresa. The other kicker is that the room seemed to me oppresive and kinda expense account looking. Still a really really good restaurant though, just a bit more corporate and less foodie than Manresa.

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I love Gary Danko. It's our go-to SF special occasion restaurant and we'll be there again next week. Hopefully it still lives up to our expectations, but so far we've never been disappointed. It's not as quiet and sedate as some other restaurants in its tier, but I kinda like that. Makes it much less stuffy.

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I had dinner at Michael Mina last time I was out there it was pretty interesting. Although the cocktails before the meal and the deserts to me were the highlight of the night.

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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I really enjoyed my meals at both Manresa and Danko, but would definitely give my overall vote to Manresa. The best dishes at Danko were GREAT - the poached oyster with caviar app., the lobster tail with chanterelles and tarragon, lamb loin, but the overall meal at Manresa was more exciting for me, more unusual and an incredible progression of things. The other things I tried at Danko - a sea bass dish, the seared tuna app, both foie dishes actually, were mostly at least good but not really so transcendental. Also the food is very very rich, I was fuller after 5 courses there (I tried rather a lot of my friend's too) than after 11 or whatever it was at Manresa. The other kicker is that the room seemed to me oppresive and kinda expense account looking. Still a really really good restaurant though, just a bit more corporate and less foodie than Manresa.

We must be on the same wavelength. So far the dishes I like best at GD are the lobster, lamb and oyster app, which happens to be what I got on my first trip there. Have not found a dessert here that I really like though (if you don't count the little sweets tray at the end), which is a shame. Perhaps if they did not wear those blue business suits it wouldn't look so corporate. I like this restaurant, and feel it is a good value, esp if I order my favorites, and don't order wine.

It's hard to compare GD's 5 course meal with Manresa's 23. Also they're at different price points (if you don't count wine). If this is an all-out occasion, well....I get the feeling that you might get more "wow" at Manresa, though I have not been yet. And it sounds like cost is not really a factor.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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I had dinner at Michael Mina last time I was out there it was pretty interesting.  Although the cocktails before the meal and the deserts to me were the highlight of the night.

Tell us more!

I wish I could remember more details we went there about 5 months ago -- the things I do remember is that my wife had a California Negroni, which had grapefruit juice instead of orange. It was really nice. I had some sort of Mojito, but for the life of me I can't remember why I ordered it. (it had some exotic ingredient that caught my eye)

I remember one of the courses had a "corn dog" which was pretty fabulous, along with fois gras prepared 4 ways.

For desert we had a milk chocolate tasting that gave us many different preperations of milk chocolate.

Sorry I don't remember more, but there has been alot of dining between then and now, so it becomes sort of muddled.

John

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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I agree with the Manresa rec., but the question concerned SF restaurants.

Why does no one speak of Daniel Humm at Campton Place? He is cooking his ass off for an empty dining room (only 3 tables filled, the last time I visited.) Humm is following in the Campton Place trend of great chefs and I think he's better than the previous four, which started with Bradley Ogden almost 20 yrs ago. I think Humm was a Michelin-starred chef in Switzerland?

Highlights: a parsnip truffle soup with micro chanterelles and tiny croutons of crisp sweetbreads; lobster and scallop with saffron risotto. Humm is generous with the amuses (I counted 6 with my recent 4 course meal, not including all the little sweets). His cooking is Euro-now, not in the SF tradition of meat-and-starch variations or cal/med nakedness. The wine list is killer, with interesting half bottles (2000 Ramonet Bienvienue Batard Montrachet!) served up by an Anna Korkinova look-alike.

Campton has a solid tradition of supporting great chefs, but the empty dining room these days is scarey. SF should really embrace Humm.

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I've got no idea why people don't go to Campton Place - it's not on my radar. We are part way through our efforts to hit the 3 places I think have the most buzz in the bay area the course of one week. French Laundry last Sunday, Quince tonight, and Manresa tomorrow. Campton never came up in any of the 'where should we eat?' discussions. I'll have to check it out.

In the interest of not being clobbered yet again for only eating at high end restaurants, I’m happy to disclose my consumption of a burger from Kelly’s in the mission on Wednesday, In & Out burger yesterday, lunch at the Elephant Bar (yick) on Tuesday, and some less than delicious tapas from Illuna Basque Thursday.

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I'll add a nod for Quince. Had a birthday dinner there a few months ago and a downright fabulous couple of hours. The food was superb and the wine list seemed just right. But I can't remember the specifics of the meal or even which wine I ordered (a great mid-range Burgundy) because the "scene" was so much fun. Quince is clearly the venue of choice right now for the Pacific Heights old money swells. Danielle Steele was there, prominent in the corner window table with a half dozen of her daughter's chums. Willie Brown was holding court with a cluster of smartly dressed gentlemen. The next table had a guy who must have been 100 years old but dressed like a million bucks, with either his granddaughter or his trophy whatever.

Great fun.

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..and talk about inexplicably forgotten places, I would also add Acquarello, which has been going about their business wonderfully and quietly for a long time now.

I am guilty of this myself, as the last time I was at Acquarello was months ago, despite them being in my neighbourhood. (Note to self, go to Acquarello soon.)

I'm not entirely sure how Campton Place fell off everyone's radar, it certainly has fallen off mine. Next year, perhaps.

Illuna Basque was a surprisingly bad meal, even the very nice service couldn't salvage it. I much much prefer Bocadillos, where I've had many meals and not a one disappointment.

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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I agree with the Manresa rec., but the question concerned SF restaurants.

I figure if you're asking where to go for a completely amazing meal, it doesn't hurt to mention that you have get a mind-blowing one just a short distance farther away...with a lot more bang for the buck. Especially if money is no object: the bang is just as big and the bucks don't count. Think "Whose Line Is It Anyway" for foodies. :smile:

No harm in recommending, is there?

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I quit recommending Acquerello on here because no one listened and, besides, I want to be able to get a table when I'm in San Francisco. It is, in my opinion, far above any other Italian restaurant in the area, for romantic atmosphere, great food, perfect service and an Italian wine list that is hard to believe and an owner who can recommend the perfect wine at a good price.

I haven't been to Camptom Place since Bradley Ogden left, but that review made me put it on my list for the next trip. Thanks.

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