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Best Seafood in SF


japanesegeek
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In February, some friends and I are coming to San Francisco from Seattle for five days (part of a six week gustatory tour). We're largely seafood eaters, although we certainly don't turn down the occasional foie gras. But the majority of the meal does needs to be seafood. Raw, rare, cooked in a wok, "cooked" in lime juice, grilled, etc.. doesn't matter as long as its superbly done.

I've made a very rough list of restaurants that my research indicate might fill the bill. Please let me know where I'm going astray, and what I'm missing. Huge thanks.

Kiss Seafood

Ton Kiang

Koi Palace

Zuzu in Napa Valley

Kabuto

Ino Sushi

Farallon

Dining Room at Ritz Carlton

Kyo-yo

Edited by japanesegeek (log)
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Some comments on your list:

Kiss Seafood: If you're going here for sushi, I say forget it and go somewhere else like Ino or...anywhere else. The cooked dishes are decent but in general I feel the sushi esp is steadily declining from okay to bad to worse. That is just my $.02

Ino Sushi: so far, best in the city that I've had, though I haven't tried Kyo-Ya or Kabuto.

Ton Kiang: In my experience, if it's busy, the food is good, if a little on the small side. But if it's busy, the wait is miserable.

Koi Palace: Seafood here is supposed to be excellent here, but I will confess that I haven't made it past dim sum yet even though we go here a lot. Also, I am biased because I think this is the best dim sum in the Bay Area, but that is just me. Incredibly busy though, must call ahead and reserve a number.

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

--NeroW

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Michael Mina might be a good choice for you.

After San Francisco, we are going to spend three days in Las Vegas, and there is a Michael Mina there as well. I plan on posting a similar list in a day or two regarding that leg of the trip. But I'm sure we'll be going to Michael Mina in one location or other. If anyone has an opinion which of the two Michael Mina's is better, I'd appreciate hearing it. Thanks.

Edited by japanesegeek (log)
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I'd add Aqua, very good and elegant. Farallon has gone downhill from what I've heard though in the past it was terrific. Kabuto and Ino are great for sushi. If you go to either try ordering omokase style where you let the sushi chef order for you.

Also if you want a great Chinese seafood dinner try Happy Garden on Clement, under the radar but excellent and cheap. I wrote a review of it a while back Happy Garden post

Edited by cookingwithamy (log)
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Hog Island Oyster Company at the Ferry Plaza market is a lovely way to spend lunch. Get oysters and wine, and watch the boats come and go. Even if the weather's bad, the view is great. And the oysters are just fantastic.

Yes-these are our best local oysters, and it is a terrific place to eat them. (In addition to many restarants and stores, you can also drive up to Tomales Bay and eat them where they are grown.)

I will be interested to hear how you think these oysters compare to the ones grown in Washington.

You could also go upstairs to Chez Panisse; there is usually fish on the menu, and I've never had anything that wasn't terrific.

Terra in St. Helena is another place where I've had some great seafood.

Bouchon in Yountville has a seafood plate with assorted cold poached and raw shellfish, served w/ assorted sauces.

We don't have seafood restaurants here as much as we have restaurants that do seafood well. I had a terrific scallop last night at Manresa-but I also had steak and a pork terrine. I could have had a whole meal of seafood if I'd wanted it.

Edited by marie-louise (log)
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Hog Island Oyster Company at the Ferry Plaza market is a lovely way to spend lunch. Get oysters and wine, and watch the boats come and go. Even if the weather's bad, the view is great. And the oysters are just fantastic.

We don't have seafood restaurants here as much as we have restaurants that do seafood well. I had a terrific scallop last night at Manresa-but I also had steak and a pork terrine. I could have had a whole meal of seafood if I'd wanted it.

That's a really good way to put it, Marie-Louise, "restaurants that do seafood well."

David Kinch really does amazing things with seafood. If you're making the trek for fantastic food, put Manresa on your list, japanesegeek. The regular menu right now has five seafood courses on it, and I am sure Chef could produce more if you so desired.

Manresa web site: the menus are PDFs.

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While I enjoy Zuzus in Napa (living here and all that), I'm not sure it is an exceptional representation of great seafood. They make a good paella but are hardly known for their seafood. Checkers in Calistoga, however, IS known for amazing bowls of muscles.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Swan Seafood. THAT is a San Francisco institution. Long lines to sit at a small single counter, but well worth it. While I like Hog Island Oysters, I am not a fan of their "Hog Wash" (a cilantro-based 'mignonette' sauce) so I like my oysters from Swan instead.

Lastly, take a look through the recent Cioppino thread. San Francisco's Cioppino is THE way to have great San Francisco seafood. My preference is for Rose Pistola's.

Japansesegeek, welcome to Le Gullet! We hope you'll stick around for a bit and report back on your findings. If you want to visit an appointment-only, Cabernet-producing winery, drop me a PM. I work at a winery here in Napa.

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While I like Hog Island Oysters, I am not a fan of their "Hog Wash" (a cilantro-based 'mignonette' sauce) so I like my oysters from Swan instead.

I bagged the recipe for Hog Wash from their web site, and altered it to produce what I think is the best oyster stuff I've ever had. I dropped the shallots, and use only rice vinegar (seasoned and plain, or just plain), fresh lime juice, jalapeños (and a little of the brine), and cilantro. Tang! Bang! Thank you, ma'am!

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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When you go to Koi Palace be sure to check out the tanks and ask them for recommendation for unusual seafood. See if they have live scallops, don't miss the spotted prawns (steamed), and check out the lobster and crab.

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Just got back from a fun seafood place in Sausalito called "Fish". It's a very casual lunch place-feel free to go in your hiking or biking clothes-but the seafood is first-rate. The chef used to be the executive chef at Masa's. I had some of the best clam chowder I've ever eaten, and a nice grilled hamachi sandwich. My husband had something called a Saigon sandwich-salmon w/ Asian flavors. It's a little hard to find-use the map that is attached to this review:

http://www.gayot.com/restaurantpages/info....S040504&code=SF

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Just got back from a fun seafood place in Sausalito called "Fish". It's a very casual lunch place-feel free to go in your hiking or biking clothes-but the seafood is first-rate. The chef used to be the executive chef at Masa's. I had some of the best clam chowder I've ever eaten, and a nice grilled hamachi sandwich. My husband had something called a Saigon sandwich-salmon w/ Asian flavors. It's a little hard to find-use the map that is attached to this review:

http://www.gayot.com/restaurantpages/info....S040504&code=SF

The guy who is part-owner/full-owner(?) of Fish purchased my 30-year collection of Edward Gorey books last year as a Christmas present for his wife... When I met him, they were still in the construction phase and I've been meaning to go there so thanks for the reminder!

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In February, some friends and I are coming to San Francisco from Seattle for five days (part of a six week gustatory tour).  We're largely seafood eaters, although we certainly don't turn down the occasional foie gras.  But the majority of the meal does needs to be seafood.  Raw, rare, cooked in a wok, "cooked" in lime juice, grilled, etc.. doesn't matter as long as its superbly done.

I've made a very rough list of restaurants that my research indicate might fill the bill.  Please let me know where I'm going astray, and what I'm missing.  Huge thanks.

Kiss Seafood

Ton Kiang

Koi Palace

Zuzu in Napa Valley

Kabuto

Ino Sushi

Farallon

Dining Room at Ritz Carlton

Kyo-yo

Michael Minna. Don’t do it. A rant at the end.

I only tried Farrallon once and wasn’t impressed enough to ever go back. Pretty restaurant though.

IMO, Hog Island Oyster in the Ferry Building is your best bet. The only thing I would advise against is the $14 bowl of clam chowder, unless you like the clams in your chowder with the shells still attached.

Actually, I would not have a problem with this dish if the word ‘Chowder’ wasn’t used. The description is Manila clams with bacon, cream, aromatic vegetables and thyme.

What you get is a bowl of the clams in shell with a thin broth at the bottom. When they say aromatic vegetables, they mean it. There isn’t a visible vegetable in site (well, there was a tiny cube of potato in my dish).

If you go to the Ferry building, I don’t know how you feel about Caviar, but Tsar Nicoulai Caviar Café has caviar samplers. The caviar is farm raised and very EC (ecologically correct). They also have smoked fish as well. Nice, but small, selection of wine that pairs nicely with the dishes.

It was part of another dish but I had one of the BEST, I mean the BEST, things I have ever eaten at the Tsar. Nestled in the Sashimi was a kumoto (spelling) oyster topped with crème fraiche, wasabi cavier and, I think, paddlefish cavier. Good, good, good. The briny oyster, the bite of the wasabi, the crème fraiche bringing it all together and taking the edge off the more assertive ingredients. Salty, hot, buttery.

If you get the American caviar sampler which contains some flavored caviars, eat the ginger and wasabi caviars last. The wasabi is especially assertive and was all I tasted the rest of the day.

Some of the presentation is over the top like this sashimi in a snifter with a live fish swimming around. The fish is to look at only and not part of the sashimi. The pretty little blue tropical fish in my dish did not want to swim, it's littl fins and tail drooped. Probably thought he'd be the next bite.

The best squid in town is at Bizou . It is not a seafood place but Cal Mediterranean. Any preparation I have had of squid has been outstanding. I remember once having a tiny sizzling skillet of rice black with squid ink and tender squid on top. Call to see if they have any squid.

Hayes Street Grill is on my to try list. I have eaten at their stand at the Saturday Farmer’s market where they serve the best softshell crab sandwich that I have ever had. The restaurant is supposed to be a fairly straight presentation of fresh seafood.

You might try Tadich Grill which is an old San Francisco seafood house. When I first tried it decatdes ago, I didn’t like it. My problem was that I had just moved from the East Coast and was thrown by the difference between East and West coast seafood. If you want to try sand dabs, this is the place.

NOW MY MICHAEL MINNA RANT

I went there in December for a holiday tea. It was way too precious (kobe roast beef tea sandwiches). It was not well thought out. The problem with service that I had at Aqua, is also at Michael Minna. Michael Minna’s food has never been that good to overcome the thoughtless service.

I called for reservations for tea. I was told it was sold out, but I could have tea at the bar. When I arrived, I was told there was one table left. For the entire time I was there, only six tables were occupied. What sort of game was that? Also, I was told when they served the sandwiches, that the tarts were being baked. Uh, it was a plate of cold tarts … cream fillings and such. Why make it sound like I could expect hot from the oven cakes.

I could go on about how ticked off I was and the problems. The food was not memorable. I thought this would be an inexpensive way to scope out the restaurant. I have no desire to return.

Most of what I have heard is that the food is ok but gimmicky. While I agree many times with the cirtic for the San Francisco Chronicle, Michael Bauer, he gets too impressed with the big name chefs and gimmicky presentations. It is nice that MM spent a year designing his china. That doesn’t make the food any better.

My own preferences are for simple tasteful presentations using the best ingrediants over showy technique. I love Chez Panisse for that reason and am unimpressed by French Laundry. It seems the more you play with the food, the less llavor. It may loock pretty and be clever, but if it doen't taste amazing, what is the point? So you can use that a a guide to jude if my rant about MM is applicable.

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"FISH" in Sausalito is and has been one of favorites since it opened. We love fresh seafood, live in Marin and have a 4 year old. Fits on all counts. The retail seafood is one of maybe two places I'd buy fish in Marin. The selection is small, but very fresh and fairly priced.

Charley Martel

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My own preferences are for simple tasteful presentations using the best ingrediants over showy technique. I love Chez Panisse for that reason and am unimpressed by French Laundry. It seems the more you play with the food, the less llavor. It may loock pretty and be clever, but if it doen't taste amazing, what is the point? So you can use that a a guide to jude if my rant about MM is applicable.

I'm definitely pro caviar. :biggrin:

I agree with you about playing with food. A top chef should do just what is necessary to make the food taste great, any more then that is inevitably a bad idea.

I was in San Francisco last February for an evening, and went to The Fifth Floor. Very much style over substance, started with a medicore but attractive cup of lobster cappuccino, artistically finished at the table. With similar dishes to follow, all beautiful, non great, and some ill-prepared (including the sin of overcooking foie gras).

Unfortunately that's my only dining experience in San Francisco in the past couple of years, so no positive San Francisco dining experience yet to relate although I've no doubt that I'll have some great meals soon.

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"FISH" in Sausalito is and has been one of favorites since it opened.  We love fresh seafood, live in Marin and have a 4 year old.  Fits on all counts.  The retail seafood is one of maybe two places I'd buy fish in Marin.  The selection is small, but very fresh and fairly priced.

I notice that the place is usually open for dinner (it was closing at 4pm on NYE.) Yesterday's menu was mostly soups & sandwiches, although they did have a whole garlic roasted crab as a special. Is it a different menu for dinner? I bet it's lovely sitting at one of the outside tables on a summer evening.

PS Their fries are very good-spicy and thin, very crisp.

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While I like Hog Island Oysters, I am not a fan of their "Hog Wash" (a cilantro-based 'mignonette' sauce) so I like my oysters from Swan instead.

I bagged the recipe for Hog Wash from their web site, and altered it to produce what I think is the best oyster stuff I've ever had. I dropped the shallots, and use only rice vinegar (seasoned and plain, or just plain), fresh lime juice, jalapeños (and a little of the brine), and cilantro. Tang! Bang! Thank you, ma'am!

I'm not a cilantro fan (nor, actually, jalapeños) so I'm afraid that sounds a bit worse for me... :sad:

I like my oysers with lemon juice. Occasionally, real Mignonette is fine (but I like shallots and vinegar).

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I've had only good experiences at Hayes Street Grill. Swans is excellent, but only if you are interested in the limited things they do--oysters on the half shell, seafood cockatils and salads. Chowder is ok, but that's it.

I'd also add Lulu for seafood, their mussels are outrageous as is the fish, whatever the preparation. Lulu has been around a while, but I've never been disappointed, the only downside can be the noise level.

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I notice that the place is usually open for dinner (it was closing at 4pm on NYE.)  Yesterday's menu was mostly soups & sandwiches, although they did have a whole garlic roasted crab as a special. Is it a different menu for dinner? I bet it's lovely sitting at one of the outside tables on a summer evening.

PS Their fries are very good-spicy and thin, very crisp.

The paper memu remains the same, but the chalkboard over the register may change from lunch time. I think limitations in the number of items offered on a particular day represents their commitment to offer only very fresh fish sustaniably-caught. They have a website: FISH Times

I've only ordered off the paper menu once (Saigon salmon sandwich). I've had barbequed squid twice. Wow. The pb&j on Acme pain de mie (which comes with those great fries) on the kids menu is nothing to sneeze at either. Especially when you have the rare 4 year old that is indifferent to fries (though her father is not).

The outside tables are often cold, even in the summer. I've seen a stack of blankets available for outside use, however.

Charley Martel

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