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High End in San Francisco


robyn
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sorry for the delay...yes, I was on a trip and am still trying to catch-up.

I only get to SF 2 or 3 times a year so I often eat at a dizzying array of high-end places on consecutive days. It's grueling but someone has to do it.

The meals I enjoyed at each were vastly different. It would have been possible to select more similar foods, but I wasn't really intending to compare.

The Quince experience is just a delight. It's small, I always feel like I am a very welcome guest at someone's home -- not fussy, just sincerely good, attentive service. I've enjoyed 9 courses there personally (across 3 visits) and tasted from another's 6 courses (on 2 of those occasions) and never had a bite that wasn't really, really good. And I am someone who is given to saying "I could have done that at home" at a lot of places, so I don't think I'm that easily impressed. The housemade pastas are primo and the seafood is treated very well -- quite fresh, not fussy, served with complimentary accompaniments. But the imaginative first courses may still be my favorites. I always wish I could somehow try each of them.

I really didn't have any expectations of Aqua (oddly) and chose it as it was nearby and I could dine alone at the bar without a reservation. From the moment I sat down until I happily waddled out, it was a treat. Food service at a bar is sometimes dicey -- if the server considers it a hassle your experience will reflect it. This guy was there to make everyone's day better and worked nonstop to ensure it happened. There were drinkers, diners waiting for tables and a few of us eating at the bar and everyone was treated as if they were his only interest. The 3-course tasting menu was perfect: a daily special tuna tartare (not the regular one), smoked sturgeon and a really impressive selection of cheeses which I enjoyed the next day, having sated myself on the first two. I shall return.

I had stopped in Cortez but it was full of business persons thumping their chests over big deals made earlier in the day (yawn) so I moved on.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I had stopped in Cortez but it was full of business persons thumping their chests over big deals made earlier in the day (yawn) so I moved on.

That's too bad, its probably some of the most innovative cuisine in the city right now.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I had stopped in Cortez but it was full of business persons thumping their chests over big deals made earlier in the day (yawn) so I moved on.

That's too bad, its probably some of the most innovative cuisine in the city right now.

Thanks for writing up Gary Danko. I looked at the Cortez website - and the place looks interesting (the chefs have worked at a lot of top restaurants - and the menu sounds good). Does anything you ate there stick in your mind as being particularly good? Robyn

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  • 2 weeks later...
...

The Quince experience is just a delight.  It's small, I always feel like I am a very welcome guest at someone's home -- not fussy, just sincerely good, attentive service.  I've enjoyed 9 courses there personally (across 3 visits) and tasted from another's 6 courses (on 2 of those occasions) and never had a bite that wasn't really, really good.  And I am someone who is given to saying "I could have done that at home" at a lot of places, so I don't think I'm that easily impressed.  The housemade pastas are primo and the seafood is treated very well -- quite fresh, not fussy, served with complimentary accompaniments.  But the imaginative first courses may still be my favorites.  I always wish I could somehow try each of them.

I really didn't have any expectations of Aqua (oddly) and chose it as it was nearby and I could dine alone at the bar without a reservation.  From the moment I sat down until I happily waddled out, it was a treat.  Food service at a bar is sometimes dicey -- if the server considers it a hassle your experience will reflect it.  This guy was there to make everyone's day better and worked nonstop to ensure it happened.  There were drinkers, diners waiting for tables and a few of us eating at the bar and everyone was treated as if they were his only interest.  The 3-course tasting menu was perfect: a daily special tuna tartare (not the regular one), smoked sturgeon and a really impressive selection of cheeses which I enjoyed the next day, having sated myself on the first two.  I shall return.

...

Your summary of Quince matches my own--great selections of apps, homemade pastas and main course seafood dishes. Two of us ordered a halibut dish there a few months ago and it was the best halibut dish I've ever had. It was absolutely fresh and was cooked perfectly. I can't wait to go back there.

Thanks also for the review of Aqua. I haven't been there in quite a few years (in the era of Michael Mina) but am happy to hear that it is still a worth destination.

"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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  • 3 months later...

Hi Robyn!

How did your trip go? There were a lot of posts and opinions on this thread, and it would be interesting to hear where you ended up and what your impressions were.

It sounded like The Ritz Carleton, Michael Mina, Gary Danko, etc. were all possibiliites. Did you get to Zuni?

Hope you had a wonderful trip!

edited to add:

I saw that you had some nice lunches here...

(Glad that you enjoyed the lunch at Chez Panisse Cafe, as well as the visiit to the Cheese Board across the street.)

We just got back from 5 days in San Francisco. We stayed at the Four Seasons. Can recommend the hotel very highly. In terms of bigger deal lunches - we went to Chez Panisse and the Slanted Door. Liked the Slanted Door - but lunch at the Cafe at Chez Panisse was really extraordinary. It is still - after being around for 3 decades - terrific. I think the single best thing we had this trip was the creme fraiche panna cotta at Chez Panisse. Also - it's really easy to get there from downtown San Francisco (take a 20 minute Bart ride - walk 20 minutes and work up an appetite - or take a short cab ride if you'd prefer - and you're there). There's a wonderful cheese shop across the street from it if you're local and can bring things home with you. If you want to try the Slanted Door - we ate lunch there our first day in San Francisco - at 11 am (we were on eastern time). Easy walk-in at 11 am - you'd need reservations to dine at noon or after. You would of course need reservations to dine at Chez Panisse. Robyn

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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Hi Robyn!

How did your trip go?  There were a lot of posts and opinions on this thread, and it would be interesting to hear where you ended up and what your impressions were.

It sounded like The Ritz Carleton, Michael Mina, Gary Danko, etc. were all possibiliites.  Did you get to Zuni?

Hope you had a wonderful trip!

edited to add:

I saw that you had some nice lunches here...

(Glad that you enjoyed the lunch at Chez Panisse Cafe, as well as the visiit to the Cheese Board across the street.)

Hi Ludja - Sorry I haven't written more. It was a really nice trip - except for having to deal with Wilma long distance all week - and getting a bad cold (probably on the plane). And now I have to deal with Wilma again (we're in one of the few parts of Florida it didn't affect - but I have family - including an elderly father - in south Florida). And I was pretty lazy - no copies of menus - no notes. Didn't even read a newspaper for a week. Guess that's why they call it a vacation :smile: .

Anyway - apart from the lunches - we had dinners at Quince and La Folie. Big thumbs up to Quince. Two dishes that stand out were an incredible poached halibut starter (my husband's) and the best quail I ever had in my whole life (my main). Even my husband - who usually doesn't like quail - really loved this one. For some reason - a lot of chefs seem to think that quail - like steak - should be served while still blood rare. I don't agree. This quail was cooked like a chicken is usually cooked (not rare inside) - and the skin was crispy and tasty. Don't know how they did it - but it was a real winner.

La Folie was good - but somewhat of a disappointment (mostly on my husband's part). I think part of the problem was us. We're used to tasting menus (which is what he had) - and French food - but not huge portions of really rich food in every course. It's too much - and at some point eating becomes more of a chore than a pleasure. That was the case with my husband. He was uncomfortably stuffed with the tasting menu. And he didn't much like the rabbit main course. I only ordered 3 courses - so I didn't suffer like he did. I very much enjoyed my starter - quail and foie gras lollipops. And my main - the butter poached lobster (one of my favorite dishes and this was an excellent rendition). So I guess the moral of the story here is order 3 courses unless you're prepared to eat a whole lot of food.

We also ate 2 nights at the Four Seasons at the bar (we just felt like grazing those nights). One night after our lunch at Chez Panisse and the other night before we left (had a really early flight). Quite enjoyable. I don't think the restaurant is great - but it's good. And they'll do anything you want from the main restaurant menu at the bar. One night we had a couple of starters for dinner. Another night we split one tasting menu for 2. And I wound up chatting with the Chairman of the Board of Williams Sonoma one night at the bar (he didn't identify himself as such - but he said he worked at WS - and he knew so much about the company- including every detail of the WS stores in Jacksonville - that I "googled" him when I got back to the room). Met other interesting people there too. Sometimes I have more fun meeting and talking with people than eating!

I have to say that we didn't consume a single bad thing anywhere. Not a cup of coffee. Not the sandwich we had at lunch at the Legion of Honor Museum (cafe was closed that day - this was off the rack at an outdoor mini-food-bar). Not the sandwiches we bought at the airport to eat on the flights home. You can eat well in a lot of cities if you try. In San Francisco - you can eat well even when you aren't trying. Robyn

P.S. I also got a fabulous pair of shoes at Arthur Beren. Great souvenir :biggrin: .

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Sounds like a great trip, Robyn. I'm glad thet you really enjoyed Quince and Chez Panisse Cafe and that overall, your food experiences turned out very well.

Coincidentally, I've had a really transcendant halibut dish at Quince as well. Interesting comments on La Folie; I've never made it there over the years.

(congrats on the fab shoes!)

"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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