Benu (update), San Francisco, 3/16/19

gates
gates

It’s been 3 years since we’ve been to Benu and I don’t know that I detected a lot of change in the interior, however they said it was completely re-done since we were there.  Classical music is in the background and completely fits the soothing peacefulness of the place.  The well spaced large bare dark wood tables are set with comfortable seats, exquisitely thin stemware and gilded flatware and chargers.  Service is friendly but totally professional, shown with their knowledge of our previous visits and orders.  You feel elegantly at home.  Everyone still has a tasting menu and the food is fantastic.  Pacing is spot on and portion controls allows you to really enjoy the meal with its amazing flavors and textures.  The spectacular visual affects (down to the presentation plates) of the food are not for show, they match the quality.  If you can, get there, you won’t be disappointed.   Continue reading

In Situ, San Francisco, 3/16/19

exterior
exterior

In Situ is the one Michelin star restaurant inside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  It is a very modern large place with a separate entrance from the street, so you don’t have to be in the museum.  A couple of long wood tables with bar stools are up front opposite a painting created for In Situ.  The other tables are small blond wood and appointed with bench seating or wood chairs. It’s very bright and open and a really interesting ceiling sculpture of wood is a highlight of the decorating, as there is surprisingly little art on the walls.  Their concept is to present some of their own creations but also to feature some highlights from their ‘current collaborators’ or well-recognized chefs around the world.  We have been lucky enough to visit some of these places in their home countries and had the original take on the dish and when possible I have posted those pictures following the ones from In Situ.  The chefs do advise and approve of the version of their dishes and I thought they did a good job.  It’s a fun concept.  Service was excellent.  Our server Katerina, from Lithuania,  was most helpful and interested in seeing pictures of the corresponding dishes.  She even brought us an extra dessert, one developed by their staff, so we could get a real sample of what was going on there.  I would recommend the place for a fun lunch. Continue reading

Birdsong, San Francisco, 3/15/19

exterior
exterior

Birdsong is a good sized one star Michelin place that has opened in May of 2018.  Most of the space in the dining room is taken up by the large kitchen which is surrounded by a low counter and seats.  A few tables are on the outer edge of the place and we were lucky to snag a table right across from the kitchen action.  There is a comfy little reception area as well as party rooms downstairs that they were nice enough to give us a tour of after we ate.  Windows to the street are on one wall and the bare light wood tables are set with a large cloth napkin that houses the evening’s menu. Everyone receives the same tasting menu.  Clear glass ball light fixtures hang from the ceiling that add good lighting but most light comes from the glow of the kitchen which is filled with action.   Lots of plants, background rock music and wood beams soften the affect of the exposed ductwork.  Service was exceptionally friendly and helpful.  After they clear that there are no allergies or dietary restrictions the menu starts promptly and pacing continues at a good rate throughout the evening.  Portions are well done to not stuff you before the end. Continue reading

Nico, San Francisco, 3/15/19

exterior
exterior

Nico opened in May of last year at this new location.  It is a fairly small place with one Michelin star rating.  Windows to the street make up one end of the place and the open kitchen is opposite that side.  One wall has a bench seat with a line of small light wood tables opposite it.  Exposed brick is on the walls, rock music plays in the background, a wide plank wood floor are all the backdrop for a friendly staff.   The small menu has  series of smaller plates to share or snack on and 3 larger plates for main courses.  From talking to the waiter it sounded like a lot people just come to the 5 seats at the bar and enjoy the snacks with drinks rather than come in for a meal.   It was a nice place but the food had mixed results. Continue reading

Atelier Crenn, San Francisco, 3/14/19

exterior
exterior

Atelier Crenn is a small restaurant with only 8 tables.   It’s been several years (pre Frankie site) since we were there and since then Chef Dominique Crenn has become the first female chef in the U.S to attain a  3 star Michelin rating.  It is a warm setting with paintings by chef’s father Allain decorating the walls.  They re-modeled 2 years ago and now round polished wood tables are set off with dampened lighting and music playing softly in the background.  The presence from the street is very discreet with no name, just the number marking the place.  They have 2 seatings for a multi course tasting menu, for which wine pairings are offered.  The evening we were there it was a spring menu that featured many items now grown on their own farm and locally sourced other ingredients.  Dishes are complex yet simple with a depth of flavor and texture in each dish that is amazing.   Many had a tableside finish that was a nice show and added to the information about the dish.  A poem greets you at the table with each line symbolizing a part of the meal to come.  Afterward you are presented with a summary of your courses. Service is friendly and helpful and pacing and portion control of the meal are good.  Chef Crenn did come out and greet each of her guests and allowed time for a bit of conversation.  Continue reading

Angler, San Francisco, 3/14/19

building
building

Angler opened in September 2018 and is the newest venture for chef Joshua Skenes, however he has chosen to be a creative force rather than the chef.  It is a large place and lots of mounted fish and mirrors cover the walls.  The front of the restaurant is windows to the busy street outside with perfect views of the Bay bridge.  Opposite the windows is the large open kitchen and another wall is used to house a long bar with some seating.  Seating at tables is at fairly close-set small bare wood dark tables, some of which are served by bench/wall seating.   Many chairs are draped with small blankets which could either pad the chair, keep you warm or could just be a decorative touch.  Lots of flowers soften the steel structures and exposed brick and the large white cloth napkin is a nice touch.  A second room has stuffed mounts of warm blooded animals.  Rock music from the 80’s era plays fairly loudly in the background and it felt a bit out-of-step with the casually elegant setting, but is a known touch of Skenes.  The menu was small at lunch but several types of raw oysters were available.  Otherwise for a restaurant that is focused on fresh, local seafood there were surprisingly few local seafood options other than one type of oyster.  In fact for main plate options, there were 3 seafood and 3 meat.  Service was friendly, helpful and efficient. Continue reading

Roli Roti, San Francisco, 3/14/19

stand
stand

Roli Roti is a food stand by the Ferry Building and the location does move, so just look for the line.  The secret is to get there when they first open, and then there is no line and it’s easier to find a seat somewhere in the area to enjoy your sandwich.  They are only open on Thursday (10 am – 2 pm)  and Saturday (8 am – 2 pm) but their signs encourage you to hire them to cater your next party.  They have the rotisserie going as you walk up and you can see the chickens and pork rotating slowing dripping their fat and juices on the potatoes below.  I have been many times and it’s a great snack – the smell is wonderful – but I’ve only tried their porchetta sandwich.  They cut the meat while you watch and load it onto a wonderful soft, chewy roll and then cover it with onion relish and arugula greens.  There are bits of the crackling crust of pork intermixed with the tender, juicy pieces of pork.  I will admit that some days have yielded a better tasting meat than others but it always is rich, decadent snack or meal.  Try it if you’re there at the right time and then on Saturday you can walk through the wonderful farmer’s market behind the building or cruise through the fun shops in the building. Continue reading

SingleThread Restaurant, Healdsburg, CA, 12/5/18

building
building

SingleThread Farm, Restaurant and Inn opened in December 2016 and is a large corner building in Healdsburg, an hour and a half drive from San Francisco.  Upstairs they have some elegant rooms to stay in and downstairs they have a large kitchen and several dining areas.  There is a roof top terrance for some courses but it was not in use the night we were there.  The building is quite modern, with soft lighting  and music, set with large bare wood tables, a wood ceiling, gold wood tiles on some walls, some faux fire places, a bouquet of flowers and herbs from their garden on top of your napkin and lots of bench seating filled with extra cushions for back support.  They only seat about 52 people but some early diners’ tables were turned.  The reservation system is a pre-pay one with no refunds but you can try and re-sell tickets if you can’t use them.  Service was wonderful with most every person who approached our table addressing us by name.  Pacing is at a good rate and portion controls allows you to easily get through the surprise tasting (pairings are available) but will not leave you hungry.  At the end of the meal they do present you with a copy of the menu. Continue reading

Healdsburg SHED, Healdsburg, 12/5/18

building
building

The SHED was a large place that opened in 2013.  It sold cooking/kitchen supplies, take out food, produce, and had a dining area.  Unfortunately the owners, Doug Lipton and Cindy Daniel announced that it would shut its doors Dec. 31, 2018.  They intend to still have an online presence where you can buy things but no more dining opportunities or brick and mortar facitilties, according to several articles I read.  I have no other information about what did happen but decided to share the meal just in case they reopen or you find these folks developing another concept.  The seating area was divided by a service bar and the small space behind the bar had a wall of windows to some patio seating.  On the other side of the bar there were stools and some tables, but they had a lot more shoppers looking over their space.  We were there for lunch and so there was plenty of light due to the windows as well as the general bright lighting a store will tend to have.  There was some background music and the walls around us had shelves containing books, items and lots of jars of vegetables.  The small marble tables were set fairly close and mostly were suitable for 2 people.  The wine list was limited and did include carafes of wine.   Continue reading

Acquerello, San Francisco, 3/10/18

exterior
exterior in daylight

Acquerello is a two star Michelin restaurant in a medium sized room that was an old church.  The high ceiling is lined with beams etched in gold and the walls have no windows just modern art. Lighting is subdued with spots for each table.  Floor length tablecloths and lots of flowers add to the elegant ambiance that still requires men to wear jackets.   Attention to detail is obvious immediately when the hostess offers you a black napkin instead of having a white one on dark slacks.  It opened in 1989 and the same co-owners are still running the place, Suzette Greshen is the chef and Giancarlo Paterlini is the front end manager.  Service is exemplary and pacing is spot on.  They offer two tasting menus as well as an a la carte menu.  Wine pairings are available.  A good mix of people filled the room with a number of special occasions being celebrated. We chose the seasonal Tasting Menu and ordered our own wines.   Continue reading

Super Duper Burgers, San Francisco, 3/10/18

exterior
exterior

Super Duper Burgers is owned by the same company that owns The Bird but this spot is way better.  It is also an approach-the-counter-and-order place but the crowd here included more variation in age groups.  There was also more seating and a better beverage selection.  Here iced tea is served in glasses not cans.  You get a buzzer to let you know when your order is ready to pick up instead of having to hear the person yell your number.  The menu includes ice cream drinks and cones as well as salads, chicken and some breakfast options if you don’t want a burger.  Most importantly, though, the burger is delicious.  Drippy, cheesy and full of beef flavor on a nice fresh, soft bun, the burger is a superior version of a standard.  The fries are crisp and taste of potato.  I would visit here again. Continue reading

The Bird, San Francisco, 3/10/18

logo
logo

The Bird is a large place that specializes in a spicy fried chicken sandwich. It has a cute fox with a sandwich in it’s mouth as the logo.  It is a small menu that also includes fries and egg biscuit (though I saw no one with this option).  It is busy but the line moves quickly and seats turnover rapidly.  It was mostly filled with young people but it was a friendly crowd with no one staying long.  Beverages included a large selection of beers, which they give you a ‘cozy’ to hold it in, and other bottled/canned drinks.  It was like a fast food place where you go to the counter to order and get a number they call when your food is ready.   They also serve apple fritters which are usually just available in the morning but they still had some when we arrived for an early lunch.   Continue reading

Commis, Oakland, 3/9/18

entrance
entrance

Commis is  a 2 star Michelin restaurant that is located a short BART ride from San Francisco.  It is a long rectangle of a place that is mirrored on the other side by a bar (CDP) that offers some snacks and can serve as a waiting area for your restaurant table.  When you enter the restaurant the first thing you see is the open kitchen and the bar seats surrounding it, which are available for reservation.  Two small tables are across from the bar and the rest are toward the back. It is a small place made more spacious by the open slit in the wall between the bar and the restaurant.  They serve only an 8 course tasting menu, with a few extras thrown in and offer wine pairings.  We enjoyed the company of friends the evening we were there and they generously provided the wines we drank.  You get a copy of the evening’s menu when you finish the meal.  The noise level is good, even with music in the background, and service was attentive and efficient.   Continue reading

Californios, San Francisco, 3/8/18

building
building

Californios is a small place that has been around just 3 years but already has 2 Michelin stars.  They serve only a surprise tasting menu of around 16 courses, and they will give you a list of what you had at the end.  Portion control is outstanding – there’s enough to taste but no one course fills you up so you don’t want the others and you are satiated at the end of the meal.  There are a few seats at the bar and a number of small tables.  We were lucky to get some counter seats where you get to watch the cooking and have a chance to interact with the chefs, but it’s best to ask for these seats when you make your reservation if you want them.  It is a lively, fun vibe with all the staff being really friendly and helpful.   Continue reading

Spruce, San Francisco, 3/8/18

building
building

Spruce is a large place and a one star Michelin restaurant.  There is a long bar with lots of seats as well as a good sized dining room with lots of interesting art and mirrors.  They also have a large party room in front and a substantial wine cellar.  Nice white clothes cover the tables that are set with matching napkins.  Some music is in the background and the lighting is lowered with the vibe being subdued and elegant.  At lunch they have an a la carte menu but also a pretty good deal in a fixed price Harvest Menu which is a three course menu for just $38 and wine pairings are available for $15, which include a small glass of quality wine with each course.  We chose for this options.   Continue reading

Eight Tables by George Chen, San Francisco, 12/30/17

Frankie posed with the sign outside
Frankie posed with the sign outside

Eight Tables has been open about 3 months and is a surprise on your first visit.  Located down a nondescript alley and then up an elevator in one of the last buildings, you open into a beautiful modern and elegant restaurant with just 8 tables well spread out.  The light wood, plush leather banquettes, lots of mirrors, background jazz music and tons of service people all dressed in beige bode well for a lovely evening, and the place did not disappoint.  Attention to detail is throughout the environment, food and people.  Chef George Chen was inspired by an historic style of dining called “Private Chateau Cuisine” which is now being seen again in China.  It means an elaborate meal presented in an intimate setting.  He is a presence in the restaurant coming by to visit each of the tables several times during the evening.  He is a terrific host.   Continue reading

Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco, 12/30/17

front
front

Swan Oyster Depot has been around a long time and always popular but of late the popularity has shot up so that you can regularly depend on at least an hour wait to get in and this is even if you line up prior to opening.  Trick there is to get there early enough to be in the first wave that is seated on the only 18 stools.  Another option is to order the food for takeout but I don’t think it’d be the same to eat it without the show behind the counter.  It is a sliver of a restaurant with passage for about one person behind the stools – some of that was due to coats being hung on the hangers.  It hasn’t changed in the number of years we’ve been going, even the personnel.  You get to walk through part of the kitchen to get to the one bathroom but most of the food is assembled or readied up front.   Continue reading

R.T.B., San Francisco, 12/29/17

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exterior

R.T.B. opened last May and was considered a pop up.  They have taken on a permanent space, though, and are gradually making it into their own.  A 2 story place, it’s still really small – 4 tables up and 4 down.  Background music plays, the lovely finished wood tables with comfortable chairs, candlelight, minimal decorations and nice large cloth napkins along with the friendly service contribute to the cozy, comfortable ambiance of the place.  Pacing was wonderful and personell were knowledgeable about what they were serving.  They serve only a tasting menu with some supplements available and there is no written copy.  They offer wine pairings but we chose to order our own wines.  They have a large selection of champagnes.   Continue reading

Zuni Café, San Francisco, 12/29/17

one side of exterior
one side of exterior

Zuni is a huge place on two levels with tons of different seating areas, a kitchen in the middle of the downstairs with wood burning ovens and a large copper bar area with seating.  There is also a small area with several types of oysters waiting to be shucked and eaten.  Table clothes are covered with paper but still a nice cloth napkin.  There are lots of windows to the busy streets outside that pass by two sides of the pie shaped restaurant.  Brick walls and exposed steel give the place a casual feel. It still attracts a lot of people even thought it’s been around for 30+ years and the chef who brought it fame, Judy Rodgers having passed away in 2013.  We’ve been there a couple previous times in years past and I think it’s as good as ever.  Service is friendly, helpful and makes your dining experience fun.  The food is simple yet made with great ingredients and prepared well for a wonderful outcome.  I would give the place a hearty recommendation.   Continue reading

Al’s Place, San Francisco, 3/4/17

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Exterior

Al’s Place is a hopping restaurant.   A good sized place, it has tightly packed tables in a hectic, noisy and rushed atmosphere.  We got there early and it was already full but it looked like they were trying to turn the tables 3 times in an evening. So don’t go for a lingering dining experience. The service is friendly and helpful but the entire staff seemed to share the room so no connection is made with any particular server. The food was fine but very variable in goodness. Plates are made to share and you can chose the ‘family style’ option where the chef picks a selection of plates from the first three sections of the menu and a dessert for your table to share.   Continue reading

Petit Crenn, San Francisco, 3/4/17

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building

Petit Crenn is a small place with 14 closely spaced 2-top tables for reservations and a good sized bar to accommodate walk-ins. One side is windows looking out to the street and another side is a long bench seat with tons of pillows.  There is rock music in the background but it’s not loud enough to impact conversation.  The high ceiling  has ropes dangling with lights on the end for the tables.  They referred to themselves as a pescatarian restaurant and thus their Croque Madame has no ham.  For lunch they have a brunch menu but at night they offer a tasting menu only.  Service is helpful and efficient. Continue reading

Keiko à Nob Hill, San Francisco, 3/3/17

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building

Keiko à Nob Hill is named for the female chef, Keiko Takahashi.  While she works her magic in the kitchen the small elegant restaurant is well overseen by her husband Seigo Takei who also has a huge selection of wines to chose from for your meal. They have been in this location for 5 years and he uses much of the space to store wine that is not listed. The fun is in the talking with him about what you like and letting him chose something you don’t know about and he did a marvelous job.  He will work within your price range. They do offer a couple levels of wine pairings.  They only do one seating each night in the building that has residential units above.  The comfortable seating is well spaced with low lighting accented by candles and soft jazz music in the background.   Continue reading

Mourad, San Francisco, 3/3/17

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entrance
Mourad is a large place with one Michelin star. You enter where there is a big bar which leads into tables and a few side booths. We got there for an early lunch and not many people were there but as prime time approached it filled in with a mostly young crowd, although the noise level never got uncomfortable.  There is a cool tile floor, slowly rotating elaborate chandeliers and good separation between the tables.  The staff was very friendly and quite articulate and knowledgeable about their menu.  Everything we tried was full of flavor with lovely presentation and easily shared.  I would go back without a second thought and highly recommend it if you are in the area.   Continue reading

Quince, San Francisco, 3/2/17

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sign out front

Quince is an elegant dining experience.  We were there several years and they have done a significant amount of remodeling since then and received their third Michelin star last fall.  The remodeling was finished about 2 and a half years ago and added 2 smaller dining rooms to the larger main dining room.  Lighting is low, soft music plays and linens are high quality but it was a tad warm in one of the small side dining rooms where we sat. These side rooms have banquette seating along one wall and fairly small tables. Service is excellent.  The friendly servers could not have been better and our waiter, Conan, looked after every detail – even sending me home with a box of their delicious caramels.   Continue reading

Cockscomb, San Francisco, 3/2/17

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Exterior

Cockscomb is a medium sized place with an open kitchen. Downstairs seating is at tables and the counter and there is an additional dining area on the second floor.  A small bar is located below the balcony from above.  Tables are bare wood and the open kitchen, which has a wood grill, takes up one wall of the downstairs.  We were there at lunch but dinner features a much larger menu.   There is no salt, pepper or ketchup on the table but most of the food was seasoned well enough you don’t miss it. There is soft background music.The main attraction seemed to be their veggie burger which is supposed to taste and look just like beef, but that was not an option we selected.  Service is friendly but fairly slow and disorganized.  The kitchen people really hustle but the waitstaff spent more time working on tickets than getting the food served on a timely basis.   Continue reading

SAISON, San Francisco, 7/30/16

Chef/Owner Joshua Skenes
Chef/Owner Joshua Skenes

This is a repeat visit to Saison, but in a different season than our usual.  As always the service is flawless and  Mark Bright’s wine selections bring out something different and wonderful in your price range. Michelin three star Chef Joshua Skenes was in the kitchen and when not supervising or inspecting he was cooking. It is thoughtful food and everyone is served a tasting menu, with the only changes being from preferences or allergies. Bring your major credit card, though, as it is now known as the most expensive dinner in the Bay area. Continue reading

Nopa, San Francisco, 7/30/16

building
building

Nopa is a large hopping place. We were there for Saturday brunch and a reservation seemed a must. They do have bar seating that looked to be first come first served, though. Service was friendly and the menu fairly small, but with good sounding options. It is an open kitchen with a wood grill that we had a birds eye view of from our seat on the second level.  We could also watch Chef Laurence Jossel inspect and season all the plates going out. The place has a good vibe but the food, in general, does not live us to the hype. Continue reading

Saison, San Francisco, 3/12/16

kitchen
kitchen

A repeat visit to this medium sized place that only offers a tasting menu and has been one of our favorite spots in the U.S. Chef Josh Skenes was not in the kitchen for much of the night as he has been on previous visits but Sous Chef Scott is more than able to run things. Sommelier Mark Bright was also not in the house this night and I admit I missed his personal touch and enthusiasm with the wine choices. Continue reading

Kin Khao, San Francisco, 3/12/16

entrance
entrance

This is a medium sized place in the Hilton Parc 55 hotel in the Union Square area of San Francisco serving delicious Thai food. The name Kin Khao means eat rice but it is much more than that. Pim Techamuanvivit who used to write a food blog is the owner and brains behind the place that was elevated from Bib Gourmand status to a one star Michelin in 2016. Continue reading

Manresa, Los Gatos, 3/11/16

Exterior
Exterior

This fairly large place is located about an hour out of San Francisco. It was renovated after a fire in July 2014 that destroyed its kitchen. Chef David Kinch was said to have used the opportunity to re-think his menu and that in turn led to the restaurant receiving its third Michelin Star in Oct. of 2015. Even so, you could easily drive past the place which is located in a little shopping area where there was no sign of any garden activity to supply the place with fresh local items. Continue reading