Just back from a week in San Francisco primarily for work; however, I managed to fit in a number of very good meals including a few new places.
I have said many times that San Francisco is giving NYC a run for its money for the best restaurant city in the U.S.
I ate at State Bird twice and it is as good as ever. They have added many new dishes to the menu since my last visit a few months ago. I drank a very cool Cabernet from Enfield from the far out Sonoma Coast.
I also ate at The Progress twice and WOW has it evolved since opening (not that it was not great when it open they have simply taken it to another level). Both meals were outstanding! I could literally eat there every night. I am still thinking about the Uni Guacamole with Tomato Vinaigrette & Rice Crackers and a CA Sturgeon Caviar Potato Cloud. Drank the last bottle of Clemens Busch Felsterrasse GG, I think I have had at least four of them here.
The first new place is in the old Chez Spencer location and is called Izakaya Rintaro. They did a really amazing job with the vibe of the place, it feels authentically Japanese. The food leaned more toward comfort Japanese food but was excellent and the Sake list was small but equally good. I loved everything about it and will be going back soon.
Next up was Astor. This is a partnership between Chef Brett Cooper and Daniel Patterson. It opened last year and received a Michelin star. I love what Chef Cooper was doing at Outerlands and he trained under Chef Brioza (The Progress and State Bird). The food was very good, great ingredients and perfect execution. I will say it lacked a little sizzle for me in the way that The Progress and State Bird wowed me. My dinner guests absolutely loved it.
I also went to lunch at Akikos for Sushi and it was very good. I will be going back.
they have a tiny but well chosen sake list and the markups aren’t robbery. A $40 retail bottle is $75 on their list for example. Try them in this order:
• The Shichi Hon Yari is a great sake to set your palate. It’s a dry style that pairs well with most food. Ask to see the label. It’s a drawing from like the 1600s.
• Two down from that, the Yuki No Bosha Yamahai takes the earth and mushroom up a big notch. Yamahai style sake emphasize earthy and nutty components and tend to have slightly higher acidity as the lactic acid is produced as part of the fermentation process, not added in as it is with 95% of all sake.
• Below that is the Ten To Chi Heaven and Earth. It is a favorite of mine. It’s brewed from a strain of rice crossed specifically to make Junmai Daiginjo. It should cost twice what it does given the quality. It’s textbook junmai daiginjo, very fruity, lots of aroma. It has a short finish but not as short as most traditional Niigata sake. Niigata is famous for some of the softest water in the world, which informs the brewing process, but I digress.
• Back up to the Tendorigawa Kinka Nama. It’s similar to the Ten to Chi in grade and quality but it is never pasteurized which means it has a big, big nose and a rich, full mouthfeel. Excellent pairing for ikura, for example. You want to make sure it’s left the brewery recently though. So look for 16.1 or 15.12 on the back. That’s the year then the month it left the brewery. Sometimes they use the Heisei year instead of the AD though so it would look like 28.1 or 27.12. I don’t think this importer uses that older system though (it’s the years since change of emperor).
I will be in SF for 2 nights next month. I have State Bird booked for 1 night and was planning SPQR or Rich Table for the other. The Izakaya was on my short list too after seeing they were hosting a dinner celebrating a cookbook I recently purchased.
The Progress looks great. Would you hit it over SPQR/Rich? So many choices and too little time.
All three are great, John. I would personally lean toward SPQR because it’s really from the previous generation of restaurants and would provide a contrast to State Bird/Progress/Rich Table, which, while different, all operate in the same idiom, and (2) good pasta is just about my favorite food in the world, and SPQR makes some of the best pasta I’ve ever had. But you won’t go wrong.
Thank you, Jay. I think the takeaway for me is I need to get to SF to eat more often. This will only be my second (short) trip to the city. I utilized the airports for Napa and Sonoma many times, but neglected SF.
Rich Table is challenging to get reservations.
However, if you go at opening 5:30, you can often walk in/snag a seat at the dinner bar, full menu.
I have done this three times (once with my ten year old son), never had a prob getting a seat.
I love Rich Table.
Went to Zuni for lunch before a court hearing last weekend. Had the burger. Also had diarrhea for the rest of the day and the following. But it was a delicious burger. Would recommend the burger 10/10. Would not recommend the diarrhea.
I’ve never understood the love for the Zuni burger (these days they have stiff competition too); I just don’t want my burger on focaccia and not a fan of shoestring fries. Rich Table is not far from City Hall.
Somebody said Indian, but I’m not sure where that’s coming from. If he’d said Vietnamese, it would have made more sense – City Hall is on the edge of what the City has decided to call “Little Saigon.”
The area around City Hall has traditionally been terrible for food (and just about everything else). One of the worst areas of the city. The only good restaurants were dinner-only places, largely serving the Symphony/Opera/Ballet crowds. But it’s gentrifying rapidly. Twitter moved its headquarters nearby a few years ago, and condos are springing up everywhere.
It’s still not a great lunch area, but there are a few good choices, especially if you walk over to Hayes Valley, which isn’t far:
Lers Ros – Best Thai Restaurant in the city. They have a fancier, second location a few blocks away in Hayes Valley; I like the Larkin Street one
Alta CA – new place from the Coi guy
Absinthe (Hayes Valley). It’s been around awhile, but it’s one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. My wife and I have probably eaten there more than any other nice restaurant.
Chez Maman (Hayes Valley) has very tasty burgers.
Boxing Room (Hayes Valley) – if you like Cajun Creole (which I do)
should have been clearer. I can also travel a little bit. I can uber directly from the airport to the restaurant for lunch. Just don’t want the commute from the restaurant to city hall to be longer than 15 minutes though.
Leonard: I looked at Rich table but they don’t serve lunch
With 15 minutes, you can eat at most of the good restaurants in the city. Seriously. It’s not as spread out as LA.
I stand by my original suggestions, but other lunch favorites within reach include Akiko’s (sushi), Amber India (high-end Indian), Sam’s Grill (old school classic), Khin Khao (Thai), Cavalier (sort of fancy British Pub), Gaspar (French Bistro, great raw bar), Nopalito (Mexican), and, a bit further afield in the Financial District, a few of my mainstays: Perbacco/Barbacco (Piemontese Italian), Kokkari (Greek), and Piperade (Basque). According to Google Maps, even Piperade is only a 12 minutes car ride away.
Enjoyed Kin Khao tonight (see my Facebook post in Super Asian Food Friends) but it’s probably whiter than pok pok. I can’t see a Thai person ever going there. Would rather Ruen Pair in LA or Langbaan in PDX.