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StarChefs.com Features
 

HOTELS
Splurge Worthy
Campton Place
Mandarin Oriental

Pricey But Sane
Westin St. Francis
The Palace

Wallet Watching
Hotel Rex
Hotel Nikko

Kensington Park

RESTAURANTS
Aziza
Absinthe
Rubicon
Bushi Tei
Coco500
Presidio Social Club
A16
Maverick
Range
The Blue Plate
Terzo
Boulevard
Citizen Cake
Gary Danko
Nopa
Bar Tartine
The Slanted Door
Ame
Silks
Quince
One Market
Campton Place
Delfina
Incanto
Jardinière
Poleng Lounge
Bacar
Ducca
Shanghai Dumpling King

CHEFS RECOMMEND
Spices Restaurant
Thai House
Shin Toe Bul Yi
Ton Kiang
Tu Lan
Front Porch
Blue Plate

Thai Express
Tacos Morenos
Brother’s Korean
Boulevard
La Taqueria
JoJo
Taco Truck

Jai Yun
Nova
Firefly
Da Flora
Bocadillo
My Tofu House
Pizzetta 211


 
SAN FRANCISCO TRAVEL (Round II)
By Tejal Rao and Heather Sperling

San Francisco’s seasonal local produce is enough to make any East Coast chef jealous. Its location by the San Joaquin Valley and its Mediterranean climate translate to a smorgasbord of yearlong local goods. It’s practically a given that every chef in the city is making the most of his local supplies, but good ingredients don’t necessarily mean good food. It also means it takes a lot for a chef to stand out among the San Francisco mad lib:

Chef [insert name here] buys only the freshest seasonal produce, supports local farms, and uses sustainable, grass-fed, organic meat whenever possible.

The ones that stand out though, truly shine. Our 2007 editorial tasting trip took us through the city’s bakeries, bistros, and fine dining restaurants, and this time, more than last, we noticed successful chefs expanding their empires in big and small ways. When the San Francisco food blogging community (um, everyone) loves a chef, they’ll support him through his career, his ups and downs, and his new ventures. Generally, a chef wins them over with a simple, well-executed idea, and maintains credibility by simply being good.

Placing pushpins in the culinary map this year would show a clear pattern: San Francisco’s most loved chefs are opening successful sister restaurants or side projects. Rose’s Café, the bright, family-friendly brunch spot is one of three ventures by chef and restaurateur Mark Gordon. Last year, Gordon, along with other members of the opening team, traveled to Sicily, Rome, Portugal, and Spain to get new ideas and “stay excited about what we are doing in San Francisco.” The result, Terzo (Gordon’s third place and the Italian word for third), is the sum of his interests and experiences in the form of a chic little restaurant that’s more grown up than Rose’s with just as accessible food. Here, Gordon has a little more creative freedom with his dishes – he’s earned it.

Craig Stoll of Delfina transformed the space directly next door to his restaurant into a casual pizzeria with a few specials. If you sit outside on the bench (preferably with a coffee and pastry from Tartine, just around the corner) you’ll see the cooks and servers go in and out from one kitchen to the other as they’re setting up; the pizzeria is very much a natural extension of Stoll’s Italian restaurant.

No one takes the whole beast trend more seriously than Chris Cosentino, who made his mark and gathered a loyal fan base with Incanto, where he isn’t afraid of putting offal on the menu. Cured meats were always an interest (and strength) for Cosentino, and this year he opened a salumeria with cured meats, fresh sausages and a pretty catchy tagline: tasty salted pig parts. Why the expansion? “Mark (Pastore) and I were originally just looking for a space to expand and produce our products on site but then this opportunity came up. There were always so many requests for products from our customers that it just made sense,” says Cosentino. The production space has a USDA inspector on site everyday and makes 23 distinct products with heritage breed pork.

Elizabeth Falkner's Orson isn’t open yet; it’s still under construction. But that certainly hasn’t kept it from getting some positive pre-emptive reviews and curious blog postings of pictures and musings. This will be Falkner’s third project, with Citizen Cake and Citizen Cupcake in the Virgin Megastore still running along successfully. What sets Falkner apart (other than the fact that she’s a female chef with something of an empire) is that her food isn’t what typically tends to work best in the city (namely, soft Mediterranean flavors and barely manipulated local ingredients). Falkner’s made a name for herself with bold, experimental food that few others (pastry or savory) are daring to do. And she’s doing it well.

Charles Phan, of The Slanted Door, the fast-paced, modern Vietnamese bistro in the Ferry Building, took a baby step with Out the Door, the take out station behind the main kitchen serving a similar but somewhat limited menu. At the end of last year, at the San Francisco Westfield Centre, Phan took a bigger leap: Out the Door take out, retail, and restaurant in one convenient mall location.

The chefs are branching out, proving that San Francisco is a city in which you can afford to expand if you’ve got the love of the people. But what of the food scene as a whole – what is the future of San Francisco dining going to hold? The city has always been a leader in American cuisine (sometimes called the birthplace, no less), and in the past few years, its seasonal and local cry has spread to the farthest reaches of American dining. So what’s next? Elizabeth Falkner’s Orson dubs itself “Edgy California Cuisine.” The meaning of that term is yet to be determined, but we’re excited to find out.


Top of the Page

Aziza
5800 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94121
415 752 2222
Wed-Mon 5:30pm-10:30pm

Mourad Lahlou making fresh couscous at Aziza on StarChefs.com

Mourad Lahlou making fresh couscous at Aziza

Aziza is a warm, lantern-lit Moroccan restaurant in Outer Richmond run by Mourad Lahlou, who first entered the kitchen when he abandoned his macroeconomics masters program to supervise the kitchen at Kasbah in 1997. Now chef/owner at Aziza, where he’s been since 2001, Lahlou fuses the traditional techniques he learned from his mother in Marrakech (the couscous is hand rolled daily) with light, modern West Coast philosophy and local produce. Aziza’s a little out of the way on Geary, but once you arrive, you’ll be welcomed and well-fed as if in Lahlou’s home – it’s well worth the trip.

We Recommend:
Beef Cheeks with Roasted Summer Vegetables and Couscous
Moroccan Carrot Soup with Blood Orange Foam

Top of the Page

Jonny Raglin flaming orange zest  on StarChefs.com

Jonny Raglin flaming orange zest
at Absinthe

Absinthe
398 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 551 1590
Tue-Thu 11:30am-2am
Fri 11:30am-2am
Sat 11am-2am
Sun 11am-10pm

Jonny Raglin runs the bar program at the authentic French brasserie downtown, making drinks with seasonal ingredients and high quality liquors and paying homage to classic cocktails. The place is generally packed – in addition to the oyster bar there’s a small, accessible menu with nice touches: the frisee salad has a duck egg and the fries come with an essential French condiment: rouille. Raglin brings due attention to the bar, stirring, shaking, and lighting boats of citrus peel on fire in his classically inspired, well-balanced, serious (but never too serious) cocktails.

We Recommend:
The Bengali Gimlet
The Manhattan
Marion Barry Flip (recipe)

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Rubicon
558 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94111
415 434 4100
Wed 11:30am-2pm
Mon-Sat 5:30pm-10pm

Nicole Krasinski's Pistachio Rose Petal Meringue on StarChefs.com

Nicole Krasinski's Pistachio Rose Petal Meringue

Restaurateur Drew Nieporent’s Rubicon is the real deal, excelling in savory, pastry, wine, and service. Stuart Brioza’s soulful chic cooking with Asian and Mediterranean influences is well-established in San Francisco these days but Brioza isn’t resting on his laurels. The restaurant is well known around the city for their eclectic wine collection and well trained sommeliers and Brioza’s partner, pastry chef Nicole Krasinski makes some of the most quietly revolutionary desserts in the city, incorporating strong cheeses, spices, and vegetables into her creative, delicate desserts.

We Recommend:
Monterey Sardines with Mango, Tiny Tomatoes, Basil & Fresh Coconut Milk
Caramelized Garlic Soup with Dungeness Crab, Fennel & Chardonnay Vinegar (recipe)
Pistachio Rose Petal Meringue
Aged Pecorino Walnut Cake, Seville Orange Jam, Arbequina Olive Oil Ice Cream (recipe)


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Bushi Tei
1638 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115
415 440 4959
Tue-Thu, Sun 5:30pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm

Seiji Wakabayashi was raised in his family’s restaurant in Japan but used to skip school to work at a French restaurant in his hometown. His dishes make sense of his experiences with precisely built compositions of bright flavors and textures that are visually and technically stunning. His omakase is the best way to go, and if you’re going there with vegetarians, ask about Waka’s vegetarian omakase.

We Recommend:
Pan-Seared Sea Robin, Tomato Fondue, and Saffron Beurre Blanc (recipe)
Quail Confit, Hon Shimeji Mushrooms, and Soft Boiled Quail Egg

Top of the Page

Coco500
500 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94107
415 543 2222
Mon-Thu 11:30am-10pm
Fri 11:30am-11pm
Sat 5:30pm-11pm

Roasted Quail with Liver Toast at Coco500 on StarChefs.com

Roasted Quail with Liver Toast at Coco500

Loretta Keller’s old Bizou space south of Market has been transformed into Coco500 but still preserves its turn of the century design and Kelleresque simplicity and warmth. Chef de cuisine Jennifer Biesty recreates some classic Bizou dishes but also presents dishes that are entirely her own: dynamic, spontaneous, and modest. Biesty uses local, organic, seasonal as much as the next chef, but submits them, when appropriate, to her plancha – a high temperature steel surface that cooks and caramelizes with a minimum of fat. Scott Baird’s outstanding, intelligent cocktails (Penelope’s Slip is both funny and delicious) are made with organic ingredients and everything is freshly squeezed to order.

We Recommend:
Bacon Wrapped Monkfish (recipe)
Roasted Quail with Liver Toast and Kumquats
Penelope’s Slip
The Sazerac

Top of the Page

Presidio Social Club
563 Ruger St Bldg 563
San Francisco, CA 94129
415 885 1888
Mon-Sat 5:30pm-11pm
Sun 4pm-9:30pm

Sardines, pickled onion and toast at Presidio on StarChefs.com

Sardines, pickled onion and toast at Presidio

Reminiscent of an old English gentleman’s club on the foothills of Mount Kenya (but without the exclusivity), Presidio Social Club is a comfortable retreat in the park. On the bare wooden tables cotton dishrags serve as napkins, slow turning vintage fans hang from the ceiling, and huge windows look into the wild-ish greenery of the Presidio, creating a general sense of quiet colonial refinement. Chef Zoi Antonitos (currently consulting while on break to film Top Chef)deserves some attention for executing the social club classics (sloppy joes, strogranoff) and slipping in her own seasonal dishes, with a lighter, Mediterranean touch, seamlessly.

We Recommend:
Sardines, Pickled Onion, Toast
Carbonara with Sweetbreads
Seasonal Salads

Top of the Page

A16
2355 Chestnut St
San Francisco, CA 94123
415 771 2216
Wed-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm
Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm

Lamb sausage with radish salad at A16 on StarChefs.com

Lamb sausage with radish salad at A16

A16 is a cozy, candlelit neighborhood joint that’s always full (so anti-trendy it’s trendy). Wine director Shelley Lindgren matches reasonably priced regional Italian wines (with special attention given to Campania and the South) to Nate Appleman’s (honest, hearty, Italian dishes and pizza. Appleman, who helped open A16 with Christophe Hille and took over as chef de cuisine and part owner in 2005, continues the tradition of buying in whole 500 pound pigs and curing his own meats. If you’re seated in the back you can watch Appleman and his team throw the pizza dough in the open kitchen.

We Recommend:
Lamb Crespelle (recipe)
House Cured Charcuterie (salame, prosciutto, terrines, coppa di testa etc.)

Top of the Page

Maverick
24 Willie Mays Plz
San Francisco, CA 94107
415 644 0240
Monday to Friday 11:30am-3:00pm and 5:30pm-10:30pm
Saturday 5:30-10:30
Closed Sunday

Pork belly with peas at Maverick on StarChefs.com

Pork belly with peas at Maverick

Scott Youkilis is the chef /owner (and blogger ) behind Maverick’s – named for Samuel Maverick, the Texas lawyer who refused to brand his cattle and inadvertently gave his name to the English lexicon. The little eatery sandwiched between the taco shops and discount stores of 17th at Mission, is a shrine to this sense of West coast wildness – old regional maps and heavy wood tables and stools. Youkilis’ attention to quirky, bizarre, romantic Americana is all over the space without feeling kitschy or contrived – look for the personal knick knacks collected by the chef’s father on Ebay with the word ‘Maverick’ hidden on them. The delicious, eclectic, American food is solid (think barbecue meatballs, grilled mackerel, and fried chicken).

We Recommend:
Duck Hash with Crispy Potatoes, Oysters Mushrooms, Red Wine Poached Egg (recipe)
Crispy Pork Belly with Black Eyed Peas, Sugar Snap Peas Salad, and Pork Jus
Youk’s Hot Sauce

Top of the Page

Range
842 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 282 8283
Mon-Thu, Sun 5:30pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm

Steamed clams in green garlic broth at Range on StarChefs.com

Steamed clams in green garlic broth at Range

Husband and Wife team Phil and Cameron West opened Range in 2005 and gave a sparse industrial chic space in the Mission some genuine warmth. The food is of the minimalist Californian variety, with sophisticated, bright flavors. West has the attention to the detail necessary for that kind of ingredient-focused food to go from good to great. Michelle Polzin’s desserts are similarly simple and well executed: try the profiteroles with dulce de leche icing or the chocolate soufflé with delicate Earl Grey ice cream.

We Recommend:
Wild Nettle Stuffed Pasta (recipe)
Steamed Clams with Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Green Garlic Broth (recipe)
Coconut Bavarian with Tapioca Pearls
Bittersweet Choc Soufflé with Earl Grey Ice cream

Top of the Page

The Blue Plate
3218 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 282 6777
Mon-Thu 6pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 6pm-10:30 pm

The entrance to Blue Plate onStarChefs.com

The entrance to Blue Plate

Corey Obenour and his protégée chef de cuisine, Jonah Oakden, run the teensy kitchen of The Blue Plate – a soulful neighborhood spot with a garden in the back, Black Sabbath on the speakers, and vintage skateboards on the walls. The food is hearty, well-seasoned, well-balanced, and changes constantly, making it especially popular among fellow chefs and the rest of the San Francisco food industry. Obenour donates his used cooking oil to renegade environmentalists on a mission to recycle and Oakden makes the pastrami in-house – it’s excellent.

We Recommend:
Pastrami, Rye and Scallops
Cornbread and Pecorino Stuffed Pork Chop with Fried Sage

Top of the Page

Terzo
550 Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 292 6360
Sunday-Thursday 5:30pm-10pm
Friday, Saturday 5:30pm-11pm

Spaghetti with pistachio pesto at Terzo on StarChefs.com

Spaghetti with pistachio pesto at Terzo

Chef Mark Gordon of the much loved bruch spot, Rose’s Café, has opened a more sophisticated, eclectic, small plate restaurant directly across the street: Terzo. Gordon, who holds a degree in zoology and worked for years as a photographer, traveled to Sicily, Rome, Lisbon, Seville, and Madrid to research techniques before opening – the walls are decorated with photos from his trip. The focaccia is beautifully textured and rich with olive oil flavor – Gordon has a thing for good olive oils and knows how to use them.

We Recommend:
Spaghetti, Pistachio Pesto, Ricotta Salata
Bruschetta, Fried Egg, Garlic Greens
The Focaccia

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Boulevard
1 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
415 543 6084
Mon-Fri 11am-2pm
Sun-Thurs 5:30-10pm
Fri-Sat 5:30-10:30pm

Jessica Sullivan's trifle with lychee foam on StarChefs.com

Jessica Sullivan's trifle with lychee foam
and mango pudding cake at Boulevard

Nancy Oakes’Boulevard has remained a San Fran standby since 1993. The dining room has an elegant Parisian feel, but the food is San Franciscan through and though, with all-local meat, farm sourced produce, and the occasional hint of Asian and Italian influences. Pastry Chef Jessica Sullivan’s desserts are pure, playful comfort.

We Recommend:
Toffee Caramel with Date Sticky Toffee Cake, Caramel Mousse with Flourless Chocolate Cake
Trifle with Lychee Foam, Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta, Kiwi, and Steamed Mango Pudding Cake

Top of the Page

Citizen Cake
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94105
415 861 8032
Sunday-Thursday 11am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10pm
Friday, Saturday 11am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm

Elizabeth Falkner's Black Island at Citizen Cake on StarChefs.com

Elizabeth Falkner's Black Island at Citizen Cake

Badass pastry chef turned savory chef turned restaurateur Elizabeth Falkner’s flagship restaurant bakery-bistro isn’t just for cakes. Her bloody mary jelly fizzes on the tongue with wasabi pop rocks, her steak is served a la mode with quenelle of strong blue cheese ice cream, and her sci-fi dessert Black Island is ultra-modern and delicious. Citizen Cake’s satellite in the Virgin megastore, Citizen Cupcake, serves miniature versions of the mothership’s most popular sweets and Orson, Falkner’s latest project, is opening soon.

We Recommend:
Steak A La Mode
The Sting: Exotic Spiced Fluid with Chocolate Cake and Tonka Bean Ice Cream (recipe)

Top of the Page

Gary Danko
800 N Point St
San Francisco, CA 94109
415 749 2060
Mon-Wed, Sun 5:30pm-9:30pm
Thu-Sat 5:30pm-10pm

Gary Danko has established himself as San Francisco’s foremost fine dining chef with his eponymous restaurant. The food – rooted in classic technique and featuring some of the area’s best produce – is consistently great and personalized with small service touches that Danko has masterminded. His pastry chef, Belinda Leong, who worked her way through every section of the kitchen before her promotion to pastry chef, creates whimsical compositions like Ants on a Log: celery, raisin, milk chocolate and peanut butter reinvented as a sophisticated and technically exact dessert

We Recommend:
Blueberry French Toast with Salted Almond Ice Cream and Maple Foam
Ants on a Log
Top of the Page

Nopa
560 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117
415 864 8643
Mon-Sun 5pm-1am

Aerial view of the open kitchen at Nopa onStarChefs.com

Aerial view of the open kitchen at Nopa

Nopa is one of the few places where the San Francisco sustainability philosophy isn’t advertised. It’s also one of the few places where excellent honest food intersects with the practice (composting, recycling the menus, finding ways to make the scraps tasty, changing the menu as often is necessary). With his wife Allyson Woodman and partner Jeff Hanak, Chef Laurence Jossel has built a true neighborhood restaurant that maintains a serious focus on sustainability without drawing any attention away from the simple, hearty, accessible food – a lot of which is cooked in the wood fired grill. They’ve created a real sense of community, and the restaurant crowd is mostly locals living in the Nopa area.

We Recommend:
White Beans, Feta and Oregano
Calamari with Olives and Capers

Top of the Page

Making cinnamon buns at Tartine on StarChefs.com

Making cinnamon buns at Tartine

Bar Tartine
561 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 487 1600
Mon-Wed 6pm-10pm
Thu-Sat 6pm-11pm, 11:30pm-2pm
Sun 11am-2:30pm

From Liz Prueitt and Chad Martin, the couple behind the popular Mission bakery, Tartine, comes Bar Tartine. Bar is a little more, but still down-to-earth. Seasonal fruits find their way into pretty, simple, composed desserts and just like at Tartine, the savory dishes are just as good.

We Recommend:
Pine Nut Tart with Mascarpone Ice Cream and Cherry Compote
Rose-Geranium Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Consomme, Coconut Macaroon Crumble, and Rhubarb Confit

Top of the Page

The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94105-1521
415 861 8032
Sun-Thu 11am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 11am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm

Spring rolls at The Slanted Door on StarChefs.com

Spring rolls at The Slanted Door

Charles Phan’s very successful Slanted Door looks over the water beside the Ferry Building – San Francisco’s foodie mecca. Phan’s concept of modern Vietnamese food is very popular, which means there’s often a long wait for a table. But don’t be put off by a 45 minute wait, walk around the pier and watch the boats come in, browse the bookstores and specialty meat and seafood shops or even better, go to Hog Island Oyster Co or a glass of wine while you wait.

We Recommend:
Crispy Vegetarian Spring Roll on a Bed of Noodles and Lettuce
Meyer Ranch Shaking Beef
Spicy Bluelake Beans with Honshimeji Mushrooms

Top of the Page

Grilled California sea bass at Ame on StarChefs.com

Grilled California sea bass at Ame

Ame
689 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
415 284 4040
Mon-Sun 11:30am-2pm, 6pm-10pm

Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani have executive chef Greg Dunmore running their serious restaurant in the St Regis Hotel where in addition to their signature crudo and sashimi menu, Dunmore presents his own bold and spontaneous dishes that feel like a breath of fresh air: sauteed foie gras comes with a chestnut crepe instead of a tired stone fruit compote; sweetbreads are paired with bittersweet braised endives. There are Asian influences but the menu feels distinctively San Franciscan (local, organic, the whole deal) and Dunmore’s personal touches shine through in some truly stunning dishes like the Octopus Carpaccio.

We Recommend:
Octopus Carpaccio
Grilled California Sea Bass with Nettles and Preserved Meyer Lemon Risotto

Top of the Page

Silks
222 Sansome St
San Francisco, CA 94104
415 986 2020
Mon 6:30am-10:30am, 11:30am-2pm
Tue-Fri 6:30am-10:30am, 11:30am-2pm, 6pm-9pm
Sat 7:30am-11am, 6pm-9:30pm
Sun 7:30am-11am

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 6pm-12am
Friday, Saturday 6pm-2am
Sunday 6pm-11pm

Honeydew ice at Silks on StarChefs.com

Honeydew ice at Silks

Joel Huff has transformed Silks at the Mandarin Oriental – every dish here is personalized by Huff’s time abroad in Australia and Asia and he’s particularly good at integrating new techniques or toys like fata paper into extravagant (but sensible) table service. His green curry arrives boiling in the paper and is snipped and released to order, foie gras is smoked at the table under a glass lid, and even the palate cleanser has a dramatic streak, frozen on upside down shot glasses.

We Recommend:
Tuna Sashimi with Ponzu Vinaigrette and Feta Foam
Palate Cleanser of Honeydew Ice and Kalamata Ice Cream

Top of the Page

Quince
1701 Octavia St
San Francisco, CA 94109
415 775 8500
Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm
Saturday-Sunday 6pm-2am

Citrus with prosecco gelee at Quince on StarChefs.com

Citrus with prosecco gelee at Quince

Quince feels like an old European living room, filled with people deep in conversations and bottles of wine, with comfortable tables and chairs, and big windows that look onto pretty tree-lined Octavia Street. Chef/Owner Michael Tusk’s food is the atmosphere incarnate – rustic chic Italian dishes made with local meats and vegetables.

We Recommend:
Pici with SB Farms goose
Paine Farm Squab with Butternut Squash and Farro
Citrus with Prosecco Gelee

Top of the Page

One Market
1 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94105
415 777 5577
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-9pm
Sat 5:30pm-9pm

Mark Dommen has mastered the down-to-earth seasonal dining that defines San Francisco at One Market, a large, busy restaurant near the piers downtown. But Dommen’s culinary pedigree shines through as he seamlessly, and successfully, slips in techniques like sous vide and slow-cooking to elevate his dishes without drawing attention away from his products, which are mostly sourced from the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market across the street

We Recommend:
Smoked Ocean Trout with Potato Rosti and Poached Egg (recipe)
Nettle Ravioli with Snails

Top of the Page

Campton Place
340 Stockton St
San Francisco, CA 94108
415 781 5555
Mon-Thu 7am-10:30am, 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-9:30pm
Fri 7am-10:30am, 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-10pm
Sat 8am-11am, 12pm-2pm, 5:30pm-10pm
Sun 8am-2pm, 5:30pm-9:30pm

The dining room at Campton Place on StarChefs.com

The dining room at Campton Place

When Vernon Morales and Boris Portnoy’s Winterland closed down a couple of years ago, we worried that the city was no place for an experimental chef (it was one of the city’s most experimental kitchens and loved by the industry, but unfortunately not loved by a certain close-minded critic). But Boris Portnoy has successfully resurfaced at Campton Place, where he runs the pastry program with a little help from Matt Tinder, formerly of Brick. Before he left last fall, Peter Rudolph carried the experimental torch in the savory arena, with unusual and clever flavor combinations, textures, and presentations.  

We Recommend:
Gorgonzola Popovers with Pear Saffron Pearls, Toast, and Honey Sorbet
Carrot and Coconut Ravioli with Avocado Semi-Freddo and Spiced Tangerine Sorbet

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Delfina
3621 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 552 4055
Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm   
Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm

The dining room at Delfina on StarChefs.com

The dining room at Delfina

This bustling Italian neighborhood restaurant in the Mission is run by Anne and Craig Stoll, who cure their own meats and make their own sausages, pasta, and gelato. The food is matched to an equally inspiring wine list built by the young, hip, and passionate sommelier Becky Swanson, who has a knack for combining local Californian with regional Italian in a similar way to Stoll. 2 years ago Stoll opened Delfina Pizzeria directly next door, a 24-seat space serving 6 different thin-crust Neapolitan style pizzas and a small menu of daily dishes. Walk a little further around the corner and if you’ve got some room left for pastries and you’ll run into Tartine.

We Recommend:
Grilled Octopus and Warm White Bean Salad
Cured Meats

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Incanto
1550 Church St
San Francisco, CA 94131
415 641 4500
Wed-Sat 5:30pm-10pm
Sun-Mon 5:30pm-9:30pm

Chris Cosentino has become something of a celebrity among foodies in San Francisco – he’s a regular at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, a pioneer on the West Coast for using the entire animal, and a regular blogger who shares personal and political goings on from not being able to stomach duck fetus to his first episode of Iron Chef. Cosentino’s strong personality and philosophy are at the heart of Incanto, where you can get rustic, soulful Italian food…plus tasty salted pig parts. Cosentino recently opened Incanto’s sibling, Boccalone, an artisan salumeria with 20 varieties of Italian salumi.

We Recommend:
Octopus Crudo with Smoked Salt and Marjoram
House Cured Meats

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Jardinière
300 Grove St (in the Civic Center)
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 861 5555
Sun-Mon 5pm-10pm
Tue-Wed 5pm-10:30pm
Thu-Sat 5pm-11:30pm

Jardinière’s location and elegance cater to the opera and symphony crowd, as well as food-driven locals who know and love Chef Traci des Jardin’s beautiful Euro-California fare. Since opening in 1997, it’s quickly become a landmark in San Francisco fine dining. At the helm of the kitchen is Chef de Cuisine Craig Patzer; his dinner menu changes daily, and the lounge menu offers a smaller selection of more low-key snacks and composed plates.

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Poleng Lounge
1751 Fulton St
San Francisco, CA 94117
415 441 1751
Tue-Sun 11am-2am

Poleng Lounge is a sleek Asian-themed bar with a serious tea menu and playful cocktails, great local bands and DJ’s, and a secret: Timothy Leong’s eclectic Asian cooking that draws inspiration from all over the region.

We Recommend:
Crab Lo Mein
Curried Corn Fritters

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Bacar
448 Brannan St
San Francisco, CA 94107
415 904 4100
Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm
Fri, Sat 5:30pm-11pm

The lounge at Bacar on StarChefs.com

The lounge at Bacar

Traci Des Jardins’ talented protégée from Jardiniere – Chef Robbie Lewis – has his own place now, bacar, a warm wood-paneled wine bar downstairs and a sleek modern restaurant upstairs.

We Recommend:
Venison Tartare, Coriander Scented Crème Fraiche, Preserved Kumquats
Alaskan King Salmon with Pacific Shrimp, Baby Artichokes, and Lettuce Emulsion

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Ducca
50 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
415 977 0271
Daily, 6:30am-10:30am, 11:30am-2:00pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm
Lounge 11:30am-12:30am

We tasted with (and were impressed by) Chef Richard Corbo while he was cooking at the clubby restaurant/bar/lounge Mecca. Now he’s brought his Italian training and his experience at Gary Danko and Boston’s Tremont 27 to the Italian-inspired Ducca, which opened last June.

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This hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant in the Outer Richmond is worth a trip for the very thin-skinned soup dumplings (xiao long bao). It’s crowded on weekend mornings but tables turn fairly quickly and it’s worth waiting for a little while (take-out is available but the delicate soup dumplings don’t travel well and tend to split and spill their delicious soup fillings by the time you reach home).

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HOTELS

Splurge Worthy

Campton Place
340 Stockton Street
San Francisco, California 94108
415 781 5555
Rooms start at $575

The intimate, 150-room hotel sits on Union Square, in the bustling heart of downtown San Francisco. Its modern marble and dark wood décor is decorated with bright flowers in a classic boutique style typical of luxury, city hotels. The hotel’s equally intimate 62-seat fine dining restaurant is one of the city’s culinary landmarks – chefs Bradley Ogden, Laurent Manrique, Daniel Humm and Peter Rudolph have each taken a turn running the kitchen. The hotel has recently opened a more casual bistro-style bar, and as an added plus, they have the best bedding we’ve found.

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The Mandarin Oriental
222 Sansome Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
415 276 9600
Rooms start around $400

It’s all about the details at San Francisco’s luxurious and trendy Mandarin Oriental. Even the beds are raised a few inches higher than normal, so the dramatic city views are never lost! The hotel’s restaurant, Silks, is a sensual blend of Asian and American; Chef Joel Huff’s cuisine is playful and experimental, melding various influences, ingredients and techniques for an exciting dining experience.

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Pricey But Sane

The Westin St. Francis
335 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 397 7000
Rooms start around $270

An old school glam (high ceilings, marble, wood, and gold) lobby gives way to nicely modern rooms in this hotel located smack-dab on Union Square. Rooms are plush and comfortable, decorated with dark wood furniture. Half of the two towered building has been re-done – the aforementioned modern rooms are in the newer half; the old style is evident in the private event rooms, which are ornately decorated with mirrors, patterned carpets, and gold. The hotel offers some great dining options – a full-service restaurant, plus Michael Mina conveniently located right above the lobby.

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The Palace Hotel
2 New Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 512-1111
Rooms start around $260

The Palace Hotel has classic hotel glam and comfort, plus a beautiful pool, a great workout room, and a stately events space that’s great for a party. There are a variety of dining options, and Chef Jesse Llapitan serves fun, accessible food (sit in the atrium and have some duck confit mac n’ cheese), plus the Ferry Plaza market is just a few blocks away.

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Wallet Watching

Hotel Rex
562 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 433 4434
Rooms start at $149

Hotel Rex is a small, cozy boutique hotel one block from Union Square. The 94 rooms are cozy and bright, with eclectic decorations. Prices are super reasonable for the location, and include a daily free glass of wine at Café Andree between 5-6pm.

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Hotel Nikko
222 Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 394 1111
Rooms start around $180

Down the hill from Union Square and headed towards Ferry Plaza, with ample meeting space and business rooms and simple, unobtrusive room design, Hotel Nikko caters to conventions and travelers looking for a great location for a decent price.

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Kensington Park Hotel
450 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 788-6400
Rooms start around $120

Kensington Park provides fantastic quality and location (Union Square) for the price. Rooms are small but the beds are great, and Mark Franz’s seafood restaurant, Farallon, is downstairs. The restaurant is known for its wild, sweeping design and expansive selection of the coast’s best fish, crustaceans and bivalves.

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CHEFS RECOMMEND:

Chef Nate Appleman likes Spices Restaurant (291 6th Ave at Clement St, (415) 752-8885) for Szechuan, Mandarin, Islamic and Chinese cuisine. He thinks Thai House (151 Noe St, (415) 863-0374) has the best Thai food outside of Thailand and recommends the fried chicken at Shin Toe Bul Yi Korean restaurant (2001 Taraval St near 30th Ave, (415) 566-9221).

Chef Jennifer Biesty goes to Ton Kiang (5821 Geary Blvd, (415) 752-4440) for Thai and is a fan of the noodles and shark’s fin soup at the Vietnamese Tu Lan (8 6th St, (415) 626-0927). For fried chicken in a bucket, the place to go is Front Porch (65 29th St,
(415) 695-7800).

Chef Mourad Lahlou enjoys a late after-work pad thai at Thai House Express (901 Larkin St, (415) 441-2248).

Chef Jonah Oakden recommends Brother’s Korean (4128 Geary Blvd, (415) 387-7991). He also likes ordering the off-the-menu crispy tacos with red salsa at La Taqueria (2889 Mission St, (415) 285-7117).

Chef James Syhabout goes to JoJo in Oakland (3859 Piedmont Ave, (510) 985-3003) for good Provençal French cooking. Fast food-wise, he recommends Taco Truck on 23rd avenue and the California staple In N’Out Burger where he gets a classic Double Double. For a good Chinatown joint that has no menu and serves whatever is fresh, he suggests Jai Yun (923 Pacific Ave at Powell, (415) 981-7438).

Chef Seiji Wakabayashi appreciates Nova’s (555 2nd St, (415) 543-2282) late night kitchen for its Mediterranean flat bread, butternut squash and goat cheese.

Chef Laurence Jossel likes Firefly (4288 24th St, (415) 821-7652), a great neighborhood restaurant, and the Hungarian-run Da Flora (701 Columbus Ave, (415) 981-4664) for Italian cooking and great homemade bread and gnocchi.

Chef Peter Rudolph goes to Brothers for Korean, and recommends Bocadillo (710 Montgomery St, (415) 982-2622), La Taqueria, and My Tofu House (4627 Geary Blvd, (415) 750-1818).

Pastry Chef Nicole Krasinski loves the pizza at Pizzetta 211 (211 23rd Ave, (415) 379-9880).

 

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   Published: February 2008

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