Although the toque has been passed to several chefs since the tragic death of founding chef Masataka Kobayashi in 1984, this 25-year-old restaurant, with its chocolate-brown walls, white fabric ceiling, and vermilion-silk-shaded lanterns, remains a noted destination for fine dining in San Francisco. Chef Gregory Short, who worked alongside Thomas Keller at the famed French Laundry for seven years, has been at the helm since 2004. His tasting menus of five or nine courses, including a vegetarian option, all showcase the bounty of the seasons, from winter root vegetables to summer peaches. The California-French cuisine also features Japanse flair (an homage to Masa), and all the dishes are laced with luxe ingredients, from Maine lobster to prime beef. In fall, when northern Italy's exquisite white truffles are in season, Short typically puts together a tasting menu that tucks them into every course, which will hopefully include a silky truffle custard whose perfume you can smell before
it arrives at the table. The mignardise cart of candies, cookies, and chocolates is a famous component to the dining experience here. Wine drinkers are in excellent hands, with an award-winning list by sommelier Alan Murray that includes many small-production wines from around the globe. The elegant room has a formal atmosphere that is thankfully far from stuffy or suffocating, although a jacket is preferred for gentlemen.