San Francisco’s culinary scene continues to amaze diners virtually the world over…
Although the toque has been passed to several chefs since the death of founding chef Masa Kobayashi, this two-decade-old restaurant, with its chocolate-brown walls, white fabric ceiling, and red-silk-shaded lanterns, is still one of the country’s most celebrated food temples. (photo, right)
Wildly popular and consciously unpretentious, this penny-pinchers’ magnet serves honest fare—pizzas from the wood-fired oven, thick burgers of grass-fed beef, spaghetti with meatballs, roast chicken and mashed potatoes, soup-and-sandwich specials—made with the best local ingredients.
Owner-chef Judy Rodgers is a national star, and after one bite of her whole roast chicken and Tuscan bread salad for two, you’ll be applauding, too. At the long copper bar, trays of briny-fresh oysters on the half shell are dispensed along with cocktails and wine.
Sculpted jellyfish lamps, kelp-covered columns, and sea-urchin chandeliers give this swanky Pat Kuleto–designed restaurant a decidedly quirky look. But there’s nothing quirky about chef Mark Franz’s impeccable seafood, which reels in serious diners from coast to coast. (photo, right)
Jardinière takes its name from its chef-owner, Traci Des Jardins, and the sophisticated interior, with its eye-catching oval atrium and curving staircase, is the work of famed designer Pat Kuleto. Cheese snobs will appreciate the glassed-in cheese-aging chamber in the rear of the restaurant.
Among Delfina’s usual offerings are salt cod mantecato (whipped with olive oil) with fennel flat bread; grilled fresh sardine crostini; chicken and pancetta agnolotti (stuffed pasta); and roast chicken with trumpet mushrooms. On warm nights, try for a table on the outdoor patio.
Be prepared to wait your turn for a table behind chef Gary Danko’s legion of loyal fans, who typically keep the reservation book chock-full here. The cost of a meal ($59-$81) is pegged to the number of courses, from three to five. The wine list is the size of a small-town phone book.
Michael Tusk, who has cooked at the legendary Chez Panisse and Oliveto, oversees the kitchen at this small, smart eatery. The menu changes daily and marries French, Italian, and American traditions.
Ritz-Carlton Dining Room and Terrace
The stiffly formal Dining Room, with French windows, fine linens, and an encyclopedic wine list, serves only prix-fixe French seasonal dinners, priced by the number of courses. The Terrace, a cheerful, informal spot with a large garden patio for outdoor dining, serves breakfast and lunch daily, a Sunday jazz brunch, and dinner Sunday and Monday.
L’Osteria del Forno
This homey trattoria’s kitchen produces small plates of simply cooked vegetables, a few pastas, a roast of the day, creamy polenta, and thin-crust pizzas, including a memorable “white” pie topped with porcini mushrooms and mozzarella.
The lightly seasoned Hakka cuisine of southern China, rarely found in this country and even little known in the Middle Kingdom, was introduced to San Francisco here. Some of the finest dim sum in the city is what brings the noontime crush. (photo, right)
Swan Oyster Depot
Half fish market and half diner, this small, slim seafood operation, open since 1912, has no tables, only a narrow marble counter with about a dozen and a half stools. Hop onto one of the rickety stools to enjoy a bowl of clam chowder–the only hot food served–a dozen oysters, half a cracked crab, a big shrimp salad, or a smaller shrimp cocktail.