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  1. For those that are reading this thread, Chez Panisse (the restaurant) is almost as difficult a reservation as the French Laundry. It is not an afterthought but a very real destination that many people on the West Coast and elsewhere build trips around. Quite literally this is Mecca for many who care about the emergence of America and the ascension of a serious cuisine from a country that was once thought of as having good fried chicken and decent charcoal grilled steak. For all that I may have raved about Danko (and the bar if you go at the last minute and arrive BEFORE THEY OPEN!) Chez Panisse is the Holy Grail of American restaurants. It is to America as Troisgros and Robuchon are to France and Santimaria and Adria are to Spain. In the late '70's and early '80's Alice Waters' place was a temple that born again foodies from Vermont to Georgia to New Mexico crossed a country to visit. When they returned to their hometowns America was never the same. What we eat today has much to do with what was started then. And there.
  2. We went to Frances for dinner tonight. I can see why this restaurant is consistently ranked in the top 10 establishments in San Francisco. Perhaps we need another visit to compare notes but having said that, neither B nor myself were impressed enough to return right away. The company was wonderful though, and that saved the evening. Applewood smoked bacon beignets, with maple chive crème fraîche.Nice "snack" to start. Light, airy and there was just enough maple in the crème fraîche to be of interest. Watermelon and Early Girl tomato gazpacho, with Gulf shrimp, English cucumber and shiso. Little Gem salad, with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, smoked bacon, pecorino and balsamic vinaigrette. Sounded wonderful on paper, but not in execution. Too much dressing on the lettuce - if I can see it and it's pooling on the bottom of the plate, then someone had better restrain their hand in the kitchen. Croutons were tough. And the balance of flavors clashed against the wine we were drinking. Seared snapper, with fregola, Castelvetrano olives, pistachio fennel slaw. Duck confit, with habañero stone fruit jam, ricotta dumplings, and grilled broccolini. The duck was dry and a touch overcooked, the jam of little interest (barely spicy and nearly sweet enough to be ketchup). The dumplings were just "ok" and the broccolini might as well have been raw. If they were grilled, I didn't detect anything that tasted as if they were cooked that way. And yes, those are also grilled turnips. At least those were prepared well. Roasted cauliflower and Gala apple fondue, Nicasio reserve, pickled grape. The English language has only so many ways to write "mediocrity". Clearly prepared well, but totally uninteresting to me. As if roasted cauliflower needed a cheese sauce. The grapes which were clearly there to lend acidity/contrast were just an afterthought. BTW this "side" which consists of maybe 5 tablespoons of food, cost $10. WTF?!? Blistered Romano beans, pepita and nigella crunch, arugula and sunflower pesto. We were comped this side by the kitchen. I hated the pesto, the crunch didn't contribute anything, and the beans were "ok". There are four elements in that bowl that don't belong there IMHO. Warm apple crumble cake, with butterscotch and cinnamon brittle ice cream. Somewhat better, although B remarked that the cake reminded him of a muffin. He could've been eating breakfast. Lumberjack cake with Medjool dates, Yali pear, apple and muscovado ice cream. Dense, flavorful but not moist cake saved by intensely flavored ice cream. The dates were "fine". They also contributed nothing IMHO. You can detect a trend - too many ingredients that don't make sense together and aren't interesting. But lots of folks like this place so maybe it's just me. My main criticism is - if you're going to charge top dollar with your two most expensive dishes on the menu in the mid-$30s, then you had better damn well make sure that what you're serving is perfect. I wanted to like Frances. I really do. Their style of cooking is market-driven and it's what moves me, but all the little things add up and based on this experience, it'll be a while before we return. Other observations: there is very little sound absorption in the restaurant. In fact, it might be more accurate to say that there is none. It's all wooden surfaces with square tables and wooden benches. Even with the restaurant half full and windows/doors open, prepare to be swallowed up by a wall of sound. We had to lean in against each other in order to be able to make ourselves heard. Frances3870 17th Street (Pond Street)The Castro http://www.frances-sf.com/
  3. I had a terrific meal a few weeks ago at Range [Closed Jan 1, 2017], a new restaurant in the Mission. My friends and I shared a few starters, which I followed with spinach soup instead of a salad. This was a nice surprise; the soup didn't lend any of that dry-mouth feel that I sometimes get from spinach, even though, according to the server, it was completely vegan except for the dollop of cream in the middle. Nice, tasty, and interesting, even for a meat-lover. For a main, I usually don't order the chicken, but my dining companions had ordered every other dish I was interested in, and the chicken got breathless raves, so I said what the heck. And it was phenomenal. The meat and its sides had innovative but not overpowering flavors and were cooked perfectly. So were all the other dishes at the table (which I of course got tastes of). Finally, after a tremendous chocolate souffle and a tasty alcohol+coffee concoction I had to throw in the towel and call it a night. Incidentally, not only was the food amazing, our server was just great--friendly, knowledgeable on the food, and extremely well-versed on the wine. And to top it all off, the entree prices ranged from $16-20, appetizers $6-13. The San Franciscans at the table all commented that the place could have easily tacked on $4-6 an entree without changing a thing, and it'd still be a deal. And who knows--maybe they will in a few weeks. But my friends are right: that restaurant would still be a find. I highly recommend giving it a go before everyone else discovers it! (or even after!)
  4. I went to Quince a year ago and it was brilliant; by far the best meal I had in SF. Resembled a dressed-up version of Komi more than any Italian restaurant in DC. Very intimate & elegant, with proper but friendly service and small menu where everything was a highlight.
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