I’ve been a couple of times to San Francisco in the past few weeks and eaten out well. Here are four favourites.
State Bird Provisions is just brilliant. If you eat out a lot, it’s hard to find anything very novel or innovative, but State Bird surprised me. We sat at the best seats in the house, in front of the kitchen, and had a great time. This is a small plates joint, with a rustic urban feel, but there’s an interesting twist. The menu is very short, with just a few items on it, and this is because most of the plates come round on a trolley (or, if you are sitting at the kitchen, are presented to you directly). The price is indicated on a wooden spoon, and you decide whether or not you’d like the dish. If you say yes, then your menu card gets marked in the appropriate slot ($3-$9 per dish). The food itself is delicious, and you can rack up quite a bill if you aren’t very good at saying no. The wine list is quite brilliant, with a definite personality to it. Some brave choices have been made, and it’s not a list that tries to cover all the bases. We had a grower Champagne made solely from Pinot Blanc, and a rare Portuguese white from the Vital variety. Mark-ups aren’t crazy.
This is a lovely way to eat. It’s also very clever on the part of the restaurant, because tables can turn quite quickly. We lingered, and the next door seats were on their way to be turned for the second time in the evening. If you want to eat here early, then booking well in advance is necessary. If you are prepared to turn up at 9 pm, then I hear it’s possible to do a walk in. Thoroughly recommended.
The second of the four restuarants is Aatxe. Pronounced ‘ahh-CHAY’, this is a Basque-influenced tapas joint that opened in April last year, and it is quite brilliant. The small plates are beautifully prepared and presented, and there’s also a fab gin and tonic pairing wheel, where you get to select the ideal G&T. The pictures don’t do justice to the food because of the terrible light, but once again it’s possible to over-eat and over-spend here because everything is so good.
Next, Prospect. This is a large, modern restaurant close to Google’s HQ, and lunch here was a good way to finish my most recent SF visit. It gets nicely busy here at lunch, and there’s a good atmosphere. The food is really nicely done. The mixed chicories salad was lovely, and it was followed by duck and porcini papardelle that worked perfectly. But the real attraction here is the excellent wine list, chosen by sommelier Josh Thomas. It’s especially strong on Champagne (we had a Gimonnet Fleuron 2006), but also has gems like Lapierre’s 2014 Morgon (the sans soufre version), which was lovely. It’s really hard to fault Prospect: the best of modern California dining.
The final restaurant in this round-up is quite well known. The Slanted Door, in the ferry terminal, is the ideal spot for Sunday lunch. So, as walk-ins, we arrived at opening time and got a table.
The food: modern Vietnamese. The dining room: large, busy and bright, with lovely natural light. The wine list: quite eclectic, with lots of interesting choices. The service: smart and attentive. The overall experience: fabulous. Tasty food, nice wine, and I’ll definitely be back.