Friday, December 09, 2005

Eating My Way Through San Francisco

I had to go to San Francisco for a meeting last week, and I had dinner out every night I was there.

On Friday night, I ate at Miss Millie's in Noe Valley (4123 24th St. bet. Castro & Diamond). I picked it for a few simple reasons - it was late (9ish), it was a short walk from my friends' house and it had the right light. I want to eat in a restaurant where the lighting makes me, my compatriots and the food all look good. That means indirect light, incandescent light and multiple sources of light. This place had it right, from the lace curtains in the windows to the waiters with ties and floor-length aprons to the really good lentil dish with spicy lamb sausage. The salad was forgettable, but the lentils made up for it. Plus it was a nice place to eat when one is by oneself. The waiter didn't treat me like a freak of nature like some do - a woman eating alone, quel horreur!

On Saturday, I ate at Home on Union Street (not in the Castro). I was up in that neighborhood admiring the lights merchants and residents had strung up, dodging the occasional holiday character wandering the streets (Frosty, Santa, etc.) and listening with pleasure to the barbershop quartet with four old guys. Home had the right light upon entering, a lot of glass, a lot of nice low indirect light and a lot of candles. There were several tables for two open in the front section with all the nice light, but the host led me to a back room that I swear looked like my middle-school cafeteria and sat me at a table right in the center of the crowded room. So I popped up and went back to the bar and sat down to have dinner. Why sit in an ugly room to eat? You know the food will taste awful. The bartender called me sweetie so I called him honey and the evening progressed nicely. The food was good, especially the charred green beans on the side. I do something like that, stir-frying green beans (especially ones that are past their prime) in a hot cast iron pan, letting them blacken just a bit. Really good.

On Sunday, my friend Rajesh and I ate at Frascati (Green Street at Hyde Street), a place I'd found in Zagat. It was cozy, in an old house with lots of little rooms. It was a little close but not uncomfortably so. Now I really like my friend Raj but he does like things just so, and isn't shy about telling me when they're not. And several things were not just so for him, and some of them I'd agree with. He had a venison carpaccio as a starter, and while the carpaccio was quite nice, the plate it was served on was freezing. I would have sent it back but he just ate it. I had a gnocchi dish with some truffle oil. Raj's opinion was that the truffle oil was overwhelming; my own was that less wouldn't have hurt but it was still pretty good. I did have a less than memorable flat iron steak; it was gristly without any offsetting flavor, and I really can't remember what Raj had as an entree. I had a vin santo (with no cookie - Raj was appalled) and he had a Bonny Doon framboise. I've had that before and should have warned him. It's a lighter version of Chambord but just as raspberry-powerful. The service was quite nice, and Raj picked up the tab so it was a good night as far as I was concerned!

Monday was the worst. The concierge at the Grand Hyatt recommended Le Central Bistro downtown on Bush Street. I was having dinner with two girlfriends and didn't want to deal with large crowds or a lot of noise. We were going to talk a lot and wanted to hear each other. It was bistro food but very, very, VERY tired bistro food. Fortunately, neither of my dinner companions held it against me but Connie did tell me I couldn't pick the restaurant next time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should try Absinthe in Hayes Valley.

10:48 PM  

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