Shawn A.

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Recent reviews by Shawn A. - Page 1 of 3
Restaurant Name City
Rating
La Folie San Francisco, CA
First of all, wow. This is a top of the line restaurant that certainly lives up to the 28 out of 30 rating it gets in Zagats review every year. I took my wife here for her birthday and we were both very impressed with not only the food, but the service as well. When we entered, we were immediately met by a very pleasant woman who took our drink orders and told us it would be about 10 minutes before our table was ready. Normally, 10 minutes in restaurant time can quickly become a half hour, but I didn't even have a chance to finish half a glass of wine before we were seated. The host, a very pleasant Frenchman greeted us with a genuine smile and handshake, adding a nice personal touch to the experience. After wrestling with the large wine list for about 10 minutes, I asked the host if he could recommend a mid-priced Bordeaux and he recommended the 93 Smith-Haut Lafitte which was very very good especially for the price ($66). We ordered from the fixed price menu, where for $65 (plus 5 or 10 extra for special dishes) we received a soup, appetizer, entree and dessert. For openers, my wife started with the soup du jour, asparagus, which was excellent and delicately seasoned with what tasted like a bit of mint. I had the cauliflower soup which had a tasty bit of lobster placed in the center of the bowl. Both soups were creamy and rich in flavor, yet not very thick or heavy. This mastery of light cooking with cream sauces was our first clue that we were in for a treat. For appetizers, my wife had the spicy lobster salad while I had the foie gras specialty of the house which was topped off with balsamic vinegar, rubarb and strawberry sauce which exploded with flavor. The lobster salad was equally impressive, although its artistic and majestic presentation made it difficult for us to destroy by sticking a fork in it. For our entrees, my wife ordered the special for the evening which was a filet mignon with fois gras layered on top of a potato cake and topped off with a wonderful sauce and tasty truffles. As a person who often orders red meat dishes in restaurants, I was in heaven and secretly wished I had ordered the filet, but instead I settled for a couple of mouth watering bites of the perfectly prepared beef. My wife, even though more of a salad and white meat person, was very happy with her choice and marveled at the preparation. I ordered the quail and squab stuffed with wild mushrooms. This dish was also excellent and although not as creatively decorated as some of the other entrees, proved to be very well-prepared and delicious. Of course there was dessert. Unfortunately, we were both so stuffed at this point we found it difficult to imagine fitting any more food in our stomachs, but we managed to have a few spoonfuls of some very tasty sorbets. I also recommend to anyone who likes cherries the cherry soup dessert. Once we finished a cup of espresso, we headed out and were greeted at the door by the chef himself. While most hosts or hostesses are required to ask if you had a good meal, the chef was actually genuinely interested in speaking with us about our dining experience. After a quick chat, the chef informed us that he will be opening a small restaurant in Menlo Park, so those of you on the peninsula should keep your eyes open for it. It will be in downtown MP on Santa Cruz Avenue and I can hardly wait. As for the price of our meal, it was quite expensive. Period. But the service is so accomodating and there is such a relaxed dining atmosphere (we arrived at 9:30, finished at 11:30 and never felt rushed) you certainly get your money's worth. In general, this is clearly one of SF's finest restaurants and easily makes my top 3 along with Masa's and Aqua.
42 Degrees San Francisco, CA
The first thing that will surprise you is this restaurant's location. It located in one of San Francisco's industrial districts behind the Espirit outlet. It's not much to look at from the outside, but once you enter, the industrial-chic styled interior is very cool. Live jazz and a long bar in the back of the restaurant adds to the tres trendy atmosphere. After a glass of 18 year scotch (the bar is quite well stocked), my wife and I were seated by a waiter who turned out to be very nice and attentive. The wine list was average, but did have a couple of interesting smaller vineyard California reds. We ordered the bowl of mixed olives with italian herbs along with a classic caesar salad; both were very good. As an entree we ordered the lobster risotto and rib eye steak. The steak was good, but unspectacular. It was served with fried potato wedges which were relatively bland. The side greens however (I think they were arugula) were excellent and topped with a very light vinagrette. The lobster risotto was excellent. If you like rich, creamy dishes with a lot of flavor, this dish is perfect. The risotto was well done and the lobster was abundant. My wife said she liked the risotto much better than the ribeye, but would have never been able to finish it all because it was so rich. None- theless, if you're hungry enough, I highly recommend it. We saw several other dishes (there are about 7 or 8 choices on the menu) and they all looked good. I heard the folks sitting next to us talking about how delicious the short ribs were. We were too full to order dessert and had to settle for a nice hot cup of espresso instead. All in all, this is a good restaurant with excellent atmosphere. I highly recommend this to anyone trying to impress a guest with your knowledge of the S.F. restaurant scene. Once they see that you know of a very hip place tucked away where few know about it, they'll think for sure you're a true restaurant expert.
Antica Trattoria San Francisco, CA
This is an excellent restaurant I would recommend to anyone seeking great Italian cuisine at a reasonable price. I went here with a group of 6 and we all ordered different dishes and sampled each other's plates. Of the 6, the only disappointing dish was the gnocchi, which was below average and very bland. The restaurant, however is really known more for its meat dishes, which were all fantastic. I would go as far as to say you cannot go wrong with any meat entree on the menu. Also, as an added treat, watch for entrees with polenta on the side. Antica's polenta is the best I have ever had. As an appetizer, I would highly recommend the carpaccio, which is full of wonderful flavors served with arugula, lemon, capers, and mustard. The wine list here is also surprisingly large for such a small restaurant. Antica has been on the Chronicle's list of the top 100 restaurants in the bay area for at least two years now, and I completely agree. But make sure you make a reservation at least two days in advance to be safe. There are only about 20 tables and the restaurant is always packed.
Aqua San Francisco, CA
Overall, Aqua is by far the best seafood restaurant I have ever been to. I have been here three times now and the exquisite, full- bodied tastes presented here are only surpassed by the wonderful presentation. Each dish is truly a work of art that should be admired before being eaten. The signature ahi dish is perfect and the swordfish and lobster tail entrees I had were very nearly as good. After reading some of the other reviews for Aqua, other reviewers have commented that the food is too salty, but I didn't really think so. Perhaps I haven't ordered the more salty dishes. The wine list is excellent, although, priced proportionally as high as the entrees, which means a $20 bottle in the market may run you almost three times as much. There are two drawbacks to this restaurant, which I easily looked past because of the excellent food, but should be noted. For one, the room is very loud. I didn't mind, but it was a bit of a strain to talk with someone across the table in a normal speaking voice. Second, the service is, well, not good. Here's an anecdote to illustrate. On my second visit to Aqua, my fiancee and I (both 25-26 years of age) were seated in a corner table in the very back of the restaurant. From the get-go it was clear that because we were young we were not going to get much respect from the serving staff. In addition I had brought my own bottle of wine, which the waiter made a csnooty comment about. The bottle I brought was a 1972 Clos du Val which is known as one of the very finest California reds in the last 30-40 years. Once the waiter saw the label, he looked at me with surprise and said, "Oh...we don't have this here." Needless to say, bringing a bottle of wine that probably would have gone for $100-150 on their wine list won us back at least some respect for the remainder of the meal, and the waiter was quite pleasant for the rest of the evening. Although the whole scene was pretty humorous, it was clear that the snooty, normally unattentive service can be a difficult thing to swallow at $100 per person. And in my mind, no customer should have to prove their worth to the serving staff in order to be treated respectfully. But the food is good enough that I still plan to go back for my next very special occasion.
Gombei Japanese Restaurant Menlo Park, CA
This is the best Japanese restaurant on the peninsula in this price range. For under $10 you can get a bowl of excellent teriyaki chicken or beef, Japanese salad, a bowl of miso soup, a large piece of broiled salmon or tuna, a six piece California roll, and a bowl of rice. I have been eating at Gombei for over 6 years now and the quality has always been consistently high. The service can at times be a bit abrasive, but I don't think it detracts from the overall dining experience.
Mediterranean Cafe Bistro Menlo Park, CA
A good place to get pretty authentic Mediterranean cuisine with a bit of an American twist. This cafe is quite small and feels a bit cramped depending on what table you get, but the overall European cafe atmosphere makes it okay. I think the food is a bit pricey for what you get, but I would recommend any dish they have with lamb, which they cook quite well. The menu is very interesting with a lot of choices, which makes me want to go back again and try some of the more interesting dishes. The highlight of my meal there was the coffee I had after dinner which was rich and strong. The wine list is not impressive, so if you really like to drink wine, I would suggest bringing your own. Overall, this is one of the better Mediteranean Bistros that I've tried on the peninsula. Also, if you like this restaurant, I would highly recommend trying the California/Greek food at Evvia in Palo Alto.
British Bankers Club Menlo Park, CA
This pub/restaurant has changed quite a bit in the past few months. The restaurant has been converted to a fantastic smoke shop (one of the very best I have been to anywhere on the peninsula) and food is now served in the bar and the outside patio. The food is not outstanding, but is above average. The atmosphere and interior are the biggest reasons I give this place such a high rating. The bangers and mash are very good for anyone who doesn't mind the cholesterol, but most of all, the selection of fine beers is what makes this establishment top notch. I love just sitting down in the cigar lounge with a Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout and imagining I'm in London.
Noah's Bagels Menlo Park, CA
Now a big chain with some sort of partnership agreement with Starbucks, this bagel shop continues to make the best bagels in the Bay Area. Their large selection of shmears are all good, especially the sun dried tomato shmear for those who like strong flavors. The coffee isn't very good, but have no fear; if you look closely, there is almost always a Starbuck's coffee either right next to Noah's or on the same block.
Mecca San Francisco, CA
This place is really cool. I have been here three times and have been very pleased with the food each time. The wine list is good, and the service is very friendly, but the atmosphere is what makes this place so much fun. There is a 1930's meets abandoned warehouse feel that is complete with live jazz and a huge oval- shaped bar in the middle of the restaurant. The bartenders can be seen mixing drinks in a fashion straight out of the movie "Cocktail" with all kinds of bar paraphenelia flipping and flying through the air. Warning: make reservations in advance. I once went and waited 2 1/2 hours for a table and the bar was so crowded that I never found a seat.
Firenze By Night Ristorante San Francisco, CA
Above average Italian food. I had the gnocchi which was fabulous. In fact, their gnocchi was rated the best in North Beach this year. The rest of the food we had, however, was good, but not fantastic. The service was excellent, and although some might think him rude, I felt right at home with the owner who came over and joked around about my bringing my own bottle of wine. The overall atmosphere is quite unique, with dimmed lights and an old-world feel but some decor which is wuite modern and flashy. This place is one of the less crowded restaurants I have been to in North Beach, but I'm sure it won't stay that way with all the awards it is winning. Go while you can still get a table!
Bocce Cafe-Italian Restaurant San Francisco, CA
You pay for what you get here. Decent service, although nothing special, pasta that tastes like you paid $5.00 for it, and a cool atmosphere. This is by no means a good restaurant, but it is a fun place to have a quick bite with friends on your way out for the evening. I was taken here by two friends who raved about how cool it was. I must agree that the extra pillowed couches that we sat in while eating were an interesting touch, but I was so dis- appointed with the food that the ambiance wore off pretty quickly.
Andale Taqueria Palo Alto, CA
I like this place a lot. It may not necessarily be the most authentic Mexican food around, but it makes up in creativity what it lacks in authenticity. I eat here often and have never had a bad meal. All the burritos, tacos, and enchiladas I have had have been well-prepared and fresh. Regarding the comment above about not having refried beans...that is actually one of the more authentic things about the restaurant. As my wife's Mexican mother and grandmother tell me, refried beans don't belong in a burrito anyway. A traditional burrito is made with boiled beans and rice, unless you follow the cooking techniques of Taco Bell. Give this place a chance and if it you want more authenticity then head for Rosita's in Redwood City, or La Costena in Mountain View.
Terra Restaurant Saint Helena, CA
This restaurant, located in the small Napa Valley town of St. Helena is a hidden treasure. As you drive down the quiet street it is easy to miss the restaurant altogether because there is no sign on the outside of the stone building. Although the restaurant is dark, each table is individually lit with a soft spotlight from the ceiling which gives you a feeling of privacy, which can be important in such a small restaurant. The food is on all counts fantastic. The spicy garlic and bread soup is delicious and actually quite reminiscent of some of the fine soups found in eastern european cuisine. Freshly baked baguettes are also brought to the table piping hot. As a main dish, I selected the veal medallions with marsala mushroom sauce on a bed of potatoes. This dish was delicious and was made with shitake mushrooms adding a bit of an asian flare to an otherwise european dish. The presentation was beautiful, making it difficult to take the first bite off the plate. But once I tasted the perfectly cooked veal in the wine-flavored mushroom sauce, there was no stopping me. My fiancee had the grilled salmon which was unbelievably good. The salmon was cooked to perfection and was placed under a portion of cucumber and cabbage salad. This cole-slaw-type salad covered in a very light rice wine vinegar dressing (often served in Japanese restaurants), was the perfect complement to the salmon and was prepared in a less traditional, but I thought a more tasty manner. After dinner, we were quite full (Terra does not skimp on the amount of food per serving), so we did not get the pleasure of trying any of the delicious desserts. But I ordered an espresso after dinner and it was quite strong and the perfect end to a brilliant dinner. The wine list here is, of course, quite long. We selected the Duckhorn Merlot, which was a bit pricey, but I would recommend to anyone who doesn't spending $40-50 for a great bottle of wine. The service was quite friendly and very attentive, without being disruptive. Our waiter and server catered to our every need and our appetizers were delivered to our table within 10 minutes of our order. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for an upscale yet casual place to have a special occasion for a small group. I will definitely be going back again to try the scallop dish which, although I didn't taste, I saw at a table next to us, and it looked excellent. Bon Appetite!
Timber Cove Inn Jenner, CA
The food here is good, but I didn;t feel it was spectacular. This is really a 3 1/2 stars restaurant with great desserts and a good wine list. The view, however makes the meal. The service was also good and quite attentive. The dining room is quite dark, which I found a little annoying, but it is done in order to get minimal glare from the windows overlooking the ocean. The view is beautiful and I recommend a stay at this inn to anyone. It is one of the few places where you will see deer running on the beach. Honest!
Equinox San Francisco, CA
One of the most fantastic views of any restaurant I have been to. The rotating dining room lets you see the whole city from what feels like the clouds. The food, however, is not spectacular and I was quite unhappy with the stuffy service. The wine list is average and I did not have anything there that I would order again. This is a great place for a romantic special occasion, as long as you care more about the ambiance than the food and the prices.
Shogun Restaurant Mountain View, CA
This is a great place to go for lunch or dinner. The sushi selection is quite limited but it is fresh and usually quite good. The best thing here in my opinion is the tempura, which rivals places like Fuki Sushi but at a much more reasonable price. The lunch specials are a good deal and all the meat dishes I have had here are very well prepared and are quite lean. Much of the food here is consistently better than any other place in Mountain View except for maybe Fuki Sushi. But with Shogun's prices, I think it may be the best deal for Japanese food in Mountain View.
Fuki-Sushi Palo Alto, CA
Very good and authentic Japanese food. My college gymnastics coach who is from Japan, used to take our team here for special occasions. I find the sushi here to be fresh although I don't think it's the best in the bay area, especially for the price. But the tempura is fantastic as are the many other non-sushi entrees. Although this place is pricey, I think it is a very good place for a special occassion. The service here has always been very good especially to returning customers.
Sushi Ya Restaurant Palo Alto, CA
This is a very good restaurant for sushi. I have been here four times now, and the sushi has been consistently fresh and there is always a wide selection of traditional as well as more creative types of sushi and sashimi. I enjoy sitting at the bar more than at a table here because the sushi chef is usually pretty upen to creating a type of sushi that may not be on the menu. I once ordered a type of sushi I had only had once before at another restaurant that requires the chef to wrap a slice of avacado around a roll containing several vegetables and unagi, topped off with a warm brown sauce. He made it in a snap with a smile and it was delicious.
Sushi House Palo Alto, CA
The sushi here has always been fresh, but since they remodeled and made the restaurant into a pseudo-sit-down place, the prices have almost doubled. This is a good place to go if you live close by, but now that you can no longer eat here for under $10, I would say take a drive to University and try Tokyo, or drive north to Menlo Park and eat at Akasaka (formerly Tenichi) and have a good meal for not much more in a much nicer atmosphere.
Piatti Restaurant Co Yountville, CA
I have not been here since 1995, but I loved it then, and everyone I talk to that has gone since then has also come back with rave reviews. The pasta dishes I have had are all very fresh and all the pasta sauces I have tried here are fantastic. The appetizers (especially the carpaccio) are very good and the bread is delicious. Dessert here is always wonderful, and the service is prompt yet not overbearing. Of course the wine selection is unbelievable although the last time I was there I brought my own bottle from a local vineyard and was charged the normal $10 corking fee. I always trust a restaurant with an open kitchen like Piatti's and I always enjoy watching the chefs put their finishing touches on the dishes counter just before they are delivered to the table. The patio is a great place to eat or just sit and have coffee. The only complaint I have ever had here is once I was seated in the middle of the restaurant at a table for two on a very crowded night and I felt that the tables on either side were uncomfortably close, making converstaion a little difficult. But other than that, this was one of the best dining experiences I have had in quite a while.
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