Bottega, Yountville, CA
Sons & Daughter, San Francisco, CA
The dinner at Sons & Daughter was an unforgettable experience. For a $90 tasting menu, expectation could only be set at sky high.
They took plating to an art. The presentation is dazzling. My salad looked like a spring garden with a pond and the uni dish looked like sea aquarium.
My dinner did actually taste like Post-Impressionism artwork. Flavors were vivid, bold, yet still confined to original form of ingredients and not totally abstract with overwhelming experimental gastronomy techniques.
The bread… on my.. I was presented with 3 different bread courses and they were all heavenly. I can’t think of a place off my head with better bread service.
It’s proximity to Curran Theatre made it a great choice for pre-show dining. The dining room. while trendy and cute, is really too cramped for a more intimate romantic dinner. I would probably pick a different place for special occasion celebration.
Note: I heard after my dinner that they have increased the tasting menu price from $90 to $135. Would I pay that much for it? Yes I would. However, that might also knock a star off as there are better choice at this price range.
Price to Value: 3/5
Le Papillon, Santa Clara, CA
Le Papillon is my favorite French restaurant in South Bay. The one and only one that managed to keep me returning years after years. This is a place I could always expect a lovely meal.
Don’t let the silly michelin guide fool you into believe you are getting better food at those 1 or 2 stars places in the area. Le Papillon delivers superior quality food at a highly reasonable price. Some might find the old time ambiance a bit ‘dated’ but I think the classic white dining room is simply timeless. Service was impeccable. My server was full of smiles, energy and charms. The menu, while not the most innovative, are constantly changing for the better. Every dish was well balanced and tasted wonderful. I was delighted to find dishes that I enjoyed very much on my last visit still taste every bit as good as I remember.
I am still in love with the souffle. I felt exactly the same as we first met.
Price to Value: 4/5
Sent Sovi, Saratoga, CA
My last experience at Sent Sovi was a Valentine’s Day dinner. This time around, I finally get to sample their regular menu.
Two different occasions, with surprisingly similar impression.
Food was good, but lacked a little of something that makes it great. Comparing with other prix fixe multi-course dinner at this caliber and price range, I could only consider this a fairly mediocre meal.
Really want me to get into more details? Here you go….
I like the tomato puff “amuse bouche”. The “bread” has a lovely cube shape and was served warm and crisp. “Smoked tuna” appetizer wasn’t that memorable. “Scallop” appetizer was probably the best dish out of everything I have tried that night. “Roasted beets” salad had just a little too much oil that gave it an overly slimy texture. “Wedge salad” was quite pleasant and refreshing. Both entrees were average. “Rack of lamb” (special of the day) had decent texture but the flavors did not stand out. “Stretched quail” tasted fine with the sauce but the boney bird was too small with very little meat to go around. The parsnip purée almost took over the entire entree. I enjoyed the “granita” with the frozen grapes. It was just a bit too icy.
And then there came the desserts…. 45 minutes later… A mistake on their part in which they were very apologetic and remedied with some sparkling wine. Great service. Unfortunately, I still have to say the desserts were not good at all. The cakes… pistachio, almond… were just too modest and too ordinary.
I love the intimate ambiance and the attentive service. The food, just needs to be a little better.
Wakuriya, San Mateo, CA
Wakuriya reminds me of Kaygetsu more so than Kaygetsu’s current successor Mitsunobu.
The style, the simplistic elegance and the humble yet meticulous offerings. Everything that I liked so much about Kaygetsu could be found here. The only thing missing is just the sushi. Kaygetsu served incredible sushi that is sometimes even more impressive than their kaiseki.
Reservation at Wakuriya is known to be difficult. Mostly due to the fact that they only serve about 4 tables a night. For that, they have developed a very peculiar reservation policy. You can only make reservation up to 30 days in advanced. No more, no less. However, if you call even just a few days after the 30 days mark, there is good chance all the tables are already booked up. The trick, like many others have mentioned, is to leave a message at exactly midnight 30 days prior. Sounds crazy enough? It does require planning ahead but is no where near impossible as TFL.
As soon as you walked into this establishment, the hostess will make sure you will feel like an honored guest. This kind of traditional Japanese hospitality is not easily found elsewhere.
The food was memorable. Since you are not going to get the same menu, I will skip the item by item rundown. I was particularly impressed by the Kurobuta to hakusai no hakata-mushi (Mushi Mono course) and ebi-shinjo no sakura-ba tsutsumi-age (Age Mono course). Check out my photos for some eyes candies.
While I wouldn’t say it was the best kaiseki meal I had in North America (Aburiya Raku in Las Vegas held tight to that spot), it was one darn good meal for the price. Wakuriya in-cooperated a lot of contemporary elements into traditional style of cooking. The result is a flawless creation that could be appreciated by both novices and connoisseurs.
Worth the hassle of reservation. Worth the 1 month wait.
La Fondue, Saratoga, CA
An updated review is long due. If not for the Yelp deal, I probably wouldn’t have returned so soon. The deeply discounted Le Freak C’est Chic menu is simply too hard to resist.
You will never go home hungry if you come here for any of their fondue combinations. The Le Freak C’est Chic menu is challenging even for those with the biggest appetite - a total of 23oz of meat including everything they offer. It might not sound like a whole lot but it will quickly fill you up after the hearty salads and cheese fondue.
If not for the (usually) hefty price tag, the Le Freak C’est Chic menu is really a great introduction to their food. Out of everything I have tried, my favorites are the Chicken Japonaise, Kobe Wagyu, Black Angus Filet Mignon, Free Range Venison, Tiger Blue Shrimp and Lobster Tails.
As far as cooking method goes, I still prefer cooking in a pot for the experience but grilling preserve the flavors of the meat much better. The choice is yours.
Service is good but not spectacular. The maitre d’ appeared distracted and our server was not as attentive as I would like.
I love the updated trendy and quirky decor. It is a good place to take a date to. Probably not the best for a more intimate dinner given how busy the restaurant gets but it would definitely be a fun experience.
Do you know you can actually take your entire dessert fondue to go? Of course I ate mine there but the patrons next to us decided to take their dessert to go after a long struggle with the entree.
5A5 Steak Lounge, San Francisco, CA
It is difficult not to compare 5A5 with Alexander’s. I am sure you have heard a lot. I will try not to bore you.
My biggest surprise was from their hamachi shooter. It is actually almost a complete different recipe from Alexander’s. No truffle oil but plenty of yuzu. The citric flavor could be too bold for some but refreshing for others.
My biggest disappointment was from the prime rib. First, it was served lukewarm. Probably sat in the kitchen a little too long while the other steak was being prepared. The doneness was correct. It was cooked medium rare as requested but the meat was slightly too chewy.
Daikon soup was good. Foie gras torchon has minor air bubble. Tajima f1 Ribeye was fat, juicy and tender although the seared foie gras on top could have sat in the frying pan for another minute. Strawberry souffle was this dramatic fluffiness. Can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.
I wish they have petite fours or small sweets when they present the check.
Overall not a bad meal but there were things that could have been better.
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The Girl and the Fig, Sonoma, CA
The Girl & the Fig is one of those places that I desperately wanted to love but can’t.
The drinks, the appetizers, the bread, the dessert… all excellent. Service was impeccable. Ambiance was warm and very inviting. It was such a lovely restaurant that I feel sad not able to give it a better review.
What went wrong, you asked? Two entrees. One is the pork shoulder on the a la carte menu. Meat was tough. Sauce was way too salty. The other one is the grilled lamb on their plat du jour menu. The meat was very stingy and chewy. It wasn’t overcooked so most likely something went wrong with the cut.
I really wish it was just an occasional slip up. Maybe I would return another time to see if I have better luck.
The cocktails were great and I can’t believe how reasonably priced their wine paring was. I guess it is the wine country after all.
Redd, Yountville, CA
I had a good meal at Redd but I was not totally in love with the food.
I have heard great things about this restaurant and I had high expectation. Perhaps that was why I found myself slightly underwhelmed.
Food was carefully prepared. Presentation was lovely and most tasted good. It just lacked the ‘wow’ factor that I was hoping for. I had numerous wonderful meal at the wine country and I was looking for something really creative and extraordinary. Unfortunately, nothing sweep me off my feet me even though there were some memorable dishes.
The Glazed Pork Belly that many recommended was good but not great. The gravy compliments the meat well. The fatty parts were nice and crispy but I found the meat a bit dry and tough. Braised Beef Shortrib had amazing tender texture and you can really just cut it with your fork. The duck confit itself was not my favorite but the foie gras meatballs on the side were fantastic. Peach Shortcake was a good dessert to finish off my meal even though it was ordinary.
Redd is a pretty safe choice overall. You can’t go wrong with the meal as long as you are not looking for something groundbreaking. Do budget enough time for your food. It is true fine dining and not a place you can get a casual quick meal.
Ubuntu, Napa, CA
Vegetarian fine dining is an unassuming girl overshadowed by the prettier sibling’s glamor. With very limited ingredients in hand, chefs have push their creativity above and beyond to create a dish that could barely match their meaty counterpart.
Out of all the vegetarian and vegan meals I have had, Ubuntu was the only place that had create an experience that was not shy in comparison. I left the restaurant happy, feeling I had a really good meal and not just a really good vegetarian meal.
All the dishes were artfully presented in colorful, bold and vibrant theme. One dish would look like a dragon and the other would look like a spring flower garden. There were so much excitement to taste and to see.
Two of us ordered off the tasting menu and got every other dishes so we could try most of what they offered. Food was surprising fulfilling. It wasn’t even obvious to me that I just had a no meat meal. There were a lot of memorable dishes and everything I have tried worked well.
The wine menu was good of course (It was a Napa downtown restaurant after all). Service was very friendly and professional. Wait staff was knowledgeable and provided good description of each dish.
I would recommend Ubuntu to anyone. Meat lover or vegetarian alike. I am sure you could find a wonderful meal here.
Baume, Palo Alto, CA
12 dishes, 4 small bites, 2 glasses of champagne and 3 hours later, I left the restaurant happy but a little puzzled. Baume is worthy of its 2 Michelin stars status. However, there are still some elements missing. My dining experience was good but not exceptional. For a restaurant in this class I found the service to be just average. Descriptions of the dishes sounded robotic and simply boring. Most of the time all I heard was just a list of ingredients used. Some enthusiasm, or explanation of the technique would certainly have made things more interesting. I definitely enjoyed the showiness and dramatic presentation. (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you) The “white tablet” made a great first impression. The kabocha soup with “pumpkin seeds” ice cream and the mandarin tree were both lovely surprises. I think they could go even further and put on more dazzling shows. There are quite a few memorable dishes. I could understand why the 62.5C egg is the chef’s signature dish. The texture was unreal and I think it might just be the best egg I have had. Both salad courses were wonderful. There were so much that went on in just one bite. Noirmoutier Turbot fish course was the highlight of my meal. The texture was uniform, juicy and bouncy. The sous-vide petite filet was tender and passed the ‘cutting with your fork’ test with ease. Desserts were beyond spectacular. There are a few dishes that made me wonder. Caviar Parfait is one. Creme fraiche, carrot puree and apple have a suppressing rather than enhancing effect on the caviar. Maine Lobster with the split pea puree, anise and hibiscus gelee seemed too sweet and lacked balance. Baume would be an interesting experience if it is your first molecular gastronomy encounter. Whether it is worthy of a return visit for a special occasion? I am still unsure.
Chez Papa Resto, San Francisco, CA
I had a pleasant dining experience at Chez Papa Resto. Having heard great things about this restaurant, my expectation was high. I am happy to say that I am satisfied with both the service and the quality of food.
The service was excellent. Our server was knowledgeable of the menu and was able to give good recommendations. Timing between each courses was simply impeccable. There was just enough time for you to savor your last bite without feeling rushed or bored.
Food was lovely. For french cuisine at a moderate price range I think Chez Papa really exceeded my expectation. The foie gras duo, the torchon and the seared version, was flawless. I love the creativity of their dishes. Smoked Salmon ‘nibble’ looked lovely and tasted fantastic (as long as you don’t mind the ingredients stealing the spotlight of the salmon). The Charred Octopus has good tender texture but could be even better if the octopus is cripsy on the outside. The entrees were decent. I enjoyed the Roasted Butterfish but found Beef Tripe a bit ordinary.
The portion is on the small size even for French style cuisine standard. You will probably need at least 3 courses (nibble, appetizer and entree) and a side to feel somewhat fulfilled.
Oh yes. They have some really good cocktails too. I might even opt for the cocktail pairing instead of wine pairing.