Keiko à Nob Hill
1250 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94109
Dining date: 12/1/13
My dad’s mentioned Keiko à Nob Hill a number of times in the past as a potential restaurant, but we didn’t try it until this most recent trip to celebrate some November birthdays. Chef Keiko Takahashi and partner Seigo Takei opened the restaurant at the end of 2011; while there hasn’t been a ton of buzz surrounding the place, it has garnered a Michelin star in the last couple of guides.
Located in the ritzy Nob Hill neighborhood and in the old location of the venerable Charles Nob Hill restaurant, it looks and feels very expensive. Especially with their tasting-menu only and fusion French/Japanese fine dining. However, its 6-7 course menu is priced at a not-unreasonable $95 a head and comes with some of the best service I’ve had in any restaurant recently.
2224 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Dining date: 11/29/13
My first two visits to Commonwealth were excellent. The food was creative, well-executed and delicious within a very well-priced tasting menu ($65 at the time with $10 going directly to a local charity). Given I don’t spend as much time in San Francisco as I used to, it’s taken me a full two years to make a return. While in town for Thanksgiving, the family returned for a post-Thanksgiving dinner.
Not surprisingly, the price of the tasting menu has risen but I think it’s still priced well at $75 for six courses (and on this evening, two amuse bouches). A la carte is a legitimate option (all plates priced in the teens); with our party of 4 we easily could’ve ordered one of everything on the menu and gotten more tastes for less money. However, we ended up getting the best of both worlds, ordering the tasting menu and adding a few supplemental a la carte courses. The restaurant still allows for the addition of these supplements at the a la carte pricing, effectively waiving any split-plate charge and will seamlessly integrate the courses into the progression of the meal. I love the idea. The wine pairing of six pours was an extra $40.
1031 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
Dining date: 12/24/12
San Tung is consistently one of San Francisco’s most popular Chinese restaurants, known for its long waits almost as much as its food. Located in the Sunset district of the city, the first-come first-served restaurant always seems to have a crowd waiting outside, especially on the weekends. Its 3,000+ Yelp reviews (currently a 4-star rating) place it in the top 10 of most-reviewed S.F. restaurants and I feel like I always hear it mentioned when people talk about “must-try” dishes in the city.
What’s the must-try dish? San Tung is known for noodles and dumplings, but their real signature is their “dry fried” items. Shrimp, calamari, flounder, beef and chicken are fried by the batch here, then glazed in a sweet-savory sauce. The most popular, by far, is the chicken wings.
We came early on a Monday for lunch and got one of the last tables available.
State Bird Provisions
1529 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dining date: 12/28/12
This was one of the restaurants I really wanted to try while I was in San Francisco (probably #1 on my list). Opened on the last day of 2011, it was named to numerous lists for best new restaurants of the year, including being the number one best new restaurant in America according to Bon Appetit. Stories of hours-long lines (yes, multiple hours) and consistently strong reviews fueled the buzz throughout the year.
Not surprisingly, reservations are still very difficult to come by, probably one of the most difficult in the city. I checked their website multiple times per day for a couple of weeks, and the best I could do was a party of 2 at 5:30 (looking for any availability over a week span). The day before, some cancellations yielded a 10:30 table for 4; very late, but it allowed our whole family to dine together.
One of the distinctive features of the restaurant is its use of a dim sum-like cart. It’s loaded up with a variety of dishes and pushed through the dining room, letting diners get a glimpse of the dishes before choosing. And, if you don’t see what you want, anything can be ordered off the menu to be directly delivered to your table. It’s a fun concept that really works with a small plates restaurant, one I would expect to see duplicated…and not just in Chinese restaurants.
860 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94107
Dining date: 12/27/12
This past year for my grandmother’s birthday, my cousins and I took her to dinner at Oola in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood. It’s a tradition we’ve been doing a number of years now, and something I look forward to each holiday season. This year, my cousins chose Oola, somewhere they’ve been a number of times and raved about.
Opened in 2004, the restaurant calls its food “San Francisco cuisine” and a blend of chef Ola Fendert’s Swedish background and French/Italian training. The menu appeared to offer a number of upscale takes on American comfort food classics such as chicken and waffles, burgers, and the restaurant’s signature dish – pork baby back ribs.
199 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dining date: 12/26/12
Rich Table was one of San Francisco’s bigger restaurant openings of last year and continues to be one of the hot tables in town. Evan and Sarah Rich are the couple behind the restaurant, whose collective resumes include San Francisco’s Quince, Michael Mina and Coi. Reviews about the restaurant have been very positive, including an impressive 3.5 star review from the SF Chronicle’s Michael Bauer.
A decision to dine at Rich Table was kind of a last-minute one. While planning to meet with a friend for dinner the day after Christmas, we scrolled through OpenTable openings and Rich Table popped up with an available table. Knowing that we kind of lucked out finding one, we snatched it up.
Contrary to what the name of the restaurant may suggest, the food isn’t too rich at all. Of course, ingredients are local and seasonal, and the menu is divided into a number of small ‘bites,’ appetizer plates, pastas and main courses.