I’ve been to SPQR once way back, just over ten years ago. That first meal was a bit unmemorable, which is a large reason why it’s been so long since I’ve returned. Since then, the restaurant has consistently received a Michelin star (since 2012) and has converted to a tasting menu-only setup. While a la carte is no longer available, there are multiple options for almost each course and the $92 price tag (5ish courses) is pretty reasonable for a Michelin-starred spot in San Francisco.
Penny Roma has been one of the more popular new restaurants in San Francisco. Opened in October of 2021, the restaurant is a more casual offshoot of the ever-popular Flour & Water. The restaurant replaces Central Kitchen in the Inner Mission complex that also houses Flour & Water Pasta Shop, Trick Dog, and Sightglass Coffee.
As expected, the menu is pasta-centric but is rounded out by a selection of antipasti and protein-dense main courses. A tasting menu at a reasonable $70 price point is also available but we went a la carte.
State Bird Provisions has been one of the most popular restaurants in the city since opening over eleven years ago. Accolades came quickly to the restaurant, including being named one of America’s best new restaurants by Bon Appetit and a Michelin star in 2014 (held ever since).
I haven’t been in over 9 years, but was able to snag a spontaneous prime reservation so off we went. The famous “dim sum carts” finally returned in May after a pandemic hiatus, so it was an opportune time to revisit.
To this day, my memory of Flour + Water is that it was one of the most memorable pasta meals in my life. That last meal was almost a dozen years ago and I finally got a chance to return. The restaurant had just undergone an extension renovation and reopened earlier this year, making this a perfect time to go.
Ernest was one of the most anticipated SF restaurant openings last year and has been one of the toughest reservations in town ever since. The chef here is Brandon Rice, who decided to open his own restaurant after his tenure as the chef de cuisine of Rich Table. It’s tough to categorize what type of cuisine is served at Ernest as Rice’s menu appears to be inspired by flavors all across the world.
For a last-minute Chinese New Year dinner, I met up with my parents here at China Live. When it opened in 2017, this place was compared to Eataly in its concept. China Live occupies multiple floors in this building featuring a retail shop, restaurant, separate bar, and fine dining concept (Eight Tables). For this dinner, we sat in the ground floor restaurant.
I’ve been lucky enough to stay at the Ventana Big Sur a few times over the last couple of years. With a large, open campus in the hills of Big Sur, the resort has been an ideal place to get away during the pandemic. The on-property restaurant is this one, The Sur House, open for breakfast and dinner. The restaurant was open to the public pre-pandemic, but converted to a ‘hotel guest only’ policy in the middle of 2020 as the hotel went all-inclusive.
Empress By Boon was one of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings in San Francisco this year. Delayed by the pandemic, it finally opened in June and has been busy ever since. The restaurant occupies the top floor of the original Empress of China, which opened in the 1960s and was home to generations of special occasions and banquets for the Chinese American community until its closure in 2014.
Ho Chee Boon is the chef of this restaurant, best known for being the former executive chef of the worldwide chain of Hakkasan restaurants.