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.
One Market restaurant, located at the beginning of San Francisco’s longest street, has been a standby in the Financial District / Embarcadero for almost 30 years. Originally opened by noted local chef Bradley Ogden (who would go on to open a few restaurants in Las Vegas), the kitchen’s been helmed by Mark Dommen since 2004. Dommen led the restaurant to Michelin star recognition from 2008-2012, although it hasn’t been able to crack the list since.
While in Marin County one evening last week, I was spontaneously looking for a restaurant to go to that would have good food and a good vibe. Enter RH Restaurant, which opened in October of last year. The RH restaurants are an extension of the home furnishings company (formerly Restoration Hardware) that is based here in Corte Madera. There’s a dozen of these across the U.S. and Toronto.
The restaurant is located on the rooftop of the furniture store, partially indoor and partially outdoor. As one would expect, the ambiance was elegant highlighted by chandeliers dangling throughout the space. Indoor landscaping and even a fountain heightened the look & feel.
I’m not sure when I visited House of Prime Rib last, but it’s probably been close to two decades (!). Opened in 1950, the restaurant was already an old standby when I grew up, but has certainly solidified its status as an SF institution at this point.
I’d largely been getting my fill of prime rib from Lawry’s in Beverly Hills. The restaurants are very similar in their old English aesthetic; in fact, for a long time, I thought Lawry’s was a copycat of this place (I subsequently learned that Lawry’s predates this place by over 10 years).
Sushi Ondo is part of a wave of San Francisco restaurants doing more reasonably-priced omakase meals (~$100). While I haven’t found anything quite like Sugarfish around here, I have been interested in what kind of quality / value these restaurants can offer. Sushi Ondo opened in 2019 and is part of a group of restaurants that includes Sushi Hon, Barnzu, Sushi Hakko and Izakaya Hon.
SingleThread is one of the up-and-coming fine dining restaurants in the greater Bay Area. Opened at the end of 2016, it has garnered two Michelin stars, 4 stars from the SF Chronicle and was recently named a ‘One to Watch’ by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants team. Chef Kyle Connaughton and wife Katina run this restaurant, which is part of the inn and farm that they also operate. The cuisine here is a blend of Japanese and Californian; tickets were $295 each, gratuity-inclusive.
Hakkasan San Francisco opened at the end of 2012, but I didn’t have a chance to visit until this most recent SF trip. I’ve dined at Hakkasan’s Las Vegas and now-closed Beverly Hills locations a couple of times and have enjoyed my prior meals. I was interested to see how the SF location’s upscale Chinese food would compare.
Our party of four ordered a handful of prior favorite dishes, along with a few new ones.