Some of San Francisco’s best fine dining restaurants

In my last review, of The French Laundry in Yountville, I called the question of whether an expensive experience worth it “crass.” This is one of the key things a reviewer should consider when writing a review, although it’s nearly impossible to answer definitively due to subjectivity and the arbitrariness of money. himself.

You can see this tension in the various reactions to this review, some of which we posted today, and in how our story about Dogue, the Cafe for Dogs, inspired an incandescent rage among some of the readers and commenters. more virulent. (Hopefully once Armageddon ensues, we’ll find the four horsemen of the apocalypse riding shiba inus.)

The French Laundry’s tasting menu price of $350 seems like a cold, hard number; but depending on what you do and where you live, that number could represent a week of minimum wage work or stock market income you’d earn by taking a short nap. Was the meal worth 40 hours of labor? Maybe not. Was it worth 90 minutes of sleep? Sure. We all bring our own context to the question.

Somewhere in the middle of these poles is a person who will set aside a little money at a time for months, years or decades just to live a night of spectacle – to have a three-hour encounter with the sublime . Like former New York Times reviewer Ruth Reichl, this is what I try to imagine when I think about the issue of value and the complex investments of money, emotions and time that restaurants represent. gastronomic.

That said, there are places in our large upscale restaurant scene that are succeeding. If you’re thinking of saving specifically for a three-star Michelin experience, the local establishments I would recommend for those transcendent “wow” experiences are Quince, Benu, Atelier Crenn, and SingleThread. You’ve probably seen my (soon to be updated) list of the best Splurge restaurants, but here are some other highlights in San Francisco.

sloth bear

I’ve been to so many restaurants that clearly owed a great debt to Lazy Bear, who introduced communal tables and checkered designs to the world of fine dining and inspired many imitators. The experience is always engaging and refreshing, from food delivered by chefs with town crier shouts to campground supplies mounted in the den. Imagine if Max from “Where the Wild Things Are” opened a restaurant. Tasting menu prices range from $275 to $295, depending on the day.

How to book: Reservations are posted on Tock on the 15th of each month at 10am.

Sloth Bear. 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. 3416 19th St. (between Mission and San Carlos streets), San Francisco. 415-874-9921 or

Noodles in a haystack

Not (yet) on the list is one of the most exciting restaurant openings of the past year. In a corner of San Francisco’s Richmond neighborhood, married couple Yoko and Clint Tan have been working tirelessly to make their dream of premium ramen a reality. Noodles are the centerpiece of an intriguing tasting menu experience ($175) that guides dinner through the flavors of modern Japanese cuisine. The guests are seated at a counter and are served simultaneously by the couple and their small team.

How to book: New bookings are posted on Tock every second Sunday of the month at 9pm.

Noodles in a haystack. 4601 Geary St. (at 10th Avenue), San Francisco.


Saison’s hunting lodge chic aesthetic and pursuit of more explosive California cuisine immediately set it apart in cosmopolitan San Francisco when it opened in 2008, and the menu continues to impress under the direction of the chef Richard Lee. The fare includes many ingredients sourced from hunters and gatherers, as well as components fermented or dried in-house. A course of black cod begins with the fish emulsified in a French brandade, culminating in a concentrated broth made from its slowly roasted bones. The full tasting menu is $328, while the abbreviated version is $228.

How to book: Bookings are posted on Tock on the 8th of every month.

season. 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. 178 Townsend St. (at Clarence Place), San Francisco. 415-828-7990 or

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