Of Tasting Menus and tasting menus

See, this is exactly the reason we’re not doing a tasting menu restaurant on our first Northern trip together. If my husband has to eat a pizza after the meal he will take away my credit cards. I just can’t believe it. Everything is so beautiful and there’s so much effort put into it - the location, the space, the rooftop garden, the presentation of food… the totos… such a waste!

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For the record, I’ve never had to eat pizza after having a full blown tasting menu anywhere and I seemingly eat as much as porkybelly does. More often than not, I’m way too stuffed after…

You should try at least one tasting menu only place to supplement all other ALC places.

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Most Michelin-style tasting menus I’ve had were too much food, which is one reason I don’t like them.

Saison was one exception. (“'I’ve gone out to many excellent places where you feel like shit after the meal. I don’t want guests to feel that way.”)

Commis was the other. I was there from 5:00-7:30, wasn’t hungry when I left, but it was a light enough meal that I got pasta and a sandwich later.

Hi @moonboy403 -

I hear ya’. It’s tempting, for sure. I do love the theatre of tasting menu restaurants. But it’s not just the hungry afterward thing - Californios seems solid. It’s that a lot of these places seem long on creativity and short on taste. Since we’re not SF area regulars and will only be there for a few days we don’t want to pass on a place like La Ciccia for an avant-garde, tasting menu restaurant that might not satisfy the tastebuds and definitely won’t represent the heart of the city, which is why we travel. That reminds me, I need to nail down that La Ciccia resy soon.

P.S. What is “ALC”?

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Good to know.

Maybe we’ll scratch that tasting menu itch at Auburn, right here at home. :wink:

a la carte - took me a bit to figure that out :slight_smile:


It’s almost always the opposite to me. ALC based menus can be delicious but are typically quite safe.

Auburn is great especially for the price but it’s not even in the same stratosphere as a place like Californios. Californios has an exciting menu with a very fun and engaging vibe especially if you sit at the chef’s counter.

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I figured as much. Just throwin’ that one out there. But, Saison for example - there have been very mixed reviews about it. I’d be so disappointed to pass up a delicious “safe” place just for the experience of Saison and being able to say we went.

When I get a moment I’ll compile a list of the recs, put them on my Road Trip thread and peeps can give their opinions. That should be fun. :grimacing:

Okay, why not? Let’s do it here. This is a question for all SF Michelin Star tasting menu diners. If you had one to pick which would it be? Not saying we’re going, but you’ve got me intrigued, for sure.

“Very mixed reviews” of Saison? Here?

I have not been to Saison.

As far as which one fits you best depends on your preference, do you have a cuisine that you particularly like?

Here’s my 2 cent on the following restaurants:

Benu - Chinese / Korean influence
TFL - California French but meal is quite heavy (Old school fine dining)
Manresa - Coastal California, veggie and seafood forward (Old school fine dining)
Californios - Mexican influence
Quince - French / Italian (Old school fine dining)

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don’t forget about providence



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Does that mean your vote is Saison? It may have been one of her other restaurants that got the mixed reviews. I’ll check a little later.

Oh yes. Why haven’t I been yet? Hmmm…

Manresa has a very strong Japanese influence.

What do you mean by “old-school fine dining” that it applies to TFL, Manresa, and Quince but not Benu? Tablecloths?

I’m happy I went to Saison back when you could get out for $500 all in. I guess maybe now that’s possible again with the shorter bar menu.

Should you only pick one for fine dining here are my picks:

  1. Sushi Yoshizumi (1 star) - ideally book one month ahead, request extended menu 2 weeks prior to your reservation. Otherwise try your luck with cancellations or check every now and then for your desired date in case seats for 2 pops up. As good as and in some cases far better than a number of places in Tokyo (including Michelin star Tokyo sushi omakase restaurants and well known ones without a star). Blows away anything in LA (sorry LA sushi folks, this is the truth), as much as I adore Mori Sushi and Shunji for different reasons. For a few of us, this is the pinnacle of satisfaction especially when you have the right sake with it (and you understand the profiles of both), as well as appreciate the techniques of Yoshizumi san to create the flavors and textures in the food.

  2. Californios (2 stars) - I really enjoyed Taco Maria in the OC, but Californios is on another level altogether. The chef owners know each other and are good friends too.

  3. Madcap (1 star) - Marin County, a bit further north but well worth the trek. Helmed by former defeater of Iron Chef French Hiroyuki Sakai (Battle Lobster) on the original Iron Chef Japan TV series, Ron Siegel. He’s been around a while, and although his food is not as trendy these days in the food social media world, his cooking has always been solid. My more recent first visit to Madcap proved that he still got it, and his food is freakin amazing with sake as well (he stocks both wine and some sake, the wine markup is also very reasonable and good selection). My friend remarked that sake paired better for the dinner than the wines he brought in his previous visits. Remember back in the day when fine dining meant that you could even smell the dish as it arrives at your table, before you dip your head down, and it woke up your senses to expand them to fully enjoy the meal? Well most of his dishes did just that. Do the tasting menu. Truly deserving of the star given his credentials, execution. Nothing fancy or over the top but just done right and very high level. A bit casual of a feel but yet upscale enough. The demographic reflects more of the neighborhood and of course with people traveling to try, I think you will be more comfortable here and feel more on familiar ground.

  4. Meadowood (3 stars) - pretty far up in St Helena / north of Napa, should it be some special anniversary, splurge and stay the night, go all out and dine at the Chef’s Counter for additional courses. Amazing wine pairings. But apparently try avoid going during certain times of the year when it is more vegetable centric. Try to go when they have their annual 12 days of Christmas when they invite chefs from around the world for collaboration dinners. Mori Onodera did one several years ago. Either way, I would pick this over Saison, Manresa, Quince, Atelier Crenn, Single Thread.

  5. Benu (3 stars) - Controversial for some, but as someone who appreciates French approach, fine dining, Korean elements, and Cantonese, Corey Lee and his team blends them all together so effortlessly. There are a few items Chef Lee did before that reminded me of really high end Cantonese approaches; it was one of the squab dishes that was very close to the Cantonese roasted (re: deep fried) and perhaps inspired by his visit to Yum’s Bistro a few years ago.

  6. Maum (non Michelin but likely they may get one) - still on my to try list, but everyone I know of who has been has not said anything bad. More Korean focused than Benu, but still very interesting nonetheless.


Yup. Definitely forgot putting that in.

Yes on the tablecloth as well as how the staff and guests are dressed. Benu is a bit more casual than the other 3 places.