A group of friends recently enjoyed a wonderful five days in San Francisco. Coming from the Northeast the wonderful weather was greatly appreciated. Below are some of the spots.
Before arriving in San Francisco we spent a night in Carmel and dined at Aubergine. We did the regular tasting menu with wine and added an incredible cheese plate which was more than worth the additional charge. The wines all paired beautifully, but we were surprised that they were all European. Not really a complaint, but given the location we expected to try some quality California wines. Overall it was a nice special occasion restaurant though there were some misses, particularly the chocolate dessert with wheat berries.
Our first night in San Francisco we had an impromptu dinner at Maven with local friends. Considering it was a group of seven with no reservations on a Saturday they were very accommodating. Food was decent thought nothing came to mind as outstanding. Fantastic drinks.
Sunday we met some friends for dim sum in Chinatown. I don't recall the name, but almost everything was fantastic. Especially the garlic noodles with shrimp.
That night we had reservations at Nopa. Given the hype surrounding this place I was surprised by how casual it was. We shared five small plates that were all excellent. Our group of five each ordered an entree which was a mistake. None of us were particularly blown away by our main dishes. I had a pasta with sausage in some sort of broth that was pretty bland. Would happily dine there again, but would stick to the small plates.
The next day we headed to the Mission for burritos. Given the hype surrounding San Francisco burritos on this board and the comparisons that come up whenever burritos are discussed in any other city my expectations were high. On a suggestion from a friend we went to El Farolito. I am happy to say the food did not disappoint. The al pastor was full of flavor and the ingredients and assembly were better than anything I've had on the East Coast. A perfect gut bomb after a night out.
After lunch we tried to stop by Tartine after numerous people mentioned their bread pudding and croissants. The line of course was insane so we continued on our way. A couple days later we had some time and went in the morning. The line was much shorter. Everything in the case looked gorgeous though it was a bit too early to be loading up on dessert. We purchased a croissant, a cup of the bread pudding, and a shitake mushroom croque monsieur.
The croissant was quite large, and I enjoyed the flakiness of the shell, but it did not blow me away as I was expecting. The croque monsieur looked fantastic and there was some good flavor, but for some reason they decided to keep the mushroom stems on. I think this may have been for appearance, but the stems were so tough we ended up having to spit them out which made eating it rather difficult. Finally, the bread pudding had some good texture, but was extremely lacking in any flavor. Maybe it would be better warmed or with some sort of sauce, but I really don't understand what all the fawning over this was about. It wasn't even worth finishing. I know Tartine gets a lot of love from a variety of sources, but after this one experience I'm not sure why. It seems like they may be more concerned with the aesthetics of the cafe and the food rather than the actual taste.
We also had a meal at Terzo which was able to fit a group of us in last minute one night. We had a wonderful server, and stuck to the various small plates.