On Union Square sits a hotel you may have heard about; the Westin St Francis. A fine hotel, I recommend it to my business associates for the center-of-the-city atmosphere, the cablecars swinging by, and the proximity to shops that many out-of-towners don't get a chance to visit.
I've had afternoon tea at the Compass Rose in the hotel before, and was impressed with their sandwiches and cakes. The other evening, I was there with a few people to sample their appetizers.
We had the Thai-chicken lettuce wraps, edamame, and baked Camembert. The Camemebert hatd a thick, crunchy, panko-type crust. It was thick and unctuous on the inside, and was paired with crostini painted with a mild oil. The star of the plate was a cranberry compote that was NOT tart in the least (a shock to me, since I don't like cranberries). The compote was room temperature, and the cranberries so fully cooked they were soft. There was some spice involved, I think cardomom, and the pairing of Camembert with the cranberries was delicious.
The only criticism I have of the lettuce wraps was the shape of the leaves of lettuce. The small leaves of romaine were hard to make into a real "wrap", but the thai chicken (satay-flavored, but a little hotter than usual) was a good filling. There was a very hot dark brown sauce to put on top, that pulled it all together.
The edamame were my choice, since these out-of-towners from the South had never even heard of them, much less seen them. I'm pleased to say that the CR put out a good dish of them -- they were obviously fresh, not the frozen kind. They were well-cooked and not overly salted, and arrived at the table warm. The people at the table tried to eat the outside pod :), but I showed them how easy they were to shell. They were pleasantly surprised by the full and clean flavor of the beans, a complete difference from what they had expected.
Though I wouldn't make it a destination, if you find yourself in Union Square with people from out of town, and you'd like a good place to sit, sip a cocktail, and have some diverse and well-made appetizers (3 for 29$, which I thought a bargain, considering the amount of food they brought us) Compass Rose is comfortable and puts on a good plate.
The service, however, was not so good. The big room was full of tourists, and the waitress had to be reminded that we existed. Next time, I'd sit closer to the bar, and maybe not show up exactly at 6pm, but a little earlier.
Nice to find something good in a place I didn't expect it!