Here are my suggested instructions:
Go after 7 pm. It opens at 5:30, but I want the place to myself from 6-7. There were two other couples before 7:30 and having all the service to oneself is wonderful. Servers are professional and friendly, know the intracacies of the menu, offer tastes of wine, and bring unexpected extras (amuse of sweet corn soup, post dessert pickled oranges, etc).
Get the heirloom tomato and burrata appetizer. Contrary to other posts, these tomatoes are anything but mealy and tasteless. Bursting with tomato essence and with an intriguing salt - some sort of sea salt - that brings out the flavors and has a texture of its own. A little too much balsamic for my taste, though. The best part of this dish is the glass of tomato water (chop tomatoes and put them in a strainer and collect the water that drips from them over an hour or two) that comes with it. You should probably pour it on the tomatoes but it is so delicately flavored that you will find it hard not to sip it like a fine cocktail.
Get the veal sweetbreads. If you don't know what they are, never mind, just order them. Three tiny pieces of deliciously rich meaty nuggets set off by surrounding bursts of parsley, capers, sun dried tomato, and pepper relish. Every bite is different and interesting. Hard to remember such an intriguing and perfectly done preparation.
Get the steak. I know you didn't come here for a steak, but this is different. Deconstructed into pieces on a huge plate with an underlayment of Maui onion puree and with a centerpiece of sliced baby squash. But wait - the squash is actually potato sliced into tiny discs. Quite a surprise at first.
Halibut is fresh and full-flavored. Nice crust and creamy inside with a delicate flavor and texture. All kinds of interesting things to match it with - glazed beets and shredded fennel show it off in different settings.
Desserts are ok, though probably not up to the rest of the menu. Coffee bread pudding is fine, though not spectacular. Panna cotta is appropriately rich and creamy, though not overly flavorful.
Get the pressed coffee. They have decaf for coffee wimps like me, and for $3 you can get about 3 cups worth and press it immediately to make it appropriately weak. Then you can pour hot quarter cups for the next half hour and feel like you're in a French Bistro.
Quibbles include 2.5 - 3x wine prices, but they have selected them with an eye to value, so you don't get too ripped off. About 8 by the glass selections. Chairs are hard, as is required in modern places. Water scam is easily avoided. Prices are no bargain, but you get your money's worth (we spent ~100 per with 3 courses and 3 glasses of wine each).
Portions seem small because they come out on huge plates and every one is artistically constructed, but when you start actually eating you find that there is quite a lot of food.
The only places where I have had better preparations are Spago and Providence. Melisse and Luques are about the same level but without the small quiet bistro charm, not to mention the traffic hassle depending on where you're coming from.
Bistro Verdo was good, but this surpasses it on every level, from imagination to execution to service. It even looks nicer inside. Although it is no great bargain, nothing else in the area even comes close.
Just don't go before 7.
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