Last week I spent four hours in the Cliff House. Two of those hours I waited in the cocktail lounge for cocktails that never arrived. Another hour was spent in Sutros waiting for food which did appear. So be prepared to WAIT
or better yet WAIT until the restaurant has its act together.
At first I thought the staff was rude, but it turned out that when you finally got their attention, they were very pleasant. Getting their attention was not easy.
Is the food worth the wait? The view is lovely.
There is a link to the restaurant menu and the Cliff House web site at the bottom.
The interior décor has all the charm of the New Slanted Door which is to say, none at all. Starkly industrial it does have a little more color than Slanted Door, but barely. Without the view, it would be depressing.
When I entered, I had very little help from the distracted staff at the desk which waved me over to the restaurant menus displayed in plastic. Neither menu was really appealing to me, but I decided to go for the more upscale Sutro. There was a predicted one hour wait. The Zinc Bar was full, so I went up to the cocktail lounge across from the Bistro..
The cocktail lounge to the right of the door looked deserted, but I was assured by the Sutro hostess there was a cocktail server. I was doubtful so I asked at the front desk which confirmed there was service. I snagged the best table in the restaurant. Tucked into the corner, one window overlooked the old Sutro Baths and the other side was a sweeping view of Ocean Beach. The lounge overlooked the restaurant.
After waiting about a half an hour with no sign of service, I called the front desk from my cell phone. I had this FABULOUS table, I was alone. I wasnt going to give up this perch to run out and snag my own cocktail. Two empty martini glasses from the previous residents graced the table.
I was told there was cocktail service. I said I had been sitting here about half an hour and no one showed. The person on the phone sighed in an annoyed way and said hed check. The cell line dropped while I waited and waited. I would have been pretty annoyed without the view. At that point I decided just to enjoy the view until I was called for lunch and forget the cocktails. About 20 minutes later the person at the front desk wandered into the lounge searching for the person who called.
He won me over with his truly apologetic answer. The morning cocktail waitress called in sick and no one knew about it. The night shift would be here at 2 pm. It was 2:30, so I wasnt placing a lot of faith in the evening shift. And it would have won me over a bit more had he offered to trot over to the bar and get me a drink. It wasnt rudeness, just lack of training.
Looking over the balcony into the restaurant I noticed it was taking about 30 to 45 minutes from the time the order was placed until the time the food appeared.
I settled down for a free ride. I wrote letters. I gazed out at the stormy sea. It was a day that would go from wildly rainy to the sun briefly bursting through the clouds. Great place to wait. I needed to kill time that afternoon anyway.
There was a rather nice dinner roll. Popovers are only available in the Bistro.
I chose the Seared Day Boat Scallop Salad, Baby Spinach, Avocado, Rice Noodles, Yuzu Truffle Vinaigrette. It wasnt unpleasant, but the dish didnt pull together. The four scallops were plump and delicious. The baby spinach was just that and underdressed. It did nothing to enhance the scallops. Very good avocado, but again it was a lone wolf doing nothing to pull together the spinach and scallops. The rice noodles were just annoying. With the taste of rice cakes, they were difficult to eat, and Im ashamed to say, some flew off the plate and under the table.
Wine by the glass wasnt too pricy but a little limited. The Crane Lake Chardonnay was $5.00 a glass. It sells for $3.99 a bottle at Berkeley Bowl and Ive grown fond of it.
To me, the new Cliff House is just the Old Cliff House updated. The old Cliff House featured the popular dishes of 60s and 70s done adequately. Ditto the new Cliff House. If roasted beats are the rage, youll find it on the menu done adequately.
Unfortunately quite a lot of the old crowd was there being dragged into new millennium dining. The ladies in the table next to me didnt want the fancy vinaigrette. Was blue cheese dressing available on the side. Also, hold the baby spinach was there real lettuce? What looked like a shrimp cocktail on steroids (at least 8 inches) was draped over a martini glass. It came in shells and with heads on. The lady who ordered it sent it back to be pealed and beheaded. I will say the entertainment value was tremendous.
There is still a Sunday champagne brunch. They will be serving on Thanksgiving. There is a buffet brunch in the Bistro and a special menu in the fancy Sutro restaurant. Since Ive been to Sutro and done that, Im toying with the idea of trying the buffet on Thanksgiving.
Parking is still a bear. While making reservations at the front desk for Thanksgiving, I asked about the chance of valet parking. A woman at the front desk snapped at me that they tried valet parking years ago and no one wanted it.
The Terrace Room is for special events. It looked nice in a hotel banquet room way. The view was lovely.
Out of curiosity just why did the Cliff House close? Was it just to remodel or was there a fire?
In summary, I see no reason to go to the Cliff House after the sun sets and all you can see is the black wall of night.