Inspired by Becky who posted a positive report on Silks on January 21, four of us had a DAT dinner there last night. This report is positive as well.
Generally, eating in a hotel restaurant would not be my first choice in this city where the restaurant competition is so brutal. Also, hotel restaurants have a somewhat tarnished reputation (although there are many excellent hotel restaurants in San Francisco). However, the good reports on Silks and the lure of a DAT-created good deal made our decision to go there easy.
Parking in the financial district on a Friday night at 8 pm was incredibly easy. The restaurant, in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Sansome Street, is very elegant, and not that large, with perhaps 20 tables. Kind of a clubby ambience with comfortable chairs, dimmed lighting. The silverware and china (which is remarkably similar to French Laundry's china) are all first-class.
The restaurant was about two-thirds full. About 70% of diners did the DAT menu during the month of January, according to the maitr d'.
No hint of any attitude. They treated us with utter respect and seemed genuinely pleased to serve us. Our very attentive waitperson, a pretty young woman, won Sansome as quite knowledgeable about the menu, ingredients, preparation and the wine list.
The no-substitutions DAT menu was excellent. It consisted of a sea scallops amuse bouche, a wild salmon appetizer, pork chop with polenta and a panne cotta desert. All courses were beautifully presented and had an intensity that comes from great skill and best quality ingredients. Well, maybe the pork chops were too big; we all had trouble finishing them.
I haven't been to a high-end restaurant before where all diners at a table eat the same courses, and I wish we had a bit more variety. I always enjoy the discovery phase of a dinner at a good restaurant, where you try some of the dishes your companions ordered. Sometimes it becomes sort of a friendly competition to see who ordered the best stuff. This was a promotional menu and I understand, but still...
As expected for this caliber of a restaurant, the wine list was fairly expensive (I'd guess the average would be around $60 or $70), but it had some reasonably-priced good choices. In general, the list had plenty of wine to choose from, but wasn't as thorough as other restaurants of this level. We ordered two bottles. First, a simple '01 Trimbach Pinot Blanc ($27) to sip with the first course and then an excellent '99 Gigondas Chateau Caves des Papes ($43) with the main course.
All in all, a very satisfying experience and I'm glad we did it. It was a good deal too; a comparable dinner based on the regular menu would have cost almost double the $30 DAT menu. I sort of ignored the whole DAT thing this year, especially when negative comments started to come in on this board during the first half of January, but the positive write-ups in the second half convinced me to do it.
I was told by the staff that Silks may extend the DAT program for the first two weeks in February; they hadn't decided yet. In addition, as part of their normal operation, they have an early-bird three-course menu where you order from the regular menu for $39.95. Considering that the main courses alone average over $30, it's a pretty good deal.