Inspired by recent threads ("What's the best restaurant in San Francisco" and "Best Italian in SF?"), I took my husband to Acquerello for his birthday dinner last night.
The interior of the restaurant is soothing and elegant. As for the food, I can't say it was exceptional. Perhaps because the chef is away? (According to their web site, Suzette Gresham is leading a culinary cruise in the Mediterranean right now.)
After some hesitation (noting the chef's absence), we went ahead with the Chef's tasting menu.
While there was nothing wrong with the food and some of it was good, I don't think I'd rank Acquerello along with top restaurants in San Francisco Bay Area (e.g., Fleur de Lys, Fifth Floor, Masa's, Aqua, The French Laundry, and Elisabeth Daniel. I've not been to Gary Danko.)
The Chef's Surprise course was a slice of miniature ham & artichoke heart frittata topped with shavings of proscuitto and parmesan. Nice, but it lacked creativity/whimsy. The thick broth/sauce for the pasta course (past "purses" filled with chard, proscuitto and guanciale) was flavorful and hearty but the dish was whole was too salty. The main course of rabbit roulade and "rack of rabbit" was good, but wasn't anything special.
I would say the service was fine, but again nothing special. We were offered coffee (included in the tasting menu) off-handedly long after the dessert course and the biscotti were served.
Speaking of biscotti, this is what bothers me the most about the dinner: After tasting one of the dozen biscotti that were on our table, I wanted to take the rest of them home. The waiter left the plate of our biscotti on the table, and returned with a packaged container of biscotti for us. We assumed he had given us a "fresher batch" and thanked him. When I opened the box this morning, there were 6 biscotti in the box -- many of them broken. I know we didn't break them, because they weren't that brittle. I felt like we got leftover biscotti from someone else's table, so I threw them away.
Maybe they were having an off night, but I did not feel we had a first class dining experience at Acquerello. I wish we'd gone to Delfina instead, where I know we would have had excellent food at lower price -- albeit not the ambiance.