So we are back from a couple of days up in NerdCal... er... NorCal :) We didn't do an amazing amount of chowing but here's a couple places:
Pizz'a Chicago, Ghirardelli Square. It was raining, it was windy, it was friggin' freezing, and we couldn't check in to the hotel until 3:00, so we went to Pizz'a Chicago as the most available place to sit and have something hot (I don't like Indian food or we might have gone to Gaylord). The service was abysmal, being as there were 2 waitresses for about 100 people, but the food was quite tasty and their lemonade (served, like all cold drinks, in quart Mason jars) was very good. Chicago memorabilia randomly scattered along with wise-acre lists &c. on pizza peels in the way of decor. Nice view of the Bay and Alcatraz and (had it not been so rainy and foggy) Marin Headlands. $25 incl. tip for a medium speciality pizza (veggie) and two soft drinks.
Saigon Restaurant, downtown San Mateo. Absolutely no decor but well-prepared pho (beef noodle soup) and bun (cold rice noodles with roast meat). The value is there for this restaurant - a filling bowl of bun was $4.75 and pho was about the same amount. Their dá chanh (Vietnamese fresh limeade) was incredible.
Ovation at the Opera, Fulton & Franklin, SF. I've stayed many times at the Inn at the Opera but never dined in their dining room (called "Ovation"). Last night was my fiancee's birthday dinner so we went to eat here.
The decor is very old-boys-club, upholstered walls and dark wooden chairs with appropriately subdued seat pads, random large bottles of wine scattered about and brass tchotchkes.
There was nearly no one in the restaurant (why did I bother to make reservations?) so the service was very attentive. We were tended to by a man in a Scottish plaid type vest with a toothbrush mustache who reminded me of a major-domo presiding over a battlefield. He was knowledgeable but not chatty. The pace was perfect - we had just enough time for leisurely conversation before the next course arrived. The menu was not good, however - both the French and the English words were misspelled and it was hard to tell at times what came with what.
We didn't drink wine. I was cold and wet and wine makes me colder, and my beloved doesn't drink wine, so no wine. (Stop that gasping. It is perfectly possible to ignore the wine list in San Francisco [grin].)
My beloved had a cold eggplant salad (roasted eggplant and tomatoes, mixed greens heavy on the mizune with goat cheese, Dijon vinaigrette and fig balsamic) which she pronounced a little odd but quite good. I started with an unmemorable but competent potato-leek soup (I was COLD!). It required quite a lot of pepper to slap it into wakefulness.
For main course, she had a marechal of halibut (whatever that means) which was halibut on a bed of vegetables with truffle oil. She liked it quite a lot. I had chateaubriand of beef in Bordeaux and wild mushroom sauce. It came on a bed of braised cabbage and some substance which may or may not have been foie gras at some stage of life. I don't like foie gras (fat, fried in fat, and garnished with fat) so I ignored it in favour of the excellent, excellent, succulent, delicious (pardon me, I'm dribbling again) beef. The sauce went well with it, which means that it did not get in the way and could be safely eaten without changing the flavour of the meat.
For dessert, she had jasmine-flavoured creme brûlée which was absolutely delicious. I had a baba au rhum which came surrounded by vanilla-flavoured crème anglaise, topped with berries and fresh whipped cream. It was delicious - until the waiter, taken by a sudden fit of generosity, doused the entire creation with yet more rum, which absolutely ruined the entire thing and I refused to finish it. I had coffee which came very well prepared - it even had crema on top which spoke of individual coffee presses. I had to go get the sugar off another table though, our holder had fakery but no sugar and it didn't seem worth bothering the waiter for when we could go get it.
$126.00 for two people.
More than a bit ridiculous - I mean, we could have eaten at Chez Panisse for $130. The coffee was ****ing $3.85. Give me a break. I could see $34.00 for chateaubriand, but $11.00 for potato-leek soup?
Very good food, wonderful service and good decor. Unfortunately, it is possible to eat well for less money, and for the same amount, to indulge in a dining experience in the City.