As the Ritz has gotten mixed reviews here, thought some might appreciate an update. During this past week, a surprise anniversary getaway was planned by my husband which included 2 nights at the Ritz, Gary Danko evening #1, Ritz Carlton dining room evening #2. This post will focus on the Ritz, although suffice it to say that Danko's, IMO, should also be at the near top of one's "must" list.
The experience at the Ritz, however, was a sublime, unforgettable indulgence that one should be exposed to just enough in life to appreciate, yet not so much as to spoil the novelties. This was our first visit to the SF Ritz, after having previously enjoyed Half Moon Bay and Laguna Niguel. The feel of this hotel is different, of course, being city instead of resort oceafront, but what they lack in oceanviews, they more than make up for in service. From the initial greeting at the front door when we stepped out of our car ("Welcome to the Ritz Carlton Mr and Mrs Lantz, Happy Anniversary"), to the final surprise bottle of water left in the car to enjoy during the drive home, no request went unfulfilled. Actually, we HAD no rqsts, because everything we would have asked for was not only anticipated beforehand, but executed in the most polished, unobtrusive fashion imagineable. We were indulged with a rose petal turndown (arranged for beforehand at no charge), chocolates delivered to the room, including a large white chocolate heart standing at attention with Happy Anniversary inscription, complementary shoe shine (leave them out by midnight, returned by 6am) and three (yes, count'em 3)newspapers midweek... Chron/US Today/Wall St. Journal. The room service breakfast of eggs benedict, pecan french toast with berries/carmelized banana, chicken apple sausage, juice and tea was as well executed as room service could possibly be...each entree kept warm by not only the traditional top metal cover, but also a bottom metal plate which was pre-warmed and cradling the dish. The turndown of frette linens included not only the usual chocolate surprise, but also a glass decanter of lemon water. A mercedes car, available to guests on a first come basis at no charge, whisked us off to Danko's the first evening. The rate for all of this luxury ...$329.00, including $55.00 breakfast credit and valet parking. And you thought the word bargain and Ritz-Carlton were mutually exclusive, eh?
When I found out we were eating the second night in the hotel, I had mixed feelings...happy we would only have an elevator ride back to our room, but not sure about my pre-conceived opinion of the "stifled" atmosphere. Put aside your fears...yes, its formal, but its the kind of formal that a special occasion commands. We had gone down to the dining room the day before and picked out the table we wanted (#15) and, of course, in true RC fashion, it was awaiting our arrival. None of the screwups we've encountered at other restaurants, when promised tables have gone to others. The upholstered armchairs, with an extra loose pillow for back support, allowed us to happily snuggle into our home for the evening, a home which was far removed, by restaurant standards, from any other. How refreshing not to be able to hear anyone else's conversations the entire evening. The menu provided the flexibility of 3,4 or 5 courses, priced $68, $78, $89 respectively. We each chose 4 courses. Prior to the first, the chef sent out an amuse of two velvety smooth sips of potato and watercress soup served in a glass...nice way to start. For my first course, I chose the lobster salad...juicy, large nougets of meat on top of bits of tomato/avocado, surrounded by 4 dollops of creme fraiche topped with caviar. The cool fresh flavors were an announcement of tasty things to come. Next I opted for the day boat scallops, two succulently sublime sweet pieces of fish resting on top of both pureed cauliflower and sprinkled bits of fresh cauliflower surrounded by a brown butter emulsion. This was an incredible dish of contrasts--crunchy, smooth, sweet...every bite to be savored. The beef tenderloin, my next course, was overwhelmingly the best beef I've tasted...juicy, cooked to perfection, melt in your mouth, fork tender and the olive jus added the extra bit of over-the-top taste. The final cheese course was similar to a Danko cart, with interesting, mostly European selections. Two additional amuses were given at the end of the meal, one being a caramel pot de creme served in a russian vodka glass and an assortment of chocolates/cookies, which the waiter offered to box when he read our faces of fullness.
As with the hotel, every need was anticipated beforehand, with servers appearing out of nowhere and then just as quickly disappearing. We never felt hovered upon, and we are both extremely sensitive to our time together being imposed upon by waitstaff. No problem here...they knew their place and knew it well.
A final and lovely touch was a handwritten note of thanks on RC stationery from the dining room manager, slipped underneath the door of our room.
One cannot deny that part of this lovely trip has to be atttributed to being with someone that helps make it unforgettable. Having said that, I must acknowledge that both the hotel and the dining room experience at the Ritz has for us created the kind of memories that will linger for as long as it takes to steal our next getaway. Can we recreate it again in exactly the same way...probably not. Will it be exactly the same for others...probably not. But still, with confidence I can say, romantics fear no longer...this is indeed your spot.