First and foremost, thanks for all the advice you all gave me prior to my recent SF trip on where to eat. Even though I lived there for many years it's been about one year since I'd been back and there are many new places try...
That said, here's the rundown:
Bambudda Lounge at the Phoenix Hotel - Dinner: I didn't pick this place so don't flame me. Went there for dinner with 4 other people. Ordered the seared tuna appetizer (their special for the night) and the carmelized onion naan bread. The tuna was completely encrusted in big shards of peppercorn (why chefs think this is a good idea is beyond me) which ruined the tiny piece of tuna. We could barely choke it down, it was so bitter and spicy from the pepper - not to mention the texture - ugh! The naan was basically 8 tiny slivers of what looked like pita bread with a side of what tasted like French Onion dip. No joke. And here I had visualized warm naan bread with a layer of carmelized onions...go figure.
Dinner continued to get worse. I ordered the butterflied prawns in curry with bak choy, which looked more like an appetizer (the waitress had assured us they were not a small plates place). there were 6 shrimp (not prawns) on the plate with about 2 baby bak choy strips in a light curry sauce. Nothing wrong with it except for its size and price ($18). My friend got the mahi stir fry which was a heap of rice mixed with vegetables and some tuna; others at the table got the chicken which was the only redeemable thing on the menu. It was in some basil sauce, I think.
The service was snail-paced and the price: A whopping $45 per person (1 bottle of wine, 2 cocktails plus the food) and we were all starving afterward. Never again.
Armani Cafe on Grant St., downtown - Lunch: Yes, I know it's a clothing store but we were shopping and it was there and I was starving....and pleasantly surprised. I had the Caprina salad which was mixed greens, the sweetest tomatos I've ever had, chicken and goat cheese mixed with crushed sweet walnuts in a balsamic dressing - yum! My friend had a panini..can't recall the name but it was thinly sliced roast beef with carmelized onions (the real kind!) and guyere cheese with a side salad - excellent. The coffee and breadsticks were also very good. Price for two: $32. I would actually recommend this place, it was quite good and the service was fast and very friendly.
Jade on Gough, Hayes Valley - pre-dinner cocktails: Great drinks, fun bartenders and wonderful atmosphere (they make great use out of a very small space). The Jade cocktail was a little too sweet for our taste but the red wines were very good and well-priced. We had one appetizer there (they have about five on the menu); the salmon tartar on wontons with creme fraiche. Very good and just what we needed. Total for 5 drinks and the salmon: $51. However, keep in mind they have an excellent happy hour - only $2 for beer and well drinks and ALL wines by the glass!
Levende Lounge - dinner: Now I've read some mixed reviews on Chowhound but this place was fabulous! We were seated immediately for our 8:30 p.m. Saturday night reservation. The music was downtempo and quiet enough for conversation, and the atmosphere was warm and inviting. We split (gonna take them right off the menu):
1) frisee salad/baby leek vinaigrette/bacon/fried quail egg & osetra toast - amazing, perfect flavor combo
2) tilapia ceviche/black bean taquito/avocado puree/jalapeno vinaigrette - very good; big pieces of white fish with a side of creamy avo.
3) pan seared crab cakes/pea shoot salad/sweet chili sauce/basil aioli - nice and spicy, different and great!
4) bacon wrapped pork tenderloin/grain mustard sauce/carnita wontons - super tender, and came with these stuffed wontons that was a surprisingly good match
5) hangar steak/goat cheese & yukon gold potato gratin/potato crisps - melt-in-your-mouth good.
Everything is small but flavorful...it's exactly what you want and nothing you don't. You leave feeling satisfied but not overly stuffed. I would highly recommend this place.
Ella's - brunch: I know this is an SF landmark in terms of food and I can see why. I had the chicken hash with a side of thick, wheat toast and scrambled eggs. Comfort food to DIE for, what else can I say? If only the wait wasn't an hour long on a Sunday morning...but it's worth the wait. My friend got the fresh corn pancakes and chicken sausage - both excellent.
Well, that's about it. I wanted to stop by citizen cake for some almond crossaints but just didn't have the time. Next time for sure :)