Because I haven't spent a ton of time in San Francisco, especially in recent years, it was time to hit some of the classics. But asking for advice from friends and colleagues was quickly overwhelming.
Too many places. Too much good food. Too hard to decide. (Big problems, I know.) So I left it to fate, and my trusty eater brother-in-arms MOP noticed a rez at Jardiniere on the Saturday night. I'm glad to cede OpenTable.com stalking to someone whose taste in food I trust.
Jardiniere's been around long enough that the taxi drivers know where it is, but it's not played out. At least not to my foreign SoCal eyes. The Nouveau touches, like the swag iron railings, make it feel like Fancy Special Occasion Place but also fun. I wish more restaurants had a balcony with such panoramic good views of other eaters and the room.
The menu again presented more tough choices, a situation for which the tasting menu took care of everything. And thankfully, everything was great. If only there weren't so many other restaurants to hit up on the next trip, I'd gladly go back just to order the luscious potato gnocchi with lobster, chanterelles and shallot jus topped with just about the best bread crumbs I'd ever tasted; the duck breast with blackberries, farro, and foie gras terrine; and the interesting wine pairings that totally did us in.
When I told Cicely that our other dinner plan included dinner at Zuni, she pointed out its CP-equivalent iconic status in her mind. Shame on me for never having been! (She didn't really say that. Instead I thought it.)
Compared to Jardiniere, Zuni's menu was well, not as exciting. But it's an impeccably sourced, sustainable apples and oranges comparison. Zuni is closer to the level of what a highly competent home cook can make, many of whom I know are Zuni fans.
Yet its comfort and sincerity is 100% Bay Area (4% "health surcharge" for the city's universal health care program!), and the food will never go out of style. Roasted chicken with bread salad, mustard greens, and pine nuts and currants (a Catalonia-inspired riff I often borrow) is indeed firmly in the Judy Rodgers canon. The crazy $48 price tag for a chicken who lived a happy life is also pure current day S.F.
I've done my foodie duty. And just shot my street cred by using that word.