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Lose your heart (but not any weight) in San Francisco

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Image from Range, San Francisco

I once calculated that if you went to a new restaurant twice a day in San Francisco, it would take you 5 years to visit them all...and by that time you'd find yourself impossibly behind the new slew of up and comings.

It is, essentially, an impossible task to attempt...but it hasn't stopped me from trying.

If you come to my fair city, be prepared to open up the belt as well as the wallet, because you are ready for a gastronomical tour of some of the best food and wine in the world.

I have many favorites that I'll share over time, but here's the first roundup of some of my favorite places to dine in SF.

It is nearly impossible to give you a real accurate idea of what you might spend at any of these places, since it really depends on what you drink as well as what you eat. But I'm sure you can get away with these amounts. While I'm a bit of a food snob, I do have a list of my favorite dives as well...but we'll save that for another post.



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[Note: All images from their respective websites.]


Range



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Without a doubt, my favorite restaurant in 2006 was and is Range. The food is exquisite, the service is good, the decor is relaxing yet vibrant, and the prices are reasonable. The wine list is good and the bar is a lively place to have a drink before dinner.

The menu changes all the time, so don't expect the exact same thing each visit, but, there are some dishes that tend to pop up nightly, each a variation on a theme. My favorite is the roast chicken. Now I NEVER order chicken in a restaurant. I can make a $4 bird at home, and when I make it it doesn't turn out over cooked. However...every single time I go to Range, one of us has to order the chicken.


marinated beets with shaved fennel, blue cheese and watercress

pan roasted bavette steak with marinated leeks, portobello mushrooms and horseradish sauce

coffee rubbed pork shoulder with creamy hominy and braised greens

I'm convinced it is impossible to have a bad meal here.

Map


Price: $30-$60 per person



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Nihon

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Each time I go here, I fall further and further in love with this place. Nihon is a Whiskey bar with Japanese cuisine. And not just any cuisine, but a very inventive take on sushi, sashimi,

Their selection of whiskey includes over 100 brands, some upwards of $1,500 a bottle...but you don't have to buy the whole bottle...how about just a taste? Just the other night I sampled my first 12 yr old Japanese single malt whiskey...and I have to admit, it was quite tasty.

Favorite foods include the "must have" Coke Kobe (Kobe beef stewed with konyaku, sake, soy, coke, ginger), the Thunderbird Roll (an interesting take on the spider roll), and the chef's daily sashimi selection...the presentation alone is outstanding.

Price: $40-60 per person


Map



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Absinthe


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If you are walking around enjoying the charming Hayes Valley area, why not stop by Absinthe and have a little afternoon snack? A little bit of steamed and chilled Dungeness crab with white-truffle scented butter and a glass of bubbles ought to do the trick. Or perhaps the Rabbit rillettes with levain toast points and pickled figs?

With tables on the sidewalk, this is a good place to do a little people watching and rest the weary dogs while regaining your strength. However, it is also a nice romantic place for dinner as well.

Price: $30-$80 per person

Map



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Grand Cafe

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As their website states...

"The Show Before The Show...

Set in an architecturally restored, turn-of-the-century ballroom with 30 foot high ceilings, the cafe reflects the grandeur of old Europe with touches of art nouveau and deco and exciting collections of commissioned murals, fanciful sculptures, decorative art and faux finishes from a variety of local artists.

Entering the dining room conjures up an unmistakable sense of arrival and transports you to a different place and time when circles of art and culture intersected with the generous spirit of comfort and good company. The 20th century Parisian atmosphere creates a comfortable harbor for diners and radiates enough character and dramatic energy to make any meal a truly unforgettable experience.

I can attest to this. It is impossible to walk into this establishment without immediately losing all the cares of the world and feeling instantly invigorated.

The service is good, the food is good...but come for the scenery! It is a place you will not easily forget.

Highlights include:

Pancetta Wrapped Scallops, Sweet Corn, Cherry Tomatoes

Escargot Baked in Hazelnut Chartreuse Butter

“Grand Cassoulet” with Crisp Duck Confit, Garlic Sausage, Braised Lamb, Garlic Crusted Marrow Beans

Map



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Dosa

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A new star in San Francisco, Dosa specializes in the Indian crepes from which the restaurant gets it's name. While I've never been to Dosa for dinner, I have been there four times in 2007 for brunch.

Yum!

The stars that stick out in my mind are:

Dahi Vada - almost too beautiful to eat. Essentially lentil dumplings that are topped with yogurt, and then piped with tamarind and mint.

Egg Poriyal - an uttapam (like a light pancake) served with a scramble of eggs, chilies, tomatoes and onions...includes two lovely dipping sauces as well.

Madras Coffee - mmmm....it is almost worth going here for the coffee alone. Do yourself a favor...skip the chai and order this instead.

Price: $25-$40 per person

Map





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