Saturday, December 15, 2007

On the Menu: Dine About Town

The food event to drum up business for the local restaurant biz, Dine About Town is coming back in 2008, and not just once but twice.

Sponsored by the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, this is your chance to get a table at some of the fine dining restaurants in the city at a reasonable price point via the prix fixe special lunches ($21.95) and dinners ($31.95) developed by the participating restaurants. Dine About Town, Part 1, runs from Jan. 15 to 31 (Part 2 runs sometime in June 2008).

Limited tables are set aside by each restaurant, so you might want to make your reservations for your favorite now. You can do it on OpenTable or the official Dine About Town site.

To help you out, I’ve listed some of my highlights from the official list of participating restaurants. I start off with the list of restaurants I’ve been to and my notes on whether it’s worth going on DAT, followed by my wish list of places to try and why. See you on the dining circuit!

Been There:
Absinthe Brasserie (lunch only). Near the Civic Center, this Hayes Valley classic has quality French brasserie dishes and a fantastic bar.
Andalu. This Mission District hot spot is popular with the “girls night out” crowd, mostly because you get tasty California-style dishes in small plates.
Azie. By the people behind LuLu’s, this fine dining restaurant is comfortable and cozy with elegant Asian-inspired dishes.
Chez Papa. This is one of my favorite Potrero Hill neighborhood restaurants. You feel like you’re in Paris, mostly because almost all the servers have a French accent, but also because the food is sooo French bistro. This original is still better than the other offshoots such as Chez Mamam.
Destino. Serving up fancy Latino-style dishes with a Peruvian slant, Destino is a small neighborhood restaurant. The food is inconsistent and isn’t that expensive that you need to wait for DAT to give it a try, IMHO.
Foreign Cinema. One of my favorite Mission District classic, this is an elegant but casual place for good food and fun. What comes out of the kitchen is worth the bustling noise.
Garibaldi’s on College. I used to consider this my neighborhood restaurant since I lived just two blocks away in Rockridge, but it’s been awhile and the food buzz has been mixed about this Rockridge standard with the beautiful room and bar. Again, this place isn’t that expensive that you’d have to worry about waiting for a DAT menu to try if you have to.
Le Charm. Another French bistro on the list. This one is on Fifth Street in SOMA. You probably wouldn’t even notice this quaint place, but the food and service is very cozy.
Le Colonial. Upscale Vietnamese food in a French-Colonial setting is always a nice way to escape the basic California cuisine. Hidden in an alley, Le Colonial is a gorgeous space for dinner.
LuLu. Another San Francisco classic, LuLu serves up French Provencal dishes from its wood-fire oven. While the crowd can be a bit touristy, you can still count on the food to satisfy.
Plouf. Among the alley-Euro atmosphere of Belden Lane, Plouf emphasizes French seafood, and you get it with the striped black-and-white shirts worn by the servers. But while some dishes may be interesting still, overall I feel this restaurant has lost some of its luster.
Roe Restaurant. Recently renovated, this restaurant has ambitious dishes from the kitchen that is executed well but still doesn’t really harmonize on the plate. Because of its high prices, DAT menu may be a fine opportunity to give Roe a try.
Scott Howard. I went to this Financial District star earlier this year for another prix fixe dining event. While it’s a handsome room with interesting dishes, Scott Howard offers an ongoing prix fixe menu, so the attraction for a special DAT menu isn’t quite so attractive.
Waterfront Restaurant. Along the Embarcadero just north of the Ferry Plaza, this restaurant offers up clean California dishes with a view.
XYZ. The fine dining restaurant for the W Hotel in SOMA, I found the environment more pretty than the food. While the offerings are upscale, the preparations seem a bit flat. Stick with a drink at the bar.

Want to Try:
A16 (lunch only). This Marina hot spot is probably going to fill up fast for DAT reservations, even though they’re just offering lunch specials. Its Italian dishes have been the talk of the town for awhile.
Americano. I hear mixed reviews of this restaurant, but it’s in the beautiful boutique hotel Vitale near the Embarcadero so I’m game for a try.
Bacar. Once known as an excellent wine-influenced restaurant, Bacar has gone through several chef changes. It’s trying for a comeback and DAT may be a good way to see if it succeeds.
Bong Su. From the family behind Palo Alto’s Tamarine, this fancy Vietnamese restaurant started off shaky but latest buzz is that it's found the right groove in its home in SOMA.
Café de la Presse. I walk by this place all the time heading from Union Square to Chinatown and I keep saying I should check it out. It has such a Parisian scene that it looks fun. From the people behind Aqua.
Campton Place (lunch only). One of the more elegant hotel dining rooms, Campton Place may be the best choice for a DAT menu because it’s probably way too expensive to dine any other times.
Cote Sud. A cozy French restaurant in the Castro, I’ve heard some good things about the food. It’s supposed to be comforting and satisfying.
Farina. A beautifully designed Mission District restaurant, this place serves up Ligurian style Italian cuisine. It’s gotten mixed comparisons to Delfina up the street, but I still want to give it a try. I do judge a book by its cover!
Jack Falstaff. Part of the PlumpJack group, this restaurant recently got a rave review in the San Francisco Chronicle. It might be worth checking out if Michael Bauer says so.
Nua. Another interesting new dining spot, this place offers Mediterranean cuisine in a stylish setting.
Plumpjack Café. You might see Mayor Gavin Newsom having dinner late at night here at the place that launched his restaurant creds. Once getting rave reviews, it’s questionable now that the star chef has returned to Manresa in the Peninsula. But with DAT, it might be safe to give the new chef a try.
Supperclub. Known for its entertainment and lounging beds, this seems like a fun place to try for the food and dining experience.
Umami. This new Cow Hollow restaurant offers up the next taste level known as umami by creating a mix of California and Asian fusion dishes, small plates style.
Vitrine (St. Regis) (lunch only). Again, DAT is a great way to try restaurants that you may never afford to get in, and so for that reason, Vitrine at the amazingly beautiful St. Regis Hotel near the SFMOMA seems pretty attractive for a DAT lunch rezzie.


agent713 said...

I first heard about Dine About Town from the Passionate Eater which is also how I found your blog. I took advantage of it last year. I'll try and fit it in again this year. Thanks for the reminder. Any chance you can make a list for Vancouver, BC? ;)

Chef Ben said...

Agent713, are you in Vancouver? I love that city, but not sure if I'm familiar with the restaurants to make a list. Maybe you'll need to share your recs? :)

foodhoe said...

Chef Ben, let's hook up for a DAT!

Chef Ben said...

I'm up for DAT, Foodhoe. Let me know where you want to go and I'm there!

Anonymous said...

What's DAT?

Chef Ben said...

DAT is the acronym for Dine About Town. Or if you're from Hawaii, it's pidgin for "what is that?" :)