Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

**** (4 stars)

Tacky Tiki to the max. There aren’t many of these venerable old Tiki bars left, and we need to cherish them. The Tonga room lacks the fancy glassware and smoking drinks of some, but it does have a pond and a barge for the band. Definitely a fun spot for before or after dinner drinks, although I’d skip the pricey buffet.

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
950 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 772-5278
http://www.yelp.com/biz/tonga-room-and-hurricane-bar-san-francisco

Gary Danko

***** (5 stars)

As good as the food is, the highlight here is the extraordinarily accommodating service. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

We loved the flexibility of assembly as many courses as you like in any order to create your own tasting menu. Four starters, cheese, and no dessert? No problem. That’s just the way we roll.

The caviar course we began with was served the what they called blinis, but were actually buckwheat pancakes from heaven. I want to go here for breakfast!

The wine list is extensive, and I particularly appreciated the large selection of half bottles, which allowed us to assemble our own custom wine pairings to accompany our meal.

Gary Danko
800 N Point St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 749-2060
http://www.yelp.com/biz/gary-danko-san-francisco

Top of the Mark

*** (3 stars)

Sad to say, this favorite haunt of my youth has fallen on hard times, and now just seems a bit seedy. The views are still great, except that the former dark and romantic lighting has been replaced by a brightly lit (and completely empty) dance floor and a big screen TV, both of which are brightly reflected in all the windows. Drinks are decent if pricey (presumably to pay for the view), and the menu is basic bar food, although nicely presented. Service was efficient.

Top of the Mark
1 Nob Hill
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 392-3434
http://www.yelp.com/biz/top-of-the-mark-san-francisco

Buena Vista Cafe

***** (5 stars)

This place never changes. They invented the Irish coffee (or at least did a darn fine job of copying it) and I don’t know of anyplace to get a better one. Perfect balance of coffee and liquor (and obviously very good coffee to start with) plus an amazing cream that is thick and rich yet floats and remains distinct from the liquid. Great on a cold day, but even on a warm one thesis an essential stop on any visit to San Francisco.

Buena Vista Cafe
2765 Hyde St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 474-5044
http://www.yelp.com/biz/buena-vista-cafe-san-francisco

Keiko à Nob Hill

***** (5 stars)

This intimate restaurant serves a set menu with all tables starting at the same time. The courses progress from light to medium, building to a magnificent piece of true Wagu beef. The food was good, and the service polished in that Michelin approved sort of way, but the thing that made the evening fun was the proprietor’s enthusiasm for the wines on his (very expensive) grand pairing. He has worked hard to collect rare bottles you won’t find elsewhere, and is proud to show off how well they math the food. These are prestige labels, but rather rare and fairly pricey wines that he obviously treasures. This enthusiasm is what elevated the meal to 5 stars for me.

Keiko à Nob Hill
1250 Jones St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 839-7141
http://www.yelp.com/biz/keiko-%C3%A0-nob-hill-san-francisco-2

Hunan House

*** (3 stars)

Pretty much average Chinese food, which is a bit disappointing given its location in Chinatown, but perhaps it is too close to the tourist corridor. Chow mein included an oddly large amount of noodles turing it almost into lo mein. The lamb ribs were very fatty. Best bet is the pot stickers and the onion pancake.

Hunan House
826 Washington St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 398-1299
http://www.yelp.com/biz/hunan-house-san-francisco

Jardinière

***** (5 stars)

This is exactly the ambiance I am looking for in a restaurant: dark and romantic, with the spectacular food in the spotlight on each table. A vibrant bar scene well-separated from a dining area where you can have an intimate conversation.

And yes, the food is great, too, with a traditional French flair tempered by lighter and more modern sensibilities.

There is a thoughtful winless, and the wait staff is friendly and obviously enthusiastic. Of all the restaurants we visited in San Francisco on this trip (and there were some great ones) we all agreed this is the one we would return to.

Jardinière
300 Grove St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 861-5555
http://www.yelp.com/biz/jardini%C3%A8re-san-francisco-2