As one of the most metropolitan and diverse cities in the US, it’s unsurprising that San Francisco has secured its reputation as a gastronomy hotspot. Its offerings range from vibrant street-food markets all the way up to exquisite Michelin Star restaurants.
Dining is a vital element of cultural exchange, one that facilitates dialogue, appreciation and socializing under the banner of something that unites us all – great food. Fine dining, in particular, plays a special role in that exchange. It is an expression of culture from the most talented chefs – masters of their craft who have dedicated their lives to sharing high-quality cuisine that represents their own backgrounds.
More so than with our everyday meals, the food and ambiance act as the very focus of the event. Some people travel to a city with the sole purpose of sampling its best cuisine. These expectations make it vital for restaurants to create an experience that is both unique and memorable. San Francisco is rich in these world-class establishments.
Here are some great culinary highlights and the chefs who have contributed most to the mentoring of TransUSA Exchange’s international culinary participants.
Our first pick, found at 140 New Montgomery Street, is Mourad. A restaurant that prides itself on the fusion of old and new. Situated in the newly renovated PacBell Building, Mourad’s tasteful, Moroccan-inspired décor recreates old-world charm with a contemporary finish. Its diners flock to its chairs for modern takes on traditional north-African cuisine with combined flavors from around the world.
For an example of a dish that encapsulates their style, look no further than their pomegranate, Asian pear, and grape kanpachi flavored with Mourad’s unique Moroccan furikake. Alternatively, small groups might opt to share a more authentic dining experience by sharing one of their divinely spiced ‘La’achas’.
Background, travels, and culture are a few things that inspire a chef’s menu. One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is the influence of their staff. Just as dining is a form of cultural exchange, often, so is the cooking itself.
2. Gary Danko
The restaurant of Gary Danko is no exception. Alongside their world-class caviar, Gary Danko’s extensive menu contains flavors from many nations. Diners can choose between pan-seared scallops with Israeli couscous, juniper-crusted bison with Hungarian Spätzle, or Thai coconut curry with shrimp, lobster and calamari finished with candied peanuts and shiitake mushrooms.
3. Atelier Crenn
Of course, there are also those restaurants who have opted to specialize entirely. Tucked away in the San Francisco Bay, sits Atelier Crenn. More than a meal, dining at Atelier Crenn can only be described as an experience. Situated in a homely dining space, guests are presented with a poem as they enter – with each line highlighting the historical and personal significance of their courses. The restaurant was created as an homage to chef-proprietor Dominique Crenn’s family, fusing their legacy in Brittany with the freshest Californian produce.
“You do not need to be super-rich to enjoy the best of San Francisco cuisine.”
3. Prospect & One Market
You do not need to be super-rich to enjoy the best of San Francisco cuisine. More affordable options such as Prospect and One Market also offer excellent quality dining. While their menus boast outstanding versions of American classics, like One Market’s all-natural burger with pimento and Ritz-cracker crumb bun, the restaurants do not compromise on the VIP treatment.
Both offer private dining options or ‘chef’s table’ tasting menus that highlight their cooking team’s fine-tuned palettes. Visitors to One Market looking to grab a bargain should not miss out on their generous happy hours when for just $9, patrons can purchase delicious tequila and hibiscus ‘Besos de Jalisco’ cocktails.
4. Foreign Cinema
In another beautiful merger of San Franciscan’s love of food, arts, and foreign culture, Foreign Cinema is a unique dining environment, which over its 20 years of existence has proved itself to be a local favorite. Foodies and cinema-lovers can share their passion with incredible meals such as halibut ceviche or half-shell oysters while watching alternative films in a cozy romantic setting.
For eighteen consecutive years, the visions of award-winning chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark have led the restaurant to be ranked in the San Francisco Chronicle’s ‘Top 100 Restaurants’. In recognition of their standards of excellence and community leadership, a state senator proclaimed September 18th ‘Foreign Cinema Day’.
Foreign Cinema is a dining experience constantly in evolution, but for those who wish to try to recreate some of their best dishes from the past, they sell their very own ‘Foreign Cinema Cookbook – Recipes and Stories Under the Stars’.
With so many amazing options available, knowing what to eat in San Francisco can be a difficult choice. These fantastic options are just the beginning of what San Francisco has to offer. With many talented young people attracted to San Francisco’s culinary scene, the city looks likely to maintain its reputation as one of the best destinations in the world for food-lovers.
If you want to share your experiences tasting or working in fine dining, we would love to hear them. Have you heard of any San Francisco restaurants that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.