Top Choices: Hotel Restaurants & Bars, San Francisco Bay Area

Hotel restaurants and bars have come a long way from the days when you ate anywhere but in a hotel. Now, San Francisco Bay Area has some of the best, for locals as well as visitors. Check out some Top Choices.
Drinks and Bar Bites:
The Ritz-Carlton Bar, The Ritz-Carlton, 600 Stockton Street, 415.773.6168,
Everything about the Small Bottles/Small Bites experience at the Ritz Bar is sexy – from the menu concept to the intimate feel and rich décor to Chef Ron Siegel’s innovative dishes as well as the large selection of half bottles. Don’t miss the poached quail egg with golden Osetra caviar and cedar smoke – it’s magical. Pair it with a 2006 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay. And the chocolate Manjari caramel cake with a 2005 El Molino Pinot Noir is heavenly. Sink into the leather chairs, relax and enjoy.

Redwood Room, Clift Hotel, 495 Geary Street, 415.775.4700,
Venerable redwood and a 1930s-era bar dominate the hip decor in this cool room. The Starck-designed furniture, Art Deco lights, and even the digital art blend seamlessly with the rich tone of the original wood. The hand-etched Venetian mirror on the bar is a knock-out. Classy cocktails boast fresh juices and homemade simple syrups as in the tasty Lavender Lemondrop and the Mandarin Lemongrass martini. Crispy jerk fries, sliders, sashimi plates and burrata brushcetta are all favorites.
Seasons Bar & Lounge, The Four Seasons Hotel, 757 Market Street, 415.633.3000,–Settle in for a comfortable evening where specialty cocktails rule: Try the Lemongrass Ginger (infused vodka, lime and lemon juices) with a candied ginger twist and a sugar/salt rim and the Secret Garden (Hendricks gin, grapefruit and lime juices, cilantro infused simple syrup). Nibble on olives three ways (warm marinated, crisp blue cheese stuffed and tapenade) and a thin crust pizza. Before leaving, go straight for the Chocolate Rush (Stoli Vanilla, Godiva White and Dark Chocolate Liquors) with chocolate shavings.

W Cafe, W San Francisco, 181 3rd Street, 415.777.5300,–The Living Room Lobby at this happening hotel is the setting for the lively W Café. You won’t miss if you choose to unwind with the Elderflower vodka martini or the Bliss Spa cocktail (with cucumbers of course) and some delicious bar bites. Try the crab arancini with citrus aioli and the ahi tartare with cucumber crème fraiche. Snag a seat at the bar or lounge fireside – either way, it’s a hip scene you don’t want to miss.
Luxury at Lunch:
The Campton Place Bar and Bistro, Taj Campton Place, 340 Stockton Street, 415.781.5555, Slip into this cozy corner of the hotel and enjoy a slice of heaven. The service is first class and friendly. The bistro menu is infused with spices and flavors from Chef Srijith’s India. Try the distinctive Palak Paneer curry with Indian style ricotta cheese cooked in a spinach gravy. Or a classic cheeseburger. There’s also a delicious sashimi platter. And lots of choices for wine and cocktails. Opt for a small table or sit at the marble bar and people watch.

Silks, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 222 Sansome Street, 415.986.2020,
The sumptuous décor at Silks is inspired by Marco Polo and his discoveries along the Old Silk Road. The food is a blend of farm fresh ingredients with Pacific Rim influences. The Dungeness crab starter with a soy-ginger emulsion is an explosion of flavors. Go for the Business Lunch and savor the char grilled Mahi Mahi with garlic stir fried broccolini, basil whipped potatoes and a Thai yellow curry sauce. Pair with just the right wine and don’t miss the passion fruit crème for dessert.
Pre-theater Menu:
Restaurant Michael Mina, The Westin St. Francis Reserve one of two seatings before show time for the pre-fixe three course menu and experience the Chef’s luscious cuisine. The Wolfe Ranch Quail has a truffle stuffed breast with pistachio bread pudding and a confit leg finished with pomegranate aioli. The Elysian Fields lamb chop is oh-so tender and served with an amazing lamb presse (seasoned braised breast topped with butternut squash). Choose your wines and you’re set for a delightful meal in an elegant setting. Save room for the root beer float and warm cookies for dessert.

Grand Café, Hotel Monaco, 501 Geary Street, 415.292.0101,
You’re transported to Paris in this lively brasserie. The pre-fixe three course theater menu is terrific. The flammenkuche (from Alsace) is warm and luscious with pears, candied walnuts, goat cheese cream and a burgundy glaze on wood oven crispy flatbread. Savor the tournedos of salmon with a beurre blanc sauce. Try the bittersweet and white chocolate terrine or the Meyer lemon meringue pie. Pair each course with a favorite wine – you’re only steps away from the theater.
Top of the Mark, The Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, One Nob Hill, 415.392.3434,
Visit this timeless location for an only-in-San Francisco experience. Situated 19 stories up, the former penthouse offers a 50 mile panoramic view. Settle in for a complete meal or head straight to the corner bar for cocktails and small bites. Known for their “100 Martini” menu, there are unusual and delicious options like the “3Gs” – vodka with lemon juice, OJ, ginger syrup, ginger ale and ginger. A prime location for live music in the evening along with a great sunset.

Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, Sir Francis Drake Hotel, 450 Powell Street, 415.395.85.95,
This lofty late night party place sits 21 floors above Union Square and boasts a nonstop view. Fuse the allure of the 1930s with the nightclub scene and you’ve got just the spot for a spirited evening. Enjoy an array of cocktails and hors d’ouevres (truffled potato chips are a must) while you kick up your heels and groove to live music, DJ spun hits or recorded sounds.
Tiki Bar:
The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco, 950 Mason Street, 415.772.5278, This iconic Tiki bar and restaurant hasn’t lost a beat since opening in 1945. The tropical décor, thunder and lightning storms and lagoon (formerly the hotel pool) make the perfect setting to sip parasol-decorated mai tais and drinks in pineapples with tasty Asian cuisine. The aloha pork ribs are luscious as is the green papaya salad, fire cracker prawns and Mongolian beef tenderloin. If you can’t decide, go for the Tonga and Pacific platters. Dance the night away to the beat of the trio playing from a thatch-covered barge on the lagoon.

Ducca Restaurant & Lounge, The Westin Market Street, 50 3rd Street, 415.977.0271, Lose yourself in this urban oasis. Enjoy lunch or cocktails on the spacious patio. Available throughout the day, try the cicheti (Venetian-inspired small bites) – arancini (crispy risotto fritters) or the popettini fritti (crispy pork meatballs). The patio is usually open from April until December with service, otherwise take your drinks outside yourself. There’s even a fire going in the open pit on chilly San Francisco evenings throughout the year.

Americano Restaurant, Hotel Vitale, 8 Mission Street, 415.278.3777, Soak up the sweeping bay views as you unwind on the patio and enjoy seasonal Italian food from Chef Paul Arenstam. For lunch, try the Heritage pork meatballs al forno and the garganelli with house-made pork sausage, Tuscan kale and clams. Do not go without ordering the olive oil gelato with butter caramel and sea salt. The patio is open year round for lunch and for cocktails and small bites in the evening (tented in inclement weather, but without blocking any views).

Tasting Menus:
Ame, St. Regis Hotel, 689 Mission Street, 415.284.4040,
A Taste of Ame is a five course journey with Restaurateurs Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani. The focus on farm fresh is reflected in every bite from the seasonal menu infused with Italian, French and Asian flavors. Start with sashimi – smoked trout, tombo tuna and hokkaido scallop – each meticulously prepared. The broiled sake-marinated Alaskan black cod in shiso broth is silky and tender. The grilled Kurobuta pork loin with winter black truffle sauce and potato puree “Robuchon” is rich and decadent. Save room for the creative desserts. Complement the meal with wine and you’re in for an unforgettable evening at this Michelin-starred restaurant.
The Fifth Floor, Hotel Palomar, 12 Fourth Street, 415.348.1555, The five creative courses of The Fifth Taste are heavenly. You’ll taste Chef Jennie Lorenzo’s exquisite crudo – sashimi slices of ono with wasabi tobiko roe, Buddha’s hand citron shavings and micro greens drizzled with coriander and jalapeno olive oil. Pair it with Midnight Moon sake. Savor the slow roasted pork belly with brussel sprouts, purple cauliflower, farina ribbons with sage and truffle sauce and the 2005 Eremo Langhe. And for dessert, linger over the huckleberry compote with goat milk butter shortbread, lemon meringue sorbet and whipped cream. The setting is sublime and this Michelin starred restaurant delivers.

Luce, The Inter-Continental Hotel San Francisco, 888 Howard Street, 415.616.6566. Chef Dominique Crenn reigns supreme as she showcases her innovative cuisine at this Michelin starred restaurant. The eight course tasting menu salutes her passion for bountiful local ingredients. Relish the “soil” course – root and baby vegetables with a black olive and rye mixture, chestnut and celery puree and more, then the “herb garden” of amazing celery leaf sorbet with crispy quinoa to the “winter sky” of coconut emulsion, pineapple tapioca, lcyhee jelly and goat cheese fromage blanc gelato. Some ingredients are secret, but the “cacao” dessert is a chocolate lover’s dream. Take pleasure in the wines and the stylish décor – it’s an evening to remember.

The Garden Court, Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery Street, 415.546.5089,–Historic, elegant and enduring, this restaurant has been a San Francisco institution since it reopened in 1909. The glass ceiling, majestic marble columns and crystal chandeliers add to the romance and magic of a time gone by. Sunday brunch is an amazing array of intercontinental cuisine – sushi and sashimi, dim sum, entrees and carving station, raw bar, salads, every possible breakfast food including omelets made to order, fruit and a mountain of sweets for dessert including freshly made crepes. Sparkling wine flows freely. The jazz trio is a classy addition to a plentiful feast.

Top Choices: Wine Country
Farmhouse Restaurant, Farmhouse Inn, 7871 River Road, Forestville, 800.464.6642, 707.887.3300;–Dinner is astonishing at this one-star Michelin restaurant. Executive Chef Steve Litke does it all out of a 16′ X 14′ kitchen. His creative blending of farm fresh ingredients with an international flair provides each diner with a seasonally prepared meal in an elegant, yet relaxed environment. During our summertime visit, we savored a strawberry gazpacho amuse bouche, tempura of burrata stuffed squash blossom and fresh Maine lobster fennel sausage. Add the “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” cooked three ways with an applewood smoked bacon wrapped loin, roasted rack and confit of leg paired with local wines and we had wine country perfection.

BANK Café & Bar, Westin Verasa Napa, 1314 McKinstry Street, Napa, 707.257.5151,–Chef Ken Frank makes his exciting cuisine available all day inside in a casual open area off the lobby and outside by the pool (nestled by a nature preserve and the Napa River). Lunch is about tantalizing dishes: Pajaro’s Shrimp Cocktail (slow poached shrimp over gazpacho sauce), Soy Glazed Pork Belly with Gingered Brussel Sprout Slaw, Daikon Sesame Salad with Radish Sprouts served with shrimp, golden caviar and crab and sandwiches that change daily (crab cake with Asian mustard dressing the day I visited). Sip Domaine Carneros 2005 Brut and you’re set.

Top Choice: East Bay
Meritage at the Claremont, The Claremont Resort & Spa, 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, 510.549.8510,–Executive Chef’ Josh Thomsen’s innovative dinner menu creatively pairs American wines (3 and 6 ounce pours) with seasonal fare (available in half and full portions). In the “Sparklers” category the Dungeness crab cake (pure crab) is ideal with “J” Cuvee 20. The seared sea scallop with a butter, white wine and truffle oil sauce is luscious with a 2007 Sanford Chardonnay. Pair both the cider braised Kurobuta pork belly and the red bluff Kobe beef short ribs with a 2006 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee and you’ll feel a rush of culinary delight. Revel in the room’s arches, columns, high ceilings and spectacular views.

Top Choice: South Bay
Navio, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, 1 Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay, 650.712.7000,
Brunch at Navio is breathtaking – the drive down Highway One, the bluff setting of the property, the ship’s décor in the dining room, the knock-out views of the Pacific from the grand windows and, of course, the outstanding food. Each of the myriad stations provides guests with amazing choices and flavors: Dim Sum, sushi, charcuterie, seafood, carved meats, salads and vegetables, breakfast fare, fruit and dessert. It’s easy to be tempted by everything at the first station, but pace yourself. Then go for it.

Top Choice: Sausalito
Murray Circle, Cavallo Point, 601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, 415.339.4700,
Housed in a luxurious property by the Golden Gate Bridge, this Michelin starred restaurant showcases the talents of Executive Chef Joseph Humphrey. Former officers’ quarters have been transformed into casually elegant dining areas – the perfect backdrop for California cuisine at its best. The dinner menu screams local with signature dishes like spot prawns with soft potato gnocchi, caramelized chestnuts and toasted brussel sprout leaves; squab and lobster salad with mizuna and zinfandel marmalade and grass fed beef that has been wood grilled to perfection with potato gratin and baby carrots. An extensive list offers exciting wines from small estates and from those who farm sustainably.