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RESTAURANTS

Restaurants

No doubt about it, San Francisco is a fabulous food city. In fact, those in the know rate this as the restaurant capital of the country. There are over 3,000 eateries to sample, some of them home to the best chefs and finest ingredients in the land.

Local dishes are typically ingredient driven, incorporating farm fresh produce and the best of regional wineries, dairies and organic produce suppliers. No one cuisine dominates, there is rather a wonderful variety to experience. Asian fusion food is well represented, with a strong emphasis on fresh local seafood. For Italian dishes head over to North Beach; for Chinese and other Asian dishes, make a beeline for Chinatown. The Mission district is home to a huge variety of Mexican and Latino restaurants.

Every January is declared "Dine About Town" month when you can enjoy a fixed-price three-course meal at over 100 top restaurants for $21.95 per person (lunch) and $31.95 per person for dinner.

Tips of 15 to 20% are expected for good service. Make reservations well in advance as impromptu fine dining just doesn't happen here.

Aqua $$$$$
Diners are wowed by the masterful seafood cookery and dazzling dish presentations served up at Aqua, all cooked with exquisite care. Dishes such as the shellfish soufflés and ahi tuna with foie gras are especially fine, and there is also a good-value five-course tasting menu available. Aqua is quietly elegant and is frequented by business clientele and a prestigious, gourmet crowd who like to dine in style for a special occasion. Reservations recommended. Dinner Monday to Saturday, and lunch Monday to Friday.

Address: 252 California Street (Financial District); Telephone: (415) 956 9662

Gary Danko $$$$$ | French
Award-winning, top Californian chef Gary Danko has built up a culinary name for himself by combining classical French cuisine with Mediterranean and Californian cooking, incorporating major culinary traditions from around the world into his work. His fine dining restaurant is a very special experience, and not only for the exquisite food; the service is impeccable and the atmosphere quietly elegant with no hint of stuffiness. Perhaps the best way to experience Danko's ingenuity is by way of a fixed-price seasonal menu, which might include glazed oysters, guinea hen breast and chocolate soufflé. Reservations essential. Dinner nightly. Elegant dress attire requested.

Address: 800 North Point at Hyde Street (Fisherman�s Wharf); Telephone: (415) 749 2060

One Market $$$$$ | American
Winner of several national and local awards, One Market features upscale American fare specialising in fresh meat and fish dishes. There are remarkable views of the waterfront and historic Market Street that can be enjoyed while dining on ahi tuna steak or the daily roast. For a unique dining experience, the restaurant also features a special 'Chef's Table' located inside the kitchen from where the group is guided through the exquisite tasting menu served by the chef himself. There is live jazz every evening. Closed Sundays. Dinner Monday to Saturday and lunch on weekdays only. Reservations essential.

Address: 1 Market Street, Embarcadero; Telephone: (415) 777 5577

Boulevard $$$$$ | American
Located in the Art Nouveau Audiffred Building near the waterfront, the mosaic floor, central open kitchen and striking decor perfectly complement the artistic dishes created by culinary star Nancy Oakes. One of the city's best restaurants, Boulevard is always packed and is ideal for a special occasion. Specialities include wood-roasted dishes like the rack of lamb, pork loin, or a variety of fish. Reservations essential. Dinner daily; lunch on weekdays only.

Address: 1 Mission Street, Embarcadero, SoMa; E-mail: info@boulevardrestaurant.com; Telephone: (415) 543 6084

Fifth Floor $$$$$ | French
With a palette of rich colours and luxurious furnishings, Fifth Floor became an instant classic after opening in 1999. The modern French cuisine produced by Laurent Gras remains original, visually creative and sophisticated. Incredible attention to detail is paid to dishes like the crab salad with a white truffle confit, the slow-baked rack of lamb, or the velvet chocolate mousse cake with a roasted banana sorbet. The wine list is prestigious and professionally served. Breakfast daily. Dinner Monday to Saturday. Reservations essential.

Address: 12 Fourth Street, Hotel Palomar, SoMo; E-mail: info@fifthfloorrestaurant.com; Telephone: (415) 348 1555 (reservations)

The Slanted Door $$$$$
Chef Charles Phan prepares real Vietnamese home cooking at The Slanted Door and his food is so flavourful and incredibly fresh that even the likes of Mick Jagger and Bill Clinton have sought it out. The establishment attempts to recreate the richness of Vietnamese street food with Western style service. The menu includes fresh spring rolls, green papaya salad, duck and grilled ahi tuna, as well as delicious desserts such as vanilla bean crème brûlée and a collection of Oriental teas. Its new location overlooking San Francisco Bay also has a to-go section of the restaurant. Lunch and dinner daily.

Address: 1 Ferry Building #3; Telephone: (415) 861 8032

Zuni Caf� $$$$$
Dining at this much-loved rustic restaurant is a quintessential San Francisco experience. The eclectic Italian-Mediterranean fare includes the legendary brick-oven roasted chicken with a Tuscan-style bread salad, hamburger on grilled rosemary focaccia bread, and the classic Caesar salad. The bustling copper-topped bar serves drinks as well as the very freshest selection of oysters. It is a great place for a pre- or post-Opera House drink and is always crammed with an eclectic crowd. Reservations recommended. Closed Monday.

Address: 1658 Market Street, Civic Center, Hayes Valley; Telephone: (415) 552 2522

Greens $$$$$
With high ceilings and enormous windows overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, Greens boasts one of the most dramatic dining spaces in the city and offers outstanding, creative meatless dishes that have earned it a place as one of the top vegetarian restaurants in the country. Owned by the Zen Buddhist Center, dishes use the finest organic ingredients and the delicious meals attract non-vegetarians as well as vegetarians. Lunch Tuesday to Saturday and dinner Monday to Friday. There is a special fixed-price dinner on Saturdays. Brunch on Sundays.

Address: Building A, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard, Marina; Telephone: (415) 771 6222

Delfina $$$$$ | Italian
Craig Stoll was one of Food and Wine's Best New Chefs in 2001, and the ultra-fresh seasonal Italian cuisine, the reasonable prices and warm atmosphere have made Delfina one of the most popular restaurants in the city today, continuously abuzz with happy diners. Dishes on the daily-changing menu are kept simple but extraordinary and might include thick Tuscan soup, butternut panna cotta or roasted chicken. The handmade pastas, braised meats and fish dishes are all full of flavour. Reservations essential. Dinner daily.

Address: 3621 18th Street (Mission District); Telephone: (415) 552 4055

Brandy Ho�s $$$$$ | Chinese
San Francisco's Chinatown district is world renowned for its restaurants. One of the top choices is Brandy Ho's, run by three brothers from Hong Kong and specialising in spicy Hunan (Southern China) cuisine. A typical meal would be spicy eggplant; calamari with black bean sauce, or chicken curry with garlic and hot sauce. Lunch and dinner daily.

Address: 217 Columbus Avenue, Chinatown; E-mail: brandyhos@yahoo.com; Telephone: (415) 788 7527