My other two favorite SF restaurants have been around awhile, and they never fail to please. Even ordinary dishes like pasta with marinara sauce are served with flair and a twist. It’s lunchtime again, and we’re munching excellent Italian food in Kuleto’s, in the Villa Florence Hotel near Union Square. A simple plate of capellini, crammed with tomatoes and garlic, is perfect. More unusual is the grilled radicchio with pancetta, which looks like a burnt hedgehog but is delicious.
Kuleto’s light, pretty room has a casual but sophisticated atmosphere, a nice spot to meet friends over a meal and whatever wine the waiter recommends. The service is excellent; our waiter is happy to oblige all requests, including taking our picture. Fun facts: 1) Kuleto’s was once a go-go bar, and the dancing girls’ pedestals still stand in the front window. 2) Outside the entrance is a time capsule that was filled when the Villa Florence was built in 1986, the year Halley’s comet last appeared. The capsule will be opened when the comet comes around again–in 2061. I will likely miss that event.
Here’s my fourth choice (I don’t mean by preference, just one more great spot) for special dining during a long weekend by the Bay: Cafe de la Presse, downtown on Grant Avenue. Under new management since 2005, it’s a French-style bistro serving French food and wines from Europe and California. It would feel right at home in Paris. I’m nibbling sea bass, tasting the duck confit with mushrooms, and savoring a green salad with chevre cheese on toast. The final touch is melt-in-the-mouth creme brulee. The Cafe is said to serve terrific breakfasts; next time I’m in The City, I’ll try one. Unique to Cafe de la Presse is its collection of international literature. The racks hold 200-plus foreign magazines and newspapers.
All four of the restaurants I’ve mentioned are expensive, and the credit card is taking a beating. “But this is San Francisco,” the taste buds whine, and they win. I can go back to rice and beans when I’m home. I’m already looking forward to the next SF visit and checking on more places that please the senses.