864-2288. Japanese, D, $$, MC/V.
[TK]Universal Café does California cooking the way it's meant to be done. The mingled influences of Italy, France, and the Pacific Coast result in such unforgettable dishes as split-pea soup freshened with mint and a grilled flatbread with melted leeks and salume. (PR, 1/06) 2814 19th St, SF. 821-4608. California, BR/L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
[TK]Velvet Cantina has the feel of a Nogales brothel and carefree food to match, though the kitchen has some pedigree and upscale aspirations. The mood is one of raucous conviviality, moving to the heartbeat thump of techno music. (PR, 2/06) 3349 23rd St, SF. 648-4142. Mexican, D, $$, MC/V.
Vogalonga Trattoria continues a tradition of excellent rustic cooking in a setting of cozy warmth. Despite the gondolier etched on the front window, the menu includes standards from all regions of Italy. (Staff) 3234 22nd St, SF. 642-0298. Italian, D, $, MC/V.
Walzwerk bills itself as an "East German" restaurant, but don't be frightened: the food is fresh, clever, tasty, and surprisingly light. The decor has a definite Cabaret edge. (Staff) 381 S Van Ness, SF. 551-7181. German, D, $, MC/V.
Watercress succeeds Watergate — the space is still handsome and the food is still French-Indo-Chinese fusion, but the prices are lower and the prix fixe option is so generous as to be irresistible. One of the best values in town. (Staff) 1152 Valencia, SF. 648-6000. Fusion, D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
[tk: closed?]Wilde Oscar's slings decent Irish pub food — burgers, curries, plenty of fries — in a comfortably homo-inflected environment. Wilde witticisms adorn the walls. (Staff) 1900 Folsom, SF. 621-7145. Irish/pub, L/D, $, MC/V.
*Woodward’s Garden defies its under-the-freeway setting with a seasonal, reasonably priced California-cuisine menu that explains how a restaurant has managed to thrive for more than a decade in a seemingly unpromising location. Dim lighting can make reading the menu a chore. (PR, 3/05) 1700 Mission, SF. 621-7122. California, D, $$, MC/V.
Zante Pizza and Indian Cuisine is that famous Indian pizza place. Meaning it's got Indian food, it's got pizza, and it's got Indian pizza. (Staff) 3489 Mission, SF. 821-3949. Indian, L/D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.
MARINA/PACIFIC HEIGHTS/LAUREL HEIGHTS
L'Amour dans le Four gives a nice local boho twist to classic French bistro style. Many dishes from the oven. Tiny, noisy, intimate. (Staff) 1602 Lombard, SF. 775-2134. French, D, $, AE/MC/V.
Annie's Bistro is a small jewel that offers stylish downtown cooking at neighborhood prices, with an extensive California wine list available by the glass and half glass. (Staff) 2819 California, SF. 922-9669. California, D, $$, MC/V.
*A16 refers to an Italian highway near Naples, and the food (in the old Zinzino space) is stylishly Neapolitan — lots of interesting pizzas, along with other treats from the wood-burning oven. (PR, 3/04) 2355 Chestnut, SF. Italian, L/BR/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Betelnut Peiju Wu is a pan-Asian version of a tapas bar, drawing a sleek postcollegiate crowd with its wide assortment of dumplings, noodles, soups, and snacks. (Staff) 2030 Union, SF. 929-8855. Asian, L/D, $$, MC/V.
Bistro Yoffi offers a homey California menu in a paradise of potted plants. Splendid al fresco dining (under heat lamps) in the rear. (Staff) 2231 Chestnut, SF. 885-5133. California, L/D, $$, MC/V.
Cafe Maritime captures something of the feel of a New England seafood restaurant. Despite the touristy location, the food is honest and good. (PR, 7/04) 2417 Lombard, SF. 885-2530. Seafood, D, $$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
Chez Nous fills the French slot in our town's tapas derby, and it does so with imagination, panache, and surprising economy. The menu features touches from around the Mediterranean, but much of the best stuff is unmistakably Gallic. (Staff) 1911 Fillmore, SF. 441-8044. French, L/D, $, MC/V.
Chouquet's gives stylish little spins to all sorts of French bistro standards and some nonstandards.