Mediterranean, L/D, $$$, AE/MC/V.
Maya is like a good French restaurant serving elegant food that tastes Mexican. There are unforgettable flavors here: corn kernels steeped in vanilla, lovely grilled pork tenderloin served with a pipian sauce of pumpkin seed and tamarind. And for those weekday take-out lunches, there's Maya (Next Door), a taquería that operates to the left of the host's podium. (PR, 8/04) 303 Second St, SF. 543-6709. Mexican, L/D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
*Mochica serves quite possibly the best Peruvian food in the city, at extremely reasonable prices. The location is iffy, mostly because of speeding traffic. Jaywalk with care. (PR, 6/04) 937 Harrison, SF. 278-0480. Peruvian, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Moshi Moshi serves a full palette of Japanese standards, from sushi to tempura to immense bowls of udon and near-udon. An ideal spot for neighborhood watching. (Staff) 2092 Third St, SF. Japanese, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Nova still serves infused vodkas (remember Infusion?), but its orientation is less toward South Park than toward Pac Bell Park: sports on the TV above the bar, solid New American food, sleek pubbish looks. (Staff) 555 Second St, SF. 543-2282. American, L/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Oola gives Ola Fendert his own platform at last, and the result is a modern, golden SoMa restaurant with a menu that mixes playful opulence with local standards. (PR, 10/04) 860 Folsom, SF. 995-2061. California, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Public brings a Tuscan-tinged, Delfina-ish menu to a splendid multilevel space in a grand old brick building. Youthful but well-informed staff, incomparable chocolate bread pudding. (Staff) 1489 Folsom, SF. 552-3065. California/Mediterranean, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
[TK]Sneaky Tiki redoes the old Hamburger Mary's space with a Polynesian flair, though you can still get a decent burger. Many dishes for two, including a huge, multitiered pupu platter. The human tone is sleek, with some echoes of the disco past. (PR, 10/05) 1582 Folsom, SF. 701-TIKI. Polynesian, L/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Sushi Groove South continues the westward march of hipsterdom through SoMa. The food — traditional sushi augmented by quietly stylish fusion dishes — is spectacular. The setting — a candlelit grotto abrim with black-clad young — is charged with high romance. (Staff) 1516 Folsom, SF. 503-1950. Japanese/sushi, L/D, $, AE/DC/MC/V.
Tamal offers inventive Mexican-influenced small plates, including a selection of namesake tamales, in a lonely corner of southwest SoMa. The food can be inconsistent, but the best dishes are wonderful. (PR, 4/05) 1599 Howard, SF. 864-2446. Nuevo Latino/tapas, D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Town Hall offers the lusty American cooking of the Rosenthal brothers in an elegantly spare New England-ish setting. There is a large communal table for seat-of-the-pants types and those who like their conviviality to have a faintly medieval air. (Staff) 342 Howard, SF. 908-3900. American, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Vino e Cucina offers a pleasantly oasislike setting and solid Italian food — with the occasional pleasant surprise — on a gritty stretch of Third Street. (Staff) 489 Third St, SF. 543-6962. Italian, L/D, $$, AE/MC/V.
XYZ joins the pantheon of fabulous restaurants in the city's hotels. Lusty California cooking glows like a campfire in a cool (if slightly deracinated) urban setting. (Staff) 181 Third St, SF. 817-7836. California, B/BR/L/D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
NOB HILL/RUSSIAN HILL
Acquerello reminds us that the Italians, like the French, have a high cuisine — sophisticated and earthy and offered in a onetime chapel with exposed rafters and sumptuous fabrics on the banquettes. Service is as knowledgeable and civilized as at any restaurant in the city. (PR, 3/05) 1722 Sacramento, SF. 567-5432. Italian, $$$, D, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Alborz looks more like a hotel restaurant than a den of Persian cuisine, but there are flavors here — of barberry and dried lime, among others — you won’t easily find elsewhere. (Staff) 1245 Van Ness, SF. 440-4321.