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The food is elegant but not fancy (lobster, rack of lamb, both simply presented); if even those are too much, look to the "Hanoi Street Cuisine" items. (PR, 11/05) 607 Larkin, SF. 921-1218. Vietnamese, L/D, $$, DC/DISC/MC/V.
Canto do Brasil The draw here is lusty yeoman cooking, Brazilian style, at beguilingly low prices. The tropically cerulean interior design enhances the illusion of sitting at a beach café. (Staff) 41 Franklin, SF. 626-8727. Brazilian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Chutney combines elements of college-town haunt and California bistro. The Pakistani-Indian food is fresh, bright, spicy, and cheap. (Staff) 511 Jones, SF. 931-5541. Indian/Pakistani, L/D, ¢.
Gyro Kebab adds to the Turkish presence in the Tenderloin. The signature dish, swordfish kebab, is estimable, but almost everything else on the menu is crisply prepared too. (PR, 4/05) 637 Larkin, SF. 775-5526. Turkish, L/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Gyro King has that Istanbul feeling: lots of kebabs and gyros, hummus, dolma, eggplant salad, and of course baklava fistikli for dessert. It's all cheap, and it makes for a good, quick Civic Center lunch. (Staff) 25 Grove, SF. 621-8313. Turkish/Mediterranean, B/L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Indigo serves up good California cuisine in a pleasantly stylish setting. A great presymphony choice. (Staff) 687 McAllister, SF. 673-9353. California, D, $$, AE/MC/V.
Jardinière combines an aggressively elegant Pat Kuleto design with the calm confidence of Traci Des Jardins's cooking. The best dishes are unforgettable. (Staff) 300 Grove, SF. 861-5555. California, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
[TK]Mangosteen radiates lime green good cheer from its corner perch in the Tenderloin. Inexpensive Vietnamese standards are rendered with thoughtful little touches and an emphasis on the freshest ingredients. (PR, 11/05) 601 Larkin, SF. 776-3999. Vietnamese, L/D, $, cash only.
Max's Opera Cafe Huge food is the theme here, from softball-size matzo balls to towering desserts. Your basic Jewish deli. (Staff) 601 Van Ness, SF. 771-7300. American, L/D, $, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
[TK]Mekong Restaurant serves the foods of the Mekong River basin. There is a distinct Thai presence but also dishes with Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and even Chinese accents. (PR, 1/06) 791 O'Farrell, SF. 928-2772. Pan-Asian, L/D, $, MC/V.
Olive might look like a tapas bar, but what you want are the thin-crust pizzas, the simpler the toppings the better. The small plates offer eclectic pleasures, especially the Tuscan pâté and beef satay with peanut sauce. (Staff) 743 Larkin, SF. 776-9814. Pizza/eclectic, D, $, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Pagolac For $10.95 a person you and two or more of your favorite beef eaters can dive into Pagolac's specialty: seven-flavor beef. Less carnivorous types can try the cold spring rolls, shrimp on sugarcane, or lemongrass tofu. (Staff) 655 Larkin, SF. 776-3234. Vietnamese, L/D, ¢.
*Saha serves “Arabic fusion cuisine” — a blend of the Middle East and California — in a cool, spare setting behind the concierge’s desk at the Hotel Carlton. One senses the imminence of young rock stars, drawn perhaps by the lovely chocolate fondue. (PR, 9/04) 1075 Sutter, SF. 345-9547. Arabic/fusion, B/BR/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
HAYES VALLEY
Absinthe restyles the rustic foods of southern France into sleek urban classics. No absinthe; have a pastis instead. (Staff) 398 Hayes, SF. 551-1590. Southern French, B/BR/L/D, $$, AE/DC/MC/V.
Arlequin offers light Provençal and Mediterranean food for takeout, but the best place to take your stuff is to the sunny, tranquil garden in the rear. (Staff) 384B Hayes, SF. 863-0926. Mediterranean, B/L/D, ¢, MC/V.
Destino reweaves traditional Peruvian flavors into a tapestry of extraordinary vividness and style, and the storefront interior has been given a golden glow that would have satisfied the most restless conquistador. (Staff) 1815 Market, SF. 552-4451.