French, D, $$$, AE/DC/DISC/MC/V.
O'Reilly's Holy Grail, a redo of the old Maye's Oyster House that strikes harmonious notes of chapel and lounge, serves a sophisticated and contemporary Cal-Irish menu. (PR, 10/05) 1233 Polk, SF. 928-1233. California/Irish, BR/L/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Ananda Fuara serves a distinctly Indian-influenced vegetarian menu in the sort of calm surroundings that are increasingly the exception to the rule. (Staff) 1298 Market, SF. 621-1994. Vegetarian, L/D, ¢, cash only.
*Bodega Bistro has a certain colonial formality much of the menu is given in French and it does attract a tony expat crowd. 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, $$, DC/DISC/MC/V.
Mangosteen radiates lime green good cheer from its corner perch in the Tenderloin. Inexpensive Vietnamese standards are rendered with thoughtful little touches and an emphasis on the freshest ingredients. (PR, 11/05) 601 Larkin, SF. 776-3999. Vietnamese, L/D, $, cash only.
*Saha serves "Arabic fusion cuisine" a blend of the Middle East and California in a cool, spare setting behind the concierge's desk at the Hotel Carlton. One senses the imminence of young rock stars, drawn perhaps by the lovely chocolate fondue. (PR, 9/04) 1075 Sutter, SF. 345-9547. Arabic/fusion, B/BR/D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
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.
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.
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. Peruvian, D, $$, MC/V.
Hayes Street Grill started more than a quarter century ago as an emulation of the city's old seafood houses, and now it's an institution itself. The original formula immaculate seafood simply prepared, with choice of sauce and French fries still beats vibrantly at the heart of the menu. Service is impeccable, the setting one of relaxed grace. (PR, 7/06) 816 Folsom, SF. 863-5545. Seafood, L/D, $$$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
Sauce enjoys the services of chef Ben Paula, whose uninhibited California cooking is as easy to like as a good pop song. (PR, 5/05) 131 Gough, SF. 252-1369. California, D, $$, AE/DISC/MC/V.
CASTRO/NOE VALLEY/GLEN PARK
Ararat Mediterranean Tapas affords the view-minded a good setting from which to scope the foot traffic at 18th Street and Castro, along with a Turkish-scented Mediterranean menu rich in small plates and some bigger ones too. The menu's smash hits include coins of lavash-wrapped beef (a kind of Middle Eastern beef Wellington), an enslavingly good shrimp casserole, and a coil of baklava with lavender honey. (PR, 8/06) 4072 18th St, SF. 252-9325. Mediterranean/Turkish, BR/D, $, AE/MC/V.
Blue dishes up home cooking as good as any mom's, in a downtown New York environment of mirrors, gray-blue walls, and spotlights that would blow most moms away. (Staff) 2337 Market, SF. 863-2583.