Just in time for Valentine's Day (and the requisite romantic dinner), SFBG food writer Virginia Miller picks her favorite new restaurants of the past year.
V-DAY What if this year Valentine's paired romance with a visit to one of SF's best new restaurants? Here are new additions to the local dining scene in 2010 that will please food lovers (and who isn't, in this city?) while offering a range of price points in love-worthy settings.
FOR AMOROUS EXPERIMENTALISTS: COMMONWEALTH
Anthony Myint and chef Jason Fox are reinventing fine dining. Your edgy foodie date will be impressed. Myint was a mastermind behind Mission Street Food and Mission Chinese Food. Here at Commonwealth with Chef Fox, he delves into deliciously experimental creations with a fresh, unpretentious approach. And shockingly, no dish costs more than $16. Dine on goat cooked in hay while sipping a liquid nitrogen aperitif, finish with porcini thyme churros with huckleberry jam. You may be packed in tight in the spare, modern space, but you'll both leave glowing from stimulating flavors and presentation.
2224 Mission, SF. (415) 355-1500, www.commonwealthsf.com
FOR OLD WORLD ROMANTICS: COMSTOCK SALOON
The Barbary Coast comes alive in this bar-restaurant gem that feels like a timeless classic ... and isn't too taxing on the wallet. From Victorian wallpaper to restored dark woods, the spirit and history of the space entice. Filling up on rich beef shank and bone marrow potpie or bites like whiskey-cured gravlax on rye toast is happy respite on chilly nights. Pair with a perfect Martinez cocktail or a barkeep's whimsy (bartender's creation based on your preferences), and see if your date doesn't cozy up with you next to that wood-burning stove. Comstock exemplifies the best of what a modern-day saloon with Old World sensibilities can be.
155 Columbus, SF. (415) 617-0071, www.comstocksaloon.com
FOR LOVING LOCAVORES: GATHER
Gather is the best thing to come along in Berkeley in ages, and ideal for your local or locavore-y date. It reads typical Bay Area yet goes further: local, sustainable, organic everything, including spirits, wine, and beer. A rounded room with open kitchen is holistically casual and urban. All the raves you've heard about the vegan "charcuterie" are true. Marvel at the artistic, affordable array of five different vegetable presentations on a wood slab, like roasted baby beets with fennel, dill, blood orange, horseradish almond puree, and pistachio. Executive chef Sean Baker and team do meat right, too, whether sausage/pork belly/chile pizza or house-cured ham topped with crescenza cheese. Gather displays an ethos and presentation one can only dream of becoming a standard everywhere.
2200 Oxford, Berk. (510) 809-0400, www.gatherrestaurant.com
FOR BEEF-LOVING BEAUS: THE SYCAMORE
Skip the Valentine's Day's hoopla and take your sweetie out for a night that will make you feel like kids again — to the Sycamore, which offers a delicious "famous" roast beef sandwich. A glorified Arby's staple on grocery store-reminiscent sesame buns with BBQ sauce and mayo, the sandwich salutes the native Bostonian owners' roots. But the roast beef sandwich isn't the only item that shines at this humble Mission eatery, which doubles as a cozy beer and wine bar. Pork belly-stuffed donut holes in Maker's Mark bourbon glaze are pretty near orgasmic. A slab of pan-fried Provolone cheese is enlivened by chimichurri sauce and roasted garlic bulb. I applaud its all-day hours and prices under $9.
2140 Mission, SF. (415) 252 7704, www.thesycamoresf.com