If you’re a food lover, it doesn’t get much better than traveling to a city like San Francisco, whose food scene is among the best in the world. The Bay Area has perfected just about every type, style and genre of food, from street vendors to luxuriously high-end, to authentically ethnic, funky fusion and even restaurants within restaurants.
But once the excitement of unlimited culinary possibilities subsides it can be overwhelming to decide exactly where to eat when traveling to San Francisco, especially if you’re only staying for a limited time (and who isn’t?). I usually peruse foodie websites and local blogs when I research a trip (SF favorites are eater.com, 7×7, and SFweekly), but even those resulted in a laundry list of restaurants impossible to combat in the few days we’d be in town during our stay.
So what’s a food-obsessed traveler to do in a city like San Francisco?
Relax and realize you’ll never eat everywhere you want or every place that’s recommended, but take comfort in knowing that most places you do go will probably be awesome. We picked a place we couldn’t find in Salt Lake City :: a Michelin-rated restaurant that focused on local ingredients served in a creative way, called Luce.
Luce has received the prestigious Michelin star four years in a row, a momentous feat for any restaurant but even more so in a city as culinarily competitive as San Francisco. Located in the InterContinental Hotel in the SOMA neighborhood of downtown, it’s a white tablecloth, high-ceiling sort of place that blends well in a nice hotel but without the pretentious wait staff that usually comes with. In fact, our server was so friendly he drew us a map of sightseeing recommendations to take with us when we left.
The menu offers a la carte entree options (all reasonably priced for a Michelin restaurant around $26-38) or a nine-course tasting menu for $95/$150 with wine pairing (available Tuesdays-Saturdays). Sundays and Mondays feature a three-course prix fix menu $48. Since we dined on a Sunday, we went the a la carte route. Breakfast, brunch and lunch (including a prix fix menu) are also served.
The menu evolves seasonally except for one item, their signature dish :: the Sweetbread Ravioli ($9). My friends were a bit skeptical but the waiter convinced us to try it. All I can say is once we tasted the savory, rich raviolis we all oohed and ahhed like we were watching fireworks, then exclaimed that it may have been one of the best dishes we’ve ever tasted. Ever.
Our other appetizer, the Pacific Amberjack ($19), was served in a sashimi-like fashion, lightly marinated in yuzu (a Japanese citrus) and olive oil, topped with trout roe, wild flowers and avocado. Not only was it beautiful, it was deliciously fresh and savory.
All of the entrees we ordered leaned heavy on the meat :: roasted lamb loin with lamb belly, prime beef rib eye in roasted butter ($38) and salmon with clams and diver scallops. All were presented in ways that complemented the flavor profiles of the meat, not to overpower or outdo the tastes of their own characteristics, just to enhance them.
I love when the flavor of the ingredients is allowed to speak for itself. A perfect example was the dish I ordered, the Roasted Spring Lamb Loin ($35) with crispy lamb belly slow-cooked with honey and spices, served with baby carrots, yogurt and hazelnut granola. The familiarity of the lamb was comforting yet it was executed so well I felt like I’d never tasted lamb like it before.
We finished with Panna Cotta, infused with basil-macerated strawberries, basil powder, rhubarb sorbet and the Mascarpone Cheesecake with roasted blueberry sorbet & streusel ($10/each). Again, the same philosophy reigned supreme :: less is more.
For my friends’ first time in San Francisco and first time at a Michelin-rated restaurant, the expectations were high when we walked in to Luce for our first meal in the city. But Luce was so incredible that by the time we walked out of the restaurant, the bar had been raised even higher for everywhere else in the city. And that’s quite a feat in a city like San Francisco.
Go to Luce for :: incredible food in both flavor and presentation, outstanding service and a nice atmosphere. Note :: Reservations are available online via OpenTable.com.