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Mariani Picks a Surprise Top Newcomer, Hates Your Beets

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John Mariani paid a visit to town over the summer, and now he's named his top three new restaurants. Before he starts the list-making, though, he can't resist knocking San Francisco menus for their lack of originality:

There's nothing wrong with the restaurants in San Francisco except that so many of them serve pretty much the same Northern Cal-Mediterranean menu. It's hard to find a non-Asian restaurant in the city not serving beet salad with goat cheese, mussels in white wine and grilled salmon.
Getting to Mariani's trio of picks, Epic Roasthouse and Plumed Horse fill out the second and third slots, but the top spot will most likely be a surprise. According to the Bloomberg critic, "certainly the best restaurant to open this year" is none other than the new InterContinental Hotel's Luce:
It seems an unlikely venue for fine dining, though the designers have created a smart-looking, airy restaurant whose tall windows reflect light off black-and-gold mosaics and silver globes, giving the room a shimmer both day and night.

Yet the real sparkle here is chef Dominique Crenn. Like other great San Francisco woman chefs, she cooks with a finesse and a degree of precision you sure don't find in hyper-masculine grills like Tadich and Sam's.

It's always fun to see the East Coast's views of our dining scene, isn't it? The national critics almost invariably clash with the local ones on the merits of the rustic neighborhood joints versus the flashier ones.

We're not sure if Meadowood, Ubuntu and/or Spruce were technically eligible for the Mariani Sweepstakes and it seems he wasn't big on Beretta (or its beets) and Camino but we do have to wonder about Murray Circle's exclusion. As for Luce, it has received good-not-great reviews across the board (cf. MB's lukewarm 2.5-star take) and we're not exactly fans of the hotel vibe (at all), but is it time to give Crenn's endeavor another look?
· Beyond Beet Salad: Seeking San Francisco's Best New Restaurants [Bloomberg]

UPDATE: Last year, Mariani named Crenn one of his chefs to watch. Gotta fulfill your own prophecy, right?

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