With a whopping 52 Michelin-starred restaurants scattered across the Bay Area, it pretty much goes without saying that the San Francisco fine dining scene lacks very little if anything at all. And to keep these restaurants in business, there is, of course, a not insignificant subset of diners who hunger for multi-course tasting menus featuring dishes crowned with caviar and buried under thick slabs of uni. But whether you’re a regular guest at this genre of food establishment or looking to expand your dining horizons with a big, ball-out meal, it can be hard to discern which places rise to the level of being the cream of this already-decadent crop. Let this map guide you to 10 of San Francisco’s finest fine-dining restaurants.Read More
10 Best Splurge Restaurants in San Francisco
Not that you need an excuse to indulge in a meal at a Michelin-star restaurant, if that’s your thing
Chef Dominique Crenn’s three-Michelin-star Atelier Crenn is a worthy dinner destination for any fine dining lovers out there. But those craving something a little out of the box would do well to check out what’s going on next door at the recently redesigned Bar Crenn. Here, the team offers a more interactive experience called Le Comptoir Crenn, during which staff cook a six-course meal on the bar right in front of diners’ eyes. It’s limited to six seats per service and offers the chance for guests to pepper the team with questions as they flambe cheese and unveil tepache-steamed scallops while explaining the processes behind each theatrical dish. It’s essentially dinner and a live cooking show, which isn’t all that bad for the $300 price tag. A wine pairing costs an additional $145, and the nonalcoholic option, which costs $70, is just as compelling.
Fresh off receiving its first Michelin star, Nisei has officially established itself as one of the city’s most exciting newcomers to the fine dining scene. Chef David Yoshimura, a Californios alum, offers a menu of what he describes as Washoku cuisine, referencing the traditional Japanese approach to cooking that emphasizes seasonality and balance. The $193 tasting menu includes options for wagyu add-ons and beverage pairings, which can be comprised of either wine or a thrilling lineup of sake. Just don’t expect sushi merely because this is a Japanese restaurant; the Nisei menu aims to highlight another side of Japanese cuisine, one that’s smokey, soulful, and technically impeccable.
Friends Only is the even more exclusive omakase counter from the team behind Akikos at Avery Lane and with just 10 seats, it’s not just the $300 starting price point that makes this a hard reservation to score. But should you snag a stool at this L-shaped counter, you’ll be in for a multi-course meal that’s intended to flaunt a long list of premium ingredients including golden Kaluga caviar, black truffle, bluefin tuna, and a hell of a lot of uni. During the back half of the dinner, chef and owner Ray Lee showcases his unique approach to aging fish through a colorful parade of nigiri, which might include keiji sake, a hard-to-find dwarf salmon, and single line-caught deep sea perch. Thanks to the small team and communal dining format, expect a lively meal with lots of opportunities to chat with both the chefs and your companions.
There is, in fact, fine dining that doesn’t require committing to a tasting menu in San Francisco, and one of the finest examples is chef Mourad Lahlou’s eponymous Moroccan restaurant downtown. The dining room glitters under stunning round light fixtures but once plates like lamb tartare, a neatly folded and flower-crowned basteeya, and whole red snapper land on the table, the space, remarkably, fades into the background. Be sure to let wine director Jose Delgado guide you through your beverage selection; the deep list includes plenty of surprising selections he’s never hesitant to pull out.
Open since 2010 and gilded with three Michelin stars, Benu might be one of San Francisco’s most lauded dinner destinations. Dinner here costs $375 and blends techniques and ingredients from France and Asia. Chef Corey Lee’s calling card includes impressive technical skills that are built on traditional cooking techniques from Korean and Chinese culinary traditions. There’s perhaps no restaurant doing a finer job of recreating familiar dishes like xiao long bao and beef barbecue in a fine dining setting. For a less pricey taste of the chef’s work, there’s also the Mission’s San Ho Wan, an elegant Korean barbecue restaurant.
Noodle in a Haystack
There are plenty of restaurants serving top-notch bowls of ramen in San Francisco, but only one where diners can experience a full ramen tasting menu during which each course shines a light on a different aspect of the popular dish. Owners Clint and Yoko Tan ran this small pop-up for years before opening their tiny, 12-seat restaurant in late 2022 — and in less than a year their ever-changing nine-course menus have landed the restaurant in the Michelin Guide and on the radars of both Bon Appetit and the New York Times. Be warned: It’s exceptionally hard to snag a reservation; you’ll want to mark your calendar for when tables release at the top of the month before.
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Wood-fired New American cuisine might sound tired, but there’s a good reason Saison continues to hang onto its place in the pantheon of celebrated San Francisco restaurants. Not only does the cavernous dining room exhibit a carefully crafted balance of elegance and simplicity, but the menu also effortlessly marries premium ingredients including caviar and uni with duck and antelope. The tasting menu starts at $298 with beverage pairings, gratuity, and other fees not included.
If the warm wood-wrapped dining room and kitchen strung up with bundles of drying herbs don’t tip you off, know that Birdsong is all about the wood-fired grill and whatever seasonal ingredients chef and owner Christopher Bleidorn and his team can rustle up to cook on it. Stepping into Birdsong feels almost like stepping into a dining oasis tucked away in a Pacific Northwest forest and the $295 tasting menu somewhat re-enforces that fact: root broth served with braised wakame, black cod made smokey over the grill’s embers, and buttery cornbread topped with a thick layer of caviar. Service manages to feel both warm and professional without too much pretense.
Dinner at chef Val M. Cantu’s Californios will cost around $300, which includes more than a dozen exquisite plates that showcase California produce including corn and masa from Tierra Vegetables in Santa Rosa. (You can find a full list of the restaurant’s farm partners and purveyors on the back of your menu, along with a list of every member of the team.) Staff will take time to explain the provenance and inspiration for dishes like a tostada topped with a mosaic of Brokaw avocado and sustainably farmed Mexican bluefin tuna, and an eye-catching machete taco made with golden masa and filled with Maine lobster. The sleek modern dining room, with towering black walls and bold art, makes a fitting backdrop for Cantu’s striking food.
A ticket to dinner at this Mission District destination will set you back about $300 with the option to upgrade to an experience that includes dessert and an after-dinner drink for an additional few hundred bucks. But if you’re looking for a fine dining restaurant that’s not too stuffy, this is your spot. Though Lazy Bear no longer hosts diners at a single communal table to channel that extravagant dinner party vibe, this is still a high-energy dining room where staff circle throughout the cabin-like space, and the open kitchen allows for a full view of the team at work. In general, the food leans more rustic than fussy — think, airy whipped scrambled eggs infused with smoky bacon fat and a bone-in lamb chop that no one will judge you for picking up and eating with your hands.