« Where to get the best sangria | Main | The Anxious Server Syndrome »

July 31, 2009

A dynamite meal in San Francisco


What they say about hotel bargains right now is true.

How cheap is our special rate at a boutique San Francisco hotel just off Union Square?

Let me just say that when I was told it would cost $45 a night to park my car in the hotel's garage, I realized I would be paying almost half as much to park my car as for the room.

(No, I didn't park there. I found a garage around the block when I recovered enough from the shock to be able to drive again.) ...

LeColonial%20001.jpgWe wandered around downtown yesterday afternoon and ended up having tea in the gorgeous Samovar Tea Lounge  (motto: Practice peace. Drink tea.) above the Yerba Buena Gardens.

The pictures on its Web site don't do it justice, and I forgot my camera. It was a gorgeous day, blue sky, puffy clouds but cold. I knew that was going to be true, but I just couldn't make myself pack the right clothes when it was 90 degrees in Baltimore.

But that wasn't the dynamite meal.

We had our choice of fine seafood, Thai, Italian, and Korean restaurants within walking distance (in sandals with heels), but ended up at a wonderful French-Vietnamese restaurant called Le Colonial. It's in a small, charming standalone building next to a big tree in a back alley, quite surprising when you suddenly come upon it.

The special that evening was a two-pound lobster with bok choy. I couldn't manage that, but I loved my sweet corn soup with avocado cream and shrimp and mussels with Chinese eggplant and mango in a coconut curry sauce.

"Loved" may not be strong enough.

On the agenda today: A drive down the coast to Carmel, where the wedding will be held tomorrow in the Santa Lucia Preserve.

(Photos of Le Colonial by me)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 9:01 AM | | Comments (22)


Mmmmm... San Francisco food. If you have time on your way out of town, stop at the Ferry Building. I was tremendously impressed with all the food offerings I sampled there. And especially the Blue Bottle coffee. They have a great weekend Farmer's Market, too.

I second the "if you have time ... " comment and would add Burma Superstar, an amazing Burmese restaurant in the Richmond.

Speaking of the Ferry Building -- the Slanted Door is fabulous. Of course, you may be tired of Vietnamese food after last night. They do have afternoon tea as well as lunch & dinner.

Is that the same Le Colonial as in Chicago?

Colibri, on Geary Street near Union Square is one of my favorites in that neighborhood. They make guacamole tableside with your choice of seasonings. Wonderful food and a bargain compared to its nearby competition (Michael Mina and Farallon).

I have never had a meal in San Francisco that wasn't dynamite. As a bread lover you owe it to yourself to go to the Ferry Building for Acme Bread. Even better would be a trip to the original location at Cedar and San Pablo in Berkeley. Have lunch or breakfast at Cafe Fanny, browse the wine at Kermit Lynch's, and get some rye raison rolls from Acme.

Like EEL, I never had a bad meal in San Francisco. I used to go there a lot a decade or two ago, but haven't been in a long time. I wonder if Henry Chung's Hunan Restaurant is still around?

I will second The Canon's comment about Colibri's guac, but the service is fair, the place is noisy, and the chairs are true Mexican ie very straight and hard. Read as uncomfortable.

Cost aside, the Ritz Carlton's Dining Room is worth each and every penny, especially the take home "gift."

Two San Francisco restaurants where I remember having amazing meals are Tommy Toy's (haute Chinese) and Green's (haute vegetarian). It's been something like 15 years, but the memories are strong.

EL, see if you can get a reservation at Canteen. Dennis Leary is the chef (he left Rubicon a few years ago to open it). It's a slightly remodeled coffee shop near Union Square, in the Tendernob. Only six booths and seven or so seats at the counter, where he and one other chef never fail to create astonishing food in that tiny kitchen.

Isn't Dennis Leary a fireman?

Laura Lee,

That would be Denis Leary.

Thanks for the clarification, PCB Rob. Don't know how I missed that extra letter there.

He's not really fireman, but he plays one on TV. He comes from a family of firefighters though.

◄:o)╥╥~YumPorchetta-you are one lucky person. I have made 6 separate attempts to get into the Canteen without luck. I will be there again in May and hope to get in this time.
EL-Did you have the chance to eat at Postrio. Though the setting is impressive, I was underwhelmed by the food considering their PR hype.

mdlrvrmuncher, I hope you get the chance. Keep trying, and grab any opening you can. Stop by the restaurant, too -- you might be lucky if someone cancels, or if you don't mind waiting, perhaps you can squeeze in at the counter. Just go. Each time has been better than the last, and I've never, ever been disappointed.

By the way, Postrio closed a month or so ago. It may re-open with a new approach and name.

It was in our hotel, and it didn't seem closed to me, but we didn't eat there so I can't say for certain. EL

You drove in San Francisco, but wouldn't do a 2# lobster?

Well, it cost $56. EL

Hue, that's quite a non sequitur.

I woulda done that $56 Lobster and not rented the car!

I would have gone to Maine if I wanted to eat lobster.

Just got back from Maine. Bought 4, 2 lb lobsters, steamed at the lobster pound for $52.

I miss lobster pounds. Not for lobster, which is never as good as I remember it being, so I don't eat it, but for mussels.

Post a comment

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

Top Ten Tuesdays
Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Restaurant news and reviews Recently reviewed
Browse photos and information of restaurants recently reviewed by The Baltimore Sun

Sign up for FREE text alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for dining text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Food & Drink newsletter
Need ideas for dinner tonight? A recommendation for the perfect red wine?'s Food & Drink newsletter is there to help.
See a sample | Sign up

Stay connected