Bay Area’s 10 Hottest Restaurants of 2011

Here is the line up according to Zagat:

Another year is almost up (how did that happen?!). And while the dining scene in the Bay Area (and across the country for that matter) has seen its share of struggles due to the economy, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty to get excited about. Here are the 10 openings that generated the biggest buzz. Let us know if we missed any of your favorites in the comments.

3127 Fillmore St.; 415-440-0460
Chef Dominique Crenn (ex Luce) has struck out on her own in this new atelier-inspired Marina French where she’s turning out “whimsical”, “Wonka-like” prix fixe dinners meant to “evoke memories” while bringing “molecular gastronomy” and “artistry” “to a level” fans say is “heretofore unseen in the Bay Area”; add in “spot-on” wine and service, plus a simple, salonlike setting, and though the edible “concepts” might leave some “hungry”, most declare it “succeeds in spectacular fashion.”
399 Grove St.; 415-430-6590
Kin to nearby Absinthe, this Hayes Valley newcomer finds Louisiana native Justin Simoneaux (ex Moss Room) fusing rare-to-these-parts ingredients (alligator, crawfish) with locally sourced larder for moderately priced Bayou fare, including the requisite gumbo and po’ boys; set in a former shirt factory with exposed wood beams and steel bracing, the massive space features stools upholstered with faux alligator skin, and there’s a zinc-topped bar stocked with 22 beers and six wines on tap.
1250 Jones St.; 415-829-7141
Keiko Takahashi, a French-trained Japanese chef, showcases many of her signature creations (such as seared foie gras in an espresso reduction sauce) on the nightly eight-course haute French tasting menu at this fine-dining entry in the tony Jones & Clay apartments, which can be accompanied by an impressive vintage wine selecting overseen by her husband, co-owner Seigo Takei; the regal, well-appointed dining room features marble floors, plush upholstered chairs and a mirrored ceiling, and a separate menu of izakaya fare can be ordered at the bar or front lounge.
557 Valencia St.; 415-863-6800
Delfina’s long-awaited osteria spin-off in the Mission features a daily changing, Roman-inspired menu that leans heavily on meats, including charcoal grill/rotisserie entrees, house-cured salumi and a section devoted to offal; the long, handsome dining room features dark-wood tables with white Escher-like tiles, and there’s a bar pouring wines (from anywhere the Roman Empire touched) plus classic cocktails with an Italian twist.
231 Franklin St.; 415-896-4587
Bringing some Eastern mojo to Hayes Valley, this newcomer from an ex-Ame chef stresses local and seasonal ingredients on a concise New American–Japanese menu highlighting yakitori skewers (traditional chicken or creative variants) backed up by intriguing izakaya-style nibbles and don’t-miss desserts; anchored by an open kitchen, the streamlined setup fills with a hip clientele sipping sake and microbrews; P.S. reservations only for parties of six or more.
214 Healdsburg Ave.; 707-433-1520
This modern Mexican restaurant and late-night tequila bar in Healdsburg offers locally sourced, Yucatan-inspired fare from chef Mateo Granados (ex Dry Creek Kitchen and pop-up Tendejon de la Calle), whosemidpriced menu includes housemade, lard-free tortillas and entrees like slow-roasted cochinita pibil (suckling pig), accompanied by fresh-squeezed margaritas and a Sonoma-leaning wine selection on tap; seating in the brightly colored dining room and back garden patio is first-come-first-served, but you can put your name on the list and kill time at nearby Spoonbar.
600 Stockton St; 415-773-6168
At this decidedly more casual incarnation of the flagship restaurant and bar at Nob Hill’s Ritz-Carlton, continuing chef Ron Siegel eschews the ultrapricey prix fixe for à la carte New American fare (you can still order a prix fixe at the chef’s table or in the semi-private dining room); the edgier, more rustic setting now features reclaimed woods, high communal tables, a chef’s table and a graphic of California oak trees that runs the length of the room, and there’s a hip dimly lit front cocktail lounge with its own shared-plates menu.
1652 Stockton St.; 415-989-7300
This sprawling New American bistro, a big-city sister of SoMa’s Marlowe overlooking Washington Square Park, offers an expansive market-driven menu of small bites (divided into raw, fried and smoked) and seafood-focused entrees – some prepared in the kitchen’s wood oven – as well as chef Jennifer Puccio’s celebrated burger and fried Brussels sprouts; the dining room is outfitted with repurposed wood beams, vintage curios (such as a wagon-wheel chandelier) and a Carrera marble–topped bar, while an adjacent no-reservations cafe has floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the sidewalk.
2184 Union St.; 415-440-8626
Cow Hollow gets the first local outpost of this famed LA burger joint offering patties made with house-ground beef, slathered with special seasoning and sauce and topped with the likes of Parmesan, caramelized onions, truffles and sun-dried tomatoes; also on the menu are an only-in-SF bacon-wrapped scallop burger topped with crisp pork belly, as well as local offerings such as Anchor Steam beer, Humphry Slocombe ice cream sandwiches and the occasional off-the-menu special.
584 Valencia St.; 415-552-2510
Proving you can indeed go home again, Charles Phan (Slanted Door) reinterprets Chinese street food at this casual new Mission entry set in his old Slanted Door space, where he’s offering a midpriced street-inspired menu fashioned from locally sourced seasonal ingredients – think housemade noodles, rice porridge, Shanghai dumplings and stir-fries; the bi-level, mod-looking dining room is awash with color, courtesy of oversized paintings and red lighting shades that resemble upside-down woks, and there’s additional seating on the mezzanine and sidewalk.

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