San Francisco - Part VIII
The Del Popolo restaurant had a definite “You’re not in Kansas anymore” aura about it.
It was right next door to our hotel—30 feet away—and I had read some good reviews about it. I should have read the bad reviews. The austere gray concrete interior (lord, will I be glad when the gray phase in decorating is over) hadn’t deterred others; the place was full. We ordered a pizza and received a cow-flop of raw dough that was burnt on top. There may have been a flavor in the sauce, but I’m not exactly sure about that. We should have sent it back (as did another couple who was staying in our hotel) but soldiered through. I thought that maybe it was a California thing—a hipness beyond the ken of us hopeless rubes from flyover land. The main non-gray decor was a wall of hideous portraits, I asked out server about them and she said the owner had bought them on eBay:
A couple of people had suggested that we try the legendary Tonga Room, in the basement of The Fairmont Hotel:
With a lagoon, simulated thunderstorms (with rain!) palms, thatch and tiki motifs, the Tonga Room’s decor did not disappoint:
And the food was good as well; a wide choice of “Asian-but-not-too-weird” selections:
The one thing that really brought the experience down was the crappy modern pop music on the sound system. This may be just a geezer rant on my part, but there are hundreds of great Lounge or Exotica albums available, a random playlist of these would have made for a super night out. I suspect that the hotel is locked into a music service that is subservient to the big record conglomerates that think the diners are all 20-somethings.
For a real “walk on the mild side” for our last night we tried our luck at the “Level III”, another restaurant in a hotel, this time it was the JW Marriot, a block from Union Square. It was our last night and after the previous attempts at memorable dining we didn’t feel like going out on a limb. Note: the picture below is not the entry, a doorman had to direct us to an unmarked entrance that led to an elevator:
Evidently the restaurant was being remodeled so we were offered dinner in a re-purposed conference room! With office chairs! And AV hook-ups at each table! There was a video projector overhead and a drop-down screen, I was expecting to see a Powerpoint demonstration of the menu:
But the food was very good, perhaps the best we ate on our trip: