5 Epic Restaurants in SoMa

In Situ | 151 3rd Street

Photography, painting, and sculpture aren’t the only fine arts that are on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. While art lovers gather at this extraordinary institution to see exhibitions by Diane Arbus and Runa Islam, foodies flock to the SFMOMA’s to taste creations from the world’s top chefs—think Alice Waters and Thomas Keller. Hailed by Zagat as one of 2016’s most anticipated SF restaurants, head chef Corey Lee, of Benu, opened the doors with a little help from his world-famous friends. At In Situ, Lee curates and replicates a veritable exhibition of recipes from other chefs. There’s no need to pine for dishes from Denmark’s now-shuttered Noma. Here you can taste the René Redzepi’s tart of sheep’s milk yogurt blended with wood sorrel and topped with anise brittle. With just a quick walk from your luxury San Francisco condo, travel to the bottom of the sea via Peruvian chef Virgilio Martínez’s glazed octopus and “coral” made from rice dyed with squid ink.

Saison | 178 Townsend Street

A visit to Saison isn’t just a night out; it’s an experience of a lifetime. Formerly a pop-up restaurant in a parking lot, this three-Michelin-stars establishment has a permanent home in the former California Electric Light company building. On the menu, a major throughline is fire. Chef Joshua Skenes told the New York Times, “Nearly every dish at Saison contains something that was smoked, grilled or roasted by a wood fire.” And it’s true: There’s white sturgeon caviar with smoked kelp, ember-poached-then-grilled asparagus, and even smoked carrots that are rehydrated with carrot juice. Wash it all down with a smoky red selected by wine director Mark Bright.

Benu | 22 Hawthorne Street

After stints at the French Laundry and Per Se, Corey Lee, a Thomas Keller protege, opened this a truly American restaurant inspired by recipes and techniques from around the world. In addition to raving about Benu’s quiet, temple-like atmosphere, food critic Ruth Reichl claimed, “I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a meal this much.” With caramelized anchovy salad, savory foie gras soup dumplings, and jelly fish-wrapped prawn every detail is perfectly executed down to the custom-made silverware.

Kokkari Estiatorio | 200 Jackson Street

As soon as you walk through the door, it’s as if you’ve been flung across the Atlantic and onto the European continent. Kokkari Estiatorio has a rustic, taverna feel about it—and in the midst of the heady atmosphere, it’s easy to feel you’ve walked into a particularly welcoming Greek home. Indeed, this restaurant gets its name from a fishing village on the Greek island of Samos; dishes like the grilled calamari stuffed with feta reflect this connection. For carnivores, they also do a mean lamb chop and grilled meatballs in spicy tomato. Dessert comes in the form of refreshing yoghurt sorbet topped with fruit granita and mint syrup. Add in a couple of glasses of Greek vino, and it’s almost as good as going to Greece itself.

Michael Mina | 252 California Street

It takes some gumption to put your own name across the door of a restaurant. But Michael Mina has every right to feel confident; after working his way up from a 15-year-old garde manger in a small French restaurant, Mina came to San Francisco to make his name. 20 years later—and a good few restaurants under his belt—Mina has created an exquisite dining experience. For first-timers who’ve just moved into their luxury condos in San Francisco, the chef’s tasting menu is the way to go: caviar parfait, bluefin tuna, and freshwater eel and foie gras are among the concoctions that will convert you into a customer for life. Celebrate your new favorite restaurant by settling at the cocktail bar afterwards, for a Bleeding Heart (gin, blackberry, port, and red wine foam). After all, a hearty meal should be followed with a hearty drink.