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[whitespace] Pacific Restaurant Polished Accommodations: The atmosphere and service at Pacific Restaurant are masterful and slick, as it should be at a high-class hotel.

David Fortin

Pacific Restaurant offers diners the comfort and style of a posh hotel

By Paul Adams

It is so pleasant to be treated well in a hotel restaurant. One of the hallmarks of a restaurant that cares about its clientele's experience is a simple but almost always overlooked touch: thick, decadently soft paper towels provided in abundance in the restroom. This is the secret reason that Patria in Manhattan is thriving, and also one of the best reasons to visit Pacific, the restaurant in the Pan-Pacific Hotel. And that's not meant as a backhanded compliment: In the hotel industry, as in romance, it's the little touches that make something special. When these little flourishes and something-extras seep from the hotel into the hotel restaurant, the feeling of pamperedness can make the dining experience greater than the sum of its parts.

Pacific is on a large dais in the back of, and not separated from, the hotel's third-floor lounge, an area dominated by a fountain and made largely in brown marble, with--no surprise here--a distinctly hotel-lobby look, featuring beige-orange carpeting. Its windows look out on Post Street and the Prescott. The lighting is even and fairly bright, the room is open and airy, and the classical top 40 is audible from overhead. It's uncrowded, except perhaps when there's a convention crowd staying at the hotel, but it's more an executive/rock-star hotel than a conventioneer one.

The menu is a fairly unsurprising California-fusion deal, with several of the new clichés: nage, mache, something done "three ways," et cetera. There is ahi, mixed baby greens and seared scallops. Each of the entrees is a piece of meat or fish plus a vegetable preparation or two. But all the food, coming from the capable hands of executive chef Michael Otsuka, is highly polished and can be exquisite.

Every day offers appetizer and entree specials and a tasting menu with three binary-choice courses plus dessert. Among the regular appetizers is a delicious broth-rather-than-creamy roast mushroom soup made with miso and aromatic shiso leaves. There is also an excellently smooth salad of smoked sable cod, a sweet roasted-foie-gras dish with tart apples, and superb seared dayboat scallops with intriguing chewy fried trumpet mushrooms and truffle sauce. The baby-greens salad is large and served with a port-based dressing that is too sweet and insufficiently interesting. Similarly, the hearts-of-romaine salad with nuts and maytag blue cheese is much like the one available anywhere, despite its payload of duck prosciutto.

Main courses include several fish options: sole, Atlantic salmon, ahi, et cetera. The ahi is served beef-style: grilled, rare, on mashed potatoes, with a balsamic-herbal sauce. The potatoes are a little bland, but the fish and the sauce are excellent. There's also chicken, muscovy duck, lamb (a spicy rack thereof) and filet mignon--this last especially hearty and gratifying: garlicky, with greens and a richly flavored potato cake.

For afters, there's a cheese plate--not the best in town (the cheese plate is returning to San Francisco in force), but very good--and a host of almost-too-rich Western sweets, such as key-lime tart, elegant cake-like steamed chocolate pudding and a devastatingly rich chocolate ganache rectangular thing. The coffee has an eerie perfection that, like the paper towels, feels like the management is showing off how absurdly capable they are.

Ten-dollar apps, 20-dollar entrees, 40-dollar degustation. Three hours of pampering. Treat yourself well. Get a suite upstairs, too, if you've got the budget.

Pacific Restaurant, 500 Post St.; 415/929-2087.

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From the June 15-28, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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