Every year after Thanksgiving, my family usually eats at a fine dining establishment to celebrate both my mom's and my birthdays. Last year it was Aqua, and this time, after recs from quite a few friends, we decided to venture to the Ritz Carlton. Our family is very talkative and loud, and although the restaurant scene is a bit more lax in the bay area than, say, nyc, I found the Dining Room really stuffy and a bit too fancy shmancy for my taste. The ambience felt stiff and embarassingly quiet, and I think half the room was listening to our inane conservations. Sure, the chairs were ridiculously throne-like and plush, but they were definitely comfortable seats for our 3-hr ride.
All that aside, we were all extremely impressed by our meal. We each got the "Salt and Pepper" tasting menu - eight courses of dishes spotlighting varieties of (you guessed it) special salts and peppers. With 3 delicious amuse bouches to start (chicken empanada, sea urchin panna cotta, and caviar + the most perfect quail egg ever), we were already wowed with what they had to offer.
Foie, Sea urchin panna cotta, and the Caviar + Quail Egg on a vessel full of smoke (there's a better picture of that here)
Every dish was executed almost perfectly. The poultry course was a poussin (young chicken) that was so Californian in its simplicity, but you could really taste all the ingredients in their own light. The only real disappointment was the wagyu that came with a $30 supplement. I asked for rare (my mom, medium rare), and I'm not sure how they cooked it, but it tasted like it was deep-fried and my cut tasted overcooked and really just like fat. I must've gotten a bad cut or something, because my mom's actually tasted like meat, although you wouldn't be able to tell it was wagyu. Regardless, not worth it. The ribeye with bone marrow was much tastier and overall had better complementary sides.
Desserts weren't as impressive as the rest of the meal, but they were still done well. At the end of the meal, I decided that this was probably the best fine dining meal I've had in SF!