New & Hot Places

Hottest Restaurants in San Francisco

A new mid-year crop of restaurants has flooded the Bay Area, and there's plenty of eating to do across the region. Napa Valley has seen not one but two excellent Japanese-inspired destinations open recently. And don't miss In Situ, at the remodeled version of SFMOMA; it's one of the city's most innovative dining concepts to date. As these 10 hot restaurants prove, it's a great time to be dining in the Bay Area.

Bellota

NewSpanishMission Bay
From the Absinthe team comes this elevated, airy Spanish destination in SoMa serving highbrow seafood, paella, tapas, charcuterie and wood-fired dishes, along with an all-Spanish wine list, cocktails and sherry on tap. Expect a well-heeled crowd in the chic, spacious interior that's outfitted in rustic wood, sleek white subway tile and blue leather banquettes, plus plenty of bar, table and high-backed booth seating.

Must-order: Mar y montaña tower; paella dividida (pluma and fideua); El Charro cocktail, a banana-sherry-bourbon Manhattan

Insider tip: Are you bored eating just one type of paella at a time? Bellota understands the yearning for variety. The restaurant has a special dual-paella pan that keeps two paellas separated. Bring some friends and have a feast.

Fenix

NewMexicanSoMa
AQ’s sister spot (and neighbor) presents modern Mexican starters and high-end shareable plates paired with housemade tortillas, plus wine, beer and sangria (and some happy hour specials). The long, narrow, bi-level SoMa space features splashy, spirited wallpaper, cozy wood banquettes, lots of bar seating and a lively atmosphere.

Must-order: Corn sope; braised goat birria; seasonal sangrias

Insider tip: This is the rare new restaurant emphasizing main course–sized dishes. Those large plates are worth it on their own, but the highlight might be the many complimentary little sauces, sides and condiments (called "tastes") that arrive. Look for spicy grilled pineapple, a Yucatan pumpkin seed spread and some of the best freshly pressed corn tortillas in the city.

Din Tai Fung

NewDumplingSanta Clara
The first Bay Area outpost of this highly anticipated Taiwanese dim sum spot lands at Santa Clara’s Westfield Valley Fair, bringing an ambitious, high-end selection of soups, steamed dumplings, noodles, buns, rice dishes and more. The expansive, bustling space employs modern Asian design accents, and tables are reservation-only (lucky walk-ins might score bar seating) – lines get long, but a text messaging system means diners can explore nearby shops while they wait.

Must-order: Pork xiao long bao; pork buns; noodles with sesame sauce

Insider tip: It's not impossible to score a reservation (it's far more challenging to walk in and be seated quickly). From our experiments, weekday lunch is best for prime tables, but dinner is possible with about two weeks notice for a 7 PM reservation.

In Situ at SFMOMA

NewSoMa
Former French Laundry chef Corey Lee (Benu, Monsieur Benjamin) collaborated with international culinary legends to create the menu at this highbrow SFMOMA bistro, where dishes replicate established recipes from the likes of Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and René Redzepi. Patrons choose from communal counters and smaller tables in the casual and formal halves of a minimalist space befitting its museum setting.

Must-order: Octopus and the Coral (braised octopus with seaweed); The Forest (quinoa and mushroom risotto); summery warm tomato and basil tart (lounge only)

Insider tip: Just because you're visiting the museum doesn't mean you get special access to In Situ. Hundreds of museum-goers get turned away at the door daily. Reserve, reserve, reserve if you want to sit at a table. However, the lounge usually has space and is good for snacks, a good way to sample the fun and creativity on full display in the dining room.

Itani Ramen

NewNoodle ShopOakland
Kyle Itani of Hopscotch leads the culinary effort at this Uptown Oakland eatery focused on ramen bowls that rotate seasonally and feature the flavors of Japan’s distinct regions, plus veggie and gluten-free options, starters, beer and sake. The casually stylish counter-serve cafe is outfitted with unfinished wood, white tile and high ceilings, with table and bar seating, while a playful vending machine serves Japanese snacks and sweets.

Must-order: Shoyu pork ramen; nanban zuke cold ramen with pickled sardines; pork gyoza

Insider tip: Ramen doesn't have to be a heavy, salty, pork-centric noodle soup. Itani's two cold ramen options (one is more of a chicken noodle salad) and the shiitake mushroom and ginger-powered vegetarian broth are outstanding and pork-free.

Miminashi

NewJapaneseNapa
Curtis di Fede earned notice for Italian fare at Oenotri, but he transitions to modern Japanese at this downtown Napa izakaya-style spot with a highbrow menu of noodles, raw options, yakitori and proteins, plus housemade ice cream. The buzzy, modern bistro is all style, from the ornately carved entryway to soaring, temple-like ceilings and tall, contemporary booths – and there's a rustic wooden bar.

Must-order: Seasonal salads (like stone fruits, Jimmy Nardello peppers, macadamia nuts and a lime shiso vinaigrette); yakitori; squab preparation

Insider tip: The savory options can seem endless, and they are all tempting (how do you choose between proper main courses, ramen and yakitori?). Please, save room for dessert. The only option is soft cream in different flavors, with or without a waffle cone, but then there are the customizable toppings and sauces. You'll feel like a kid at a candy shop all over again. We suggest the miso caramel and sesame honeycomb pieces.

Mina Test Kitchen

EclecticCow Hollow
Star chef Michael Mina leads this "innovative" test kitchen in a cozy Cow Hollow space, hosting guest chefs for "excellent" pop-ups centered on specific cuisines, often highlighting personal dishes rooted in their cultural heritage; it's a "great example" of "super-delicious" "family-style dining" (with wine pairings available), though the limited number of tickets sold through the website can be "hard to get."

Must-order: The pastrami; St. Louis–style babyback ribs; any supplemental seafood dish

Insider tip: On Friday and Saturday nights, Mina Test Kitchen is the place to be in Cow Hollow for its Neighborhood Late Night, 10 PM to closing. Join for creative cocktails and smaller bites based on the International Smoke concept — no reservations needed.

Mister Jiu's

NewChineseChinatown
Chef Brandon Jew (Bar Agricole, Quince, Zuni) strikes out on his own at this high-end Chinatown dinner destination that puts a Californian spin on Cantonese fare with a five-course, family-style set menu plus wine, tea and cocktails named for facets of good fortune. Patrons enter through an alley to find counter, table and banquet seating and a lively atmosphere in the expansive former Four Seas building, which blends old-school design features and a modern, minimalist sensibility.

Must-order: Maine lobster custard; roasted quail with lap cheong sausage and sticky rice; black sesame cake with rosebud mousse

Insider tip: The restaurant now offers a three-course, $45 per person ordering option from the regular menu, along with a bar menu of small bites, adding more options to what was a five-courses per table rule.

Two Birds/One Stone

NewJapaneseSaint Helena
Chefs Douglas Keane (Cyrus) and Sang Yoon (Father's Office) teamed up on this elevated St. Helena bistro known for California-inspired yakitori dishes (the emphasis is on poultry and fresh vegetables) plus wine, beer and cocktails. Housed in a turn-of-the-century stone structure at Freemark Abbey Winery, the soaring space incorporates arched ceiling beams, rich wood and big windows, plus vintage-inspired sofas and modern tables.

Must-order: Foie gras parfait; Tucker's Daily Harvest; chicken meatballs

Insider tip: The dining room is a stunning venue for dinner, but when it's a warm summer evening, the outdoor lounge is where to be in Napa Valley. It reminds you of why wine country isn't just a place but a mindset.

Waxman's Restaurant San Francisco

AmericanFisherman's Wharf
James Beard Award–nominated Jonathan Waxman chose an airy, open Ghirardelli Square space for his high-end sit-down Californian eatery that skews Italian and also features seasonal cocktails, wine and a few local beers. High ceilings, huge windows, exposed brick and rich cypress and redwood accents give the warehouse space a warm, modern feel, and there’s an adjacent cafe as well as a spacious outdoor patio.

Must-order: JW chicken; gulf shrimp and clams tagliatelle; wood-oven baked oysters

Insider tip: The cafe next door to the main restaurant morphed into Waxman's Pizzeria, open lunch through dinner Tuesday–Saturday and lunch-only on Sundays. The pizzas are excellent, but we're particularly excited about the JW chicken salad (with that famous roast chicken) and the meatball sandwich.

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