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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ten Dine About Town Meals That Look Pretty Good to Me

Posted By on Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Isa's duck breast is on the restaurant's DAT menu. - BRIAN L./YELP
  • Brian L./Yelp
  • Isa's duck breast is on the restaurant's DAT menu.

Dine About Town, which starts up again Jan. 15-31, is on its tenth year. Ten years! The prix-fixe promotion was launched in the middle of the dot-com bust, and has only gained in popularity through a second boom and bust cycle. Even in the Groupon era, it remains beloved (with customers, if not waitstaff). More than a few participating restaurants pack their dining rooms in two of the deadest weeks of the year.

click to enlarge dat_logo.png
My review calendar is full enough that I rarely take advantage of the promotion, but today I pored over all the menus posted on the Dine About Town site to see which ones looked the most appealing. Some of the restaurants don't advertise their specials ahead of time, and dozens more follow the standard template of a salad followed by a cheap entrée and a cheap dessert.

Here are ten of the prix-fixe meals ― some two-course lunch meals for $17.95, some three-course dinners for $34.95 ― that caught my fancy, either because they departed from the template or because I can never get enough of pappardelle with braised meat:

Absinthe (lunch)

1. Fulton Valley chicken, mascarpone polenta, grilled Treviso, kuri squash, sweet onion jus

2. White chocolate panna cotta

Ana Mandara

1. Aloe vera salad, shrimp, shaved fennel, onion, peanuts, chile vinaigrette

2. Oxtail ravioli, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, tomatoes, au jus

3. Vietnamese flourless coconut rum cake, kumquat marmalade ice cream


1. Topshell clam with salsify, frisee, Champagne, green peppercorn vinaigrette

2. Natural farm chicken blanquette with Royal Trumpet mushrooms, fines herbes "oyaki"

3. Pain d'epices with apple confiture, vanilla bean cream

Chez Papa Bistrot

1. Grilled local sardines, fresh chickpea salad, parsnip chips, pistou coulis

2. Pan-roasted branzino, roasted salsify, poached artichokes, lobster nage or lamb daube, rosemary-red wine sauce, seasonal vegetables

3. Apple tarte tatin, crème fraiche

Dosa on Fillmore

1. Dahi vada: lentil dumplings topped with Straus organic yogurt, tamarind, and mint

2. Spicy mung masala dosa

3. Tamil vegetable curry: cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes with coconut rice

4. Rasmalai: Sweet cheese patty in cream flavored with rose, cardamom, and crushed pistachios

Hyde Street Bistro

1. Crispy goat cheese beignet and frisée salad or snail-and-chanterelle vol au vent

2. Traditional coq au vin, fresh tagliatelle, rainbow carrots

3. Tarte tatin with warm caramel sauce


1. Dungeness crab salad with avocado, apple, grapefruit, and tarragon

2. Maple Leaf Farm duck breast with red cabbage, potato galette, and wild huckleberry sauce

3. Grapefruit granita

Luce (lunch)

1. Baby beets, black olive soil, truffle tremor, verjus, yellow-beet sorbet

2. Braised short rib, spaghettini, wild mushrooms

Sociale (lunch)

1. Persimmon and muzuna salad

2. Pappardelle with braised duck

1300 on Fillmore

1. Cauliflower soup, fried oyster beignet, Meyer lemon confit

2. Black skillet-roasted catfish, andouille sausage, shrimp jambalaya, cornbread panzanella

3. Granny Smith apple cobbler, vanilla bean ice cream

A few other restaurants are simply specialing out old favorites: Le Charm is serving its cassoulet, B44 its arros negre, LarkCreakSteak a 10-ounce New York strip, and both Fish and Farm and Maverick

are offering their much-loved fried chicken. And the requisite caveats: I didn't

compare the prix-fixe meal against the restaurant's standard menu to see

whether they represent a deal, and I haven't eaten at some of these

restaurants, at least not for many years.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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