Masa's (648 Bush Street, San Francisco (415) 989-7154/www.masarestaurant.com) (see photo) is a wonderful place with some really incredible food. They have a Prix Fixe menu that makes it really affordable to go there. Executive Chef Gregory Short cooks contemporary French/Japanese cuisine, and some of the dishes are really fascinating. Some of the more unusual items include a Celery Root Ravioli, containing braised celery branch, Himalayan truffles with a fontina cheese sauce; a Crispy Skin Wild Sea Bass, with organic German butterball potatoes, baby leeks and whole grain mustard; Crispy Medallion of Veal Sweetbreads, with russet potato gnocchi, cippollini onions, those same Himalayan truffles with a roasted chestnut puree; and a Lemon and Olive Oil Sorbet with candied cherry tomato and basil ice. I would recommend the Chef's Nine Course Tasting Menu at $120 per person -- featuring some of Chef Short's special dishes using seasonal ingredients. Masa's has a great atmosphere, with a lot of earth tones and a very calming environment. The restaurant's Sommelier Alan Murray is one of the most highly regarded in The City. This place is very popular, so I would suggest making reservations way in advance.
If you're ever traveling to the South Bay, I would strongly suggest that you try Le Papillon (410 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose (408) 296-3730/www.lepapillon.com). Le Papillon features contemporary French food that is spectacular. Chef Scott Cooper has helped make this restaurant a top-rated Zagat Survey spot. The place has also won awards from Wine Spectator, and is a DiRoNA Award Winner. Some of the famous dishes at Le Papillon include a Pan Seared Foie Gras with Tomato Molasses and Caramelized Avocado ($24); Dungeness Crab Soufflé with Lemon, Saffron and Caviar ($21); Truffled Hamachi Tartar with Avocado, Lemon and Pea Shoot Emulsion ($23); Lobster Bisque with a Sweet Corn Timbale ($14); Spice Seared Duck Salad with Black Mission Figs, Belgian Endive, Tart Apple and Hazelnut Vinaigrette ($13); Noisettes of Red Deer with Cabernet-Truffle Reduction with a Parsnip Tart ($36); and a Grain Mustard Crusted Rabbit with Golden Chantrelles with Tarragon Jus ($31). You won't find a special tasting menu here -- everything is a la carte and very pricey, but worth it. Le Papillon has been serving amazing cuisine for nearly 30 years in an elegant, quiet setting. Food prepared and served with passion -- that capsulizes Le Papillon perfectly.