Gilded Age

The group of companies for which I work had a very good year and are actually looking to expand in 2009. So, this past December they had a celebratory dinner for the top folks and their wives. My wife and I got to pick the place. When I worked for a dot-com many years ago before the dot-com bust, our vendors often took us out to fine restaurants like longtime San Francisco fixture Aqua. At that time, Michael Mina was chef, and the food was incredible. (My memory of the excess of the dot-com era was when the rep from Multex ordered foie gras for his wife, who loved foie gras — and Aqua served a platter of the stuff. Had to be several hundred dollars’ worth of food on that platter alone.)

Anyway, Mina’s moved on from Aqua, but I wanted to see what the place was like a decade later at the cusp of another financial debacle, so off we went. First time I’ve been in a limo in a decade or so, too.


We had reservations, but in typical SF style, they made us wait at the bar. Fifty-five minutes later we finally were shown to our table. Crowded? You bet. Despite the financial collapse, the high-rollers in San Francisco were still filling up the top restaurants.

Here’s my wife and me at the bar. Note the (ahem) nattily dressed gentleman behind us (I’ve got a better pic of him at right).
Squire Trelane of Gothos? or Austin Powers? I couldn’t make up my mind. The glasses kind of ruin whatever effect he was going for, I think. I suppose you run into that type of person wherever you go in San Francisco — it’s just been so long for me that I was no longer used to it.
One of the many nice things about Aqua is the decor. The muted colors, high ceilings, disappearing curve of the bar, and the gigantic mirrors all combine to make what is really a small space feel elegant and roomy.


This was the menu that night (click for bigger). Prix fixe multi-course meal at $75/person. Of course we had appetizers, champagne, several bottles of wine, dessert, and dessert liquor, so the total cost with limo for each person was easily three times that or more.
The food was exquisite.


Same time next year? I expect the restaurant will be a ghost town — if it hasn’t closed.

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3 Responses to Gilded Age

  1. Chris Byrne says:

    Actually I have to say, that menu is a bargain for $75.

  2. David says:

    Well, the $75 is just for the center menu section, but yes, I thought so too.

  3. BobG says:

    “Note the (ahem) nattily dressed gentleman behind us (I’ve got a better pic of him at right).”

    Liberace’s stunt double?

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