Acquerello 1722 Sacramento St./Van Ness Ave., Russian Hill. Formerly a church, the romantic, intimate dining room of this upscale Italian gem features a rustic, pitched Moorish wood ceiling. It is the kind of place where the Mayor might be seated at the next table. Diners choose three to five courses or a chef’s seven-course tasting menu. Wine pairings are available. . Definitely not the usual, the delicious preparations are derived from a refined style of Italian cuisine known as cucina della nonna, or “grandmother’s cooking,” and feature complex reduced sauces achieved through slow, home-style cooking. An exquisite example is tortelloni stuffed with brandy-plumped figs and ground pork in a nut dough. The kitchen sends out occasional complimentary little treats--perhaps a tiny citrus appetizer cocktail or a plump, perfect scallop sitting on mashed potatoes splashed with truffle oil. Service is elegant and formal, with meals served on fine china and crystal enhanced by paper doilies.
Alborz 1245 Van Ness Ave./Sutter St., Pacific Heights, (415) 440-4321. This simple but comfortable spot offers a wall of windows looking onto the street. It has an exceptional Persian menu and starts diners off with a complimentary basket of delicious lavash flat bread and Feta cheese. Excellent appetizers include kasik bodemjan (roasted eggplant baked with onion, garlic, mint, and yogurt), mast-o-khiar (cucumber and mint mixed with delicious, rich, housemade yogurt), and salad shirazi (a mixture of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions in a lemony dressing). For entrees, any of the juicy kabobs are excellent, but don’t overlook the more complex house specialties—the richly flavored fes enjoon consists of chicken breast cooked in a delicious thick, sweet walnut-pomegranate sauce. The perfect ending is, of course, baklava.
Ananda Fuara 1298 Market St./9th St., Civic Center. The translation of this cheery, all-vegetarian restaurant’s name is “Fountain of Supreme Bliss.” It is owned by the peace teacher and poet Sri Chinmoy and operated by his students. Female servers wear saris, and fresh flowers grace every table. The varied menu should please everyone, even vegans (who eat no dairy or eggs) and carnivores (we know what they eat!). Menu winners include appetizer vegan samosas filled with a potato-pea curry, a hearty soup of the day, and a house specialty “neatloaf” sandwich made with a baked mixture of grains and spices. A selection of salads, wraps, sandwiches, pizzas, baked potatoes, and entrees is also available. Drinks include a decaffeinated Indian-spiced hot Yogi Tea that is simply the best.