A foodie face-lift in the Marina District—on the bay between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz—has San Franciscans riding a post-recession buzz. The main thoroughfare, Chestnut Street, is known for restaurants like A16 (No. 2355; 415/771-2216; dinner for two $70), where Christophe Hille turns out rustic pizzas and regional dishes such as braised pork with olives, herbs, and—what else?—chestnuts. • Pastry chef Gary Rullispecializes in crisp biscotti and almond paste rolled in pine nuts at Emporio Rulli Gran Caffè (No. 2300; 415/923-6464; lunch for two $20). • Chef Luke Sung's Lux (No. 2263; 415/567-2998; dinner for two $60) serves Asian favorites such as Peking duck wraps with cabbage, pine nuts, and spicy hoisin sauce. • Innovative sushi rolls and cocktails (try the "spicy jalapeño saketini") are a hit at Naked Fish (No. 2084; 415/771-1168; dinner for two $60). • The handful of tables at Pacific Catch (No. 2027; 415/440-1950; dinner for two $30) are packed with patrons chasing salmon fish-and-chips with lemongrass iced tea. • Around the corner, olive-oil merchants Oliviers & Co. have put their huiles to work in sandwiches like pan-bagnat at La Table O&Co. (3352 Steiner St.; 415/440-9040; lunch for two $18). • At Nectar Wine Lounge (3330 Steiner St.; 415/345-1377; dinner for two $50), a trio of sommeliers offers40 wines by the glass. Sink into the cozy velvet chairs for a flight, or two.
The large, red-framed front windows of Pacific Catch in the Marina open up to wood floors, burnt-orange walls, and bright blue mosaic accents. Here the focus is on large portions of fresh, reasonably priced seafood cooked with Asian flavor and local ingredients. The California roll salad comes with greens, avocado, cucumber, ginger, soy-wasabi vinaigrette and a large helping of crab, while the Hawaiian poke brown rice bowl includes wakame salad, avocado, shredded nori (seaweed), and sesame seeds. Pacific Catch also serves signature sandwiches, such as the BBQ salmon with tomato, red onion, and citrus aioli.
Nectar Wine Lounge
The Nectar Wine Lounge in Marina serves up ambrosia for the soul—with 800 bottles to choose from. Back-lit honeycomb wine racks give way to red and white walls adorned with brightly colored modern art. Wine flights may be the best way to sip this nectar; choose from the ABC flight (Anything But Chard), "bad-assed" reds, italiano, or the bubbles flight. The trio of sommeliers offer perfect pairings with small American-nouveau dishes such as smoked salmon flatbread, bacon-wrapped dates, and popcorn coated with truffle oil and crispy chives.
Naked Fish in Marina breaks with the typical Japanese restaurant both in decor and cuisine. Techno music and a plasma TV vie for each diner's attention as a blue glow lights up the seashell-themed sushi bar. The sushi rolls, made with fish flown overnight from Hawaii, include both fresh and familiar flavor combinations. For instance, the Snow White is made with shrimp tempura, crab salad, and ranch dressing, while the restauran'ts namesake roll includes unagi, avocado, yellowtail, and tuna wrapped in soy paper. The Firecrackers, deep-fried balls of tuna with spicy sauce, are a crunchy alternative to classic edamame and seaweed salad.