Carnelian Room Restaurant Review

We were treated to a very nice dinner by Andrea’s grandma and aunt (Jane) at the Carnelian Room in San Francisco. This was a place that Andrea has always wanted to try; I’ve never heard of this place before. It just so happens that Andrea’s grandma and Jane have eaten here before and enjoy it very much.

General Information

The Carnelian Room is located at 555 California Street (Bank of America bulding and San Francisco’s tallest building) on the 52nd floor. They’re telephone number is 415-433-7500. The dress code is strictly enforced; men are expected to wear a jacket and tie.

Parking is available underground for $12. There is a security guard that checks driver’s license and your trunk upon entering, I’m sure this is post-9/11 security.

Ambiance

The restaurant has a nice upscale semi-cozy feel. It’s dimly lit, very similar to Cheesecake Factory. The noise level is not too loud, we had no problems hearing each other speaking at a normal in door volume. The tables are situated far enough from each other that you don’t feel like you’re going to elbow the person at the table next to you. One particular thing I really like is how the Carnelian Room displays all its wines. They have a setup, not unlike a wine cellar, with nice huge windows so you can see all their wines. The chairs were nicely padded and comfortable.

The Food

They key thing to keep in mind with the Carnelian Room is that the portion sizes are similar to restaurants like 5th Floor Restaurant and Aqua, and like those places, the food is very rich.

Jane had the Sauteed Black Tiger Pawns as a first course, she very much liked it. For her entree, she had the Colorado Lamb Sirloin cooked rare. Jane loves lamb, and found the Colorado Lamb Sirloin to be very, very good. Andrea had the Simple Mixed Green Salad as her first course, nothing particularly special about it. And considering how much she really likes sashimi, for her entree, she had the Dijon Mustard Ahi Tuna with no black rice, which was really, really good. The ahi tuna is lightly breaded with something, we’re not 100% sure if its breadcrumbs or not. Andrea’s grandma and I had the same exact thing: the prix fixe menu. Our first course was the Cream of Cauliflower Soup…which was quite excellent. It was creamy and hearty! Our second course was the Sonoma Duck Muscovy Duck Breast, which was also quite good. The duck was a bit dry and not as tender as I normally like it. Our prix fixe menu also came with desert, Andrea’s grandma had the Pistachio Creme Brulee and I had the Trio of Sorbet. The Trio of Sorbet is actually quite a treat. There are three scoops of sorbet (rasberry, mango, and 1 other flavor I wasn’t sure of) inside this wonderfully hardened honey crafted bowl with blueberries and rasberries scattered around. It was really good. Jane had two scoops of vanilla ice cream with some chocolate sauce (which isn’t listed on the menu, but can be requested) with a B&B (brandy and benedictine). The B&B actually has a very interesting taste. It didn’t taste as bad as I thought brandy would, I guess the benedictine helps, but it definitely warms you right up! Andrea had the Crispy Pumpkin & Apple Bomb which was quite good. It looks like an oversized dumpling when you first get it.

Andrea’s grandmother and aunt had a Manhattan to start out with and then later white and red wine, respectively. Andrea and I started with a Martini with Grey Goose Vodka. I thought the Martini was ok, didn’t seem cold enough.

The View

Another very cool thing besides the windowed wine cellar is the extradionary view of San Francisco from being so high up on the 52nd floor. The side where the Carnelian Room is overlooks the Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge. Quite excellent views! The cocktail room has an excellent view of the TansAmerican building. One thing to note is the fog. When we were seated at 6:30pm, it was an excellent clear view of the bay, by 7:20pm, the fog had started rolling in and begin obstructing the view. By 8:00pm, all you saw was fog. The fog did lift again and it was a great view again.

Our table was close enough to the window to enjoy the view. The closes table to the window is reserved for couples. There is limited window seating, so definitely be sure that when you reserve your table, you specifically ask for window seating.

Price

Price wise, this place wasn’t horribly bad. The prix fixe menu that Andrea’s grandma and I had was $53 each. Considering that everyone but me had a second drink of alcohol, the bill with tip was about half a grand for all four of us.

Conclusion

We would definitely recommend this place. It has a great view, especially at night when San Francisco is all lit up. The Bay Bridge always looks so pretty at night. The staff was helpful and service was quick. Didn’t care too much for the Martini, House of Prime Rib definitely makes better Martinis. We had a great time there, and would definitely come back.

Four out of five stars.

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