Postcard From Tom: San Francisco

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Looking for a souvenir to take home from San Francisco? For inspiration, roam the farmers market in the Ferry Building Marketplace overlooking the bay. And make time for one of these restaurants:

CORTEZ (550 Geary St., 415-292-6360)

This animated theater district destination, playfully lit with what look like giant gumballs, features small plates meant to be shared. Crowd-pleasers include a smoked trout salad, ravioli with peas and mint, and braised pork shoulder with sweet and sour jus. The fun extends to dessert, including milkshakes served in shot glasses. Small plates $6-$16.

MASA'S (648 Bush St., 800-258-7694)

Downtown's veteran French restaurant feels as fresh as ever, thanks to an interior makeover -- note the espresso-colored walls and red silk lanterns -- and the arrival of chef Ron Siegel in 2001. In dishes such as diver scallops with a reduction on lime and coconut, and Japanese snapper with lobster cream, his approach proves light and elegant. From the amuse-bouche that welcomes you to the cart of sweets (gourmet lollipops!) that closes the meal, the restaurant pampers its guests like few others. Three-course dinner $65.

QUINCE (1701 Octavia St., 415-775-8500)

An alumnus of the esteemed Chez Panisse and Oliveto in the nearby East Bay, chef Michael Tusk recently opened this quietly stylish dining room in the city, where he's winning applause for cooking that has "Made in California" stamped all over it. Great ingredients -- local artichokes, lamb and chicken -- are handled with care and finesse. Lindsay Tusk, the chef's gracious hostess (and wife), is right to suggest that you "try all the pastas." Each tastes like a detour to Italy. Entrees $23-$27.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company