Stay the Course

Fancy tasting menus for your birthday (or other special occasion)

There's a time and a place to splurge on a decadent prix fixe meal. The time: your birthday, naturally (or, ahem, a certain romantic holiday that's quickly approaching). The place: our top eight spots in San Francisco for delicious tasting menus, chef's picks and paired drinks galore. Torn between two or three? We say go for them all—it's your birthday, and you can eat what you want to.

① Chef's Picks at RICH TABLE, Hayes Valley

Considering the delicious creativity of the RICH TABLE menu, we think it's wise to leave yourself in the able hands of chefs Evan and Sarah Rich. Their Chef's Picks menu ($88 a person, $68 for drink pairings; participation of the entire table is required) includes an array of pastas, mains and a spread of their addictive (and infamous) snacks.

② Five-Course Carte Blanche at Nico, Pacific Heights

Get a dose of pure birthday romance at charming Cal-French bistro Nico, tucked away in the city's toniest neighborhood. Chef Nicolas Delaroque has done away with à la carte options and offers two nightly prix fixe menus, a three-course option ($45, plus $35 for pairings), as well as a five-course option ($55, plus $45 for pairings). Seeing as it's your birthday, go big (read: five) and feast on dishes like Dungeness crab with lardo, brussels sprouts with matsutake mushrooms or a persimmon dessert with chantilly cream.

③ The Best Dinner Party Ever at Lazy Bear, Mission

All we want for our birthdays is dinner at Lazy Bear, the epically delicious new American experience that's taken San Francisco by storm. Chef David Barzelay's popular pop-up has transitioned to a brick-and-mortar location with aplomb, from the stunning space to the compelling dinner party format. The dinners are sold in a ticketing system ($100 to $150) and include snacks, a welcome punch and at least 12 courses.

④ Celebration of Foie Gras at Dirty Habit, SoMA

If the repeal of the foie gras ban was the best news you've gotten this year, put this feast on your wish list. Chef David Bazirgan has created a four-course menu celebrating all things foie ($80 or $130 with wine pairings). Dishes include a foie gras torchon with jerk spices and guava; fresh pasta tossed with foie gras butter and topped with white truffles; and (gulp) oysters poached in foie gras fat.

⑤ Interpretive Eating at Californios, Mission

If two of your favorite things are modern art and Mexican food, Californios's interpretive, thoughtful tasting menu is the perfect gift. Chef Val M. Cantu's ever-changing, multicourse menu ($57, plus $35 for beverage pairings) features austere, gorgeously flavorful interpretations of classic Mexican dishes: aguachiles, for example, may appear reimagined as a stunning piece of smoked albacore crudo. Oh, and you don't get to see the menu until after your meal.

⑥ Truffle Tasting Menu at Gary Danko, North Beach

Gary Danko is a fine dining institution for a reason: This is classy, and fancy food, at its indulgent best. Go all out with the five-course truffle tasting menu ($195, plus $135 for wine pairings), featuring knockout dishes like risotto with gulf shrimp, lobster and white truffles; veal loin and sweetbreads with black truffles; and black truffle crémeux for dessert.

⑦ Pasta Tasting Menu at flour + water, Mission

We love the pizzas at flour + water, but for a celebratory dinner, we have visions of pasta dancing in our heads. Which is why its pasta tasting menu ($70 a person, plus $50 for wine pairings) is exactly the kind of carb-filled treat we can get on board with. Sample five rotating pasta dishes; past ones include chervil tajarin with uni butter; halibut and squid ink tortelletti with Dungeness crab; and orecchiette with sausage, brussels sprouts and black trumpet mushrooms; plus spuntini to start and sherbet to finish.

⑧ Omakase at KUSAKABE, Financial District

Reinvent the sushi dinner with the omakase menu ($95 a person) at KUSAKABE, a magical parade of gorgeous raw fish, high-end ingredients and carefully curated flavors. Expect delicacies like seared bluefin tuna, seasonal sushi and sashimi, black truffle miso soup and a toro finale. Yeah, we'd take fatty tuna over birthday cake any day, too (though we wouldn't recommend putting a candle in it).