Aqua

  3.8 rating over 4 reviews
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252 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111

Neighborhoods: Financial District
Cuisine: Seafood, Gluten Free, Catering

Aqua is a Seafood, Gluten Free, and Catering restaurant where most Menuism users came for a family meal, paid more than $50, and tipped more than 18%.

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Gayot
Rating:
16 / 20
Price:
$$$$$
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cardinal79

 Fullerton, CA
Aqua 4.0
 

not too bad for a corporate dinner

Although I was dreading going to a pharmaceutical dinner with Grace tonight, Aqua pleasantly surprised me with its delicious tasting menu, complementary wine pairings, and thoughtful service. After Michael Mina left, I wondered whether Aqua would rest on its laurels as another pretentious business spot for law firm partners to impress their clients. Although Aqua didn’t overwhelm me, enough of Mina’s influences remain to join a solid new culinary ensemble provided by the resident chef.

We started with Mina’s signature tuna tartar, which was one of the best we’ve ever had with crunchy almonds to contrast with the tender tuna, and the surprising addition of Moroccan harissa power to add a curry-esque spice to a normally mild dish. Awesome combination, plus the white wine (started with a V, and apparently is an oddball grape that no one’s ever heard of) added a flowery aroma that really meshed well with the spice and creaminess of the fish.

Unfortunately, the rest of the dishes were rather ordinary, albeit tasty, renditions of dishes that you can get at most haughty gourmet reliquaries. The halibut in a brioche crust didn’t have the textural juxtaposition which I had hoped for (although the halibut was incredibly moist), and the filet mignon in a red wine reduction was basically a good rendition of something any culinary school grad could scrape from under his/her boot.

Dessert was a molten chocolate cake, and although a crowd pleaser, didn’t offer anything new or exciting. But if you were looking to get your chocolate fix, the dish certainly sufficed, for it was a rich, gooey, cocoa explosion.

Overall, it was a tasty meal, but I still hope to try MIchael Mina’s flagship restaurant at the Westin St. Francis as a basis for comparison.
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cliff

 Mountain View, CA
Aqua 3.0
 

Not what it should be

Aqua is one of the most well-known seafood restaurants in San Francisco, oftentimes referred to as the best seafood in the Bay Area. Most people think it didn’t even lose a step when Mina left, and some think it is yet better. Needless to say, as someone that loves great seafood, I was looking forward to this meal.

We pulled into the front of the restaurant, got our car valet parked, then went in. They had our table ready and things were off to a good start. I can’t say that I care much for the stuffy decor, but decor isn’t a big deal.

Service was exceptional…sort of (I’ll get to that later). The wait staff and sommelier were extremely helpful and friendly, they kept our waters filled, wine poured, bread coming and presented every dish with great knowledge of the food. My mom even had difficulty reading the menu due to the darkness of the restaurant, and our waiter brought reading glasses for her! What a nice touch!

Amuse bouche came, and it was quite good…three small dishes. None blew me away, but they were enjoyable and got us started.

Appetizers then came…and my crab souffle was very good. My mom had a hamachi which was good, and my dad had some foie gras, which was decent (though I’ve had much better foie before). My sister had a soup which none of us really enjoyed that much, but it was still okay and I can see that perhaps others may enjoy it.

So, while nothing was SUPER impressive, the meal was about what I had hoped for up until now. this was the turning point.

Entrees, of course, are the most important part of the meal and talk about a huge let down. I’m not sure what the deal here was. I had the surf a turf (veal and halibut) that was…okay. It wasn’t bad, but that’s about all I coudl say for it…it lacked flavor and meats tasted a little dry.

I was disappointed with my dish, but I can let that pass if I just ordered wrong…I tried the other dishes we all got.

Hmm…this sturgeon isn’t any good either. This John Dory is totally unremarkable (even tasted a little like teriyaki salmon!), and my mom’s halibut wasn’t that good either. Wow…I can NOT believe how average these dishes are. I wouldn’t say BAD, but that’s the best thing I can say for ALL FOUR of our entrees. For a restaurant of this caliber, I couldn’t believe it.

I was hoping dessert could somehow salvage a bad entree (it can’t, even if it’s awesome), but it didn’t even come close. My mom and dad’s dessert was sort of interesting, but not really any good…this was a risk that the chef took by coming up with this dessert and I have to say it was a failure. My sister’s dessert was also only okay.

Then there was the matter of my dessert: it wasn’t the right one. I ordered a chocolate tart and instead they gave me the chocolate mousse. At a normal restaurant, this sort of thing happens, where they mess-up your order…it’s fine. But at a place like this, a mistake as careless as this is just ridiculous. I just figured “screw it” and had the chocolate mousse…unremarkable, like the other desserts.

We got a few petit fours (they were decent, at least), and that was the end of the meal.

If I had spent about $45 per person at this meal, I would think “Hey, this was pretty good for this price. About comparable with other stuff I could get for that money”

Well, the check was for $120 per person. This is more money than Boulevard for crynig out loud! We could have eaten at Boulevard that night and each have another $10 or so in our pocket! Lure, which is a FAR better restaurant, costs almost HALF this amount! And they never messed up my order there either!

I was totally disappointed…and then came yet one more issue. The valet allegedly “lost the key” to our car. WHAT?! We waited around as he said he couldn’t find it and that we should wait. Then, suddenly, magically, “Hey, we found it” and they brought the car to us. After making us wait more than 20 mins, our car was suddenly back, with no explanation on how they “found” the key, or how they “lost” it. I have no proof, but one can only imagine that they were taking our car out for some joy riding and didn’t think we’d be done with our meal already. Even if that was not the case, losing our key is totally unacceptable for a restaurant of this caliber!!

For $120 a person, this meal was complete crap. I gave it 3 stars since, if you ignore price, that’s what it was: decent. Once you take price into account, it should be 1 star.

Aqua 4.0
 

Their salmon is yummmmmyyyy!

Their salmon is yummmmmyyyy!

Aqua 3.0
 

Best tuna tartare ever: don't bother having anything else...

Best tuna tartare ever: don’t bother having anything else. Just fight your way to the bar, stake out some seats, order drinks and the classic tartare. Good to go. There’s one really great bartender (he was so great about keeping up our flow – along with a bunch of amuse – that I can’t remember his name, oops) that keeps everyone happy. Don’t bother with the Moroccan tartare.

Tags
Seafood Good for groups Gluten Free
Website
Video
Hours
Mon-Thu 11:30AM - 02:30PM
Mon-Thu 05:30PM - 10:30PM
Fri 11:30AM - 02:30PM
Fri 05:30PM - 11:00PM
Sat 05:30PM - 11:00PM
Sun 12:00AM - 12:00AM
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San Francisco, CA
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Aqua is located near the cities of Hayes Valley, , Mission District, Chinatown, and Haight Ashbury.
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