It's impossible to turn your nose up at hotel restaurants in San Francisco. In fact, some of our favorite eateries reside inside downtown's hip high rise lodgings—whether old (Kin Khao inside Parc 55) or new (Charmaine's atop Proper Hotel). Union Square's newest addition, Hotel G, is joining this lofty league with the opening of Ayala with chef Bill Montagne (New York's Le Bernardin and Chicago’s Nico Osteria) and Top Chef alum Melissa Perfit (Bar Crudo) in the kitchen.
Perfit brings her seafood expertise to the 94-seat dining room, which features a standing-room-only, communal raw bar and an oysterette, separated from the main dining room by a glass partition. Navy banquettes, wood tables, a black-and-gray marble bar and custom white-tiled flooring hint at a subtle nautical theme.
It can be hard to choose between the oysters, crudo, trout rillettes and Santa Barbara sea urchin that are all featured on the menu, but don’t miss the seafood charcuterie plate. This dish consists of four different seafood cuts, all cured and cut thin. The quartet currently includes citrus-doused trout, black cod in kombu (kelp) and Chartreuse, halibut accented with grapefruit and fennel, and paper-thin octopus with preserved lemon. Once you've whet your appetite, move on to entrees like cioppino, Dungeness crab and prawns Louie salad. We loved the salty-and-sweet nori spaghettini, dressed in Dungeness crab, white miso, buddha's hand citrus and furikake seasoning. If you come with a group, take advantage of large platters like the whole fish, pork shank or hiramasa (yellowtail amberjack) in a Thai chili and garlic, lobster pho broth.
Yes, Benjamin Cooper is directly upstairs, but Ayala's drink list is destination-worthy on its own. The wine menu is heavy on Old World and New World coastal wines, focused on small production, organic and biodynamic labels. For cocktails, the A Diving Bell is a smoky yet bright tipple of gin, mezcal, yuzu citrus, lime, falernum and pineapple gomme syrup touched with a whisper of cayenne. For a low proof option, try the Vermouth Julep (Napa’s Massican Vermouth, Meletti amaro, verjus and tarragon), a vegetal beauty. We particularly appreciate the 3 Martini Dinner option, your choice of classic, inverted Gibson or Castelvetrano "washed" martinis. Make ours Navy strength, thanks.