As A and I are currently ladies of leisure, we decided to become (for an afternoon at least) ladies of leisure who lunch. Therefore, there was one stop from the list that was clearly begging out for us to visit last Friday: the Rotunda restaurant at Neiman Marcus. As expected, it was packed to the hilt with coiffed and manicured ladies who lunch (and, we suspected, a few tourists as well). I had visited only once before, when I bridged these two groups of diners: my grandmother (a coiffed former Junior League member) had taken me (a tourist from San Diego) for an afternoon of shopping in San Francisco when I was eleven or twelve. I honestly don't remember much about that visit.
I'll start with the positives. The ambience of the restaurant is lovely, particularly on one of the strangely sunny days we've been having in San Francisco recently. You can approach from a special elevator on the street, which drops you off on the top level of the tiered restaurant. Each table has a view of flashy gilt and white columns, expanses of windows, and the aforementioned coiffed crowd. Little B felt right at home.
Each meal starts with two complimentary items: an espresso cup of chicken consomme and a puff pastry cracker, as well as a popover with strawberry butter. Clearly, we were visiting with the latter in mind, and sadly, we were a little bit disappointed. The popovers that A introduced me to (that I'd actually made earlier in the week) are superior. I'll admit that the strawberry butter was quite good, and unlike anything I've ever made (or am likely to make) at home.
The other negatives, however, tip the scales away from frequent (or perhaps any) trips back to the restaurant. Let's put it this way: the complimentary items, though pleasant, don't make up for the highway robbery prices on the rest of the menu. A and I split a Chinese chicken salad ($20) and a Dungeness crab sandwich off the specials menu ($28). If these items were truly delicious, the prices would be worth it, but they were a little bit too ordinary. We were also burdened by a slightly-too-chatty server, who dispensed baby advice to the two of us with gay abandon.
I'm not sorry to have eaten at the Rotunda for the second time (in twenty years), but I think I'll make my popovers at home from now on.