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Fifth Floor

Going up?

When Fifth Floor opened in 1999, on the fifth floor of the Hotel Palomar, San Francisco swooned over its luxuriously innovative food and decor. Dishes such as a playful poussin with foie gras jus showed off Chef George Morrone's honed technique and aptitude for fun. Over the next few years a generation of high-spenders were introduced to fine-dining and pricey Burgundy atop its zebra-striped carpets.

This iconic carpeting was recently ripped out in a comprehensive remodeling. And Fifth Floor is now on its fourth chef.

So what's it like now?

Laurent Manrique, also the Executive Chef at Aqua, now directs Executive Chef Jennie Lorenzo, and together they’re turning out excellent, intricate dishes like fletan au caviar d'Aquitaine,($31) lightly smoked halibut with caviar, farro fondue, and an oyster and Meyer lemon coulis. The flavors and presentations are gorgeous and finely calibrated. Many dishes use local ingredients but riff on the traditions of Manrique’s native Gascony, in Southwestern France.

The quirky décor has been replaced with modern clubby finishes: an adjacent lounge, dark wood floors and tables, tan armchairs, heavy dark drapes, and soft lighting. It's perfectly pleasant, but slightly institutional, reminding you that you are, after all, enveloped by a chain hotel, albeit a hip one. The windows frame an abutting rooftop, but the view is enlivened by parterres of herbs, which also serve as visual reminders of the freshness of the ingredients.

The lounge has a handsome bar, club chairs, and a separate menu featuring specialty cocktails and casual food like salads, burgers, or simple steaks.

The wine program, overseen by master sommelier Emily Wines, is extraordinary. It's particularly strong on Bordeaux and offers a deep selection that pleases the well-informed and the well-heeled.

Although the atmosphere of the main dining room has been relaxed, there's no doubt that Fifth Floor remains a sophisticated restaurant with attentive formal service and elegant flourishes. Those flourishes include a well-stocked bread cart with fresh goat and cow's milk butter.

While Fifth Floor still serves some of the finest food in the city, much of its original energy seems to have deflated with the dot-com bubble. Several years ago the place was abuzz with the wealthy avant garde; it now seems sustained by businesspeople and tourists.

Union Square

Reservations Essential.

Hours: 5:30pm – 10pm Mon-Sat