Trace, the W Hotel's New Restaurant, Goes Back to the Beat

What's missing from this picture? 100-decibel trance music.

When I was in my 20s and San Francisco was flooded with soon-to-be-worthless stock options, the W Hotel's restaurant, XYZ, was the epitome of dot-com chic. Archly design space, buzzy crowd, food with enough flash (and altitude) to impress.

Acknowledging that the restaurant had finally run its course, this fall the W scrapped XYZ, poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into redoing the space with an even higher-concept interior, and reopened as Trace — the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review in the paper. The kitchen's new rules to cook by: farmed, foraged, and crafted. Pretty much a mirror of the zeitgeist, right? Except for the fact that the food (rustic, often sloppy), and the surroundings (ultralounge-y, melodramatic) are waging an aesthetic battle, and diners are caught in the crossfire.

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