Whether you're defining New American cooking as the California cuisine/Alice Waters ethos applied to classic American dishes or comfort food raised to a new upscale cutting-edge standard, Five is one of the best places in the Bay Area to savor it. Chef Scott Howard cooks up inventive yet soulful variations on American grub out of fresh, organic, seasonal ingredients and a unique talent for balance and brio. Viz.: Tomales Bay oysters roasted Rockefeller style with brandy, shallots, spinach, and Monterey jack; mac 'n' cheese crafted from orzo, smoked gouda, braised chanterelles, and tomato preserves; a fork-tender short-rib pot roast with glazed turnips, chive biscuits, and cheddar-potato gratin; a perfectly pink and juicy lamb loin, wild mushroom strudel on the side. Desserts include a lush butterscotch pudding ribboned with bits of peanut brittle and a molten chocolate fudge cake jazzed with Black Mission figs and lavender crème anglaise. Makes you feel positively patriotic.