Haute Secrets: SF Ballet Dancer Tiit Helimets Shares His Guide to the City

Tiit Helimets
Tiit Helimets

Photo Credit: Erik-Tomasson.

With the San Francisco Ballet 2016 Opening Night Gala, Provocative, taking place on Jan. 21, there is no better time to catch up with SF Ballet principal dancer Tiit Helimets. We asked him to share his haute secrets to San Francisco. Born in Viljandi, Estonia, Helimets trained at Tallinn Ballet School and began his career as a soloist with Estonian National Ballet. He was promoted to principal dancer six months later, making Estonian dance history when he danced the role of Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake at age 18. He joined Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1999 and became a principal dancer at San Francisco Ballet in 2005.
Where were you born: Estonia

How long in San Francisco: Almost 11 years

Neighborhood: Inner Richmond

Occupation: Principal Dancer at SF Ballet

Favorite Restaurant: Pasta Pamadora on California—the reason is that they accommodate for little children (I have a six-year old daughter) and we get a discount through our JCC membership. We usually go to a swimming lesson and then we usually go there—the children love the food so we are happy to go there.

Best Sushi: Ichiraku on Geary. The place is simple but the sushi is delicious.

Best Italian: Bambino’s. It’s a great place for any meal and they deliver in our neighborhood very quickly. I especially love their bread.

Best dessert: My favorite dessert is apple pie and ice cream. Definitely only for special occasions.

Best place for a romantic date: The Four Seasons. My wife and I love their bar for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail.

Best Sunday brunch: Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins. You can’t go wrong and kids love the view!

Best place for a power business meeting: Ruth’s Chris on Van Ness.

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? The Hilton on Market is good and so is their food.

Favorite shopping venue/boutique: The Westfield Center. I like the food court and there’s a United Airlines lounge for mileage plus credit card members–I like going there for a break during shopping.

Favorite place to buy jewelry/watches: Gallery of Jewels on Fillmore. Everything that my wife is wearing, I bought for her. They have a great selection of sapphires.

Best Spa: My wife is a member of Burke Williams and she loves it! She uses it all the time.

Favorite Charity Event: Dragon Walk for New Traditions School.

Favorite Cultural Event: If you’re talking about San Francisco culture, definitely Bay to Breakers. It goes right by our house so we enjoy people-watching every year.

Favorite Cultural Institution: San Francisco Ballet

Best Steakhouse: Ruth’s Chris

Best Pizza: The one I make myself, at home.

Best Lunch: DragonEats

Best Gym/Athletic Facility: Active Care

Best Massage: I don’t really like massages so sleep is my massage.

Best Limousine/Driving Service: Butterfly Limo

Best Museum/Exhibit: Academy of Sciences—the Earthquake Exhibit. It makes the idea of an earthquake here someday real and gives good tips on what to do in that event. They also have a great exhibit where children get turned into bugs on the screen. Lots of fun!

Describe your city in three words: convenient, safe, eclectic.

Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: We always like to walk around at the piers.

All-around favorite spot in San Francisco: The Carousel at Golden Gate Park. I have great memories of it because I have taken my daughter there ever since she was born.

Best Aspect of San Francisco: Culturally very accepting and it’s mellow, even though it’s a busy city.

Photos © Erik Tomasson