Tag Archives: Restaurants

Fleur de Lys, San Francisco

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a while, but for some reasons, never got really inspired. For her 30th birthday, I took my wife to Fleur de Lys, in San Francisco, on Sutter Street. I’ve heard so much about this place since i’ve landed in the city that I always wanted to try it. But my (bad) experience at la Folie, which received the same treatment as Fleur de Lys in terms of reviews, discouraged me for a long time to do it. Yet, i thought this is a place I must try.

Once I decided on Fleur de Lys (honestly, hungry french man must eat there at least once!), i went online to check things out. The reviews were quite good (as they usually are), and i got very intrigued by the chef, Hubert Keller. Born in France, he moved to San Francisco in 1982, and since then, got many awards.

According to Wikipedia, in 1988 Hubert Keller was ranked as one of the “10 best new chefs in American” by Food and Wine Magazine. In 1997 he won the James Bead foundation award for best chef in California. Fleur de Lys in San Francisco has been ranked as one of the top 40 restaurants in the United States in 2004, 2005, and 2006 by Gayot restaurant guide, and was awarded one Michelin star in 2006. Fleur de Lys has also been ranked as one of the top 25 restaurants in the United States by Food & Wine magazine.

Quite impressive all this… But what about the food at Fleur de Lys?

Well, my overall comment would be the it lived up to the expectations, without blowing me away. The best dish i had was some beef cheeks, which I usually fear, but those were perfectly braised and served with a very nice sauce. This result in a very light dish, which complete perfectly the meal. To start, I had a roasted maine lobster, followed by some hawaiian prawns on fennel confit.

The lobster was all right – i actually only found one restaurant in my whole life that managed to impress me with lobster. That was a small place, in Ouistreham, in Normandy, that has made lobster with lentils and the combination of the two were just mind blowing. In this case, it was an ok dish, and it was served with a great artichoke puree. The prawns were actually quite good, and they go very well with the fennel!

The major fallback of Fleur de Lys is the service. They want to show you so much love that it becomes overwhelming. Leave me alone when i eat! I’m fine! Plus, there is clearly something wrong when they start to say things like “pardon my reach” thousands of times during a meal. Just walk behind me and you don’t need me to pardon your reach!. Finally, and that was the “coup de grace”, they opened a bottle of alsace white wine and served me a glass. The wine was corked. I called the guy, and tell him: dude, the wine is corked. He looked at me with weird eyes as if I just talked a different language. I asked him to try the wine to confirm. He denied, and walk away with the glass. He came back a few minutes later to tell me that i was absolutely right and that the wine was corked. So why the hell did they serve this to me? Rule #1 in a restaurant, you taste what you serve. If you open a bottle of wine, treat yourself with a small taste. Honestly!

So overall it was ok, with some clear flawns on the service. I wouldn’t say don’t go. That would be terribly unfair, as the decor and the food is good, but maybe you want to warn your waiter to give you some space and make sure the wine is good 🙂

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Mussels at fish in sausalito

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Having mussels in the sun at fish in Sausalito! Soooo yummy!

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Dinner at Chez Maman

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Great dinner at Chez Maman on Fillmore. I love steak tartare!

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Thank you @ileavache, Sociale, San Francisco

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I wanted to thank @ileavache for the advice posted on this post, which lead me to go and try Sociale, on Sacramento Street, in San Francisco.

The patio is great, and the restaurant in general is actually pretty cool. Upscale but not pretentious. Just a good place to hang out, have great food and relax for a bit. Oh yes, the food is good. Yes it’s not super cheap, but good italian food has its price, and the least I can say is that you will not be disappointed at Sociale.

To start, I had the porcini mushrooms salad. And that was yummy! Very fresh, absolutely delicious, light, the way a salad should be! My second course was the pan seared halibut. halibut, well cooked is always nice. At least, I rarely had a bad experience. This time didn’t fail me, it was perfect. The asparagus were also extremely tasty.

My wife had the tuna pappardelle and that was by far the big winner. Best fresh pasta I ever had in San Francisco. By far. The combination of tuna, currant and capers works very well with the pasta, and it was a delightful experience.

As far as the wine is concerned, their wine list isn’t huge, but we managed to find a decent wine for $40. OK, still a bit pricey, but come on! When very hot outside, a nice and fresh meal, on a nice patia, in laurel heights is totally worth it!

Site:
Sociale

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Delfina, San Francisco

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Last night, I paid a visit to Delfina, a pizza restaurant on 18th and Dolores in San Francisco (note that we went to the pizza place, not the restaurant). This was long due as I’ve heard this is one of the best places for pizzas in the city. My friend Lucas goes there very often, and he suggested to go there before he flies to Costa Rica for 10 days.

Lucas arrived at the restaurant at 8pm and put our name on the waiting list. Delfina doesn’t take reservations. At 9pm, we managed to get a table for 4.

The menu is pretty short but has all the must have of a good pizza place: a huge selection of pizzas and some nice appetizers.

We decided to pick 4 appetizers: warm olives, cucumber salad, tuna salad with beans, and sands. The four of them were good, my favorite being the tuna salad (the most original by far) and the the cucumber salad being probably the most predictive. It’s not bad to know what you’re going to have, but i think there is room to make pretty funky stuff with cucumbers. In this case, it was clearly fresh, but could have done with more spices.

The pizzas were clearly the best part of the meal, and what Delfina is known for. We all had the prosciutto with arugula salad. Maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but that was one of the best pizza I had in San Francisco. The crust was thin and nice, while the ingredients were real. Many times, when you eat pizza, the ingredients don’t have a taste. It’s just lost in the tomato sauce and the cheese. This time, it’s right there, and that’s what it is all about.

Is the place worth 1 hour wait? Probably not. But I would say it’s definitely a great place for pizza!

Site:
Delfina – (this is the restaurant)

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Couleur Cafe, Potrero, San Francisco

Yesterday night, we went for dinner at Couleur Cafe, a French restaurant in the Potrero neighborhood of San Francisco. As a disclaimer, I want to clarify that I actually didn’t go inside the restaurant. It was so warm that we ate on their terrace, in front of the building.

The menu is very simple, with traditional dish you would find in a French brasserie. The service is good and the atmosphere very casual. I like eating outside. In Paris, it happens so often. It’s almost a must do when the sun shines. For some reasons, they aren’t that many places in San Francisco with outdoors (Chez Spencer has a cool one). If you know any of them, please let me know! Now, let me tell you a bit more about what I ate at Couleur Cafe.

As a starter, I had a frisee with lardons and a poached egg. The salad itself was great, the lardon so so and the egg is always this magical thing in a salad. I just love to break the yolk and see it getting mixed with the dressing. It gives so much taste and consistence. Overall, that dish was good.

After that, I picked the Moules Marinieres. I love mussels. Well cooked, they can be a real treat. The traditional marinieres style is pretty basic, but can be very tasty. Usually, folks let some onions and shallots heat up in some butter, before throwing some dry whine wine, then the mussels. Cover. Cook under very high heat until the mussels have opened. And you’re done. Super basic. Super easy. Always tasty.

As far as I’m concerned, I always add celery (at the same time as the onions and the shallots). And of course, parsely at the very end (otherwise your parsley cooks and become all brown). Finally, the secret of mussels is obviously the fries! You can’t eat mussels without French fries!

The dish I had yesterday was good. It was not the best mussels I ever had, but it was very correct. I think I would have added some parsley and more celery, but that’s probably just my tastes. They actually have tons of other mussels recipes (including one with merguez!) and I’m quite looking forward to try them!

Readers often ask me to include the price of the dishes I have. As far as I remember (yeah, we had some wine!), the overall price was very correct. The mussels and fries were $18 and the frisee was $8. See, it’s not that bad!

Site:
Couleur Cafe

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The Slanted Door, San Francisco

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The Slanted Door, on the Embarcadero, or at the Westfield shopping center in San Francisco is by far one of my favorite restaurants. Modern Vietnamese food has been served in that place for years, and I’ve never, ever, been disappointed by a meal there.

It opened first in 1995, on Valencia Street, in the Mission. It was a huge success, and the owners, the Phan family, decided to move to the Embarcadero. They just opened a second location in the food court at the Westfield shopping center.

The vision is pretty straight forward: vietnamese food, with organic and local ingredients. This lead to the creation of some fantastic dish, like the noodles with dungeness crab. My favorite there? Easy!

The spring rolls! Honestly, there are some of the best spring rolls i’ve ever eaten! They have different versions, but the meat fresh ones are delicious, and I quite like the crispy ones, wrapped in salad leaves with mint. The fresh ones are accompanied by a peanut sauce from out of this world. I’ve tried to do the same at home and failed miserably. Luckily for me, the rolls are available at the “out of the door”, the take away store from the slanted door. Talking about “out of the door”, I heard they’re going to open one in the Fillmore area. Since i live near there, I just can’t wait!

I’ve tried many dishes in that place and I have yet to get one that I don’t like. It looks like I’m not the only one as the menu hasn’t changed in all those years. Why would you change a winning team?

The Embarcadero location is very nice. The best spot is the tables with the sofas facing the bridge, especially in the evening. Very romantic, and also very San Francisco! Mind you though, you do want to book in advance. There is very little chance of walking in and getting a spot, even though it happened to me once but I had to sit at the bar (which is not unusual for me!).

The Wesfield location is perfect for a break in a shopping day, even though it is not as pretty and nice as the other one. The menu is exactly the same, even though the service is sometimes a bit slow. Don’t try to get a table there between 12:30 and 1pm. It’s just packed and unpleasant. If you could get there a bit early, it’s perfect.

And you’ll enjoy it! Try it!

Site: Slanted Door

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Top 5 restaurants in San Francisco

I had the chance to talk to a group of French entrepreneurs/leaders today (tres sympathiques!). The minute I told them I write a blog about food in San Francisco, they asked me where they should go. Then it hit me: I need to write a post about my top 5 restaurants in San Francisco. So here it goes.

This post will focus on high end restaurants. The average price in those places is between $100 and $150 per person. I will definitely give my top 5 in a cheaper range later.

So interested? Let’s start!

1/ Gary Danko: lot of my friends tell me I’m crazy to think this is the best place in the city, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve found anything that I like more than Gary Danko. The atmosphere is great, the service is impeccable, and the food is just unbelievable. It’s not that easy to get reservations, but not impossible. As far as I’m concerned, if someone wants to make me a very happy person, just invite me there! I highly recommend the frogs legs, wrapped in pancetta, which is one of their signature dish (and one of the first one they had on the menu).

2/ Jardiniere. First, I love the fact they serve food until late, even though their tasting menu is served until 9:30pm only. The atmosphere is very chilled, with a piano bar in the middle of the room, and two floors of dining tables. Second, the food never disappointed me, even though I’ve been there several times since I used to live a few minutes away. It’s a great place for a quick drink, or a fantastic and elaborated meal. You don’t have to mind the opera or ballet crowed, as this is their primary audience target. Their wine list is also very comprehensive, and if you don’t mind the price, you’ll have a great time.

3/ Dining Room (Ritz Carlton). Very French. Very traditional. And yet, fabulous. The food is great. The decor very classic. And the service absolutely perfect. I remember when I went there, I was telling my wife that I would love to know the score of a game that was playing at the time of our dinner. A few minutes later, the waiter would come and put a piece of paper next to me with the score. Very classy. As far as I remember, the staff was French, which, when you’re French yourself, can make the experience much better. The cheese selection was phenomenal.

4/ Ozumo: On the Embarcardero, Ozumo is one of the those trendy and yet amazing place to have sushi. They have the finest selection of Sake, and delicious sushis. Reservations are quite easy to get, and the place is huge and can also accommodate working meeting (they have private rooms). I’ve never been disappointed with their sushi and some of their dish like black cod are a delight.

5/ Mezes: I’ve already written a review of Mezes, and I actually think it’s one of the best places in the city. Simple, delicious, tasty, it’s one of those places where you will always have a good experience, if you like mediterranean food. A good place to visit!

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Tortilla Heights, San Francisco

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for a very long time. Tortilla Heights in the Lower Pac Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, on Divisadero, was one of my first disappointment with Mexican food. I decided to give it another chance. Why? Because every time i walk by it, it’s packed. So sure, people can be “sheep” and all follow the stupid one. But it’s been very consistent over the last months: the place is packed.

The bar is clearly a reason why the place is crowded. Nice and beautiful people all around (yeah, I know, I was the exception!), kind of trendy, it’s a very good place for a night out. But still, the restaurant was crowded as well. There must be an explanation. The last time I ate there, it was just dis-gus-ting. As in HORRIBLE. Wanna know how this time went?

Well, it actually went ok. Much, much better than my first time. Still not worth those good old mexican places, cheap and delicious, but it was ok. Honestly, there isn’t much to say about the food. It’s decent. I find those trendy mexican restaurants over priced in general, but you can’t say that it’s not good.

It is actually very similar to Left at Albuquerque on Union Street. Nice, fun, but nothing that’s going to knock you out of this world. When you live in San Francisco, I actually question the need for those places. Really. Sure, let’s have some nice bars, but trying to build an upscale Mexican place, when for a fourth of the price, you have much better food at La Taqueria, is just something I have a hard time to comprehend.

Anyway, that place is probably going to be full tonight again. And I may go back there. Just for the fun though, not for the food.

Site:
Tortilla Heights

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Spruce, San Francisco

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Spruce, in the Laurel Heights area in San Francisco, was a big surprise for me. My wife actually decided to take me there for a nice dinner, but I had no idea what to expect. I actually vaguely heard of this restaurant.

We were in the car when we decided to go there. We called the restaurant to ask if they had a table available, and were told that they had nothing for us, except maybe a sit at the bar if we were lucky. Wait! That was a Monday evening. A restaurant fully booked on a Monday evening? That must be a good sign…

As we arrived there, the valet parking guys (even though we didn’t valet park with them!) welcomed us and were extremely polite. A nice gentlemen opened the door for us and we entered the world of Spruce. It’s really fascinating. Dark colors, big paintings, high ceilings, mirrors… It has its own style. Even the music was kind of unique.

We managed to get a table in the bar area, which was full of ladies with Hermes and Gucci purses! The minute after we sat down, a waiter came by and asked us what we would like to eat. We chose the scallops as a starter to share, my wife picked the sole as a main, and I had the halibut. All this, of course, with a nice glass of white wine.

Before they started to bring our food, they gave us a nice amuse bouche to eat. If you remember my post on Jack Falstaff, you know that I hate fried amuse bouche. Well, this one was baked. And so tasty that it did exactly what it’s supposed to do: trigger your appetite.

The scallops were from out of this world. They were caramelized, and serve with a fantastic pea soup and some brandade of cod. Hard to beat, and there is no way I’m going to be able to make this at home. The haddock was all right. I wouldn’t say amazing, but well cooked haddock is always good. On the other hand, the sole was fantastic. It was poached in fennel and served with nice mushrooms, and spinach in cream sauce, it was plain delicious. I absolutely recommend that dish to anyone!

We didn’t have desert, but I asked for the cheese plate as I really wanted to taste it. They offer a European selection or an American selection. Guess which one I picked? And I was not disappointed!

So yes, the place is far from being cheap. But I don’t think it’s the kind of place you go every night. If you have a romantic dinner to plan, or want to do a very good meal in the city for a special occasion, Spruce is definitely a place to consider.

Site:
Spruce

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