Saturday, July 10, 2010

Frances, Castro

Way back in April, the night of our dinner at Ad Hoc, we returned to San Francisco with Mark and Brittany and got on the internet to book dinner at Frances.  We were excited about it because after being open for only a few months, it had already been nominated as one of the best new restaurants in the country.  And though it was only April, the first weekend reservation we could get wasn't until July. We booked it.

Tonight we finally cashed in that reservation (with different friends, since M & B had gotten double booked) and ate at Frances for the second time. The first time was about a month ago when we had lucked out when some friends from work had reservations and asked us to join them. I had so thoroughly enjoyed our meal the first time and I couldn't wait to go back.  Luckily tonight's dinner did not disappoint - it was just as great as our first meal there.

Don't you just love that logo? It reminds me of doodles in a notebook for some reason.  

The menu is broken into four parts: bouchees, appetizers, entrees and sides. All the bouchees are $6.50 each and it's really hard to decide what to pick. So you can do what we did (on both visits) and order all of them. 

 (Row 1: Applewood smoked bacon beignets with maple creme fraiche & chive; Panisse Frites (chickpea fritters with meyer lemon aioli; Row 2: Grilled calamari with warm bean salad, preserved lemon, Sicilian olive; Roasted beet salad with ras el hanout, wild flower honey, cilantro and avocado; Row 3: toasted firebrand challah with stracciatella cheese and herb salad)

All of these dishes are excellent but I think the chickpea fritters are my favorite thing on the menu. I've been noticing this pop up on menus throughout San Francisco, but I've only eaten them here. The exterior has a nice crunchy texture and the inside is soft and creamy.  The beet salad is also fantastic - simple but so fresh and flavorful - thanks in part to the ras el hanout (I didn't know what that meant either, but our friends who we were with filled us in).

Kev ordered that fun little drink - it's called a Market Shot and "is whatever we find at the market that gets juiced, spiced, spiked".  I can't remember exactly what was in this, but it included peach, meyer lemon and the house white wine. And it was really, really good. It made us all want to make our own and drink it outside on a warm day. 

There were four of us at this dinner, so you might be wondering why there are only two pictures of entrees and it's because three of us ordered the trout.  I usually don't like to order the same meal as Kev, and I never order trout, but last time we were here he had the trout and once I tasted it I was jealous. Not that my pork wasn't amazing, but the trout was something else.  It's a smoked Steelhead trout served with fingerling potatoes, creme fraiche and grain mustard.  The one non-trout dish we ordered was the herb stuffed Guinea hen, with polenta, chanterelles, white corn and apricot. And it was also excellent. Even our friend who ate it thought so and she was being extra critical, "since it's Frances".

And then there was dessert. Kev got the bittersweet chocolate pot du creme with roasted bing cherries, which he ordered for himself, since he's greedy with his desserts. The rest of us shared the cornmeal pound cake with ricotta semifreddo, olive oil and berries. We forgot it was semifreddo and spent the whole time eating it saying "what kind of ice cream is this? It's sooo creamy".  The flavors of the cake, berries and cream all worked really well together and we worked hard to make each bite the perfect bite with bits of all three. The pot du creme was also excellent and not to sweet. The cookies it is served with were a little too salty and dry for our taste. 

All in all it was an excellent meal and I'm glad that we booked a third meal there back in May - we'll be returning for another dinner here in August. 

3870 17th Street
San Francisco, CA 94114-2030
(415) 621-3870


sarah said...

Wow- Looks killer! Now I am going to try to find a recipe for chickpea patties...

tastingsf said...

I found a recipe here!

Alexis said...

There's a vegan restaurant in the East Village that makes chickpea fries...really really good. Remind me so I can send you next time you're here. I think it's called Counter.

Also--how do you watch Top Chef and not know ras-el-hanout? I feel like it's right up there with foam and scallops in the Top Chef pantheon.

staci said...

Yum. What is it about desserts that causes you to get so excited about the details on the menu, and yet forget them immediately when it arrives.

ras el hanout -- every time I hear it (Top Chef), I think Ra's Al Ghul, from _Batman Begins_

Also, yum.

sarah said...

Staci: Me too!!!

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