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Dec 28, 2006 09:29 PM

La Terrasse in The Presidio

I live in The Presidio, so might be biased toward having a comfortable, civilized French bistro within three minutes walking distance (sort of 7-8 blocks in the normal part of the city). But I'm very happy to have had dinner, lunch and a couple of coffees at La Terrasse [ but the sample menu there is not accurate] since it opened a week ago, the second of three new restaurants opening in The Presidio this winter (the others being Pres A Vis and The Presidio Social Club).

Dinner: I started with seared foie gras (in part because I've heard that someone is proposing to ban in California!), which was as good as any I've had. GoingOutAgain had a seared scallop salad with lobster and fennel, which she rated as great. For entrees, I had the rack of lamb with a tomato confit, which was an excellent combination and very tasty. GOA had roasted squab, which she thought was good: I tasted it and thought it a bit bland but squab usually isn't mouth-blowing. For desert, she had a chocolate pudding, which she and I thought was excellent (and I resisted at lunch today!) and I had a surprise (not on the menu) roasted pear cold and soaked in ice wine, which was very interesting. We had a bottle of Benton Lane pinot noir from Willamette Valley (with a twist off top!) that was excellent and "only" $43.

Lunch: Today, I stopped for lunch after a long walk around Crissey Field. Had the cream of potato and garlic soup, which was wonderful. Then the (also not on the menu) pan seared whole golden trout stuffed with sauteed spinach and shallots; mon dieu! Followed by an excellent double espresso. As I said, very civilized.

Here's the tricky part: La Terrasse is physically located in what's prosaically known as the Transit Center on the Main Post of The Presidio. Most people still don't really know that The Presidio is now open to the public, much less have figured out where the Main Post is and how to get there. La Terrasse will do fine from the breakfast and lunch trade from the people who live there (about 2500) and work on the Main Post (quite a few establishments, both for and non profit, now ring the old parade ground). But the only way the dinner hours will surive is if it's a destination spot and not just a neighborhood bistro. You can tell from the menu items I've described, that they're trying hard to be distinct.

The bistro is a joint venture between Curbside (two restaurants on Fillmore and on Lombard right outside The Presido) and Chez Spencer. Pretty good heritage for establishing that distinction. Worth giving it a try, perhaps after the new year when they've got their systems worked out and are more confident in their service.

Also a mini-review in the SF Chronicle today, which might explain why the restaurant was busy at lunch:

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  1. I went by and looked at the lunch menu the day they opened but was a bit taken aback by the prices. $30+ isn't my typical lunch hour budget. Not sure who they think will pay that in the office buildings nearby, although Dish always seems filled with people happy to pay $15 for quite mediocre reheated lunches.

    Dinner's a different story, and breakfast looked no more pricey than anywhere else. The remodel is quite lovely.

    1. OK, finally getting around to posting...

      So far I have had (lunches only):

      the wood oven roasted chicken with mustard and mashed potatoes: 8/10 with the edges somewhat overcooked. Whole grain mustard is stuffed under the skin and the fried sage leaves are a nice touch.

      -nicoise salad ($12): this was like the second day they opened, it came with anchovies instead of the advertised tuna (I have since seen the salad with tuna). Sort of a chi chi salad with lamb's ears for the greens. Excellent dressing and just the right amount. My quibble was the portion size was so small and the bowl sooo big. I have been told they give more now.

      -smoked salmon pizza, creme fraiche and tobiko ($12): good (they have their own wood oven) but do not expect A16/Delfina crust.

      -Hamburger ($11, $13 with cheese): first time was excellent, today they burnt the outside. Quibbles: they don't melt the cheese on the meat and mine never did melt, plus very small amount of said cheese. And the ciabatta (I don't know why they call it that, it's not really ciabatta) is too big for the meat. Upsides: excellent meat when not overcooked and great somewhat thin-cut fries.

      Have also had the soup of the day (cauliflower and it was very good) and the simple butter lettuce salad with an excellent mustard vinaigrette.

      The room is like modern bistro meets Frank Lloyd Wright meets the Wild West. They did a lovely job with what is essentially a fancy bus stop. The terrace is now open for business and on a sunny day is quite beautiful. Brunch must be lovely there.

      It's service that will be their downfall. I imagine dinner (prix fixe) must be much calmer with better service. This is the nicest, most well-meaning bunch of people you could hope to meet. Really, I mean it! But they opened with such a bang that I think they were caught off guard. You can't believe how well they have been doing at lunch. Always full. Restaurants DREAM of such openings (Presidio Social Club was the same way).

      They haven't worked the door situation out yet so you can potentially stand there forever before you catch someone's eye (it's somewhat hidden). Then there's a side door that people enter through as well which royally screws you because the waiters will see them first and seat them, no matter HOW long you've been standing there. But I don't think they can afford a host either. The opening of the terrace just means even more for them to handle.

      Everything takes a seemingly long time: food, service, bill, getting change. They are trying hard, really! They are just stretched with some of them just ill trained. Sit at the bar, the bartender, while also stretched, is very good. But really: the NICEST people.

      Parking is so plentiful, it's hard to believe you are still in SF. Well, technically not in the city 'cause it's federal land. Which, btw, I have heard makes it EXCEEEEEEDINGLY easy to open a restaurant and get the liquor license. Between not having to deal with the City's red tape, taxes, and the plentiful parking, it's a wonder that these things aren't popping up like mushrooms all over the damn place.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chaddict

        thank youu both for posting! the BF and i looked at this place last weekend but ended up going somewhere else. it's on our list of places to try and it sounds like a good one.

      2. OK, I had the nicoise salad today and co-worker had the lyonnaise. I feel somewhat ripped off. My nicoise had 2 pieces of tuna that if put together was about 2 square inches. 3 olives, 1 egg, 5 green beans, and 2 small potatoes and then the greens. Bitch as some of you might about Dish's nicoise, it is a much better deal. Sorry, I am still hungry so I'm a little pissy.

        The lyonnaise was so small, I almost laughed. Poor co-worker was done in a jiffy. Maybe they intend the salads to be first courses (other than the butter lettuce salad). If that is the case, then this place is expensive for lunch.

        Now the lamb shank, that was HUGE!

        1 Reply
        1. re: chaddict

          OK, I have come to the conclusion that dinner is better than lunch. While I have never done the full prix fixe, I have had a few dishes a la carte at the bar. Last week had a lovely asparagus risotto with truffles. Once I cut the truffles up into slivers (instead of getting a big ole bite all at once) and mixed it through, the dish was near perfect (a little salt helped it sing). Nice portion size. Also had the cornish game hen on a different night, very good. Given that they are apart of a multi-course dinner, I think the size of the dishes is just fine. Maybe they have listened to the complaints or something.

          They have also added a pasta dish at lunch that was well sized too.

          As to running out of stuff, their actual pantry and walk-in is about a block away. They have almost no storage in the restaurant itself. I watch their little golf cart go back and forth all day from my office. That may help to explain some of the problems. But they do seem to have improved recently...

        2. My husband and I have been looking forward to trying out La Terrasse for a few weeks. Well, I don't think we ever will. We arrived yesterday at 1:15pm for brunch w/o a reservation. The hostess said 10 minutes - no problem. We were seated and handed menus. We ordred 2 glasses of champagne to start. Then it went downhill. When the waitress returned to take our order, I asked for the wild mushroom omlette - sounded great. "Oh, I forgot to tell you what we are out of..." She proceed to "remove" from the menu 5 of the 9 entrees (including chicken breast, croque madame, and the mushroom omlette). All that was left were 2 salmon dishes, the Rainbow trout, and the hamburger. I can appreciate their schtick of when there is no more, there is no more, but I think we should have been told that over 50% of their menu is unavailable b/f we sat down! I decided to get the hamburger but asked that instead of fries I get a side salad. "Oh, we don't do substitutions." So, that was the end of that. We got our check for the champagne ($30) and left.

          Their service leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe at dinner it is better? At this point, I don't think I care. It is a shame b/c their menu sounds good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: meggie t

            the BF and i stopped by today for brunch and luckily we got in early and before they ran out of things. i agree with those who say that it can be hard to find if you don't know where it is because it doesn't look like a restaurant at all.

            i had the croque madam and the BF had the hamburger.

            my croque madam was very tasty with egg and soft brioche and similar to a grilled ham and cheese with a fried egg on top. it came with a small side salad. very small side salad. it was well done and a perfect brunch item.

            the BF had a hamburger that came on ciabatta bread and fries. the fries were probably the best part being that they were nice and hot and since he didn't get that "this is a good burger" feeling from eating it. although he asked for medium well, the burger was made on the more raw side.

            i was surprised at how small the brunch menu was. i usually expect them to be a bit longer. and how many people were there. within twenty minutes of sitting down, more and more people started to enter.

            they gave us bread when we sat down...but no butter or oil so we had to ask for oil. the service was a little off. it took a good 5 minutes for them to see that we were ready to pay the bill despite there being many waiters standing behind our table.

            i'm not sure we'll try this place again. it's a bit pricey and not for much.

          2. how can you run out of eggs at brunch?