Resataurant Cassis - to occupy Winterland space
Here's my take on it:
Except for a few phrases, I know very little French. French fries, on the other hand, I know pretty well. That's why when I heard Restaurant Cassis was serving delicious takes on traditional French dishes, I enlisted my favorite Francophile, Rebecca, to join me for dinner there on Thursday night.
I wanted to love this place -- I really did -- especially after reading such a glowing review on Vagablond. However, all I can say for my experience is, "Quel dommage." "Pourquoi" you ask?
For starters, in spite of having a reservation, it took about 20 minutes to be seated, and almost that much time for someone to even seem like they cared that we were waiting. I wondered if they were trying to replicate the leisurely European experience right here in San Francisco. The rest of the evening proved that they were, since the three-course meal took almost three hours. I'm not kidding. It's a good thing Rebecca is such good company!
On to the food...
As mon cher Papa always says, you can usually judge how good a restaurant's food will be by its bread. Truly, there's nothing like slice of crusty French bread with rich, salty butter spread on it. Close your eyes and savor that in your mind for a minute. OK, now wake up because that's not what they're serving at Cassis. The bread was forgettable. In fact I almost forgot to write about it until I had a flashback to the tug of war I had getting the ice-cold butter onto my butter knife.
My first course was the Tuna Tartare. Perhaps I should stop ordering this dish, because every time I do, it's never as good as my favorite at La Goulue in New York, and you people are going to get sick of hearing that. However, if you like a very small rough dice, with rock-hard toast accompaniments, head straight over to Cassis. In its defense, the presentation was lovely, though.
Then came what Rebecca and I had hoped would be the pièce de résistance, the fries. What actually arrived looked and tasted like curly fries from Mel's Diner. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Mel's curly fries (believe me), but we were hoping for real French frites.
Fortunately, things turned around with my main course -- the evening's special, Filet Mignon in Peppercorn Sauce with Chickpea French Fries. If you couldn't already tell, I love fries. I also love chickpeas. The result was quite good. Reminded me a bit of polenta fries, but even better. The beef was cooked just the way I like it (medium rare) and the sauce was flavorful and not too heavy. Which was nice because I needed room for....
Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert. The tart was buttery and easy to sink a fork into, the apples were sweet, delicious and the perfect consistency. The ice cream was creamy (always a good quality in ice cream, I suppose) and flecked with vanilla beans.
The tableware was lovely, particularly the colorful floral espresso and coffee cups. The decor is also quite nice, and the place is filled with natural light (especially now since it's light outside long into the evening).
Would I recommend the place? Well, at the risk of being hunted down ("Cherchez la femme!") I'll say that if you enjoy French food and are looking for someplace new to try, Cassis should be on your list. Would I go there twice? Non.
re: Eugene Park
We went last night. Had the wood fired thin crust pizza with mushrooms, lardons, caramelized onions, and creme fraiche for appetizer, then we had the beef daube (stew in red wine with veggies, served with polenta) and duck magret and confit duo, served with gratin dauphinois. We shared the fresh strawberry napoleon for dessert. Still definitely working out the service kinks, but overall nice. Great wines. I wouldnt rush back but it was good.
Just came home from a dinner for four -- we started with a Tuna Tartare and Pissaldiere for starters, both of which were lovely. This was all started with a Chateauneuf du Pape, 2005 - a bit on the young side but quite ballsy.
For entrees, the four were: Duck Confit with a potato gratin, seared Swordfish with a zucchini gratin, a pork roast with pappardale side, and the Daube with a polenta side. I only got one taste each of the duck, pork, and daube but I believe the daube was a clear favorite, although the polenta was grilled and a bit drier than I prefer (I like them creamy and wet). The pork was succulent and moist. The duck was less rare than I prefer and the swordfish thinner than I normally like but was served with a great sauce - heartily grilled with a great crusty exterior. With this, we ordered is Vielles Visgnes 2003 (producer not remembered at this point) and was perfect.
For dessert, we pulled out the stops; Tarte Tatin, Creme Brulee, Chocolate Fondue, and a Mille Fleures served with an amazing 1990 Sauternes. The Tarte Tatin was perfection as was the Creme Brulee -- just barely enough custard to hold up the caramelized sugar. With the fondue, they served skewers of banana and strawberries along with strips of a Niçoise-regional pastry highlighted with orange flower water. Along with the desserts came the true highlight of the evening; a 1990 Chateau Guiraud Sauterne.
I am greatly intrigued to go back to try their pizzas and something else of special note: The new owners brought with them from France a world class, to-die-for wine cellar that they have yet to add to the wine list. Why? Prices. There exists on this little corner of San Francisco classic vintages of Romanee-Conti, Petrus, Musigny, Margaux, Latour, etc... My eyes glazed over at the wonders I saw and the owners have yet to determine the value and selling prices of these gems. They've only been open two weeks. I'll be stopping by often to watch their development; both from the kitchen and from the wine cellar.