Bar Jules Report [San Francisco]
I ate at Bar Jules on Wednesday w/ five friends. I like the vibe in this restaurant - it got a bit loud toward the end of the evening, but it's a comfortable space w/ a nice bar area that overlooks the kitchen. The service was friendly and we managed to get a table for 6 w/ a last-minute reservation, so that was nice. Since I was with a large party, I was able to taste several items from the small daily menu.
It took quite a while for our food to arrive, and while we waited we were served some good bread w/ very good olive oil. All of our dishes came at once, since we ordered a combination of appetizers and main dishes.
I had a soup and an appetizer of mussels. The soup on Wednesday was lentil and cumin cream. Unfortunately, the soup was just OK. It had a nice consistency, and it was pretty tasty, but cumin was the only flavor that stood out. Nothing too complex or different, just a straight up cumin flavor.
Meanwhile, the mussels were excellent. They were grilled and tossed with garlic and olive oil. Perfect balance of smokiness from the grill and smoothness of the olive oil. The mussels themselves were small and cooked perfectly - some of the best seafood I've eaten in San Francisco.
One of my DCs had sand dabs, another had another fish dish (going blank here), others had a veggie plate and a few people had salads. The sauce on the fish dish and the sauce from the mussels were both great for bread dipping - in fact, the best bite of my entire meal came when I dipped a piece of bread (I wondered where it's from - tasted like Tartine's bread) in the smoky/musselly/garlicky olive oil leftover from the bowl of mussels.
So overall I like this place - not everything is amazing, but everything is good and some things are great. If there's something on the small daily menu you're in mood for, you'll be in luck, since it will probably be delicious, and it will be made with local/sustainable ingredients, yadda yadda yadda. Nice place to have around, not pretentious, and fun. Three of my DCs were visiting San Francisco from out of town, and they were impressed with both the vibe and the food.
We shared two bottles of wine - a nice Barbera from Italy - and the total bill for 6 of us was about 230 dollars including a 20 percent tip automatically added for parties of 6 or more (not mentioned anywhere until we received the check).
I ran into David Kaplan at the restaurant, and he had tried one of the desserts which sounded good. Perhaps he will chime in about his meal too.
My last visit: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/47014...
Mom and I had lunch here three weeks ago, a first time for us too. We enjoyed the food, but pricing seemed a bit dear for sitting on a plywood bench in a freezing cold room. We split two items for a light lunch. The quantity would be a normal sized lunch for the average person.
Winter vegetable soup with horseradish creme fraiche, $9.50, appealed due to the room temperature. The kitchen split it for us. Nice enough.
Grilled polenta with black trumpet mushrooms and la quercia prosciutto, $16, was a smaller portion than I expected but we liked the combination. The fresh chervil on top released a lovely fragrance. Nice crusting on the polenta cake, and the trumpets had less grit than typical.
We would have ordered dessert but were dissuaded by the $9 price for a slice of tart though the next table seemed to enjoy theirs. It made my complaints about portion size:pricing at 20th Century seem silly.
I finally made it to this place. Warm salad of cauliflower and broccoli di ciccio, squid risotto, duck confit with baby potatoes and carrots, all delicious and perfect in the Chez Panisse vein. Nothing seemed terribly rich to me.
Really friendly staff, great wine list. Very reasonable prices for the quality and generous portions. If I lived closer it would be in heavy rotation.
They now take reservations.
re: Robert Lauriston
I had a fabulous dinner there tonight, starting with the wood-grilled squid with lotsa grains, fava beans, and yogurt. But the star was the entree of sand dabs with asparagus, snap peas, and spinach with a chive butter sauce. The only time I've had sand dabs this good was on a previous visit here!
What a great springtime dish this was, full of ingredients that I don't like unless really top-notch quality, and they delivered superbly. The recommended txakolina went great; I think I may have had that in my previous sand dab meal here as well. While they do take reservations now, I believe they leave half the house open for walk-ins.
re: Robert Lauriston
My wife, stepdaughter, and I went last night. It was my wife's and my first time. I agree, it's very good and we will go back. The highlights were pan fried sand dabs with broccoli di ciccio, new potatoes, and olives, and fettucine with summer squash, corn, and tarragon. There was also *just* the right hint of lemon in that dish. The wood grilled hangar steak with fresh shelling beans, summer peppers and tomatillo salsa was also quite nice.
I have one quibble. The wine glasses are awful. I brought a bottle ('10 Poulsard des Gruyeres, Domaine des Cavarodes). The wine was excellent, but next time I'll bring glasses that such a wine deserves.
re: Larry Stein
re: Robert Lauriston
The stems aren't the problem. The bowls are too small for swirling and aerating the wine so as to be able to enjoy the aromatics. I could see the wine spilling out of the glass with any sort of vigorous swirling. Especially with a grape as aromatic as Poulsard, the nose is a key component to the wine's enjoyment.
I was at Bar Jules last night and very much like it. The food is definitely rich and intense. The carrot soup was almost overwhelmingly rich but was nicely balanced with dill. A baked herb ricotta was lush and flavorful. The quail was nicely moist but the wood-fired taste was bit overpowering by the end. My wife had the salmon entree and finished it before I could taste it -- so I guess it was OK.
The wine list is short but has a nice range of bottles. Our service was quite good.
The seating is not the most comfortable and the place is very loud.
I am not sure I would travel across town to eat here, but it is certainly an excellent choice if you are in the neighborhood and looking for good food in a lively atmosphere.
Had dinner there last night ~8:30 pm or so. There was a 20 minute wait or so as they were holding tables for a party of 10. Bar Jules is loud as there is nothing to absorb noise, no cushions on seats or banquettes, no curtains, no carpet, no baffles on the ceiling - nada.
They offered 5 appetizers and 3 entrees. They were out of the one entree I was in the mood for (short ribs), as the other choices were short ribs and quail. So I opted for 2 appetizers.
Both my friend and I had the chickpea soup to start and it was a very tasty dish. Flavorful and good veggies.
2nd app for me was the mozzarella. It was an eh dish. I love mozz but this was just not thrilling. Cold moz with a sharp veg (I forget which green but it was). My dining companion had the mussels and was underwhelmed as many were not so good and the flavor was lacking in general.
We skipped dessert. As haonusa said, I also wanted to like Bar Jules more than I did. As I live a couple of blocks away I will probably give it another shot, but not for a bit.
We ate at the bar on Friday night. I really liked the idea of the place more than the actual food. It was pretty good but not great. The staff are friendly. The small daily changing menu is a nice concept. Great provenance for ingredients.
I found most of the dishes (I tried six) to be a little heavy handed. I think they could have laid off the butter, cream, oil just a touch and balanced things with a little better acidity.
The choices for an early June menu also seemed decidedly fall/winterish.
Shepard's Pie: good but enormous for an entree, let alone the appetizer it was billed as.
Pork Shoulder with roasted potatoes, carrots, spinach.: Very fall
Duck with roasted escarole, cinnamon: Also very fall
Didn't help that they were out of the Halibut. The only fish dish of the night.
I'll have to go back and try again since many trusted friends say they had great meals.
A bit late in chiming in, but a few thoughts:
We loved the halibut cheeks, in a buttery wine sauce with fresh peas. The texture was delicate: flaky without being at all dry. Like Dave MP, I was also dunking pieces of bread into the sauce. (Was that the fish dish you referred to above?)
I liked a simple salad of escarole, fennel, parmesan, and walnuts. It was dressed with little more than lime juice, and the sourness of the lime and bitterness of the escarole needed more saltiness than the parmesan provided to round things out.
For dessert, I had the River Cafe chocolate nemesis. I believe this is a trademark dessert of the River Cafe in London, and I've drooled over the recipe and pictures in the River Cafe cookbook. The cake was rich as ganache but light as mousse -- perhaps that's a logical impossibility but it defies explanation otherwise. I've been on a chocolate binge recently, and that cake was the best chocolate dish I've had during this binge.