Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jan 5, 2010 01:22 PM

Frances dinner ...

Hello all and Happy New Year!
I thought I would write to say thank you to all the Bay Area folks who offered advice on where I should go during my recent trip to San Francisco (visiting from NYC). My plans changed a little but we did wind up eating at Frances on our last night in town. Put this place on the top of your list to try. There were four of us and we ordered from all over the menu. The entire meal was excellent! The bacon bigniets were all you might hope in such a dish, the mixed chicories were beautiful. All of the entrees were delicious ... My favorite was the chicken actually, which surprises me because usually chicken tends to be a little boring but this was perfectly cooked, moist ... really well done. The skate was excellent as well. The buttermilk panna cotta was the standout dessert that night. They used the citrus form the market to great effect all over the menu but especially here. The staff all showed an attention to detail that really impressed me and the service was really very attentive. I highly recommend this restaurant!

Also had a great bunch at The Tipsy Pig in the Marina.

See you in NYC!

3870 17th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. This is Melissa Perello's new place, which she was sort-of previewing on occasional Monday nights at Sebo for a while. It opened December 1.

    3870 17th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

    1. Has anyone been recently? I am not sure if Frances would be considered a destination restaurant. Though with all the positive reviews I've read in the press I certainly wish to try it on my next visit to SF.

      4 Replies
      1. re: oysterspearls

        Went this week and had an excellent meal. Frances is turning out to be a destination restaurant because the night I was there Tyler Florence (Food Network chef) was dining with Phil Bronstein (editor of SF Chronicle). The positive buzz is definitely drawing people from all over, although you do get a sense that there are also a lot of neighborhood people happy to see Frances opened.

        For the food, I had the pig trotters small starter, which was like a crab cake in presentation. Not a lot of pork taste, but still elegantly presented and tasty. My friend had the fried chickpeas that he throughly enjoyed, served with a meyer lemon sauce.

        My friend also had the parsnip soup with apple bits and he loved the combination. I had the crab salad that was simple but beautifully plated. It was a very clean dish with minimal flavors to distract from the sweet crab pieces.

        For our main course, my friend had the scallops, which he said he loved. I had the duck breast that was perfectly cooked and served with sausages. It had a nice sauce to compliment the duck, and a nice twist was crouton-like substance sprinkled on top for a slight crunch.

        We ended the night sharing the chocolate mousse that was really light a fluffy but not super airy. It was just the right balance of light and dense. It had a smear of burnt caramel that was amazing.

        The only downside to Frances (that has been mentioned many times before) is the cramp seating and the loud noise. But for the food, it's spot on. A combination of neighborhood comfort dishes presented in the high-end classy way of a fine-dining spot.

        1. re: singleguychef

          We went last weekend. This service was really good and the host and sommelier were very nice but our server seemed a bit out of sorts or something. The food was a mixed bag. The food was more refined than bold. The place is new and has promise but the chef needs to step it up a notch, some of the dishes were too bland. My partner liked it more than me. We had a lot of the same things singleguychef had.

          Here is what we had:

          Pig trotters appetizer. Was good but not great. Did not taste very trottery. Kind of generic tasting. All I could think of was how much better the trotter appetizer at Bistro Jeanty is.

          Black truffle Risotto: Was quite delicious but was a head shakingly puny portion for $22. When I saw the size my thought was: Really??? They were generous with the truffles though. Was excellent tasting and the texture was perfect, although the dish was a bit overly butter saturated.

          Scallops (main course): Again was delicious but with three medium-small sized scallops it seemed more like an appetizer sized portion. The scallops were very tasty and the faro and mushrooms underneath were very satisfying. Excellent but they should add another scallop.

          Kale Cannolini: Was good but not great. The filling was better than the Cannolini itself. A bit bland.

          Chocolate mousse with burnt caramel. I don’t agree with singleguychef about this dish. I really hated this dessert. The mousse was overly sweet and very lacking in chocolate flavor. Tasted like something you might expect to get at Bakers Square or someplace similar. The burnt caramel did not add much to the dish. Overall one of the most disappointing desserts in recent memory.

          1. re: Ridge

            I totally agree with you about the trotter appetizer, didn't really showcase the trotter. I think I should have tried the squid salad because I love squid.

            Wow, I'm surprised you didn't like the mousse. I wonder if something happened that night. I just loved the texture and flavor seemed balance.

            Chef Perillo serves as expeditor so she's not cooking anything, but I'm sure she keeps a keen eye on the cooks who are following her recipes. I was pretty impressed with the kitchen's skills.

      2. Wow, it's kind of tough to land a table here -- has anyone eaten at the bar here? The Sunday evening we want to go (before a show we're catching at the Cafe Du Nord nearby), they're all booked up...and were already, even when I checked over six weeks before the date.

        The man I spoke to suggested just coming early and grabbing a seat at the bar, and he did say that the full menu is available there. Just wondering if that would be a much less pleasant experience than eating in the dining room proper, in which case we may just look into other restaurant options in the area.

        5 Replies
        1. re: abstractpoet

          I've been once in the dining area and then once "at the bar" -- I use quotes because it's not really a bar, but a counter. We sat at the counter against the window facing 17th Street and it was perfectly fine. Service was as attentive as when we sat in the dining area. I want to say there's less tablespace at the counter, which can make sharing or retaining several plates tricky, but otherwise it was just as nice as table seating.

          1. re: Frosty Melon

            Thanks, great info. If that's the case, we'll probably make a go of it then.

          2. re: abstractpoet

            We ended up being seated at the counter right at 5:00 when they opened on a Sunday, no problem.

            The highlight of our meal was probably the "Panisse Frites," from the bouches portion of the menu. These were like polenta fries but -- somehow, improbably -- made with chickpeas. Flat-out amazing, and a good deal at $6.50. We also shared a spring onion bouillon, which was very light.

            I had the bavette steak entree, which was fantastic -- a simply prepared, but perfectly executed, medium-rare steak is nothing to scoff at. Practically licked my plate clean.

            Had a bite of my wife's kale cannelloni. Oddly enough these crepes, with their mushroom and vegetable filling, reminded me of moo shu pork -- though not necessarily in a bad way. My wife enjoyed these well enough, but it's not a dish I would order for myself.

            We shared the much-discussed chocolate mousse dessert, and while I enjoyed it well enough, it definitely wasn't one of my favorites in this sort of salty-sweet category, which I normally love. The mousse was tasty, but the chocolate sea salt cookies and the (quite plentiful) salt on the plate just tasted, well, salty to me, and didn't do all that much to play off of the chocolate.

            In any case, we enjoyed our meal and would definitely come back -- though we'd be likely to return sooner if they switched up their entree selections more frequently. The four they were offering tonight were the same dishes I'd read about in various reviews from a couple months back; I don't know how often they mix things up.

            1. re: abstractpoet

              Abstractpoet, did you feel you had room at the counter to maneuver everything and eat?

              Also, I'm just guessing here, but I think they changing their menus with the season with a few minor tweaks here and there depending on supplies.

              1. re: singleguychef

                I thought sitting at the counter was perfectly fine -- we sat in the front left corner facing the kitchen, and it seemed to me that that front counter might be a little deeper/wider than the ones to the side or facing the window.

                In any case, there was plenty of room for our our dishes, and the only time it seemed cramped at all was when I had to get out to use the restroom -- the guy seated behind me at the side counter had me wedged in pretty good.

                If you go without a reservation, I'd definitely recommend getting there right at 5:00 when they open, though, at least on a weekend. On the Sunday we went, there was a line about 8 people long before they opened. There are, what, maybe 10 bar seats? By 5:10 or so they were all taken.

          3. Pros: excellent ice cream and tasty cakes, easy parking (!), lovely carafes for sipping whatever amount of wine you choose, congenial service (for the most part), the mixed crowd a pleasant surprise for SF, delightful menu offerings and fresh ingredients. Less pro: Dishes often didn't match the anticipation factor. The flavor depth/contrasts hover around the surface of these small plates. One finds oneself searching the dish for taste per forkful. So close, yet not quite there. Then too, I am finding it harder than ever to enjoy food in noisy places. Still, the crowd seemed happy.

            3870 17th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

            1. I had a really great meal at Frances last night. If I lived in the neighborhood, it would definitely be the kind of place that I'd drop in often to see if that had a seat at the counter. There were two of us and we shared: Bacon Beignets, Panisse Frites, Ricotta Gnocchi with Fava Beans and Morels, and the Bavette Steak and then the Lumberjack cake for dessert. Everything was good to very good, with the Ricotta Gnocchi and the Lumberjack cake being the standouts for me. The beignets were very smoky and not as heavy as I expected, the Panisse Frites had a crisp shell on the outside and were very moist on the inside, and came with a great lemon aioli. I liked all of the interesting starters, and I'd love to go back for the crab salad and the grilled calamari, both of which I saw passing by and looked great. We both loved the bavette steak, but the highlight of that dish were the roasted cipollini onions that came along with it -- I could have eaten a lot more of those.

              They have a fun house white and house red carafe gimmick: the wines are $1 an ounce, and they bring carafes with ounces marked on the sides to the table; you pour your own and then they charge you for what you've had.

              All in all, the food was great, and the price was pretty excellent -- it was just about $40 a person, including tax and tip. Even better was the service: from the phone call confirming the reservation to when we finally left the restaurant, the staff was incredibly friendly, gracious, and welcoming; they did a great job explaining certain dishes and advising us on the menu without being intrusive. Especially in a place that is such a hot reservation, it was refreshing for the staff to not have any attitude and to be relaxed and helpful.

              For people who do live in the neighborhood, it was packed when we got there just after 8, but there were some empty tables and an almost empty counter by 9:30 or so, so that might be a good time to drop in.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JasmineG

                I just want to echo the positive reviews of Frances...I was treated to a belated birthday dinner a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed the entire evening. Service was polished yet not too stiff, the restaurant's atmosphere was perfect for a neighborhood spot and the food was expertly prepared without being fussy.

                I already have two more reservations lined up - can't wait to return!