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Lafitte - Has anyone been?

I made a reservation at Lafite, the new restaurant at Pier 5, for a month from now. Has anyone been who can comment on the food, wine, service and ambience? Their website, at least at present, is short on content.

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  1. Here's some firsthand info,

    Hope we hear from some more 'hounds.

    5 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105

    1. Michael Bauer's review is in tomorrow's Chronicle. He gives it 1.5 stars complaining about the ever changing menu as an issue. I find that rating too low, but I totally agree that the changing menu is a problem since it inherently is going to be hit or miss. They would be much better off keeping some of their hits around as signature dishes. The notion of changing the menu daily due to "Mother Nature's whims" is just too Ferry-Building gimmicky.

      3 Replies
      1. re: nocharge

        I have not been to Lafitte, but I did enjoy one night at Jackson's Dissident Chef venue and I'm wondering if Bauer is being too conventional in his assessment, and not really getting it. I'm actually encouraged to hear that Lafitte retains the uncompromising commitment to local, seasonal inspiration with a daily menu. A lot of restaurants talk that talk, but having the confidence to totally do away with any sort of convention or fixtures on the menu is, to me, what Dissident Chef was all about.

        Then again, some of the miscues described in the review sound pretty unforgivable. Undercooked rabbit? Ew.

        1. re: BernalKC

          Being seasonal is fine, but I think they are going overboard with their menu changes. The idea of ever-changing menus in conjunction with their pirate theme gives a gimmicky impression that I think does the restaurant more harm than good. Having said that, this is definitely a place I'm going back to. There's a lot of talent in that kitchen.

          1. re: BernalKC

            They undercooked my pork sausage when I was there. I won't go back until I'm more confident that they've gotten more consistent with their execution - based on Bauer's review, it sounds like that may be a while.

        2. Just curious, did you book your reservations a month out because of a special occasion or because a month was the earliest you could get? Scary to think that it's already booking out a month in advance for such a new restaurant.

          2 Replies
          1. re: singleguychef

            No, I booked it because we want to go on a Saturday and that was the first Saturday we didn't have anything else planned. Despite the Bauer review yesterday, we're still going to go and decide for ourselves whether we like it or not. A co-worker went last Friday night and thought it was terrific.

            1. re: bobpantzer

              "Despite the Bauer review yesterday, we're still going to go and decide for ourselves whether we like it or not."

              Spoken like a true chowhound, bravo! Thanks for your report below.

          2. I have a res Saturday night (tomorrow) with a friend from NY. I wanted to show her something she wouldn't see there. Bauer's review gave me pause. I still really want to try it, but not to let my friend have a really bad meal on her one night in SF. Any thoughts?

            2 Replies
            1. re: goingoutagain

              I would say there's way too many other safer "only-in-SF" bets to risk Lafitte (I haven't been, but inconsistency sounds like the name of the game so far):

              Delfina, Aziza, NOPA, just to name a few...

              Delfina Restaurant
              3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              1. re: goingoutagain

                Our reservation is tomorrow night, as well, and we decided we'll still go. As I posted above, a co-worker took out of town guests there last Friday (before the review) and they had great food and a great time. The out of towner loved the views of the bay, Coit Tower, etc. and they said the food was very good. I'll post our experience on Sunday or Monday but that's too late for you. The chef, Russell Jackson, has been very vocal on the Bauer review on Twitter and other places. I expect that, despite his objections to the review, he's reacting to it not only on the internet but in the kitchen.

              2. I went to several Dissident Chef events and was never that impressed, but I chalked it up to the fact that he was working in a *very* cramped kitchen. I'll give him a month or so to iron issues and give it a go, but I'm not very encouraged by recent reports.

                3 Replies
                1. re: CarrieWas218

                  I also went to several of the Dissident Chef events, and I agree that they were sometimes hit-or-miss, mostly due to the odd locations/lack of full cooking facilities. I liked them enough to give Lafitte a try a couple of weeks after they opened in April. Even at that early date, the place was packed. We had a party of six, and being gluttinous we ordered a lot of food, so we got to try most of the menu between us. While there were some misses, they were of the "seasonings aren't quite right/up my alley" variety, certainly nothing that was undercooked and/or raw. I wish I could remember exactly what the dishes were, but I was having too good a time to bother writing everything down! And that's just the point -- at only two weeks in, the servers were already engaged and ready and willing to discuss the food at whatever length you wanted to, and the food itself was interesting. We had a really fun meal. Personally, I'd rather go to a place which takes a few risks and produces some unexpectedly delicious dishes and a few that fall short of the mark than to a place that plays safe and gives you the same food you can get anywhere. I also appreciated the nonalcoholic cocktail list which looked to me like just as much care had gone into it as the undoubtedly much-higher-margin alcoholic cocktail list.

                  My one complaint about the place would be that it got fairly loud because it's got high ceilings and a lot of hard surfaces (and an open kitchen) and sound seems to bounce around.

                  I don't normally post, and while I am aware of the chef's own response to the Chron review, this post is not inspired by it. I read the Chron review and simply don't think the meals that Bauer reported on were anything at all like the meal I had there. Since few others were posting, I thought I'd throw in my two cents on the other side. That and the fact that I'm still thinking about the tartlet with the brandied cherries that I polished off for dessert there (and fended off the forks of my dining companions to finish off myself...!)

                  1. re: foodielass

                    I'm with you, foodielass. We did go last night, and I'm thrilled I didn't get deterred by Bauer's review. The service was better than I experience at almost any SF restaurants -- friendly, knowledgeable. We LOVED our cold corn chowder starter, and steelhead with corn pudding (can't have too much corn for me) and a bearnaise that reinvented the sauce, and sturgeon with broccoli rabe for her. We ate in the outside-ish space (it's been called a tent, but we thought it was more like a porch), which in the weather we're having now is a bit of heaven. But I loved the look of the inside space and plan to go there on my own to eat at the counter. Maybe tonight. Russell Jackson is charming -- he came to our table because I dropped the name of a mutual friend, and he sent over a plate of "spam" ravioli which weren't on the menu but which were delish. But I promise you it takes more than a plate of ravioli to win my favor. I was won over by the inventive and well-executed food, the great setting, the reasonable prices, the uber-competent service, and the cute chef.

                    5 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105

                    1. re: goingoutagain

                      We were there last night, as well, and were very pleased. My wife had the corn soup and the steelhead and loved them both. I had the white peach and bacon starter with yoghurt sauce and loved the salty bacon against the sweetness of the grilled white peach. My main course was the duck cassoulet which our server told me in advance was not really a traditional cassoulet, but duck confit served over white beans which were perfectly cooked. I wasn't all that excited about my Rainier cherry crostada but my wife enjoyed the blondies and there is enough of that left over for tonight with some ice cream on top. We dined inside at a wonderful corner table and loved the "vibe" of that space, though it was not at all crowded. Our server was great. It was definitely more than a 1.5 star experience. We'll return!

                2. I went last week and had a very enjoyable dinner. The room seemed smaller than I imagined and it definitely can get noisy because of the high ceiling, but I really enjoyed the food, both in the presentation and tastes.

                  My friend and I shared two starters: the padrones with apricot was just beautiful and simply prepared by blistering the padrons and tossing everything in olive oil. The other appetizer was house cured sardines that were amazing and served with thinly sliced radish. Again, the simplicity of everything was appealing.

                  For our entrees, my friend got the iberico pork shoulder, which was cooked almost rare. It was pricey for 3 chunks of meat, but I guess because it's iberico it's expensive. ($30). By cooking it almost rare, it tasted really rich because of the fat. But my friend liked it. I went with the summer squash/roasted nettle spaghetti and it had a nice toasty flavor because the noodles are pan fried and then cooked in the sauce. Because it was just spaghetti, I also order the dayboat scallops that were beautifully seared. It sat on some green bean salad that was a bit lacking in flavor. But the scallops made up for it.

                  We went with dessert and my friend loved the panna cotta. I had the brown turkey fig tart and it wasn't good. The filling was a bit sour because of the big figs and the shell was kind of thin and didn't seem to hold up to the overall dessert.

                  Despite the dessert, I enjoyed everything I tried. I told my friend Bauer probably shot out of the gate with his review too early because he didn't give the kitchen time to settle into the menu. (It's no longer changing daily, some things change daily but some items are becoming regular if popular. I hope the sardines are regular item.) I can't really speak to the service because I went early for dinner and got lots of attention. Not sure what it would be like later when super crowded. Great location, excellent food, I would recommend checking out.

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