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Cafe des Amis

sfgal2 Jul 21, 2010 07:00 PM

I realize this just opened but I was wondering if anyone had tried it yet. I have seen people in there but I am not sure if it is officially open yet. I peeked in the window and it is beautiful so I am wondering if the food matches the decor

  1. wolfe Jul 21, 2010 07:06 PM

    Cafe des Amis. Pesky old keys.

    Cafe des Amis
    2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

    3 Replies
    1. re: wolfe
      sfgal2 Jul 21, 2010 07:08 PM

      Thanks for the heads up!!

      1. re: wolfe
        saffrongold Jul 22, 2010 04:21 PM

        wolfe, " Pesky old keys. " what does that mean?

        1. re: saffrongold
          wolfe Jul 22, 2010 05:30 PM

          In the original post the title was Cafe dea Amis. I was simply pointing out the proximity of the "a" to the "s" that sfgal corrected. I should have come back and deleted it but it was past my bedtime.

      2. Melanie Wong Jul 21, 2010 07:21 PM

        Haven't tried it, but today's supposed to be the official opening.

        Cafe des Amis
        2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

        1. n
          nocharge Jul 22, 2010 05:20 PM

          Had dinner there last night. As expected for a high-profile opening, it was a little bit of a zoo: The bar was completely packed from early on, Willie Brown stopped by, etc. I got a good impression of the place in many ways: The people behind Spruce obviously know how to run a restaurant and seem to have recruited a bunch of good people. They have ambitions to be open really late a few days a week and to serve weekend brunch, which is nice. The restaurant is a very stylish brasserie with prices within reason (most entrees in the $20-30 range). Should be a nice addition to the neighborhood. As for the food, it was opening day so the jury is still out. Of the 7-8 dishes I tasted, none was really outstanding and several were clearly underseasoned the way they came. The menu is fairly large with lots of dishes that could be great with the right execution, so I guess it will take a few more visits to reach a verdict. Comparing the food to first impressions from other recent openings, I would say not as good as Prospect or Wayfare, but not as disappointing as Thermidor.

          3 Replies
          1. re: nocharge
            Foodnut8 Aug 13, 2010 09:05 AM

            We ate there the other day, in the 3rd week of their operation and surprisingly found it did not meet our expectations. Looks like they went from underseasoned to OVER!

            House made Epi Bread was dense, chewy, and excellent.

            Mojito ($11) was strong, well balanced, and very good.

            Foie Gras Terrine ($17) ramp and mustard seed marmalade, toasted brioche was stellar with a huge portion of super smooth foie.

            Oysters - Kumoomoto, Malpeque, Beausolei ($8) were fresh and solid. Hard to botch this. Very vinegary strong mignottete.

            Grilled Branzino Provencal ($27) fennel, tomato, garlic, olives, sauce verte was a very good entree with a good sized portion of well cooked deboned sea bass served in a healthy style. Not overly juicy and a tad bit of undercooking would have helped.

            Mussels ($16) tomato, white wine, garlic and lovage was another solid entree with lots of fresh mussels and an aioli covered toast. Very nice broth that deserves consuming with bread.

            Summer Pole Beans ($6) brown butter and almonds were thin beans cooked in a healty style without much butter or salt.

            Paperback Apple Pie Special ($8) was excellent and came in a paperbag. Crisp crust, tender apples, and a nice topping made for a good dessert.

            Soupe À L’Oignon Gratinee ($9) oxtail and beef shank broth, carmelized onions, gruyere was a very nice and very hot onion soup with a dense cheese crust but came with a big burnt spot that smelled like something was burning.

            Hanger Steak Frites ($26) béarnaise, watercress salad was cooked to a perfect medium rare but was slightly oversalted, even with the sauce on the side. This is not the most tender cut of meat around, so it was a bit chewy. Watercress salad was also a bit over salty. Fries were average, not spectacular.
            Bouchon's Steak Frites is better than this version.

            Petit Fours: Salted Chocolate Toffees were very bitter and salty.

            Roast Chicken Ballotine ($22) roasted potatoes, wilted purslane had a slightly salty chicken that was made super salty with the included sauce. We could not even finish this dish! Duck liver pate toast was fine. Excellent potatoes.

            Service - Cafe des Amis is relatively new but being operated by a veteran team, service was decent albeit a bit slow, with not much need for hailing waiters. The waiter could have been more knowledgeable on the dishes.

            Value - Prices while not inexpensive, are inline with an upscale French restaurant.

            Alternatives - Not many. Classic French brasseries in this area include excellent Bouchon in Yountville and Absinthe in San Francisco. Compare these to Josephine Chez Dumonet, an uncopiable classic Paris bistro we reviewed and lust for from our 2009 adventures.

            Verdict - Does Cafe des Amis live up to its hype? Frankly we expected much more from seasoned veterans and 3 years of waiting. There were a lot of misses and even the waiter admited that other waiters had klinkers that evening. Comparatively, Prospect and Wayfare Tavern recently opened and are excellent. Bouchon remains the best in our area.
            The atmosphere is spot on so give them a couple months to optimize things before trying it. If you must visit it now, becareful with your ordering.
            2% Healthy SF Surcharge. Extensive wine list with high markup, glasses from $8, Bottles from an inexpensive $16. Long beer, ale list and lots of classic cocktails.

            Pics and more:

            6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

            Cafe des Amis
            2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

            Wayfare Tavern
            558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

            1. re: Foodnut8
              nocharge Oct 23, 2010 05:45 PM

              Michael Bauer wasn't impressed either. One star for food, 1.5 overall. Too many bland and tasteless dishes, apparently. A pretty bad outcome for such an anticipated opening. Even Lafitte managed to get a 1.5 star food rating in a negative review.

              1. re: nocharge
                Fine Oct 27, 2010 07:44 PM

                Finally read review--what struck me also was how few dishes were remotely French.

                Live close by and it does appear to be doing a land-office business and Betelnut's waiter said its business has increased from the overflow..

                We really liked Godon's, so had somewhat higher than usual expectations for both quality of cooking and sustainability of ingredients, since Gordon Drysdale's name has been mentioned often in connection with CdA.

                2030 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

          2. o
            originalfig Aug 20, 2010 05:35 PM

            I was there last night for dinner with two friends. Overall: Food was solid, service was badly marred by inattention and bad timing.

            The menu and feel remind me a lot of Balthazar in NY - very breezy, bistro-ish feel, down to the food (a greatest hits of bistro classics, including choucroute garni, monumental seafood platters, caviar service, etc.), menu formatting, decor (tile floors, big bar) and the stylish, chaotic feel.

            Food highlights were appetizers of stuffed zucchini flowers (briefly baked, not fried, with a surprisingly firm-yet-tender ricotta filling) and lobster salad (great hunks of sweet lobster, oh my) and the best main was the a special of the day, a line-caught bass on butter beans that was perfectly cooked - crisp skin with moist, incredibly flavorful meat. You could taste the wildness of the fish, simply fantastic.

            Our server was super-professional in her attitude and expertise-- when we could get her attention, that is. We sat for 15 minutes before she took our drink order, then it was another 15 minutes before the wine showed up. A half hour to wait for the first sip of the evening did not start the night auspiciously.

            At several points in the evening one of us had to flag her down again to get a refill on wine (she put the bottle chilling somewhere else), so people sat with empty glasses way too long....Plus there was a giant lull of about 20-25 minutes between our first course and the mains. I don't know if the'd given our server too many tables to cover--she tried hard not to seem harried but you could tell she was totally in the weeds. Funnily enough There were a slew guys in well-cut suits hanging out in the corners who looked like floor managers or maybe sommeliers with nothing to do, it was odd to see them milling around surveying the scene all night when it was clear the waitstaff was struggling to keep up.

            Anyway the kitchen seems to be dialing things in pretty well but they need to get more coverage of the tables and work out the service kinks, fast.

            Cafe des Amis
            2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

            1. o
              originalfig Aug 20, 2010 05:42 PM

              Forgot to add the pics - lobster salad appetizer plus that fantastic line-caught bass....

              Cafe des Amis
              2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

              1. Melanie Wong Sep 9, 2010 09:23 AM

                I'm interested in hearing progress reports for Cafe des Amis, especially about lunch service. How is it faring?

                Cafe des Amis
                2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                3 Replies
                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  bobpantzer Sep 9, 2010 09:45 AM

                  Four of us had brunch (lunch) there on Sunday and, overall, it was a wonderful experience. My wife and I enjoyed a pichet of sauvignon blanc while our friends split the pressed coffee. Our server was very friendly, efficient and helpful. I had the Croque Monsieur which was a very good rendition of that dish, my wife had the mussels which she said were terrific. Our friends split the hamburger which they pronounced great and one also had the buckwheat pancakes with carmelized bananas which looked good and which he liked but it seemed like a small portion to me. We had two orders of the pommes frites--I think one came with the burger--and these were also very good. For dessert we shared the 24 layer crepe cake and the profiteroles, both of which were excellent. Service was good though, at one point, our server thanked us and apologized for waiting. We were in no hurry so didn't really notice that we had waited. They did bring bread a little later than we would have liked and none of us had any. It's good bread, too--had it for dinner there a couple of weeks earlier. All in all, a delightful Sunday lunch experience. On insidescoopsf.com, I noted that Willie Brown didn't have such a great experience at dinner last week but we'd recommend it to anyone.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    sfgal2 Sep 9, 2010 06:24 PM

                    I finally made it as well. I met a friend there for brunch on Sunday and have to agree with Bob below, it was great. I had the Nicoise salad and it was not what I would have expected with cooked tuna but it was really nice and the dressing was perfect. My friend had the Croque Madame and pronounced it heavenly. She also had the frisee salad which she shared and it was really good as well. Service was attentive and not overbearing. I can't wait to try dinner and will report back.

                    1. re: sfgal2
                      jman1 Oct 12, 2010 03:22 PM

                      Would you expect raw tuna on a Nicoise salad?

                      I'm a fan of Nicoise salad and favor those most similar to what I experience in Nice. Many American places seem to favor a trend toward slabs of seared tuna (still raw in the center). This would not be used in a classic recipe. Whenever I've asked French people working in American restaurants, they agree that it would not be done in France. In fact, I don't like it; I don't think that the flavors mix well.

                  2. CarrieWas218 Sep 9, 2010 06:42 PM

                    Went for lunch today.

                    Duck Rillettes at $7 was a good bargain, but a bit on the dry side although a substantial portion of three quenelles for the price plus nice pickles. The grilled country bread was very crunchy and a bit hard on my teeth.

                    The Lyonnaise salad was about the same in quality and taste (although a bit smaller) than Cafe de la Presse's version of the frisée salad. Good fresh egg and the lardons were cut exactly the same size and shape as the croutons; about 3mm square. $11

                    I saw a lot of people ordering burgers and those looked pretty good. The wine list was spectacular (I had a nice Riesling for $9 a glass). I loved the atmosphere and the service was respectfully distant considering I was working on my computer.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: CarrieWas218
                      Melanie Wong Sep 16, 2010 12:00 AM

                      Thanks to each of you for sharing your lunch/brunch experiences. It made me more confident of my choice, and like you I loved the experience and the atmosphere. I eyed those burgers passing by too and will be back soon to try one.

                    2. Melanie Wong Sep 15, 2010 11:56 PM

                      Last Friday I joined two friends here for a birthday lunch celebration. A warm and sunny day in San Francisco, we felt like were in Provençe inspiring us to start with the pastis service. The menu offers several and we tried two, Pernod (greenish) and Ricard (browner). The service provides a shot of pastis in a glass, cups of ice and a pichet of water to mix to one’s own taste at the table. The Pernod was sweeter and floral; Ricard was nuttier, more alcoholic, and more complicated with herbs. For the rich meal to come, I was glad to have this dose of delicious digestives.

                      Spotting several rose’ wines by the glass or pichet on the wine list added to our Provençal festivities. Then even better, we ordered a bottle of 2009 Domaine Tempier Bandol rosé.

                      To start, the steak tartare to share. The giant egg yolk surprised us. This dish will need a larger portion of the pre-seasoned beef to use up that huge yolk. Once mixed, the tartare was a bit too gooey for the excess, but that might be a personal preference. I did love the well-salted vinaigrette on the very fresh greens. The pan levain comes from its sibling, Mayfield Bakery in Palo Alto. Buttered and grilled, this heavy bread overwhelmed the delicate tartare, and I needed to taste it by itself to gauge its personality. We asked for some sliced baguette or pain d’epi but none here.

                      The steak frites features Creekstone, cornfed, prime Angus hanger steak (aka onglet). http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/24/dining/24beef.html?_r=1
                      Ordered medium rare, the steak was served with a loose bearnaise sauce, watercress salad, and a cone of frites (with aioli and catsup). Grilled exactly on point, the onglet had the characteristic chewiness even in prime grade and depth of flavor. Frites were fine but not the best of show. Again, the greens were very lively and pristine, providing a bright contrast to the plate.

                      Skate wing Grenobloise with brown butter and teensy-weensy capers was described by our server as “breaded”, but the very fine dusting that made for the thinnest of golden brown crusts. The skate wing was quite meaty and juicy, and the aroma of nutty brown butter was worth the calories. I was delighted to be eating this classic dish once more. The wax beans were crisper than the French might serve, a bit of California sensibility creeping in.

                      The Niçoise salad featured monolithic hunks of tuna confit draped with anchovy filets that I dubbed Tuna Stonehenge. Rich, velvety and meaty, I liked the confit treatment as well as the boquerones but I did miss the salty accents that tinned anchovies would bring to the plate.

                      This version of Nicoise salad is indeed a meal in itself. Top-heavy with protein, I would have liked more potato and haricot vert, and I don’t remember seeing any olives on the plate. Once more, great quality of greens and especially the delicate, fresh herbs.

                      For dessert, the carmelized plum almond cake served with a quenelle of crème chantilly. Simple, but very well executed and satisfying.

                      Our waiter said the restaurant doesn't do candles. But this "Happy Birthday" script was so much better.

                      No lapses in service to report. Each staff member who walked by our table took a look to see if we needed anything. The manager topped up our wine glasses on one pass. Our waiter treated us like we were his only customers even though the house was full. I had a lot of questions, and he covered them all, including checking with the chef as needed instead of trying to BS us. I appreciated that very much. When my friends apologized to him, he said I was only a 3 on the 10-point scale of difficult customers.

                      Café des Amis was a great choice for a birthday lunch for these three friends for the atmosphere, voluminous menu, boissons, and attentive service. The food’s not perfect but a real treat in this neighborhood and solid for lunch fare. We had a wonderful time here.

                      Cafe des Amis photos (select “slideshow” and then “show info” for captions)

                      Mayfield Bakery & Cafe
                      855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                      Cafe des Amis
                      2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        Jeff Sep 16, 2010 11:40 AM

                        Nice report. We've enjoyed a couple of meals there, especially the atmosphere and service.

                        I always thought that Ricard, Pernod, et al. were apertifs, though, not digestifs, non?

                        1. re: Jeff
                          Melanie Wong Sep 16, 2010 11:59 AM

                          Of course, you are correct that pastis is considered an aperitif. Talking with a french friend about this meal over the weekend, he mentioned that pastis is considered good for settling the tummy too. After a wicked bout of food poisoning, he was offered pastis to return to homeostasis and it worked for him. So, that's the sense of digestive that was on my mind. And this was a day that I needed it --- after this three-hour lunch at Cafe des Amis, I found myself just two hours later sitting at a table at Commonwealth.

                          What dishes have you tried so far?

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            Jeff Sep 16, 2010 02:23 PM

                            The first time, I believe I had the lardon salad and we shared the Sunday night special, chicken for two, which was nice. Plenty of leftovers. Last week, I shared the foie gras -- very mild. Had the charcuterie, which was ok. I would have preferred a bit more sauerkraut and bit less meat. My son had the profiteroles, which were better than I've had elsewhere in town, because they seemed freshly made.

                            I don't think it's groundbreaking cuisine, but I really like the atmosphere. We've had the same waiter twice, and although he seems a bit new, he's very pleasant.

                            1. re: Jeff
                              CarrieWas218 Sep 16, 2010 03:49 PM

                              Jeff - the restaurant is newly opened so ALL the waiters are on the new side... I think they are in their growing pains process and from my one lunch experience, everyone is very pleasant and trying hard to please.

                              1. re: CarrieWas218
                                Jeff Sep 16, 2010 05:25 PM

                                What I meant was, I think he's new to being a waiter, not just new to the restaurant.

                                1. re: Jeff
                                  CarrieWas218 Sep 16, 2010 05:29 PM

                                  Ah - okay. I get it.

                        2. re: Melanie Wong
                          jman1 Oct 12, 2010 03:24 PM

                          Great to have photos. In particular, I'm glad that you described and imaged the Nicoise salad. The big hunks of tuna do seem a bit strange ... and over the top. Worth a try? Nicoise is one of my favorite salads.

                          1. re: jman1
                            Melanie Wong Oct 12, 2010 07:19 PM

                            The version here is designed to show off the tuna confit. As I described, I would have liked more potato, haricot vert and olives. Depends on what floats your boat.

                        3. m
                          mikeh Oct 12, 2010 05:28 PM

                          Poor choice of names. There's a very famous Cafe des Amis in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana serving up cajun creole with zydeco music and dancing at breakfast time. This appears to be nothing like it.

                          Cafe des Amis
                          2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mikeh
                            Melanie Wong Oct 12, 2010 07:17 PM

                            There are joints named Cafe des Amis all over France, and around the world. It's quite a generic name.

                            Cafe des Amis
                            2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                              opaquelace Dec 4, 2010 12:45 PM

                              Too bad Cafe des Amis in Breaux Bridge is a Federal trademark and has since filed federal suit.


                              Apparently Bacchus Group asked for permission to use the name and didn't comply.

                              Cafe des Amis
                              2000 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

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