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Aug 31, 2010 08:55 AM

Bar Agricole

Finally opened two weeks ago.

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  1. We were in SF looking for someplace to get a snack at 10:30 last night and I thought of Bar Agricole, phoned, kitchen is open until 1am daily.

    Chef is Brandon Jew, I'd forgotten about the great food at Magnolia Pub the short time he was there. Grilled squid with rapini, fresh shelling beans, and breadcrumbs was some of the best squid I've had in years and one of the best things I've eaten in the past year. Mussels with pork and peppers were really good. Serious French-style cheese plate, excellent Hervé Mons Camembert, some great, earthy French washed-rind, and an aged cheese from Andante I had not had before, no irrelevant jam or honey or trail mix or such American nonsense cluttering up the plate. Excellent bread from Morell's.

    Very eclectic and interesting selection of wines by the glass.

    Great new addition, especially for late-night. They said they're going to open for lunch and breakfast, and are considering making their own bagels.

    Bar Agricole
    355 11th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

    4 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I went to the soft opening and was so impressed I brought the out of town visitors the next week. The cocktails are amazing (no surprise there) We loved the stuffed quail, the corn pudding and the roast chicken. I also had to have all of the desserts and those were excellent as well.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Thanks. Sounds yummy and the hours are great!

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          pane and I had a very different cheese plate experience - ours consisted of two slices of Fontina, a chunk of Parmesan, and two slices of Comte, with some bread and a bit of quince paste. For $15. The cheese wasn't even particularly high quality - it was maybe Trader Joe quality. Purchased for the making of mac and cheese quality, not sold as dessert at a huge markup quality. I think it's safe to say it's the first time in my life I've ever been offended by a cheese course, but I couldn't quite figure out the ethics of sending back a cheese course for having nonspoiled but pedestrian cheese, so we kept it.

          The rest of the meal was ok - the descriptions are all very simple (we had black cod croquettes, mushrooms with polenta, quail, and duck) but we were hoping that the dishes would be elevated in execution. For me, only the mushrooms and polenta achieved this - the mushrooms came out as feather-light tempura, which I hadn't expected. The rest of the dishes could have come from the kitchen of a competent home cook. It was better food than expected for a bar, sure, but not as good as I'd expected given the many raves here and elsewhere.

          The space is beautiful, and the cocktails were good.

          1. re: daveena

            Hear hear. I loved my cocktails (I had the Quarantine and a whiskey sour with maple), but neither the preparation nor the plating of the food seemed special. If I returned, it would be to meet a friend at the bar and share a small plate, but I would not return for dinner again.

        2. We started with the Sardine roll mop, which was lightly pickled, served with similarly pickled veg and creme fraiche. This was very nice, probably second to my favorite at Gitane.

          The Liver on Toast was excellent as well, very creamy and balanced, better than Beretta's version. It's served with watercress, which added a nice freshness.

          The Braised Squid had an excellent tomato sauce and tasty pork, but the squid flavor was lost. The toasted bread was really good with this dish though.

          The Fresh Spaghetti with Bottarga was properly al dente (almost too much), but the bottarga was also lost in the dish, the cherry tomatoes were the forefront.

          The Porchetta was my favorite. The thick skin was really crunchy and the meat was super moist with tasty herbs.

          I liked how the wine list is organized by international estates. The Sangiovese we had was really nice. The two Agricole Rum drinks we tried were only okay though, but I'm not the biggest rum fan.

          Gitane Restaurant & Bar
          6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA 94108

          1. Thanks for putting this on my radar. Took some friends here for a birthday party last night, and had a delicious meal with great cocktails and enjoyed the layout of the wine list quite a bit.

            The clear highlight for me of the menu was the puntarelle salad with bagna cauda. In Rome, the puntarelle would have been shaved thinner and longer, there would have been some lemon juice, but those differences don't matter--this dish captured the spirit of the Roman original perfectly, with beautifully balanced flavors. I'll be back to eat this again, and soon.

            Friti of squash slices with stracciatella and bitter escarole slivers was delicious, a nice play of textures, richness, and mildly astringent bitterness to balance it all out.

            My sand dabs were cooked expertly, perfectly seasoned with a nice spinach and caper accompaniment. The ivory king salmon disappeared before anyone could hear how it was, the rabbit sausage looked great, and the half chicken with nicely browned skin was visibly succulent from the far end of the table, and was served with the foot on the plate too. I have to say--serving a chicken foot in a western restaurant is pretty ballsy, and the birthday boy had fun waving it around. For ease of eating, the leg was cut where a normal chicken leg is cut, so the foot could be ignored

            My only nits with the experience were the service and how the wine was discussed. There are several dining rooms, and our server was assigned to two of them. The result was that there were times when we wondered where she was, why things were taking so long, and when we might see her again. We weren't in a hurry and were enjoying good company, but others might not enjoy that dynamic. The wine list includes a lot of Natural wine producers whose names crop up a lot at local places like Terroir Bar, and there were many I wanted to try. Unfortunately, our server steered us toward one that, while interesting and an OK match for the food, was mildly effervescent and somewhat cloudy. I would have appreciated a warning, since some of the guests I was ordering wine for probably thought it was spoiled. My muscatel by the glass, ironically, was delicious, easily approachable, a perfect match to my dabs, and wouldn't have challenged any but those still drinking cheap box wine.

            1. On Friday I joined some friends at Bar Agricole, a first visit for most of us. We arrived before the 6pm opening and learned that due to the chilly weather, the patio was closed and all tables inside were fully reserved. However, the hostess who was only in her second week on the job managed to find a space for us, sharing the communal table downstairs.

              We were here to start the weekend with some cocktails and snacks. Having read some of the reservations about the cooking here, we ordered lightly, expecting to move on elsewhere for dinner. We started with

              Ciccioli – Heavily salted, I would have liked some pieces of skin in there too. More like a terrine.

              Lamb and ancho chile pate with herb salad – Especially liked the herb salad with mustard flowers, parsley and fresh tarragon. Served too cold and not that lamb-y in flavor, but enjoyable enough.

              With new arrivals at our table, we decided to order more

              Radishes and butter – Pretty presentation with ribbons of sweet butter.

              Chopped liver on toast, salad greens – Really, really good. Rich, not muddy or bitter tasting, loose and almost runny liver spread on crunchy toast. Four pristine leaves of red romaine-type, lightly dressed, were a stand-out.

              Then we moved on to primis

              Carciofi alla Giudea, polenta, egg – Can’t recall what else was on the plate. The huge artichoke heart with peeled long stem was only golden brown and didn’t get crispy. Still enjoyed this plate, especially the very flavorful, rough-cut polenta topped with the runny yolked egg.

              Spaghetti, mackerel, preserved lemon, puntarelle – Not crazy about this one. Not as fishy tasting as I feared, but the spaghetti was drenched in oil and too greasy.

              Ricotta gnudi with beets, beet greens and English pea – My favorite bite of the night, pillowy soft ricotta discs accented with fresh springtime peas and a hint of bitter earthiness from the beet duo.

              At this point we declared ourselves full, and decided we’d just had our dinner.

              My two cocktails didn’t quite suit me. Whiz-Bang (scotch whisky, vermouth, grenadine absinthe, bitters) was too dry for me but rocked for those in our group who prefer less sweet drinks. Mary Pickford (white rum, pineapple gum, lime, grenadine, maraska) was pretty-in-pink and continued my run of Croatian themed eats and drinks. But basically it’s grown up fruit juice and just didn’t have enough complexity for me. Snagging a sip of my friends’ drinks, I was really taken by the Long Rhum Buck, fragrant with ginger and lime, and another cocktail that was a lovely wine color from chinato bitters. Oh, and the Pisco Sour was lovely served in a proper flute.

              The service staff rolled with the ebb and flow of our group, squeezing two more chairs at the end of the table when needed, swapping out plates and glassware as one bid adieu and a new arrival was ready to order. On the way out, the man who might be the manager said he thought it was fun that our friends dropped in and out over the evening. I had a chance to commend him on how the staff managed to keep up with the changes on such a busy night. When I asked when they’d be serving on the patio in the evening again and learned that it will be sporadic depending on the weather until they figure out how to heat it. Next time we have one of those handful of warm evenings in San Francisco, Bar Agricole is where I’ll be for a drink on the patio.

              Bar Agricole
              355 11th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

              3 Replies
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                You forgot the bread -- several slices of chewy, nutty goodness served with butter and a little dish of sea salt (that I used on the lamb pate, which I thought was undersalted, not to mention if there was ancho chile, it was so subtle as to be unnoticeable).

                The bartenders there are very passionate about what they're doing. I asked what "agricole" was, since there was a cocktail featuring "white agricole" on the list, and got an enthusiastic discourse on agricole (a rum made from juice from the first-pressing of sugar cane in the French West Indies) that the patrons sitting around me at the bar laughingly described as a complete wikipedia article, plus a taste to try. The pisco sour was by far the best I've had in the US (after drinking them in Chile, where they will claim that pisco originated in Chile, not Peru), with a thick, creamy head supported by the flute-shaped glass. The Long Rhum Buck was also mine (I guess Melanie liked my choices better than hers) -- bright and fresh with ginger and lime and not too sweet (served with one of those hollow stemmed spoons so I could drink it from the bottom, which was fun).

                I guess I'm going to come down somewhere in the middle on the food. Some of it was good, some of it was disappointing (the lamb pate in particular, not so much that it was bad, only that it wasn't as interested as the menu description sounded). I wouldn't run back there for the food, but I would definitely stop in for cocktails, especially when the patio is open.

                Note: it's hard to find -- almost invisible from the street, with a narrow, discreetly signed entrance in a high wall that opens up into the courtyard beyond. I had the address and was on foot and I almost walked past it; two members of our party reported that they did go past it.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I'm sorry that I didn't taste the bread (other than the toasts), reminded by RL's post above that it's baked by Morell's Bread. I think that I'd order all the salads next time, as all the veggies accompanying our plates were so good.

                  Morell's Bread
                  944 Fort Barry, Sausalito, CA 94965

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I think they may be making at least some of their bread in house now.

              2. Meh - went on a Friday night, had a reservation, had to wait 45 minutes (!) to be seated, host/hostess/bartender/waiter were neither very apologetic nor friendly. While waiting, there was no place to stand, it was impossible to get drinks, and we were fairly uncomfortable and annoyed. Once seated, food was very good (a bit too salty) and we were brought 2 apps by someone who was very apologetic and almost made up for the rest of it. But when this was followed by an unfriendly and inattentive waitstaff experience, I left feeling as if this place is far too popular for its own good. If the food is as important to them as they suggest it is, then they need to make sure it gets the attention it deserves and that can only happen if the service is better and the environment is more comfortable. I'm assuming the staff are actually good and the solution is NOT to replace them, but they clearly seem to be overwhelmed. Someone higher-up needs to notice this and do something about it. Yeah, sure, I could go on a Tuesday at 5 and everything might be fantastic but if you want to be this busy then figure out how to be this busy without annoying your customers.

                Bar Agricole
                355 11th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

                2 Replies
                1. re: roikoe

                  Last Friday? We dropped in for a quick snack and drink before a show. They offered space at a communal table downstairs, with the caveat that we had to be cleared out by 8:15 for a group's reservation--fine by us since our show was at 8. They were clear, we were clear. We quickly ordered 2 appetizers, and were ready with drink orders shortly after when our waiter returned.

                  All was tasty, they accommodated our cramped schedule and in exchange they got some quick business and made a good impression on us. Too bad your experience was different.

                  1. re: roikoe

                    This is completely different from my last two experiences. Admittedly, I am a fan. However, I brought a new person the last time and they were completely blown away by the food, I'd tell you what we had but I can't remember everything. We didn't find anything too salty and service was great. But, I will say that we were there on a Sunday and it was not that busy. Also, was the waitstaff inattentive? Or just busy? Sounds like they might have had their hands full and tried to make it up to with the apps. That would have worked for me.