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Jardiniere, huh?

Hello hounds,

I've been lurking around the board for years and decided to take the plunge today & post.

Here's the situation: my fiance and I are planning a wedding reception and so have been trying out restaurants that would be appropriate for a 40-head lunchtime event. This has given us the opportunity to eat at places that are otherwise off our radar -- such as Jardiniere, which has received many positive reviews and is beloved by the symphony/opera/ballet crowd, but just hasn't ever been at the top of our list when we make plans to go out to eat.

Anyhoo. I woke up this morning thinking loudly "I can't believe we spent $250 on that meal!" The service was adequate. The portions were generous. The plating and decor are totally 90s. But the food was "nice" but so un-special, reminded me very much of an average catered wedding dinner, or average hotel food. (We had the charcuterie plate, escarole salad with slow-cooked egg, duck breast entree & lamb entree. Entrees were $36 & $38, respectively)

We like the location of Jardiniere for the wedding reception, and we like that we'd have the space to ourselves for lunch. I am just not sure that what we had at our meal was typical, or if it was an off-night.

I recall a recent post (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7496...) remarking that there has been some "chef-shuffling" at Jardiniere, but have not been able lo locate evidence of that on the boards or elsewhere. Would someone be able to point me towards those reports, or supply a report of their own?

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  1. The chef is still as always the eponymous Traci des Jardins. The executive chef changed a year and a half ago.

    http://sanfrancisco.grubstreet.com/20...

    7 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Yes, that's right. I realize that the executive chef changed more than a year ago -- I was wondering if something had changed in the last 6 months. Guess not. Perhaps it was just a busy Friday night?

      1. re: insectazoids

        I don't know. I've never heard anything about the place that made me want to eat there.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          The gnocchi can be stellar. It's been awhile since I've been there.

          1. re: steve h.

            i feel like there are so many places that do stellar gnocchi these days though.

            and yeah, $30+ and $40+ entrees just don't interest me anymore

            1. re: vulber

              Yes, the prices are a real turn-off -- they seem like superlative tourist prices. We're still auditioning restaurants and may find something else that's a better match with what we want & need.

              1. re: vulber

                I would love some recommendations for stellar gnocchi Also are we talking about potato, semolina or ricotta gnocchi? Or all or some of the above?

        2. re: Robert Lauriston

          These days there are all kinds of "chefs" associated with a restaurant: a "chef," an "executive chef," a "chef de cuisine," etc. It's hard to know which term applies to which of several functions and which one is personally responsible for the food on your plate.

        3. I have liked Jardinere in the past, but also haven't been there for, gosh, maybe 8 years. The last meal I clearly remember there I loved the duck, but I now see the meal with a realization that it was late-90's san francisco food, which was pretty good, but not stellar. My standards have shifted a bit, and I don't go there just like I haven't been out to Boulevard in about 8 years either. There's just too many more exciting restaurants to go to.

          For a while, I liked stopping in downstairs and get one of their port flights and a desert after eating somewhere else, but the deserts seemed, as you say, just less and less special. My favorite dessert right now is at Martin's West in RWC. They always have an interesting ice cream (like guiness ice cream), with a little wedge of butter/grahm cracker substance, and some kind of desert along with that.

          1. Jardiniere is a "huh?" restaurant for me too. My experience was somewhat better than yours (I think it was 2 years ago) - if that were an average catered wedding dinner, I'd consider myself very lucky. It was probably on par with the best catered wedding dinner I've ever had (by a very expensive caterer who apparently does a lot of celebrity weddings). Well executed, big portions of safe food that's much more expensive than I'd consider reasonable for the style. I wouldn't go back for dinner, but I'd be psyched to go to a wedding reception there.

            1 Reply
            1. re: daveena

              Thanks, this is helpful feedback. We've considered a number of other restaurants who do private dining and whose food is both far lovelier and less expensive, but the private dining spaces won't work (too small, no windows, poor sound control, etc.). I agree that Jardiniere is safe food, and from the perspective of hosting a wedding reception, which will include conservative family tastes, safe may not be a bad option.

            2. I went to jardiniere about 8 or 9 months ago (for the first time in years) in a group of 4. I had the special pre-theater dinner of I think three courses and with the wine tasting I believe it was about $40. It was really good. While the portions were not huge I was more than satisfied. I don't remember what I ate (meant to post about it but didn't) but I do remember the dinner was delicious and a very good value. I can understand, however, that paying 3x the amount would have left me deeply unhappy.

              1 Reply
              1. re: annabana

                Three courses with wine is their Monday night special at $45. Menus rotate, as I believe do the chefs.

                And yes, it's a completely different price point than $38 entrees. For $100+ per person, I expect everything to be exceptional.

              2. I do not believe Jardiniere is anywhere near its similarly priced competition in SF.

                3 Replies
                1. re: whiner

                  what competion is there besides boulevard?

                  1. re: vulber

                    Ame's and La Folie's prices are similar.

                    1. re: vulber

                      I was thinking about Ame and Boulevard when I wrote that.

                  2. Jardiniere was amazing when they first opened. I went with a friends and we each got a tasting menu, and they brought different dishes for each of us over multiple courses.
                    I went back maybe 3 times over the next 2 years but it steadily declined and I have not been since.

                    It's too bad because when they were great they were really great...
                    I would love for them to re-blossom. La folie did that -- to me they had a multi-year dip and came back stronger than ever a few years ago.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: pauliface

                      The interesting thing is in those 10 years, La Folie's prices (which were high) stayed the same (so are no longer that high). Whereas Jardiniere's have continued to climb.

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                      La Folie
                      2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                      1. re: Windy

                        These are both useful comments -- La Folie offers private dining, and it is one of the places we'll be "auditioning" for the reception.

                        -----
                        La Folie
                        2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                        1. re: insectazoids

                          La Folie is exceptional. Traditional, but exceptional.

                          -----
                          La Folie
                          2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                          1. re: Windy

                            Food is exceptional. You won't leave hungry.

                          2. re: insectazoids

                            Oh my, if you can get La Folie for this event, if it is an option you are considering, I would absolutely urge you to do so. This is my top recommendation for classic fine dining in SF.

                            As Windy says, Traditional, but exceptional.
                            And as Steve H. says, you won't leave hungry.

                            But! I would be sure to go check out the room if they offer private dining. I've only eaten in the main room, which is lovely, but I do recall a review on Chowhound by someone who was put in a different separate room, and was not happy with it. This reportedly lesser room may be the private room. So -- unless you are planning to book the whole restaurant -- I'd get clear with them on where you'll be, and make sure to check it out in person.

                            1. re: pauliface

                              BTW Has anyone who enjoys La Folie had a positive experience at the lounge next door?

                              I've been meaning to try it, but breathy descriptions by bar hopping, truffle eating yelpers have kept me away.

                              -----
                              La Folie
                              2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                              1. re: Windy

                                i only learned recently that the entire restaurant menus is available a la carte at the lounge. i've always thought it could be a fun place to pop in for a dessert or something.

                              2. re: pauliface

                                We will take a look, and report back. We haven't asked if they'd be open to hosting a lunchtime event; if they are, they may be willing to let us use the space as a whole instead of relegating us to the private room -- which, based on their website's photo alone, looks like it may be too small.

                                One thing I have learned from this process is that certain restaurants that are open dinner only are occasionally willing to host large private parties at lunch. The range of good options suddenly increases.

                                1. re: pauliface

                                  Update: I posted a separate article about my great birthday dinner at La Folie. Just wanted to mention here, in context, that the private dining room turned out to be totally great!
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/790167

                                  -----
                                  La Folie
                                  2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109

                          3. As we know, a resto that gets great acclaim, often loses its "brilliance" -- obscured by the shadow of its fame. Along with Boulevard, add to the list Hayes Street Bar & Grill, and many, many other "go to" spots that I once loved but then came to avoid.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: escargot3

                              What's your beef with Hayes Street Grill? I went recently, and my rex sole, cracked crab, and fries were all pretty much ideal. Nothing fancy, overwrought, or gimmicky--just well-prepared fresh seafood. Avoid it before the symphony and opera.

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                              Hayes Street Grill
                              324 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                              1. re: SteveG

                                Perhaps I should give it another try.
                                It's been at least 5 years. it was rather dull.

                                1. re: escargot3

                                  It is rather dull. It's a staid restaurant serving classic seafood. But it's good.

                                  1. re: SteveG

                                    Yes, it's exactly as it was 25 years ago when I first ate there, except the prices are higher. At the time, only blackboard specials fish was pretty cutting edge.

                                    I still remember how friendly the service was for a young single diner; I had never eaten in a restaurant that nice with a parent or older relative.

                            2. I've eaten at Jardiniere once, at the bar, but it didn't inspire me to return even with a Groupon discount.

                              I had a porcini salad that featured fresh porcinis, shaved. While the porcinis were pristine, the menu didn't mention how they would be prepared and I was hoping for a crispy outside/custardy interior rather than the raw treatment, which I don't think brings out the delicious rich flavor of porcinis.

                              I do go once in a while for an after-dinner drink or a drink after the symphony, but my dining dollar goes way further elsewhere.

                              1. I ate at Jardiniere for my anniversary a bit less than two years ago, and had the same reaction the next day as you did, though I went in fully aware of what it would cost . We did have a lovely table. Otherwise, meh (and I think we had two of the same dishes you did; apparently the menu doesn't change much). Our service was barely adequate, btw. However, I do agree with daveena that I'd have been a lot happier if that were a wedding reception meal, than given that I was paying $250 or so to celebrate a special dinner ...