Revisiting Garçon [San Francisco]
We went tonight for a late-ish dinner (9:00 p.m.) on a whim, and were so much more than pleased. It had been at least 5 years since I'd been, and I'd probably been there 3 times up until that point, but had always found the food hit or miss. (I kept going back because It's literally a block from my home and I so wanted to love it.) Chef Arthur Wall, a New Orleans native, began cooking at Garçon about 2 years ago. He came out and talked to us, a very affable young man, stressing that he'd been trying to bring that New Orleans sensibility to the menu, while still cooking French standards, with a focus on seasonal and local produce. We had no reservation, and the place was full, so we sat at the bar, although we were also given the option of sitting outside on Valencia Street. It was a fairly nice evening but I really wanted the full indoor dining experience, listening to many patrons, as well as the staff, speaking French around us. Sue me, I'm a Gallophile. And I get enough "local Mission color" living here.
Just to give you a flavor of other menu items, specials on the chalkboarded pillar were miyagi oysters on the half-shell, roasted marrow bones with spiced breadcrumbs, watercress and croutons, a fantastic sounding sea urchin/sweet potato soup which i'm kicking myself for not ordering, and "Cote de Boeuf", described to us as 21-day dry-aged bone-in rib-eye offered in different sizes, strictly for 2, starting at $36 per person. With that came caramelized Brussels sprouts, pommes puree, wild mushrooms, and a red wine jus. Sweetbreads tempted on the appetizer menu, as did the merguez lamb crepinette. of the main courses, i could have gone for the scallops (we saw someone else at the bar get them - 5 giant fat ones) as well as a seared duck breast. If i'd been in a pasta mood, the fettucine with ramps and green garlic really called out to me too.
The BF isn't super-adventurous, though, so we each had a deliciously briny oyster to start (served with mignonette and lemon), and shared a salad of baby lettuces, green apple, japanese cukes, goat cheese, and hazelnuts in a lemon vinaigrette. For our mains he had the steak-frites with truffle butter and wine sauce, pommes frites and watercress, and I the petrale sole with fregola pasta (new to me, had a sort of israeli couscous texture), littleneck clams, fennel and a smoked paprika nage.
Not sure where their bread comes from, but it was good and crusty and served with sweet butter sprinkled with a little sea salt.
The salad was great, light, fresh, with the lemon vinaigrette tasting almost like it had been made with a lemon oil.
The BF's hangar steak was perfectly ruby rare with a nice outer crust, napped in a deliciously rich wine sauce that didn't overwhelm the flavor of the meat, and a very (very) subtle truffle flavor in the butter. Fries were good and crispy, served on the side in a cone, with a light garlicky aioli. I know it's "just": steak-frites: It was excellent.
My sole was served in almost bouillabaisse fashion, with the crispy yet very tender sauteed fish resting in a light broth, along with a hunk of braised fennel, kale, 3 or 4 clams, and a slight smokiness from the paprika nage. i loved the fregola, a semolina pasta. My only nitpick was that my dish needed a bit of salt - which i added, and then it was perfect. Also added some more aioli and I was in heaven. The kale gave it all a nice bitter edge.
We each had a glass of red, a Rhone de Nimes, i believe, a 2007 mix of cabernet sauvignon, carignane, and mourvedre. Yummy. Berry forward with a smoky finish. Our fabulous bartender/waiter comped us an extra pour, and THEN comped us each a glass of a delicious port, which name I didn’t get.
Although everything we had tonight had a surprisingly light feel to it, we were too full for dessert. (sorry, didn't grab the dessert menu on my way out.)
Total for the night, before tip, was $100. Lovely time, will go back again, if even to sit at the bar and have a glass of champagne, viognier or a bone-dry rosé, the duck liver pate, or the lovely looking squid ink risotto someone next to us had.
I know I've gone on and on about a place a lot of CHers may have written off, but I really think it's worth a second shot.
Had dinner here again Sat. night. another winner meal. we split an appetizer of roasted cauliflower with trumpet mushrooms, some type of greens, pancetta, parmiagiano, and a poached/deep fried egg, which oozed wonderfully over everything after you got through the crunch exterior - all with a truffle aioli. just fantastic.
maybe even better tasting was the lamb crepinette - another appetizer, served with beans and breadcrumbs. the chef grinds the lamb in-house. deep rich flavor in the sauce - totally sop-worthy with their Breads of Paris baguette.
for my main, i had yet another appetizer, of the veal sweetbreads, with grilled mushrooms, pomme puree, capers, and lemon-brown butter. perfectly cooked, meltingly tender. i don't know if i can go back there and not get this dish.
others at the table had a molasses-brined pork tenderloin, steak-frites, and the duck leg and confit with kale. all were muchly loved.