Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Gem of a Bistro in the City by the Bay

Let me introduce myself this evening as a gastronome (it's nice to pretend) I'm not trying to be snooty but it's true that I love good food with good wine and it's not often that I voice my accolades publicly. Tonight, I cannot keep quiet about a very pleasurable experience at a "neighborhood gem" in the city of San Francisco, where although there are many wonderful places to sample, this restaurant is a must visit whether you are visiting or fortunate to live in the vicinity of SF.

I won't pretend to be a food critique writing about each entree, service or nuance of flavor.. ahh heck, why not?
Three of us dined there yesterday. Place, location chosen not because of recommendation but because of convenience, and because of the online description and menu. We made early reservations for my sake mainly and arrived at 6pm finding that it was empty. We were welcomed with warmth by manager Sang Ae Leblon, seated across from the bar underneath the blackboard for which this restaurant is named. We felt immediately cozy despite the fact that the place was empty except for us. Perusing the menu and the specials for the evening upon the blackboard, we dined!

There are many tempting dishes to try on the menu couple with the blackboard specials it was not an easy choice when one wants to try everything. We chose 2 entrees off the menu while the third, sweetbreads was a special blackboard special and we were not disappointed in anything we had.

Deciding on the escargot in parsley sauce to start our epicurean journey, they were served not in the shell but rather pocketed in potato halves. This is not your usual drowning in butter escargot! Tender and mild flavored delicious.

There are many tempting dishes to try on the menu and coupled with the blackboard specials it was not an easy choice when one wants to try everything. We chose 2 entrees from the menu while the third, the sweetbreads, was a blackboard special. We were not disappointed. Our entrees were served piping hot and perfectly timed to our first course finish. Nothing hurried or wanting here.

The sweetbreads pure flavors came through accompanied by morel and porcine mushrooms with a puff pastry to dream on! see pic

Perfectly seared salmon with skin that was crunchy while body of the fish was moist cooked to perfection set on a sauce of lobster bisque surrounded by peas, pea pods and fava beans adorned with paprika pepper perfect for a spring fare ala Provence.

The duck confit was moist, tender falling off bone with crispy duck skin, set in harmony with a cool crisp utterly fresh butter lettuce salad and pomme landaise (potatoes crisps fried in duck fat) If you never had the pleasure of potatoes fried this way, permit yourself the duck/goose fat indulgence on this occasion. You'll understand why the French won't give it up and forgo McDonald's fries forever.

The wine list is brief and impressive for its diversity. Anyplace that offers Gosset Brut Excellence by the glass is a winner in my book. This evening however, we ordered a bottle of Pierre Sparr 2007 Reserve Alsace Pinot Blanc for our first course. Served overly chilled, as most restaurants seem to do with whites, we did give it time to warm so it could reveal its flavors of white pepper apple/grapefruit with a medium body and fine finish. A lovely Alsatian wine that won't break the budget. For our main course we chose the 2005 Domaine du Gros Nore Bandol for two reasons, thought the characters of a Bandol would be perfect for our entrees and second, we've never had this producer before and we like adventure. We were very pleased with the deep blackberry and dark fruit bouquet and flavors along with some spices with rich velvety finish.

Our service was well attended with our glasses never lacking water or wine, nor our table attention as needed. A friendly staff gave charm and warmth to the evening and while we started our evening alone, we were not that way for long. Customers continued streaming in until we were glad to notice that all tables were occupied with happy diners.

I'm glad that this restaurant has success and as I noted to the manager if I were to live in the neighborhood I'd be there cozy up at the bar for friendly conversation, nosh and a glass once a week. She was so happy to hear that, she treated us to a glass of port. Now isn't that what a friendly neighborhood restaurant is all about??

Chef-owner Thierry Clement, whose name I did not inquire about until later, founded another success here (as if I need to tell him). He is formerly of another early discovered favorite restaurant of mine and the city's: Fringales.

So many of you who read my musings, live in the vicinity of San Francisco and many of you who don't live here, have occasion to visit San Francisco sometimes during the year at least once. I encourage you to try this gem on your next visit and when you do, be sure to mention you read about it here on this blog!

L'ardoise Bistro
151 Noe Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
Thierry Clement is on Facebook, wonder if he's on Twitter?

Happy Trading, Dining, Wining and Living!

PS. Author has no affiliation or acquaintance with the owners or staff of this restaurant. Just a happy customer!