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Guest Aaron T

Frances [SF]

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Guest Aaron T

Frances is the new restaurant owned by chef Melissa Perillo, who formerly was the chef at The Fifth Floor and Charles Nob Hill. She is also the girlfriend of Danny Dunham, one of the two owner/chefs at Sebo, my fave SF sushi spot, located in Hayes Valley.

 

Three of us went for dinner on Sunday a week ago. We shared to begin:

 

Frites - Mariquita Garnet Yams, Meyer Lemon and Sauce Piquant

Beet Salad - Star Route Mizuna, Tangerine, Fennel and Ricotta

Semolina Gnocchi - Duck Confit and Braised Cavolo Nero

 

Mains:

I had Slow Roasted Beef - creamed Winter Greens and Potato Puree

My two dining companions each had Soul Food Farms Pasture Raised Chicken - Roasted Fennel, Nectarine Agrodolce.

 

The 3 apps were excellent. The best was the gnocchi. So light and the duck confit was small bits and was amazing. I dipped my bread in the sauce as it was so good.

The yam frites were wedges and I liked them a lot more than I thought. I dont usually care for yams but these were good. The beet salad could be boring (everyone has beet salad on the menu at this time of year) but the combination of ingredients was fresh and delicious.

 

The beef was juicy and delicious. The chicken was served in a ballotine which had been sliced, and incorporated both light and dark meat. The fennel was not too strong.

 

I am blanking on the desserts but they were pleasant.

 

Overall this was one of my fave dining experiences in SF. The entrees hover around $22-23. The tables are closely packed together, but that was fine. I would only go with a reservation as the place is packed and the bar dining experience looks cramped and uncomfortable. Not a viable option. Service was good and the host (who is also the sommelier) was great.

We had to wait 15 minutes for our table but that was fine. The restaurant was buzzing as it had only been open for 2 weeks.

 

We BYO'd a bottle of Turley Juvenile.

 

Location is 3870 17th St between Noe and Sanchez, in the Castro. Website at here They are on Open Table.

 

Highly recommended. (to state the obvious this is not meant to be fine dining)

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Thanks for the report, Aaron!

 

The place must be brand spanking new, as I just noticed it when I was out walking the dog the other day. It's a block away from my house. That location has had a lot of turnover; it's kind of a weird, cramped spot. Looks pleasant enough, though, in its current configuration. I don't think I'd even mind eating at the bar there -- couldn't be worse than the bar at SPQR, which is also fine by me. (So maybe we just have different criteria for bar dining.)

 

So anyway I was out with the dog and stopped by to peer in, and a very friendly guy who was sitting there alone in the empty place (from what you said about the crowd, I'm assuming they're only open for dinner -- at least for now) working on his laptop came out to greet me when he noticed my interest. He handed me a menu, which I thought looked quite impressive.

 

I wasn't aware of this place, or of the Perello connection, but I'm not surprised she's involved. Place looks solid; menu looks good and reasonably priced -- tops on my list when I next have the discretionary funds. Thanks again.

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To fill out Aaron's spotty memory about the desserts, and add to Tana's menu link, here's the reverse side (the 'night cap' choices are obviously of the quality one would expect, too -- I like the note at the bottom about the philosophy):

 

4206990141_e9b6283c55_o.jpg

 

(The filthy tile floor is my own addition.)

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Guest Aaron T

We had both the Valrhona chocolate tart and the Lumberjack cake, both with Humphrey Slocombe ice cream. I preferred the Lumberjack but enjoyed both. Thanks for posting the dessert menu Squeat.

 

I believe the house wine is also sold by the ounce. If you order it I think they bring a carafe with measurements (like a measuring cup) and charge you for the amount you drink.

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Quick note that I stopped in last evening for just their two Fried Dough options; the bacon beignets and garbanzo fritters. Definitely need to head back for the rest of the menu.

 

I'll have pictures on the blog later, but the fritters were incredibly rich and fully creamy on the inside; almost like a cornmeal-dredged hunk of fried cheese that never started to solidify or get gooey the way cheese would.

 

The bacon beignets were a true revelation; tender and rich without being cloying or overpowering with bacon flavor, small bits were detectable in the dough. Served with a chive-studded maple cream, even after the beignets were gone, it was hard to not keep licking the sauce.

 

More anon.

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Guest Aaron T

How did you get in? They are perpetually booked....

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How did you get in? They are perpetually booked....

 

Actually, the fact that I like to eat early weighed in my favor. They keep the bar seats open and if you get there just before they open, it is possible to snag one of those. Probably easier considering it was a Tuesday as when Lisa and I were leaving, about 6:00, there were still many open seats at the bar.

 

I wouldn't try it on a Friday or Saturday.

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The full write up:

 

One of the top destination restaurants in the city for the last six months has been Melissa Perillo's Frances. I had the distinct pleasure to dine at the Fifth Floor under Perillo's command and was looking forward to experiencing her new endeavor. The reservations at Frances are booked up weeks in advance and it is only the fact that a handful of bar seats are left open for first-come diners that enabled me to plan my birthday celebration. Lisa and I arrived a few minutes before they opened and a line had already been established for a few of those choice non-reservation seats. We were lucky, getting a great seat at the bar with an optimal view down the hallway and into the kitchen where we could watch the action of waitstaff, Chef Perillo, and her kitchen crew. Ironically, June 1st was also Fraces' sixth month anniversary so I felt that much more special celebrating along with them.

 

Bobby was our server behind the bar and when I explained that we were not eating an entire meal service but had only come in as part of my Fried Dough Ho obsession, he smiled with a twinkle in his eye and whisked away the menus, "I know exactly what you are having then," he chuckled. While we waited, we savored a small, round shot glass full of their daily Market Shot - a concoction of fresh fruit juices and a touch of alcohol. Pixie mandarin, meyer lemon, blood orange, pommeau, and P.X. Regrettably, I am unsure what P.X. is, but I am assuming a brandy of some sort. Also while we were waiting, we were served a small bowl of sage-scented roasted almonds; hard to not eat a lot of but I knew we had a long, dining night ahead of us.

 

Before I knew it, we were presented with two offerings, the rather infamous Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets served with maple crème fraîche studded with chives and Panisse Frites, crispy chickpea fritters served with Meyer lemon aïoli. It was hard to choose which one to bite into first, but since it was the beignets that brought us here, I succumbed to the golden globes of goodness. These were tender, light and with tiny bits of bacon speckled throughout. So often a beignet can have a chewy, hard exterior but here, it was silky and rich. The accompanying maple crème fraîche was especially decadent, worthy of licking off one's fingers (as Lisa will attest).

 

The chickpea fritters were a revelation. I know what beignets are supposed to taste like. And I know what the classic hush puppy-like fritter tastes like. Making a fritter from chickpeas, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery. Is it a matter of frying a hummus-like concoction? What is used to bind the chickpeas into the perfectly square logs? Dusted in a bit of cornmeal, the exterior was crunchy and firm but the interior was the surprise -- absolutely creamy and smooth, almost molten; the way I have tasted fried goat cheese in the past. Several minutes into savoring, that almost liquid-like interior never dissipated or hardened, the way a molten cheese would. The Meyer lemon aïoli is a natural complement to the rich flavors of the garbanzo, providing a bright counterbalance to the redolent fritter.

 

Lastly, a note on service. Everybody -- and I mean everybody -- was smiling. Big, bountiful, we-are-really-happy-to-be-here smiles. It was infectious. There is so much to be said for a restaurant when the general goodwill pervades the atmosphere. I was feeling a tad guilty about coming in for only a few courses, but Bobby was not only amenable, but helpful and understanding. Watching us enjoy the fried goodness, he knew we would be back for more and it is my hope to go back sooner. If the fried dough offerings were this exceptional, the rest of the menu will undoubtedly knock my socks off.

 

Pics on Fried Dough Ho

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Before I knew it, we were presented with two offerings, the rather infamous Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets served with maple crème fraîche studded with chives and Panisse Frites, crispy chickpea fritters served with Meyer lemon aïoli. It was hard to choose which one to bite into first, but since it was the beignets that brought us here, I succumbed to the golden globes of goodness. These were tender, light and with tiny bits of bacon speckled throughout. So often a beignet can have a chewy, hard exterior but here, it was silky and rich. The accompanying maple crème fraîche was especially decadent, worthy of licking off one's fingers (as Lisa will attest).

 

The chickpea fritters were a revelation. I know what beignets are supposed to taste like. And I know what the classic hush puppy-like fritter tastes like. Making a fritter from chickpeas, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery. Is it a matter of frying a hummus-like concoction? What is used to bind the chickpeas into the perfectly square logs? Dusted in a bit of cornmeal, the exterior was crunchy and firm but the interior was the surprise -- absolutely creamy and smooth, almost molten; the way I have tasted fried goat cheese in the past. Several minutes into savoring, that almost liquid-like interior never dissipated or hardened, the way a molten cheese would. The Meyer lemon aïoli is a natural complement to the rich flavors of the garbanzo, providing a bright counterbalance to the redolent fritter.

 

When you first wrote "chickpea fritters", I imagined they would be like bhaji or pakora, but those are completely different! They look like fried polenta. I did some research, and it may be based on panelle. I'm going to try making them!

 

Were the Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets infamous because they're calorie-laden and cholesterol-raising, or because they're so good they're bad? :)

 

I think Frances needs to go on my SF list.

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The bacon beignets are infamous because they are so good they are bad, yes... :cool:

 

Seriously, I have only been blogging about fried dough for a few short months and these are some of the best I've had. I haven't yet written up what Stephanie and I ate for breakfast last Monday, but it was a travesty compared to these.

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Grant, there were a few women there who had been standing in line since 4:30. Lisa and I got there about 4:50.

 

I would HEARTILY recommend going on a Tuesday or (possibly?) Wednesday.

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Half hour early isn't that bad. Not my choice on when to go, but then I'm not paying either so no complaints. ;)

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