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Duck confit gets a modernist spin in this salad with beets cooked three ways at the new Bouche in Union Square.

Union Square's new charmer

Bouche is as urbane and understated as its neighborhood is not.

Union Square
This winning newcomer located in the tiny building that used to house Bar Crudo is everything that nearby Union Square isn’t: charming, urbane, understated, and filled with Europeans who know their way around. Working in a kitchen sized for a dollhouse, Nicolas Borzee, an Alsace native and Coi alumnus, bequeaths us a breezy menu that drifts easily between here and France. Chestnut soup, enriched with bacon and flecked with parsnip chips and sage, is a robust Gallic character dressed for foggy weather, while pork loin, smartly salted with olive marmalade, and wine-braised beef cheeks are the kind of hearty travelers that seem at home no matter where they’re served. The staff, mostly French, with carefree attitudes to prove it, make for fitting props in a space that looks as European as anything since Hugo. Climbing to the second floor—snugly furnished, candlelit, and lovely—you feel the urge to duck, so low-slung are the wood-beamed ceilings. But it’s more quaint than claustrophobic. You want oppressive? Try Union Square. 603 Bush St. (at Stockton St.), S.F., 415-956-0396 $$ D **½