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Where To Eat Now: France, Now and Forever

The bistro still abides.


Read more of our ultimate Where To Eat Now guide here.

Gaspar Brasserie (185 Sutter St.) is bringing Gallic back— in this case, to the financial district. At Franck LeClerc’s handsome watering hole, which comes swathed in tufted leather and limned with brass, both ambience and menu are straight-up, stone-cold French—though the friendly, even eager service, it should be noted, is steadfastly San Franciscan. In a town where permutations of rustic Californian are the norm, this is no small thing.

Serving a plate of raw radishes with a knob of funky anchovy butter, as LeClerc does here, seems almost revolutionary, and that’s the thing about Gaspar’s menu: Whether it’s a grilled bavette steak done medium-rare and teamed, businessman-style, with potatoes and marrow butter, or a buttery pan-roasted striped bass adorned with crisp haricots verts, hazelnut pistou, and a vin jaune sauce, the food is true to itself. The Prince Edward Island mussels, steamed in white wine, and the frog legs, served with garlic and parmesan fl an, have nothing to declare other than their Frenchness—and, thanks to the kind of careful preparation that transcends trends, their steadfast goodness.

Les Clos (234 Townsend St.) may be near the ballpark—pure Americana—but date night at this Francophilic wine bar co-owned by Saison sommelier Mark Bright is like a jaunt to the seventh arrondissement. In a neighborhood of new money condos, Bright has lent his space an old-world feel, with a worn-wood bar and wine racks separating a casual seating area from the wine retail shop that operates in back. The wine list is similarly European—lean burgundies, bright beaujolais selections, robust bordeaux, and on—with some 40 by-the-glass options compiled in their own menu and off ered in 3-, 6-, and 10-ounce pours.

The wines are accompanied by a well-considered menu marked by classical restraint: roasted bone marrow; a chickpea fritter topped with olive tapenade; a frisée aux lardons salad ($13) that could not be more French if it corrected your pronunciation of its name. Here’s another phrase to work on: Je voudrai le poulet basquaise. Saying it aloud gets you the best dish on the menu: braised chicken served in the clay pot it was cooked in, with couscous, currants, Padrón peppers, and meat so moist and agreeable that it off ers no resistance when you prod it from the bone.

At the tail end of 24th Street’s hipster dive bars, mid-century modern cafés, and taquerias, Sous Beurre Kitchen (2704 24th St.) is a bit of an anomaly: a straightforward neighborhood restaurant inspired by Southern France, complete with a marble counter and quaint antique accents. Chef Michael Mauschbaugh started Under Butter (aka Sous Beurre) by hosting pop-ups, and his little restaurant is clearly an extension of that labor of love.

If you choose to sit at the counter, facing the open kitchen, you’ll see him there, working hard to get the food out. The menu is French-ish (behold a lovely list of French rosés and many Southern French wines by the glass), but, like most San Francisco menus, it’s by no means beholden to tradition. There are salads: some made of local anchovies, some on crostini with a little arugula to brighten them up, and some with foie gras and duck confit.

A simple plate of California salmon comes with a light avocado purée; grilled pork medallions ($30), cooked pink, are countered with a tart-sweet apricot gastrique. Since the restaurant's opening, the menu has been modern in its all-inclusive pricing, so the surprise pièce de résistance comes when you realize that you don’t even have to leave a tip.


Read More:

Tiny, Pretty Things: Food that's ready for Instagram

A Ground Meat Groundswell: Burgers aren't going anywhere.

Prix Fixe Holdouts and Casual Refinements: Fancy still has its place.

Keeping it in the Family: Platters are the new plates.

Destination Neighborhood Joints: Local spots with wide-ranging appeal.

France, Now and Forever: The bistro still abides.

Eating, Drinking, and the Other Way Around: Bar or restaurant? You be the judge.

Next Wave Asian: Redrawing culinary borders.



Originally published in the August issue of San Francisco

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