Paris Charm in Potrero Hill
1401 18th St. (at Missouri), San Francisco
Potrero Hill neighborhood
Open lunch, Mon.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner daily, 5:30–10 p.m. (till 11 p.m. on Fri.–Sat.)
Reservations, major credit cards accepted
Chez Papa Bistrot is like a first love who charmed you and made you feel special. Over the years your eyes wander and then you start taking your lover for granted. Then you realize over the years that things aren’t exactly the same, but that special “it” factor that made you fall in love in the first place is still there, ready to be rekindled.
Such was my return to Chez Papa Bistrot.
I ate at this Potrero Hill neighborhood bistro when I first arrived in San Francisco a decade ago, and would return whenever I wanted a special dining experience because the tiny space – cozy in red with friendly French-accented service – never failed to deliver in food and ambiance.
But after I moved out of the city it was harder getting to Potrero. Last weekend when I went to a food event with the adventurous Foodhoe, we decided to get Sunday dinner at Chez Papa since we were already in that part of the city.
Chez Papa is still bustling with customers squeezing into the tiny space, which has always been able to bring a little bit of the South of France to San Francisco. Foodhoe ordered off the menu while I decided to go with the 3-course prix fixe menu for $34.95.
With the prix fixe, I could choose from three to four options for each course. For my appetizer, I chose the Grilled Local Sardines, which came out on top of a chick pea salad with a brilliant green pistou coulis. The beautiful plate of fresh sardine was grilled perfectly and brightened by the pesto.
Foodhoe started with the Baby Golden and Red Beets Salad ($10) served with the classic combination of goat cheese and watercress.
Foodhoe wanted a light dinner, so following her salad she ordered Chez Papa’s signature mussels ($14). The mussels can be prepared with four types of broth, and I believe Foodhoe went with the Mariniere style, which is simply garlic, parsley and white wine. Foodhoe said she definitely could taste the garlic, and of course she had the mussels with a side of French fries (or frites for $5).
My entrée was the Pan-roasted Red Trout served with braised cabbage, smoked bacon, pearl onions and lemon-tarragon beurre blanc. The trout was nicely cooked, tender and slightly flakey while the cabbage and broth were full of flavor.
My final and third course was dessert, and I chose the Lavender crème brulee. I’m a big fan of lavender, and the essence was definitely prominent in the custard cream. I really enjoyed it although the sugar top (the brulee) was a bit thick, but not that thick that it prevented me from getting to all of the cream.
The food brought back many good memories of dinners past, and reminded me how I need to make an effort to come back again. Even though the setting does sometimes show the wear and tear of age, the food is still quality stuff, showing that Chez Papa Bistrot still has heart.
Single guy rating: 3.75 stars (French travels without a passport)
Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner
Thursday, September 08, 2011
Paris Charm in Potrero Hill