*THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED*
568 Sacramento St.
at Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94111
So who knew a former downtown firehouse could be converted into a clandestine little hideaway? ~LES AMIS~ is perhaps a little too stealth, because not enough people seem to know about it. It feels perfect for closing a deal, whether it's a contract or a second date. Some people know it as the old Zare space, but all traces of its Mediterranean predecessor have said "ciao."
After passing through some heavy blue velvet curtains (sorry, Isabella Rossellini will not be in tonight), you enter into a low-ceilinged room that feels like a minimalist's take on a brasserie. It's definitely stark, but not Starck. White tablecloths, off-white ceilings, slate floors--but the art, yay good restaurant art, adds some color. The lighting is also flattering, so don't fret about your sallow San Francisco complexion. Try to nab one of the power-broker corner booths, and since they have a liquor license slink into a straightforward cocktail. I say straightforward because my pal's Sazerac was far too heavy on the pastis. Then again, that's not the easiest drink to master. Anyway.
After a tasty amuse, my cohort's appetizer of slightly crispy sweetbreads with frisee, carica (a Chilean tropical fruit, now you know) and smoky bacon vinaigrette totally trounced my crab bisque. Sweetbreads almost always win, but especially these. There was even some capricious chef plate art, with a swath of color painted around the rim of the dish. Pourquoi pas?
The contemporary French vibe continued with the star entrée of a striped bass sporting a gingery-orange beurre blanc with some illegally delicious little duck cracklings. Crunch crunch. The five-spiced poussin was charmingly presented on a rustic little platter, and then whisked back to the kitchen for re-plating. Such a flirt, that poussin. Come back here. You will totally eat your spinach, because flirty poussin's bed of spinach puree was scrumptious, much more so than the mound of over-buttered and flavor-bereft chanterelles. Time to find another source for 'shrooms, dude, because those were bunk.
Desserts were unconventional, like a pumpkin-pine nut-praline tart with cream cheese sorbet, and a deconstructed cheesecake dolloped on a layer of tomato rose confit. Nice change from the usual dessert line-up. Not a bread pudding in sight. Service is pro, and the vibe is friendly. It better be, with a name like Les Amis. And just like some friends, the joint has a few little quirks here and there, but you'll still be pals. Partners are executive chef Thomas Weibull (of Plouf) and his sous chef, Christopher Scott (Rubicon), GM Zack Bezunartea, and the other French mafia, Belden Place restaurateurs Olivier Azancot and Eric Klein.