Francophiles, Russian Hill residents, longtime SF diners, fans of tasting menus, and many former chefs and cooks who came through the kitchen at ~LA FOLIE~ were dismayed with the news yesterday that chef-owner Roland Passot and his wife Jamie have decided to close the restaurant and La Folie Lounge on March 14th, 2020.
They opened the restaurant 32 years ago, in 1988, providing a highly personable, contemporary French fine dining experience for their guests, an elegant setting for countless special occasions. Chef Roland embodies the spirit of a true French host—always in the kitchen, circulating the room, and even popping into the lounge next door to see who’s in. And La Folie is a family affair: Roland’s brother, Georges, a sommelier at La Folie, was often the first face you’d see when you walked in (they share the same Lyonnaise twinkle in their eye).
But chef is turning 65, and is ready to “turn the page,” and start doing other things, like work on a memoir and cookbook (he has 50 years of cooking tales to share); lead culinary tours to France, Spain, and Italy; and he will continue to be in partnership with the Vine Dining family of restaurants: Left Bank Brasserie in Larkspur, San Jose, and Menlo Park; LB Steak and Meso in San Jose; and an upcoming LB Steak in San Ramon (he is looking forward to hosting some pop-up dinners, too). He wants to have time to “think about ourselves”—his wife Jamie had cancer two years ago and is now thankfully in remission, and it’s time for them to be free of the constant demands of running a restaurant and enjoy life more.
I heard some rumors that Roland was trying to sell La Folie around the end of last year, and he is still hoping for a young chef to take it over and continue the legacy of this special place on Upper Polk; he said when they first moved in, there wasn’t much going on in the neighborhood, and some people thought it wasn’t a good idea to open there—funny how he proved them wrong. Over the years, of course there were ups and downs, but he knows they’ve had such a good run. The restaurant goes on the market this week.
So much talent has been trained and come through La Folie’s kitchen (it’s a chef’s legacy!) and the floor, and they have some truly longtime staff—some have been there for 20 years, and chef says they are going to help all of the employees find good placements. A big loss will be the departure of wine director Robco, our Rob Renteria, always ready with a friendly smile and mischievous laugh as he pours you something fantastic. He has been there for the past seven years—no word on his next stop, but his fan club will find him.
Merci to the La Folie family for all the hospitality over the years. And thank you for teaching me who Bernard Loiseau was vis-à-vis the frogs’ legs that were on the menu, back when I came into the restaurant for my first time when I was writing for Gayot in 2008 or thereabouts. Even through the menu, Roland would teach. Enjoy this new phase in your life, chef.
The exterior of La Folie, a landmark restaurant in Russian Hill. Photo courtesy of La Folie.