table of contents   This week’s tablehopper: let’s do lunch.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the socialite
the starlet
no photos please


AUGUST 22, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, I seriously don't think I can become any more relaxed. Ten hours of high-altitude sleep a night (for real) and daily sunbathing will do that. I'm on my third book. So I know I promised to check out some Tahoe places while I'm up here kickin' it at the lake, but I've been having too much fun cooking, and the pizza and lakeside steak outings I had this past week really don't really merit write-ups. But I will have some Tahoe restaurant reports for you in the September 5 issue, you betcha. You observant readers are like, hey, yo, what about next week, on August 29? Well, my dear designer is heading off for Burning Man like the rest of SF, and I'm no html goddess, so we're gonna have to go dark next week. Yes, I'll miss you too.

To celebrate the lovely weather I'm having (ha ha), I thought I should mention a couple of SF spots for an alfresco Frenchie lunch. Have a fab Labor Day, and I'll see you in September!

Ciao and meow,
~Marcia, AKA the lakeside countess, NOT "the lady in the water"

the chatterbox

AUGUST 22, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Fans of ~TABLESPOON~ on Polk Street (present company included) will be happy to hear they scored a liquor license! After weeks of waiting for the permit, it finally went through last week. Which is dreamy, because the space already has a great bar. Swing on by for a cocktail, and stay for dinner. (Don't skip their spiffy cheese course presentation.)

With an intended launch of the Tuesday after Labor Day (Sept. the 5th), ~MYTH CAFÉ~ will start serving a limited and very reasonable menu for dinner. The dishes will be designed to be totally different from what you would find at Myth—think sliders, and a price point hovering around $10. Ryan Scott's sandwiches already rock my world, so you can imagine how tasty dinner will be. Myth Café will be serving dinner Monday through Friday until 9pm—I'll have more in a couple weeks once the menu firms up.

A tablehopper reader tipped me off to some changes at the ~CHEZ MAMAN~ location in Bernal—looks like the bistro fare said adieu, and it's now a Pan-Asian joint. Perhaps having Mike Yakura on board for the La Suite transformation got Bulow's Maktub group fired up for spring rolls instead of smoked salmon!

The nice chaps at ~MORTY'S DELI~ let me know they are officially open! Pick up a sandwich on the way to the beach, like the one cleverly named "The 'Loin", with roasted pork tenderloin, pepperoni, smoked Gouda, lettuce, tomato, onion, and chipotle aioli. Can someone FedEx me one up here at Tahoe? Kidding. (Kinda.) 280 Golden Gate Ave., at Hyde St.

The remodeled ~BRUNO'S~ opened last week—yes, both the aquarium and booths are gone (sob). Word on the street is the new interior (designed by Michael Brennan) is swanky, with leopard carpets, and waitresses in tight outfits, rawr. The live music will be back, and the kitchen will serve vittles until 1am. 2389 Mission St., at 20th St.

the regular

Cafe Claude image

Café Claude
7 Claude Lane
Cross: Bush St.
San Francisco, CA 94108


Mon-Sat 11:30am-10:30pm
Sun 5:30pm-10:30pm
Bar: Mon-Sat 11:30am-closing
Live Music: Thu-Sat 7:30pm-10:30pm

Apps $5-$14
Entrées $11.50-$15
Desserts $6-$7

AUGUST 22, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO ~CAFÉ CLAUDE~ went through some ownership and kitchen changes about a year or so ago (the new owner is Franck Leclerc, who brought on ex-Chez Papa chef Philippe Chevalier), but it firmly remains one of my favorite places for an alfresco lunch, or an escapist dinner. Why escapist? Because you aren't in SF anymore, Dorothy. It's certainly one of the most authentically Parisian bistros in San Francisco, and there's a reason for it. The entire interior, from the zinc bar to the red-topped linoleum tables to the wooden bistro chairs, used to be in a Parisian café called Le Barbizon; Café Claude's original owner had everything shipped over in a container and then voilà! I'm not sure if the waiters came over in the container as well, but most of them are definitely the real deal.

Sit outside if you want some tranquil and atmospheric alley dining (or want to try to smoke a Gauloises in peace), but my personal favorite seat is inside, by the large windows. Here's my fail-proof recipe for a perfect lunch, whether it's a birthday lunch, ladies who lunch, or oooooh, a hot lunch (gotta love those): start with a bottle of their Cremant de Bourgogne, Louis Bouillot, France, NV ($39), a food-friendly rosé sparkler (unless, of course, you're with a big spender who wants to spring for the Laurent Perrier Rosé [$100] instead, lucky you), and start sipping as you peruse the menu. Take your pick from their array of charcuterie: I usually go for the rillette de canard ($5), or coax my dining partner into (i.e. order for them) the combo plate of three ($13) so you don't have to leave out the pâté de campagne and peppercorn mousse—they come rustically displayed on a wood plank, with cornichons, radishes, pickled onions, Niçoise olives, and all the other de rigueur charcuterie accompaniments. (And oui, I am going to continue inserting French words into this write-up wherever possible.)

Next, the betterave salad ($9)—I simply can't resist beets, especially when they come with snow peas, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and pistou (that would be French for pesto). Now, if you are going to be a lady who lunches, then the Niçoise salad ($10) is an obvious and wise choice: a mêlée of haricot verts, hard-boiled egg, fresh greens, wedges of tomato (mine was a little mealy on one visit, drat), and baby lettuce crowned with albacore tuna, or order up a version with ruby red slices of seared ahi tuna instead, that come topped with a cross of anchovy filets. The kicky caper dressing is savory, but you'll need to crack some salt and pepper over your egg and tomato and make sure to mix them in with bites of the salad—they came a little naked to the party.

The menu always has some daily specials, like seafood or pasta—but I find it hard to resist their steak tartare ($11.50), prepared tableside. It's an elegant presentation (I really wish more places did this) and one of my favorite beefy indulgences.

Did someone say indulgence? Okay, you chocoholics will probably tuck into the moelleux au chocolate ($6), a flourless chocolate cake served piping hot in a ramekin, with crème anglaise then poured on top. (Pour some on me.) Personally, I always veer toward the cake-like clafoutis ($6) with griotte cherries. Order up a macchiato over dessert (you really should be done with that bubbly by now) and you'll be properly revved to go do some tipsy shopping, or just sit in the window and watch people go by, maybe tossing out a couple flirty or even lewd comments, and start thinking about whether you should stay for dinner or not. But if you're making lewd comments, you might not be invited to stay for dinner.

About dinner: while lunch is lovely, dinner is also a delight: for evening, the tables are covered in white tablecloths, and the room exudes a cozy and romantic glow. Live jazz (like Marcus Shelby) and other musical acts play Thursday through Saturday evenings, so consider if you would like live music with your dinner—it can sometimes get a little loud, but then again, I find it kind of sexy, and certainly unlike any other restaurant scene in San Francisco. The tables are tight, the mood is convivial, and the crowd is usually friendly and attractive; I sometimes swing by just for dessert—it's that kind of place. Salud, baby.

La Petit Robert image

Le Petit Robert
2300 Polk St.
Cross: Green St.
San Francisco, CA 94109


Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm
Sat-Sun 10am-10pm
Bar menu 3pm-5:30pm

Apps $4.50-$12.50
Entrées $9.50-$18.50
Desserts $7

AUGUST 22, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Now, ~LE PETIT ROBERT~ has been on my list of places to visit for far too long. Not quite sure what took me so damned long to get my act together and pay a visit to this reportedly well-loved bistro. We all have places on our must-try lists that evade us; for me, one of them is Firefly—for the life of me, I have no idea why I've never eaten there. Actually, that's a lie—I know exactly why I never had a burning desire check it out: a guy I was dating ended up taking another girl to Firefly for dinner, and actually told me about their meal, and how romantic the restaurant was. Yes, while we were dating. Classy, no? He was so fired. "Uh, security? Yes, I have another one for you to escort to the curb, thank you. Please come quickly."

But we're not here to discuss poor dating-meets-dining etiquette (that's for another missive)—today we're all about lunch. I sometimes wish I lived in the upper Polk—I'd be one happy (and tragically bougie) cat if I was able to amble over to Le Petit Robert for lunch, and grab a seat at the counter at William Cross Wine Merchants for wine tastings on Wednesday evenings with Steve Sherman, and then head over to Tablespoon or Pesce or Antica Trattoria for dinner, and then stumble home. I'd be huge, and also quite possibly known as the neighborhood drunk—you could find me sleeping in an aisle at the Jug Shop.

Let's head over to the bistro, shall we? Le Petit Robert is part of Pascal Rigo's Bay Bread empire; there is one of his Boulanges just next door, so you know where the restaurant's pumpkinseed epi bread comes from (which is exclusively at the restaurant, incidentally—you can't buy it). This corner bistro has a clutch of outdoor tables flanking the sidewalk, seriously primo seating on a sunny day. (They also have a popular brunch—the outdoor seats must be ideal for those in need of fresh air while waiting for their croque madame.) The interior is spacious, with high ceilings, and somewhat snazzed-up bistro décor—our cool server, who I felt like had been teleported from the sassy twenties (the only thing missing from his mojo were some spats), mentioned the room's vibe undergoes quite the transformation at night. Well then. I shall return!

So, lunch. This is somewhat of a "first impression" write-up since I've only been once, but I just had to share. Mister snappy server brought me a glass of rosé—yes, mommy was thirsty, and a citron presseé ($3) was not gonna cut it. I was seriously challenged with zeroing in on my appetizer prey—it was like a bistro game show, and I had to choose which showcase to bid on: the smoked trout ($11) is supposed to be a star, but the crispy squash blossoms ($10) were definitely flirting with me. If my dining partner was a fellow beef-eater I might have twisted her arm to try the steak tartare ($9.50), but the butter lettuce and beet salad ($9) was the victor. I know, me and beets. The presence of beets even overcame my mild hesitation at the truffle vinaigrette listed (truffle, there she is again, that brazen little hussy)—but it proved to be a delectable salad, studded with golden beets and hard-boiled egg, with red beet making a cursory appearance as a swath of tasty color across the plate and tender lettuce leaves.

To the plats! Robert Cubberly, who is the chef and owner, got me wishing I was a cow, with a few stomachs to spare. I mean, come on! The chopped chicken Cobb salad ($11.50), while not very Frenchie-authentic at all, granted, but it sounded so udderly delicious on this particularly hot day (see, now I'm the one that's fired). It was simply too broiling out for steak frites ($18.50). I'll be back for the leg of lamb tartine. Oh yes, I will. And you have to love a place that offers two kinds of hamburgers, either American-style, or with caramelized onions and Roquefort cheese (both $14). I caved in to the duck confit and dandelion green salad ($12.50), with a tart cherry vinaigrette. Good choice, tablehopper. The duck had a nicely crisp and well-seasoned crust, with a succulent interior, while the greens, softening under the heat of the duck, posed a perfect counterpoint. Why don't dandelion greens turn up on more menus? I know it's a weed and all, but come on, bitter is good!

Desserts run the gamut from profiteroles to a stone fruit and berry crisp ($7)—helllllllo peaches. We bid adieu to snappy thirties waiter/garçon, and now I'm curious about this joint for dinner. Perhaps a future setting for a date with a proper gent, who better not tell me all about the flirty lunch he had with a girl there that very week. (H.R. is already busy enough interviewing summer interns and temps to have to deal with yet another termination without 30-day notice.)

Note: if you dig Cubberly's cooking, according to Open Table, he teaches a monthly series of cooking classes on Tuesdays from 6pm-9:30pm. Each class will focus on the cuisine of a specific region of France. To register or to get more info, call the restaurant at 415-922-8100.

the socialite

The Joy of Sake image

The Joy of Sake
Thursday, August 31

Moscone West


Tickets: $70

Visit the website to purchase tickets, or call 415-420-7744

AUGUST 22, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Sake swillers, here's your big chance to sample some premium sakes in peak condition, including 100 not available in the United States. ~THE JOY OF SAKE~ event returns to San Francisco, but this year it will be held at Moscone West. 299 sakes will be available for sampling, including many gold and silver award winners from the U.S. National Sake Appraisal held in Honolulu on July 25. (It's a rigorous blind tasting conducted in Honolulu every year under the guidance of the Japan National Research Institute of Brewing, which has run Japan's own national sake appraisals since 1910.) Those attending are given a small glass as they enter, and then take samples from topped-up cups on the tasting tables using a mini-siphon that picks up just enough for a good taste. Moving around from table to table (there are five tables depending on the sake category), even light drinkers can easily try 30 or 40 different labels. Keeping them all separate and distinguished in your mind, however, is entirely up to you.

Sake appetizers, ranging in style from traditional Japanese to Asian fusion to California regional, will be served by 16 of the Bay Area's top restaurants (like Ozumo, Sushi Ran, and the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton).

COCO500 image

New Orleans Dinner
Tuesday, August 29

500 Brannan St.
Cross: 4th St.
San Francisco, CA 94107


Prix-fixe dinner $75

AUGUST 22, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Next Tuesday, COCO5OO will host a special dinner as a ~TRIBUTE TO NEW ORLEANS~, one year after Hurricane Katrina. A New Orleans-inspired prix-fixe menu will be offered, along with hurricanes, Sazeracs, and a selection of Louisiana beer and wines. 50% of their sales from the event will go to Share Our Strength to aid ongoing projects in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast. Reservations are recommended.

the starlet

AUGUST 22, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, I am so bummed I wasn't at Aziza the night Jacques Pepin was in for dinner! He was with Susie Heller (she wrote "The French Laundry Cookbook" and "Bouchon" with Thomas Keller, and is the director of Jacques's, and previously Julia Childs's TV shows). Jacques was reportedly very impressed with Mourad Lahlou's cooking (rad) and told him that he's never had Moroccan food like this anywhere else in the world. Word.

Another tablehopper reader spotted Sean Hayes ("Just Jack") from Will & Grace at Venticello, who reportedly loves the place. Just fabulous!