For our first WED, Anne, Colleen, and Molly of Spicetart fame enjoyed an evening of pure pleasure at Chapeau! in San Francisco. Chapeau! was my suggestions, since I'd read so many wonderful reviews on my trusted source of Bay Area restaurant reviews, Chowhound. Chapeau! is a French bistro, and their moniker translates to "Wow!" or literally, "Hats Off!", and let me tell you - that is an appropriate name for them! I had one of the loveliest evenings I've had in a long, long time!
I knew we were in great hands when I smelled the bread:
This was good bread - crunchy crust with a personality and an airy but flavorful center with a touch of saltiness in it. I've come to realize that a restaurant that serves tasty bread is almost always wonderful, and it's truly a good omen when the meal starts with a bread basket that has that much flavor in its scent.
Then, it came. The creamy cauliflower soup with truffle oil that was so complex, so rich, and oh, so breath-taking. We were only at the amuse-gueule, and all four of us were speechless, besides some "Woooooooooowwww...."'s and "Mmmmmmmmmmmmm....."'s.
This soup had so much flavor in it, that if we had any more than what we had in our containers the size of espresso cups, it would have been too much. The perfect starter and perfect for "entertaining the mouth".
What I thought was so very personable and very much in line with the manner in which were treated that evening was the visits we got from The Chef. He was seen on a number of occasions throughout the evening in the dining room, and made sure we were having the best time under his wings. He started out by helping us choose what to have for dinner and then came back to help us with the wine selections. Since I no longer drink, Molly can tell you all about her wine adventure there on her blog.
We all had delightful and carefully created salads for our first courses. Molly and I had a smoked trout salad with slightly bitter greens, reminiscent of the sprouts I consume in enormous quantities at Hot Pot City. These greens were warm and wilted from cuddling with the zesty, lively dressing. There seemed to be some underground connection between Mr. Greens and the Potato Clan underneath the trout - perhaps some uniting theme? - I couldn't decipher all the excitement. I was too hungry and cleaned my plate before I had a chance to really reflect on what I was eating...
We all got something different for the main courses, and the consistent themes I saw were 1. fall off the bone tender, or 2. cooked to the perfect temperature to be moist and glistening in the center with meaty juiciness. Anne and Colleen got the Theme 1 dishes, like Coq au Vin and Braised Lamb:
and Molly and I got the Theme 2 dishes, comprised of Seared Striped Bass and Pork Tenderloin.
I hope the pictures can convey half of how luscious and succulent these dishes were. The Theme 2 dishes really were at the tenderness spot where all the natural oils and proteins are heated and activated to produce the best flavors but before any hint of tough firmness enters.
Dessert was the perfect after note for a truly satisfying meal with a wide selection of rich to light desserts. I chose the rich profitterolles, which were cream puff shells stuffed with vanilla ice cream, sailing afloat on a sea of decadence chocolate. The profitterolls were charmingly prim, staring into their own reflection off of the chocolate mirror. And boy, were they tasty! I really, really, really didn't need to lick the chocolate off of the plate, but I couldn't resist it. I was like a kitten encountering catnip for the first time - gitty and loopy with chocolate goodness all over inside me. I guess I am over my Chocolate Overdose from the Chocolate festival....
To top it all off, the service was impeccable throughout the evening. The Chef even sent a dessert to Anne, who didn't order a dessert on the grounds of being too full. She got the chilled orange soup, which was cleansingly light and the ideal choice. And when we left, he gave us all a kiss on the cheek - a gesture that made us feel so very welcomed and cared for, very much in line with the service we received the entire evening.
If I were to knit-pick on two things. One is something I learned in Paris, and it is that salt, at the brink of perfect and too salty brings out the flavors from all foods in a way no other spice can. I think the level of salt didn't quite meet the perfect point to which the meats were cooked, and could be a tad bit saltier to be at that immaculate balance of flavors. But then again, I might just like my food too salty... The other one is their website , which indicates that their tasting menu is $25. It turns out it's actually $31 for a three-course meal, which is a steal, considering the food and the service. But being the organizer of the first WED, I felt a little bit guilty when the bill came out to be $60 per person, when I had advertised it to my buddies as a $25/3 course meal deal... Luckily, the ladies all enjoyed their meals, so I hope the doubled cost wouldn't detour them from participating in the next WED event!