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Food & Drink

Best New French Restaurants That Aren’t Totally French 

Wednesday, May 6 2015

French restaurants in San Francisco have typically been the exclusive dominion of actual French chefs and owners like Hubert Keller and Roland Passot, but this was the year when non-French chefs in the city tapped into the classic cuisine for inspiration for modern gastronomy. Corey Lee, who was best known for his cooking tenure under the titan Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville before opening his own pedigreed Benu in 2010, has a smash hit on his hands with Monsieur Benjamin (451 Gough St., 415-403-2233). The 90-seat Hayes Valley restaurant is where he and chef Jason Berthold boldly remix French classics and handily take up the void left by the closure of classic SF French restaurant Fleur de Lys. Their menu is markedly ambitious, with more than 40 items.

Husband and wife team Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone, who own Terra restaurant in St. Helena and Ame in the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, are well known for their skills with Japanese cooking — they’ve got a brilliant book called A Visual Guide to Sushi-Making at Home by Chronicle Books. But with the 99-seat Urchin Bistrot (584 Valencia, 415-861-1844), in the former Slanted Door/Wo Hing General Lounge in the Mission, they’ve joined with former Ame chef Michael Morrison and turned their talents to the art of French cooking that utilizes the lightness of California produce but still takes indulgent moments to revel in the utmost decadence. Take the signature Hiro sandwich, a heart-stopping combination of meatballs, roasted bone marrow and jalapeño peppers and wash it down with French wine or a luxe cognac cocktail. Ooh la la.

A southern French restaurant that originally began as a pop-up inside Sugarlump Café, Sous Beurre Kitchen (2704 24th St., 415-874-9831) is Chef Michael Mauschbaugh’s 74-seat gem in the southeastern extremity of the Mission. While the Pacific Coast bouillabaisse and the roasted lamb chop have garnered most of the attention, Sous Beurre nonetheless lavishes a great deal of fuss on starters like its foie gras salad or boudin blanc. Ever on the cusp of today’s trends, SBK has also forgone tipping for the inclusive service model.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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