: views from the Hill

Monday, January 31, 2005

[FOOD] Café Claude

Café Claude
7 Claude Lane
San Francisco, California 94108
phone 415.392.3515
fax 415.392.2226

We'd been meaning to get to Café Claude for quite a while, but it isn't open on Sundays and when we thought about it on Saturday and his nibs called for a reservation, we'd be told it was far too late …

Last Friday, however, his nibs decided we'd have a final mad three-evening (SA-SU-MO) dash to try out restaurants with the January-only Dine About Town deals.

His decision was triggered by an article I sent him -- an article Patty Unterman wrote about her Dine About Town experience at Rubicon. (Tonight we'll be dining at Rubicon -- surprise, surprise -- as our grande 31 January finale to Dine About Town.)

Café Claude is tucked away on Claude Lane, a tiny alley off Bush Street, between Grant and Kearny. Food is French. Service is relaxed … to say the least. Our server came over to hand off the menus. When we asked her what the Dine About Town special entailed, she gestured toward a chalkboard propped up in the corner. "You have your choice of … Oh, wait. I think we're out of that. Let me go check. I'll get back to you."

She disappeared for about ten minutes.

In the meanwhile we decided we didn't want the Dine About Town special anyway. Dessert was some chocolate concoction and his nibs doesn't do chocolate. He also wasn't feeling like pork and when the server came back, the pork dish was the special on that night.

Instead we both ordered crispy sweetbreads with pea shoots, coarse mustard and fig compote. I ordered the hangar steak with beurre rouge, exotic mushroom and spinach gratin and crispy potatoes. His nibs ordered a chicken dish.

The sweetbreads were crispy fried and consisted of just four tiny bite-sized portions. The portions were small enough that the coating, tasty though it was, overwhelmed any taste of sweetbreads there might've been. The pea shoots were an interesting sprout. The coarse mustard and fig flavor were a tasty combination with the sweetbreads and pea shoots. I stashed the flavor combination suggestion away for another time we cook sweetbreads at home to try in lieu of our usual port|madeira, mushrooms and sour cream.

My hangar steak was cooked perfectly, medium rare. The beurre rouge was tasty. The "crispy potatoes" were finely, finely slivered potatoes, crispy, stacked on top of a small gratin dish filled with a mixture of mushrooms, spinach and gruyere cheese. The gratin and crispy potatoes were heavenly with the steak.

His nibs' chicken breast was sautéed (probably in olive oil) with a bit of garlic and served with a slightly sweet coarse ground mustard sauce. The chicken came with very small roasted potatoes and a veg, bitter greens, perhaps? The sauce was very tasty.

I had an eau de vie, Poire Williams, for dessert while his nibs had a crème brulee. Well, actually, we shared the crème brulee. I had a couple bites to check whether the dessert lived up to the rest of the meal. It did.

The poire williams was a substantial pour and as pear-y as can be. The crème brulee was tasty, which was a good thing, because it was the only thing on the dessert menu his nibs could handle. Everything else was chocolate of some sort or another.

We decided that the walk down (about forty minutes) and back (a bit more than forty minutes ... uphill) had been worth it.

We'll go there again. Both main dishes were excellent. We'll know to try something other than the sweetbreads for an appetizer next time. We got out of there, including a bottle of pinot noir with dinner, for about $100 including tax but not tip.

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