: views from the Hill

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

[FOOD] Restaurant Lulu (SoMa)

Restaurant Lulu
816 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 495-5775

The weather yesterday afternoon was overcast a bit, but walkable. We decided to chance a walk to dinner and made reservations at Open Table for a restaurant we'd heard a lot about but had never been to: Restaurant Lulu, south of Market.

The walk there took about an hour. It would've taken less if I'd made sure where the restaurant was. His nibs made the reservation and (luckily!) printed out the specifics. We're walking down Montgomery, toward Market, then down Market. He tells me Lulu is between 4th and 5th, so we turn down 4th. "How far are we going?" I asked. "What street is it on? Brannan?"

"Yes," he answered.

Well, the upshot is that I'd asked whether Lulu was on Brannan, and he'd said it was, so we walked down to Brannan, cutting over to Fifth on our way. We get to the corner of Fifth and Brannan and I ask, "What's the address?" so I can decide whether we need to cross Brannan.

He looks at the piece of paper he's fished out of his pocket and sez, "816 Folsom."

"Folsom? You said, 'Brannan'"
"Well, I meant 'Folsom.' We just need to go another block or two."
"No. We've gone too far. We passed Folsom several blocks back."
"We did?"
"Sure. That's Townsend up there. After that, there be dragons."

So, we turned and retraced our steps.
Total distance to dinner: ~ 3.2 miles
Total distance home from dinner: ~ 2.6 miles plus a .25 mile diversion ...

Walking is good for you ... and we were just a couple minutes late.

The restaurant is interesting, a rebuilt warehouse with arched wood roof. The main room faces the wood-fired ovens and rotisserie and is big, with side rooms where Restaurant Lulu was seating large parties last night. (The American Educational Research Association and other conventions were in town, and Lulu is just a block from the Moscone.) Dress is casual for both customers and wait staff, who all wear Levis or something close thereto.

The menu is Provençal and changes every day, depending on what the chef has available. Small plates. Large plates. Sharing. You get a small-ish plate and the entrees come in big dishes with a serving fork and spoon. The intent is to divvy up what's there between the folks at the table.

Our waiter last night had the most incredible voice. If I'd been a voice agent, I would've lured him away from his wait job. He went over the menu, what the specials were, what the signature dishes were, and left.

Two women were seated at the table to the left of me. After a bit and before they ordered, they asked to eat at the bar. One of them had an ear infection, she said, and couldn't hear the other. Moved they were, and the table settings replaced.

The tables at Restaurant Lulu are fairly close together, and the place is pretty big. The restaurant is noisy, but not as noisy as some places we've been to. We could talk without shouting. We did joke about learning ASL, however. Of course, it was a Monday night. Fridays and Saturdays are undoubtedly noisier.

When our waiter came back after what seemed a long while, we gave him our dinner order and asked for one of the three Cabernet Francs on the wine list, the Andrew Rich from Oregon.

THREE! Cabernet Francs.

The wine list was amazing. A whole slew of wines by the glass. Another whole slew of DRCs. Not an inexpensive wine list, his nibs told me, but far larger than we'd expected. DRCs! A whole slew! Some day maybe we'll have the spare change to go out to dinner and spend hundreds of dollars on a bottle of wine.

The waiter headed back to the kitchen with our order and the bus staff brought fresh rosemary bread and butter. The bread wasn't warm -- one of my mum's pet peeves about most restaurants -- but was delicious.

We started off with an appetizer plate: choose three from the choices available. We chose rabbit rillettes, foie gras (a soft pate), and smoked salmon. We both agreed that the foie was the best of the three. The rabbit rillettes were tasty as well. The salmon was salmon on a toast round. Nothing special. Sure, it was shaped like a rosette and sprinkled with dill, but that was about all there was to it. Three bits of three choices. Hm. Not easily divisible by two. We decided to have one each of the three and then split the third piece of each choice in half and share.

Another pair of women were seated next to us. These women were very loud and obviously, from their conversation, from the American Educational Research Association convention. I mean really loud. I didn't wince. I know I didn't and neither did his nibs, but they must've noticed a wince from someone else in the near vicinity because, before they even got around to ordering, they asked to move to a small table over against the west wall and picked up their menus and moved before the waiter had a chance to check to see if that was okay with the room host.

Next a couple, obviously from the American Educational Research Association convention from their conversation, were seated next to us. Trust me. This restaurant is not the place to have an intimate, private conversation, not that this couple was doing so. This couple was still there when we left so it really wasn't us who were driving the other patrons to other seating.

His nibs ordered the Monday night special, rotisserie veal, served on greens. The bit I had was tasty, juicy, flavorful.

I had the short ribs, which were excellent. Tender. Flavorful. Falling off the bone. The sauce was dark and tasty, but, like last night, a bit too salty from added bacon. What's up with that? The small bite-sized potatoes that accompanied the meat were also very tasty, cooked with the broth and garlic. Both main dish serving sizes were generous, but just as well I didn't have a spoon (other than the "serving" fork and spoon that come with the family style dishes) because the salty sauce left in the dish would not have been good for me.

For dessert his nibs order their trio of sorbets: grapefruit, orange and apple-cinnamon. The sorbets were fine, but nothing to die for. The dessert wine selections take up the entire verso of the dessert menu and include way more single malt scotches than I'm used to seeing on a dessert menu. I was tempted, but knowing what a bottle of Talisker costs and what their per-glass price was, I decided not to go that route. I ordered my usual glass of Bonny Doon Vin de Glacière.

Glad we tried Restaurant Lulu, just to see why they make the SFC list of Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants, but we agreed that we don't think we'll be back. There are so many restaurants in this city that there's no reason to return to a restaurant that doesn't serve a meal that knocks your socks off. Restaurant Lulu is the perfect place if you have a large party, or you're at Moscone and need to go to dinner. If I'm going to walk that far, though, I need to have food like the seared foie gras or sweetbreads at Isa to lure me.

We walked home up 4th to Mission and up Mission until we cut over to Market. We were going to walk home on the Embarcadero but changed our minds, so we headed north on Battery, then headed left and backtracked up to Montgomery (there's that extra quarter mile of distance) and home that way.

Passed by the new Myth Cafe (opened at the beginning of April) at the corner of Montgomery and Pacific. Checked out the menu. Yummy looking food for real reasonable prices. We loved the only dinner we've had at Myth and will certainly return some day for seconds. Maybe to celebrate the long-awaited closing of escrow? Say. There's an idea.

Myth Cafe used to be Zeroº. Before it became Myth Cafe, the signage out front amused me no end, because it reminded me of a guy I know from the 'net who calls himself Zero. Oh, well. Call me easily amused.

Myth Cafe. On my list of places to check out soon.

No comments: