Following up on the recent SF bistro(t) theme, I took my good friend Robeo's suggestion and tried Florio. It's located on the west side of Fillmore between Pine and Bush, on the corner of Wilmont Alley.
I went in around 8:30, and for a Tuesday I'd say it was pretty busy. All tables except two 2 tops were full, and they gave me one of them. The bar was completely full, or else I would have sat there. As Robeo had mentioned, this restaurant definitely falls into the bistro category, with its compact interior (not cramped, just not huge), lively atmosphere, and menu of bistro favorites like steak frites and roast chicken. More on the chicken forthcoming.
I ordered a kir to start, and decided I'd probably have the roast chicken and either cheese or dessert after that, whichever I felt like when the time came. The server told me the chicken would take about 20 minutes. Yes!, I thought to myself, they must be making it fresh, not reheating it. So with an extra 20 minutes to spare, I ordered the mixed greens salad. I'm not an expert on identifying greens (although I should be after living 4 years in the Salinas Valley), but there was a nice mix of about 3 greens and a red, garnished with thin slices of radish, and all tossed with a light vinaigrette. I'm usually someone who never drinks wine with a salad, but this vinaigrette was so delicate, it may have not overwhelmed a wine. It was a very good starter.
Along with the salad they served an interestingly shaped baguette. Now, I know I'm kind of a Francophile, but why is it that Henry Miller's famous quote is so true to me? Yes, the great bakeries of the Bay Area produce some wonderful flavors in their breads, however, why is the texture always so difficult? In France, a good baguette is always crisp and flaky on the outside, and light, soft and airy on the inside. Here, the well known Bay Area baguettes, to my palate, are across the board tough, rubbery and heavy. Am I just a complainer or is there any validity to this? Okay, so the bread itself wasn't my favorite, but the excellent, sweet butter that they served was a nice consolation.
Onto the next course. In between the salad and chicken, I ordered a glass of a 2001 Macon Charnay (Domaine Manciat-Poncet), a Chardonnay from the southern Burgundy region of France. It was served just a bit cold, but it quickly reached a good cellar temperature and revealed some subtle, citrusy aromas, a crisp texture, and a fairly long finish for a wine that sells for about $10 retail.
Then the chicken arrived. It was a half breast and a drumstick served with a light pan drippings/white wine reduction sauce and a good portion of frites. First I'll mention that although the fries looked great, they were similar in texture and flavor to the batter-dipped ones you get at BK or Jack in the Box, but quite a bit thicker and longer. Another complaint? More of just a question in general. I know that a lot of people like this style of fries, but why did someone think that plainy peeled, sliced and fried potatoes needed any modification? Okay, so they stay crisp longer than plainy fried potatoes, but I think they lose a lot of their essence when they go through this modification (batter) step. Maybe I'm overreacting.
But, as a roast chicken fanatic (definitely my desert island meal), I have to say that this was the best roast chicken I've ever had. This lightly seasoned and delicately sauced chicken was incredible. So many restaurants overcook chickens, probably out of legitimate concerns over salmonella, lawsuits and all of that. But this was the first time I've ever seen a breast portion and a leg portion cooked both to absolute perfection at the same time. Usually the breast gets dried out as the dark meat takes longer to finish. Maybe they remove the breast portion first, but however they did it, it was perfect. After I finished the Macon, I had a glass of a 2000 Vacqueyras (can't recall the producer, but it's a red wine from the southern Rhone in France, similar in blend to Chateauneuf du Pape) that went very well with the chicken.
No room or need for cheese or dessert after this. The total with tax and tip was $62. A great meal, in spite of my 2 complaints. The service was excellent, by the way.
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