After reading many good things about Fringale, we finally made it there ourselves. Chowhounds did not let us down. Fringale served up solid Basque and Provencal French food.
Our very French waiter gave us an excellent wine recommendation. He suggested a 1998 Ferrari Carano Merlot (which he said was the last bottle). The bottle cost around $. After a while, the wine really opened up giving it very smooth finish, not to spicy but full on the pallet.
For appeitizers, we ordered country pate, roasted quail with apple risotto, crab salad and a wild mushroom ravioli. Everything was superb. The country pate was not what I expected at all. A big slice of what looks and tasted like salami, but not as salty and tangy. It came with a delicious caramelized onion braised in balsamic vinegar, mustard and cornichons. Put the condiments on the pate, top it on some crusty bread, it was like being in France again. I ordered the mushroom ravioli and instead of two large ones, I wish I had a big bowl of it. The sauce was rich and earthy, seemed to me like it was flavor with sherry. A generous amount of sauté wide mushrooms also came in the sauce, I had to use some bread to mop it up after the raviolis were gone. The ravioli itself was probably one of the best ravioli I've ever tasted (French Laundry's was of course number 1). The skin was al dante, just the right amount of chewiness to give you a substantial mouth feel. I had a bite of all the other appetizers and they were all excellent. The crab salad was light and refreshing, although it's not mango season so the mango tomatoes salsa that came with it was not as flavorful as it could have been. A pineapple salsa probably would have been better. The stuffed quail was done just right, sweet apple risotto offset the rich gravy that accompanied the dish.
For entree all of my dinner companions ordered the rack of lamb while I ordered the sea bass. The lamb was served with a rich and cheesy potato gratin. Cooked just right, medium, the tender juicy lamb was full of flavor while not being "lamby". The rich gratin really coats your mouth as you chew it, you taste every bite of the cheese and cream that the dish had, with the lamb it was the perfect combination.
I was trying to be "good" by ordering the fish. I have to say I've had better fish, but it wasn't bad. The pan grilled sea bass was served with a white bean, leek ragout, and a tapenade aioli. The ragout was a bit too salty for me, but over all it was a good light fish dish. And I felt less guilty than if I had ordered the lamb or filet mignon dish.
For dessert, crème brulee, trio of sorbet and hazelnut and almond mousse cake. The hazelnut almond mousse cake was excellent. Alternating between layers of mousse and a light genoise, each bite gave you the full flavor of what hazelnut should taste like. Not overly sweet was the cake itself, but for those who like it sweet, the cake was served with a generous helping of ganach.
I didn't find the crème brulee to be exceptional, it was light and not too eggy, but they used a cup instead of a traditional crème brulee dish as the container, and therefore the surface area of the brunt sugar was cut down.
The trio of sorbet were pear, mango and mandarin orange. All three was good, but the pear stood out. I've never had pear sorbet before but now I think it's a perfect way to serve pear. You can get the ripeness and the sweetness of an overripe pear, but you don't have the mushy and mealiness of an overripe pear.
For the four of us, dinner came out to be $286, not bad all at all considering they did everything well. I find most places excel in one area (typically appetizers) but not all three (appetizers, entree and desserts).
The restaurant was very small, the tables were a little too close together for my taste. There was a bar that seemed perfect for someone who wants to dine by themselves.
Service was not overly attentive, I guess it's very French to have a leisurely meal.
One negative thing. I called ahead of time to ask for directions to the restaurant. The lady who answered the phone didn't give the right directions and was very short and impatient on the phone. I'm glad from there the evening did pick up.
570 4th St. San Francisco
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