Restaurants & Bars 2

La Table, SF

Fine | May 18, 2003 12:09 AM

Planned an evening wherein we'd see Le Cercle Rouge at the Castro then eat French bistro cooking. The movie was amazing, but little at the restaurant resembled either French or bistro, and worse, was particularly enjoyable.

A fresh pea soup was bland enough to be served to a post-op patient. A "salt-cured" anchovy appetizer appeared to consist of (barely two) plain old canned, oil-packed anchovy fillets, so stingy you'd think they were truffles! Likewise, the fromage blanc was so sparse as to be undetectable. All one could really taste on the pieces of toast was chervil.

The nut-dotted bread was quite good and kept us from getting too soused on our wine! A braised lamb shank was uninteresting, and the lamb-base-sauced vegetable melange accompanying it tasted "fuzzy," which I attribute to poorly skimmed lamb stock.

When one of us ordered a quail appetizer for a main course, the waiter didn't offer to enlarge the portion. (He must have assumed the person had a small appetite, when the truth was that for one or another reason none of the main courses were appealing enough to order.) Though over-coarse-salted, the quail was tasty and succulent.

The service was peculiar too: We'd brought a bottle of wine and when we signaled to the waiter to pour some for each of us, he "instructed" us that he was waiting for the approval of the diner he'd arbitrarily chosen to taste the wine. Indeed, his entire approach implied that we had just arrived from another planet where folks ate soylent green and he was responsible for introducing us to the niceties of "civilized dining." (He clearly wasn't knowledgeable enough to realize that the culinarily impaired rarely tote along a bottle of 7-year old Kermit Lynch provencal red.)

I have no insight into this weird experience. The restaurant is located in an area populated by relatively to very affluent folks who, presumably, have wide experience in dining around the country and the world.

Prices were higher than reviews had led us to expect, though I subsequently read that, having combined the two dining sections into one, the restaurant had indeed raised prices.

I find myself more and more uninterested in restaurants--at least those with European and American kitchens--that don't indicate a commitment to primarily local, organic, and sustainable products. In time I hope I'll be able to be more inclusive (certainly Olivia Wu, the newish Chronicle food writer, is doing her utmost to raise awareness throughout the local food community on sustainable seafood). I feel increasingly inclined to put my money where my beliefs are. When I sat down and looked at La Table's menu and saw "Maine True Cod," I felt like saying, "This was a terrible mistake. Good night." When I asked our waiter about it, he simply said, "Let your conscience be your guide." It was, thank you.

The desserts didn't appeal to us. I ate the tasty bagged roll I was handed as I left on my way to the car then fixed myself a bite when I got home.

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