Gee, after twice going there, and liking it immensely, I'm sorry to say that our most recent experience there was not good. The service was fine, so let's get that out of the way. It was medium busy, not nearly as busy as it was the first two times we went, so that didn't appear to b a factor. The only difference, and perhaps this is the biggest difference, was that chef Brian Hill wasn't around this time. Four of us first got a taste of wine to try, but it was so warm it tasted like pruny bathwater, so when we ordered a bottle of red, we asked to have it put on ice first. From what the server said, they keep their wines up on a high shelf? Not so such a good idea.
We first ordered some fried squid, which was very good, along with some creamy chicken liver mousse spread with wheat toasts. For main dishes, we got the fried clam tacos, which I've had twice before and loved, and they were a bit soggy and a bit blah...nothing major, just didn't have the same flavor as before. We had the barbecued chicken, which was fine, nothing to write home about. Done with some sweet spices and cider, I think. We also got the ribs, which my husband liked, but i thought were a bit dry. A side of baked beans was excellent, but I was kind of tiring of the sweet and/or Asian flavors evident with the beans, the ribs and the chicken...too much of the same flavor profile for me. Lastly, we had the duck hotdogs, an exciting concept, but very dry and somewhat mealy, once we tried them. That dish just didn't come together at all. That's it on the food: nothing demanding to be sent back, just disappointing.
My last comment is about the wine list: it's also disappointing. With so many great values out there, representing such great variety internationally, there's not a lot to pick from in my opinion. The selection of whites by the glass is decent, bu not so with the reds, many of which are overly oaky, especially the two Spanish reds....don't know about the boxed wine, which I think is their house pour, but I've heard rumors they're not good.
Maybe I need to shift gears and go back to Francine Bistro.