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Restaurants & Bars 11

Anjou, downtown, San Francisco

Limster | Jan 17, 200202:00 AM

Thanks to the insight and helpful advice from fellow hounds for helping me decide on dinner.

Alborz and Alma sounded like places that would require extra ammunition (read: fellow diners) to cover as much of the menu I would have liked. So I ended up at Anjou.

Ruth Lafler's and Mike W's were perfectly accurate. I got a little table at the higher part of the split level room. A good vantage point to check out the going ons in the kitchen and the prep area for salads and desserts.

The atmosphere at Anjou is genuine, calm and cheerfully relaxed. Dining here is dining, not theatre; this can be a refreshing change for those who find eating out at flashy places a constant struggle.

Mike W hit the nail on the head when he described the place as a notch below Clementine, Chapeau and Fringale. The food is good and simple and that seems to be exactly what the kitchen is aiming for.

I had a somewhat Burgundian dinner - snails, seabass seasoned with mustard, and a glass of meursault/pugliny (sp?) which started with a crisp appleness like any personable chardonnay, but somehow took on an interesting minerally quality that tasted like oysters in the latter part of the meal. (Insights, Melanie?)

First, escargot served in shells with garlic butter and parsley. As is par for SF, I'm sorry to say, it was ever so slightly overcooked and just a minor bit chewy. I wasn't disappointed, because there was a part of me that expected this. But I secretly wished I could be delighted with a version that was succulently crunchy. Didn't pass the acid test with flying colours, but satisfying nonetheless.

The Chilean seabass (which I allow myself to eat only once or twice a year, because I want to be able to continue eating this overfished species) was excellent -- utterly juicy and tender. A very subtle hand with the mustard marinade. What could have been pungent is instead perfumed. On the side, green beans with a remaining last bit of soft snap that is finished with butter and a thin and delicate potato puree which was quite enjoyable.

I was torn between the poached pears in sabayon and the warm chestnut cake. Waiter steered me towards the pear, which was very nicely poached and had great pear flavor. The sabayon was nice and rich, but maybe slightly too sweet for my taste. It was warmed in the oven and I would have enjoyed the skin on the top more if it was more evenly formed.

Tab came to almost $43 with tax, not counting tip. I think that any of the 3 other french places mentioned by Mike W would have offered a slightly better deal at similar prices. On the whole, not top drawer stuff (and certainly not a value choice), but honest and true in its own way.

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