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San Francisco Bay Area

Cafe Rouge: exactly as advertised

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Cafe Rouge: exactly as advertised

Ruth Lafler | Dec 13, 2004 05:19 PM

We had a joint (father/sister) birthday dinner at Cafe Rouge last night -- first time there for all of us.

First the bad: it was every bit as noisy as we were warned it would be; however, my sister had requested a quiet table when she made the reservation and we got one in the upstairs back corner that was probably as good as it got. Still, until the crowd thinned out about 8:30, the din was unpleasant.

The good: Everything else. The food was delicious. I swooned over my stuffed pork chop; the meat was so good and so perfectly cooked the stuffing was merely gilding the lily. I was less impressed by the butternut squash "flan" that accompanied it -- I kept thinking Dona Tomas would have done a better job. But that's really a minor quibble. The buttery grilled Dungeness crab (a quarter crab, cracked) with greens was also delicious. Everyone else was very happy with their food (the five of us each ordered different starters and different mains, so we tried a large proportion of the menu). I don't think there was more than a bite of food left -- total -- from the ten plates. Desserts were only okay, but there was a nice selection of beverages for after dinner, including hot cocoa in big cafe au lait-type cups and a selection of both black and herbal teas, served properly (loose, in a pot, with a strainer).

Service was some of the best I've had recently: our server was friendly and charming (and cute!), but also smooth, knowledgable and professional. Food runners knew who got what: no dishes were "auctioned." Bread, butter, extra plates, glasses, silverware and water refills all appeared when necessary. My father appreciated that there were salt and pepper shakers on the table: no salt (or salt in dishes) is one of his pet peeves. Aside from the noise our table was really comfortable, with lots of room (so many restaurants are so cramped these days, and five seems to be a number they find awkward).

Price/quality ratio was good. I sneaked a peek at the bill and it looked like it was slightly less than $250 (including tax but before tip) for five starters, five entrees, four desserts, a bottle plus an extra glass of wine and five coffee/tea/cocoa. In particular, the wine prices looked reasonable.

The good was so good I'd love to go back, but I think I'd try to choose an off-peak hour and hope for less noise.

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