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Chez Spencer - New & WOW (long)

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Chez Spencer - New & WOW (long)

Stanley Stephan | Jun 12, 2002 07:14 PM

A family birthday is pending, so I was doing a bakery crawl looking for cake. The old Citizen Cake location on 14th between Folsom and Harrison is now Chez Spencer.

An urban outdoor dining area fronts the restaurant. Wood planters with bright yellow sunflowers and various pots of plants are scattered around the concrete. There is a little brick patio in the corner. A casual garden like a Mission back yard.

All that remains of the old interior seems to be Citizen Cake’s original large brick oven. The chef-owner is Lawrence Katgely (Foreign Cinema, Alfy's).

I started with steamed white asparagus with truffle emulsion. A generous serving (at least 10) of tender white asparagus speckled with what looked like black pepper was served with a colorful baby lettuce salad on the side of the plate. Savings of parmesan cheese were generously sprinkled about the dish. It was very nice.

This is one of those dishes that usually never impresses me so I keep ordering hoping for a good one. This is a good one. Usually white asparagus amounts to three tiny cold spears in some sort of vinaigrette. The white asparagus I’ve bought at the farmers market, beautifully tinged with pink and purple, has been tough and bitter. Chez Spenser makes me realize why white asparagus has a good reputation.

This dish was lovely and makes a nice opening salad. Mild and tender with subtle flavor. It looked so pretty that I was half way through before I realized that I still had six spears left. Two could easily share this dish. At $9, it was the priciest starter which range about $6.

I had the San Francisco style thin crust pizza called Pizza flambee au Roquefort, crème fraiche and roasted pecans ($11). To used a much overused and unimaginative word….yum, yum, yum, yum, yum, yum, yum.

I love Roquefort so I will warn you this is a salty dish…and rich…so decadently rich. It might be used as an appetizer and split with up to 4 people.

I’m no fan of cracker crust pizza, but this was more than that. Thin but tender and yeasty, I could have eaten it without any topping.

What really made this a WOW experience was the dessert. A warm flaky apricot tart with house made ice cream sprinkled with slivered almonds ($6). It was one of those desserts where the first bite makes you say out loud “mmmmm”. And I was dining alone.

The pastry had the perfect crackle yet was fork tender. The tart lemony apricots on top lacking the gluey taste so often found with this dessert. The ice cream complimenting the tartness of the apricots. The almonds adding extra crunch. The only way this dessert could have been better would be if the almonds were toasted.

There’s no web site yet so here’s some of the current dinner menu (lunch items I mentioned also available at dinner):

La Soupe: Crème of Point Reyes oysters with sea scallop and spinach (6).
Smoked duck breast salad “lyonnaise” with poached egg and lardon (9).
Baby arugula and shaved fennel salad with orange vinaigrette (6).

Wood roasted Sonoma foie gras with candied apricot and brioche (16)
Ahi tuna caparccio, green olive, and celery (11)

Pissaladiere with caramelized onions, olive tapenade and olive oil (12)

Wild mushroom risotto (19)
Sautéed striped bass with petite ratatouille and saffron sauce (23)
Pan seared filet mignon, braised hull barley and fois gras butter (24)
Colorado rack of lamb and tomato confit and jabron potato gratin (26)
Wood roasted squab with morels and sherry wine gastric (27)

I just stopped by and they gave me the menus. I read them, found parking and had a wonderful lunch. Street parking is not easy. There are a few large stores near by, so you might try sneaking in there. FoodCo watches their lot, so I might suggest the Office Max lot. Haven’t been to Best Buy yet so don’t know how closely they monitor their lot.

Chez Spencer has only been open a week (lucky me). They’ve delayed opening because they are waiting for a liquor license. They are still waiting. Should be about three more weeks, but you can bring your own bottle in the mean time.

The service was pleasant even given they were open only a week and the soon to be bartender was waiting tables until the liquor license came through. There were only three people at lunch. Go now, bring your wine before it gets reviewed. This is a find.

Chez Spenser is currently open at 8 am for coffee, croissants and granola. The coffee was strong and reminded me of the coffee in Paris.

It’s always nice to have a restaurant with outdoor dining. It started getting windy and one gust picked up the roll, but I successfully caught it. The lettuces were moving a bit in the breeze, so I ate those first. It was still very pleasant outdoors, but in a strong breeze, be attentive.

82 14th St (between Folsom and Harrison)
San Francisco, CA 94103
415-864-2101
8 a.m. - 10:30 pm
Sunday Brunch 11- 3 (pending liquor license)

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