This year, since our finances have been constrained when we've eaten out, we've tended towards patronizing our low-end favorites. Consequently, we haven't eaten at that many new places. But today we did and we're in love. Although we both have agreed that we have to go back a few more times to be sure, we may certify this place as the "Michael & Rochelle Find of the Year, 2003".
Anytime someone gives me a food or restaurant recommendation, I take it seriously. I quiz them about location, hours and what they eat when they go, what they love about the place and why theyre recommending it to me.
So months ago, German Motorcycle Chick (GMC) gave me a food recommendation. You should try my friends restaurant, its got a French name, its only open for lunch during the week and he does sandwiches but he also experiments with Middle Eastern-ish food. Its really good food but hes dying in his SOMA location since the crash. She goes on to tell me that she always has one of the specials since theyre so interesting.
As she describes her recommendation, I just cannot picture it or its location so I get her to draw me a map. Rats! When she first told me it was on Folsom, I got excited since I work on Folsom, but looking at the map, I realize its not near me. I take the map home and briefly I considered throwing it away because the place is just not workable (M-F lunch only and the awkward location make the chances of me ever getting there for a meal are almost non-existent). But out of respect for GMC, I put it on the fridge door and there it sat for months until today.
Today, Michael staged a revolt. He had broken the shade on my new floor lamp so I told him he was responsible for replacing it, but then he played his Im a techno-geek, I cant pick out decorative home products card. We compromised and I agreed that if he came and picked me up from work, I would ratify his choice at the lighting store. As an afterthought, as we were discussing logistics, I mention that he should bring the map from the fridge door since I was pretty sure GMCs recommendation was within a block or two of the lighting store.
We pull up outside the sign says Patisserie Café. Hmmm. Theres a sandwich board outside announcing the days specials, several of which make me start drooling, even as I acknowledge they dont seem very French. We step inside it looks like a basic café benches lining the wall with rectangular marble tables, round marble tables filling the room, one wall with a bakery case (with fancy desserts) & counter seating. I pick up their business card - it has a photo of a spice drawer and the phrase Arabic Fusion Cuisine under Patisserie Café. Hmmm.
A waitress casually tells us to pick a table. At 1pm, its about 1/3 full (5 tables). We start eyeing the food on other tables. As we read our menus, our excitement begins to build. (Check their menu out at www.patisseriecafe.com, although note that their current menu is larger and they have daily specials.) They have a few appetizers, some salads, some nice sounding sandwiches, but their entrée section holds some really, really yummy sounding food.
Michael orders the Fresh Crab & Scallop with Roasted Pear & Ricotta wrapped in Filo over a bed of Yoghurt Mint Sauce which comes with soup or salad ($11). I order the Mujadara, which is French lentils & rice with Tofu and Vegetables (zucchini & mushrooms), Tomato Vinaigrette & Tahini Sauce and comes with soup or salad ($11).
The soup is stunning creamy, slightly sweet, chunks of veggies, and a slight clam chowder feel to it, it is spiced with some amazing blend of spices that I cant even identify other than to say red, building heat spices. The accompanying bread is a very nice chewy, crunchy bagette slices and pad of real butter.
Now that were really, really happy, our entrees arrive. Both are beautiful. While we are impressed with the chefs plating & presentation skills, we both consider taste more important.
Aaaah! Both of our dishes are spot-on perfect, we cannot imagine a better rendition of either dish. The food is fresh, well-spiced, nicely presented, not over-cooked, not annoyingly al dente. And our favorite sport is talking about what we would do different. Yes, I fully admit that we are what chefs hate only slightly less than professional food reviewers - Back Seat Chefs. Yum. Yes, yes, this is very tasty. Of course, if I were making it, I would use mango and a touch of cilantro, blah, blah, blah.
At one point, the chef came out from the back and saw us feeding each other (he might have heard us moaning). We talked for a few minutes. Hes been there for 10 years! (Jeez, I may lose my Chowhound Card for not having found this place earlier). He does catering. Hes now open on Thursday and Friday evenings but it hasnt taken off. Hes looking for a better location with more foot traffic. I held my tongue and didnt mention that in my opinion, some of his problem could be a name like Patisserie Café.
Our bill for food, drinks & tip totals $33. The service is friendly and casual like the café itself.
I dont know if weve been in a food rut and just got a kick in the pants; if the chef was having a spot-on day; or if its just my awe because this was food I couldnt imagine making at home but we cannot wait to go back. My only fear is that it was a hunger-induced hallucination.
FYI - they are open for breakfast and seem to have coffee drinks, pastries and a few hot dishes.
1155 Folsom Street
SF, CA 94103
Breakfast 8-11 am (M-F)
Lunch 11-4pm (M-F)
Dinner 6:30-10pm (Thursday & Friday)