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San Francisco Bay Area Whiskey

La Provence & Nihon Whiskey Lounge

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Restaurants & Bars 1

La Provence & Nihon Whiskey Lounge

Windy | Dec 1, 2005 11:05 PM

It was a friend's birthday, and nine of us enjoyed a lovely dinner at La Provence. Service was warm and friendly and extremely competent. One of us had a pine nut allergy, and his bread dip was immediately replaced with tapenade (made with anchovies--yum!). Wine was brought for all, and glasses were kept full without ever needing to ask.

Everyone found something to enjoy. The bowl of pistou looked fantastic. I ordered duck rilletes, which were tasty with the accompanying fig jam although I prefer pork rilletes. I got rabbit as my main course, which I enjoyed but not nearly as much as the duck tenderloin (is there such a cut?--it was like filet mignon or a pork roast) I scarfed off Greg's plate. The mains, which run $15-22, all came with perfectly prepared haricots verts and mashed potatoes. Portions are generous, and while there's variability in quality, everything ranged from quite good to much better than that.

My end of the table shared all four desserts. The highlights were a warm chocolate cake (served with an unnecessary strawberry and whipped cream) and creme brulee flavored with lavender. Dinner for 9 with three courses each and four bottles of wine was just under $500 with a generous tip. The menu and unpretentious atmosphere are pleasing for a wide range of possible dining companions; I would take my mom here, or a fussy visitor, or a date. Also we could hear each other! Try that in one of those trendy divers sea scallops/hangar steak bistros on Valencia.

La Provence is on the corner of Guerrero and 22nd. I'm sorry it took me this long to walk in the door.

We then headed over to Nihon Whiskey Lounge, next door to Rainbow Grocery and Chez Spencer, where we proceeded to spend as much on single malts and designer bourbons as we had on dinner. (Roger had eaten at Nihon the night before and said the food was pricey but very good especially an appetizer stuffed with cooked yellowtail).

Nihon is a world unto itself, with cozy nooks and red sofas and interesting lighting and crazy bottle service (at the higher end, the markup is something like 500%; at the lower it's two or three times that). This is a NYC-style Japanese whiskey bar with Arab owners; the menu claims Arabs invented whiskey, although the Celts might have something to say about that.

Lots of interesting spirits to try. I'm not sure I'll be putting down a deposit on the $700 Oban any time soon. But highly recommended. Cool glassware. Pull up an $11 glass of Booker or an aged single malt, or a Potrero hill-rye (from our friends at Anchor steam) and sink into the sofas.

Any reports on the food, especially from someone who hadn't been drinking first?

Nihon is at 14th and Folsom. Crowded on the weekends, but kind of dreamy late on a Wednesday.

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