Late dinner on Polk last night led us to Le Jardin. I've heard good things about this place several times from friends as well as here. I believe someone mentioned that the chef had a prior stint at Slanted Door.
There's interesting perspective on the colorful and eclectic street traffic at the edge of the Tenderloin when you look out the windows of the second floor restaurant. Somehow you're there, but above it all.
Which is exactly the aspirations of the kitchen as it sketches out dishes with Vietnamese lines on one hand while but coloring them with light tones from California.
I think the dishes that exemplified this spirit best were the crab cakes and the shaking beef. The pair of crab cakes were petite but filled with substantial chunks of delicate crabmeat. A fragile shell of caramelization on the surface on the pan-fired crabcake brings light textural snaps to the dish. On the side a huge slaw flavored with sweet basil, sesame oil and seeds among other things. The typical honey sugar sauce
is provided for dipping (or in my case drenching).
Shaking beef offers a tender cut of filet mignon, cubed and expertly cooked. Lightness here is provided by sautted onions and scallions, as well as a lime-based dipping sauce that lends a sheen to tang to the beef. This is an excellent beef dish by any yardstick.
The salt and pepper spareribs were also exemplary, coated in a gentle batter and tossed in the pan with slices of jalapenos. The salt and pepper effect worked well and the batter was greaseless yet delectable. The spareribs might be slightly hard to eat any kind of elegance with the bones in the way, but no one played etiquette police as we wolfed down the stuff, dipping in the same lime based sauce that provided a wonderful sharp acidic counterbalance to the rich deep-fried batter.
I like my claypot catfish with a dark heavy sauce, but Le Jardin's very follows the lighter road. Not necessary a bad path, just not replete with the sweet sticky complexity that I'm used to. The clean cottony fish was still very good.
Simplicity surrounds the stir-fried string beans with shiitakes, where a bit of black earthiness peeksout from the forest of green snappy beans. Well cooked, especially the nice hint of heat, but more shiitakes would have been nice.
A good meal with high quality cooking. Some portions looked a bit small, but otherwise we were more than satisfied as we paid our share of $23 per person (incl. tax and tip, no alcohol).
Followed this with homey and inexpensive desserts at Street, where we fell in love with the pecan breadpudding in caramel sauce. The panna cotta with strawberry sauce was also excellent, but the berry and apple cobbler had too much fruit and too little cobbler on top.