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Restaurants & Bars 9

Le Petit Robert, SF

Fine | Oct 13, 2001 12:44 AM

Finally got around to trying East Coast West Jewish deli after the A's game the other night only to discover it had already cut back its hours from 10 PM till 9.

Moving down Polk, we saw an unfamiliar establishment in the distance, which tunred out to be opening night at Le Petit Robert (corner of Green).

What the hell! Why not?

Full of excited "first-nighters," the high-ceilinged, multi-windowed, bare wood-floored room exuded charm.

Given the late hour on its first night, the kitchen did an overall good job with its French bistro by way of Polk Street menu.

Frisee with lardons, poached egg, and--curiously--two pieces of barely garlicked toast instead of traditional--and I think preferable--mixed-in croutons (7.95) suffered a bit in handling and timing--the greens on the bottom were virtually cooked--but was tasty.

Grilled sardines (7.50) smelled pretty strong but the large whole fish were mild-tasting and nicely complemented by a tart fennel remoulade.

We asked that the beurre-noisette (browned butter) be served on the side instead of atop Pan-roasted skate (16.50), it also came on finely julienned, very good mixed vegetables swimming in butter! The fish was fine if not exactly exciting.

Grilled Onglet (16.50), a cut that really doesn't exist in the US since the French butcher beef differently, came already sliced and could not have been more flavorful--best beef I've tasted in ages.It was nicely but unobtrusively sauced in a red wine-based meaty substance. The accompanying fries' paleness belied their perfection.

I couldn't stop eating the walnut bread, one of two similar styles served.

Many wines are offered by the taste, glass, and small carafe (2 glasses). We enjoyed a good, dry Ch. Routas rose (5.75/gl) and de Loach Zin (12.25/carafe).

Service was pretty good, considering the circumstances.

We passed on desserts.

Drawbacks: the tables outside that evening seemed to attract a virtual PM convention's worth of smokers and several patrons of the restaurant were clearly miserable (is there a law of physics that dictates that tobacco smoke right outside the open windows of a restaurant will be sucked in through those windows regardless of the direction of the wind?) till a brave diner went over and closed the window.

The wine list needs some work: under the category Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Chenin Blanc, Alsatian producers were listed without specifying which of their wines was offered.

Though it might be very unParisian, if the kitchen were to offer the option of cooking foods in olive oil instead of butter, it would be a boon to many who must or choose to limit saturated fat in their diets.

All in all, a promising newcomer.

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