Restaurants & Bars

Last Saturday Dinner at Bizou – A stroll down memory lane menu

Krys | Mar 19, 200511:55 PM     7

The link below to Bizou has a little more information about the restaurant closing. Over the next few weeks there will be special five course dinner menus available for $45. At lunch you can choose all five courses or a smaller three course menu for $35.

Each menu celebrates a stage in Loretta Keller’s career.

The first menu that ended tonight highlighted “her days in the San Francisco restaurant scene during the 1980s that set the stage for Bizou. An homage to her years as the chef in the fabled Stars’ Grill Room, this menu reflects the foundation of many time-honored favorites.”

The second menu, available beginning March 21st, takes diners to 1995 and the early heyday of the brilliant headstrong young Bizou.

Week of March 21:
* Warm Fava Bean and Artichoke Salad with Pecorino and Nasturtiums
* Sizzling Shrimp with Garlic and Arbole Chili
* Roasted Sweet Peppers with Cured Anchovies and Rosemary Focaccia
* Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chop with Asparagus and Mint
* Bittersweet Chocolate and Coffee Vacherin with Candied Almonds

The third and final week, beginning March 28th is a glimpse into the future, a preview of what is to come from Chef Keller and the transformed restaurant to occupy this beloved SOMA corner after a two-month hiatus.

Final Week:
* Asparagus and Pecorino Zabaglione
* Squid a la Plancha
* Oxtail Ravioli
* Crispy Pork Belly with Spinach
* House Made Sorbet and Gelato
* DaVero Meyer Lemon Marmalade Cookies

The restaurant was filled tonight and noisy … but a happy noise of people enjoying a good dinner and each other’s company. It will be the last Saturday night dinner for me and it was difficult not to cry.

I don’t have the heart to go into much detail about the dinner.

I started with my customary glass of champagne. For an appetizer I had squid on black rice. I had the special braised pork on a bed of white beans topped with roasted asparagus that was brilliant. For the dessert I had the 50/50 which was Loretta’s take on jello with whipped cream. It came with two excellent biscotti. I finished with my customary glass of sauterne.

Bizou was a few blocks from my home. I remember the mediocre sandwich shop that occupied the place prior to Bizou. SOMA wasn’t called that then and it was a rough neighborhood. I stopped by to check out the new restaurant in my neighborhood … Bizou. I have eaten there almost once a month ever since the first time I walked in the door.

Bizou is my favorite restaurant … ever. Warm, sophisticated and cozy like I imagined a neighborhood French bistro would be. Restaurants and food trends have come and gone over those years, but Bizou has consistently provided great food and service.

In all that time I have never been disappointed in a meal. I have never left without feeling totally satisfied and with a sense of well being.

Comfort food to me was Loretta’s braised meats. The squid, any preparation, was always outstanding. I looked forward to the strawberry shortcake in season. I trusted Loretta to do a good job of any dish so this is where I expanded my culinary horizons a bit and tried my first sweetbreads, escargot, skate, octopus, fois gras, pintade, bone marrow, pork belly, beef cheeks, fiddlehead ferns and nettles, to name a few.

I remember one lunch when I only had time for one appetizer. There were six tiny fresh sardines with a poached egg. You dipped the sardine in the egg. There was lovely hot house baked foccacia with olive oil to dip it in. That is all I had and yet I left the restaurant totally full and satisfied. That is how I always felt after a meal there.

Bizou made everyone feel welcome. I was as likely to be sitting at the bar with San Francisco’s movers and shakers as one of the construction workers stopping in for a meal after a day working to change the face of SOMA. Tonight someone speaking Spanish, and from my guess, trying to sell something stopped by. The staff called over Christine, who speaks Spanish to explain the restaurant was closing and would not be there in a few weeks. On a night that was busy, they were kind to this man and took some time with him. It has always been that way.

I know the staff at Bizou don’t read Chowhound, so they won’t read this.

However, thank you Sean for always making sure I was comfortable. I learned a lot about wine. Your excellent suggestions always made the dinner so much more enjoyable.

Thank you Christine. Although I only sat at your table once, I enjoyed knowing you and talking to you. You always were a great backup when Stacy was out.

Thank you to the other waiters, I’m embarrassed to say, I forget your names because you don’t wait on me that often. I may not know your names, but I always appreciated your fine service.

Especially thank you Stacy. My usual seat was at the corner in the bar, so Stacy was the person I talked to the most. She is the most adept and amazing bartender I have ever seen.

I remember some twenty something guys came in one night after partying a bit too much. They were getting a little boisterous. Stacey talked to them and told them basically they needed to behave and not bother the rest of the customers. I was vastly amused when they all sincerely said in chorus “Yes, Stacy” and they behaved. You didn’t cross Stacy or you were banned from Bizou like the unfortunate man would drink a bottle of sauterne and it started to get out of hand.

I enjoyed the conversations at the bar as much as the food.

My life has changed as much as the Soma district during that time. In that time I came to Bizou to celebrate and I came to Bizou to mourn. For much of that time my mother who had Alzheimer’s was in a nursing home. When things got rough I know I could come to Bizou for a little refuge from life’s problems, eavesdrop on the conversations in the bar and be comforted by the wonderful meal. No matter what the situation I always felt a little better leaving Bizou.

My heart tugged a little with each dish I ordered. I was sad when Stacy knew what I liked and made the appropriate suggestions. I don’t have that relationship at another restaurant. I was sad that I could no longer look forward to another great squid or braised pork dish. Where will I get my comfort food now?

I gazed out into the bustling restaurant with the candles flickering and saw the end of an era. It was almost like watching shadows of the past.

So thank you Loretta. Of all the cooking Kellers in the Bay Area, your food outshines everyone. The night of my one and only lunch at French Laundry, I stopped by Bizou because I needed a dish that wasn’t clever, just delicious.

I always thought that the quality and creativity of Bizou and Chez Panisse were similar and that makes them both my favorites. However much I love Chez Panisse, it was a special occasion restaurant … and even then, I preferred to spend my special occasions at Bizou.

That was a wonderful restaurant you created. You chose a warm knowledgeable staff that made Bizou as much as the food. There was a time or two that I was early and sat at the bar while the staff was being trained about what was on the menu. The restaurant was run like a restaurant should be run.

I wish I had the time to do this post justice. It is quick and off the top of my head (and after quite a few glasses of wine at Bizou). However, I’m going to be off the internet for a while and this was my last chance to post and let people know about the specials that were up coming.

And PaulH … I’ll be there closing night at my usual seat in the corner of the bar. Let’s finally meet. Stop by and say hi. If you are not sure who I am, tell Stacy you are looking for Krys.

Bizou was all about the food and yet managed to be much, much more. And when you can do that, it is something special.

Link: http://www.bizourestaurant.com/welcom...

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