Melanie Wong | Dec 6, 200303:26 PM     1

The petite bistrot, La Poste, was our choice for a business meeting Thursday night. My colleague had been a regular, dining here more than 20+ times since the pre-opening party last year. For my first time, it was great to have a guide to the menu’s strengths.

François, the French partner who managed the front of the house, departed recently. The atmosphere is now more sedate than had been reported in the early press. Since closing his other restaurant, Rob’s Rib Shack, chef/owner Rob Larman is now devoting his full attention to La Poste.

The interior, accessorized with French bistro paraphernalia, could be called cozy or cramped, depending on how much you like your neighboring diners. The tables are pushed right up against each other in a solid line along each of the long walls and then turn an L-shaped leg along part of the back wall. A specially trimmed corner table fills in that notch for more seating. In good weather, outdoor dining is available along the easement shared with the bank next door.

The menu is now printed and laminated, not just written on the chalkboard. The wine list of mostly California wines is peppered with some French choices. The wines by the glass selection and a handful of half bottles of red wine offered enough variety to create an interesting pairing program with our dishes. The stemware is Riedel.

The amuse-bouche was a quartet of tiny warm gougeres, each barely a half inch across. Our starters were La Poste’s signature appetizers: salt cod fritters and Dungeness crab chiffonade.

The salt cod fritters drizzled with aioli and a bit of chopped parsley for color were incredible. Very dark and crunchy outside, toeing the line but not crossing over to burnt, the near molten and glossy interior of silky pureed potato and salt cod was an explosion of flavor with plenty of garlic leading the charge. With this we split a glass of 2001 Chateau Terry Lacombe Cotes de Provence rosé, $6.25. Cold and crisp with a whisper of watermelon rosy-ness, this cut through the oiliness of the crispy deep-fried crust and cleansed the palate for each garlic-laden bite to be savored anew. This appellation is justifiably renowned for the food-friendliness of its rosé wines.

The Dungeness crab chiffonade, shown below as a half order split in the kitchen, featured the large center joint of the first claw on top garnished with bright orange tobiko. The base was a mass of shredded bitter greens blended with more crab meat and a light dressing. The greens were a bit too bitter for my taste, or perhaps the somewhat water-logged crab was not sweet enough to counterbalance the flavors. For this dish, we shared a glass of 2002 Thibert Macon-Fuisse, $7.95. This is the kind of find that wine-geeks love to spot on lists. Macon-Fuisse is one of the villages entitled to sell its wine as Pouilly-Fuisse, a much more lauded and pricey appellation. However, this idiosyncratic producer, Thibert, prefers to label its wine with its home commune, which most folks assume is a run-of-the-mill bland Macon-Villages. Consequently, it tends to be overlooked, keeping the price very reasonable for the quality it delivers. Dense and weighty with an oily texture, the minerally nose and palate were dominated by green apple and citrus fruit, ending with a clean finish.

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