After consultation with Foodnut, Bay Area's top food blogger, I made a reservation at Chapeau! out on Clement street. Honestly, I've never heard of the place and it really doesn't show up on the radar for most out-of-towners. Apparently, all my cousins have heard and dined at this place before. They had nothing but good things to say about it. Originally, it was only going to be Sal and myself; but Cable Car Guy, AZee and Rice-O-Ronnie were able to join us as well. Awesome, the more, the merrier... and more pictures! Residing at the old location of Clementine, Chapeau! was still in the process of renovations. That would
probably explain the bare walls and modern-on-traditional light fixtures. Sal was obsessed with the walls, constantly complaining that there should be wallpaper. It really didn't bother me, I was more interested with the food.
We had an early reservation for 5:45pm and the place was packed during this time. The reason? Between 5:00pm - 6:00pm, there is an early bird special consisting of 3 courses for $28.00. A pretty good deal in my books. I decided to order off the menu because I wasn't really in the mood for dessert. Actually, Sal was planning on taking us to Bi-Rite afterwards, so my "no dessert" idea was more strategic than anything. Prior to our appetizers, we were treated to complimentary amuse bouche in the form of a Creamy Corn Soup. Cable Car Guy was running late and they actually brought him his soup when he arrived. Moreover, they encouraged us to order for him before the 6:00 cutoff time for the early bird special. We liked how they took care of everyone, even the one that wasn't even present.
I got the PEI Mussels Soup as my starter and I was pleasantly surprised at how many fresh, plump mussels rested in the aromatic broth with a slight hint of heat. The addition of creme fraiche was a nice touch as it gave the soup some body. Cable Car Guy went for a classic - Escargot de Bourgogne in Butter-Parsley & Garlic Sauce. It was a bit hard to take a picture of it since each escargot were covered with plenty of butter and parsley. However, that made for some good eating, especially dipping the bread in the remaining sauce. For my entree, I had the Skate Wing in Brown Butter. It was served with fingerling potatoes and finished with a Grenobloise sauce. The skate was moist with a slightly crispy exterior. It was slightly on the overcooked side; but not terribly so. The capers, shallots and lemon juice (?) added both aromatics and tang.
Sal picked my 2nd choice if I hadn't chosen the skate wing. It was the Cassoulet de Toulouse which is essentially a bean stew with a duck leg (or duck confit) and a lamb sausage. Definitely rich and robust, the dish was quite filling. I tried the duck and it was tender and full of flavour without being salty. Sal could only finish 1/3 of it and instructed the assistant waiter to pack it up. We're not sure what got lost in translation; but he ended up dumping the rest of the dish. More on that later... Both AZee and Rice-a-Ronnie had the Louisiana Gulf Wild Flounder which was served with mashed potatoes, braised leeks and roasted tomatoes. The dish was finished off with a mussels-saffron sauce. I also got to sample this dish and the flounder was cooked perfectly. Moist, tender and only flavoured by the sauce, this was a simple; yet well executed dish. Rice-a-Ronnie didn't care for the mussels in the sauce and on the dish. I would tend to agree with that since the mussels could detract from the delicate flavour of the fish. For me, I love mussels, so it
was a non-issue.
For dessert, Cable Car Guy went for the Profiterolles. These chocolate-covered cream puffs were decadent; yet light at the same time. Don't ask me why that is, it just tasted that way. Not a good dish for someone who is on a diet. Now if you were, Sal chose a very light dessert in the form of a Basil Napoleon with Maui Pineapple, Manilla Mango, Banana, Kiwi & Strawberries with
Champagne-Citrus Pastry Cream. Similar to a mini fruit salad, this was both refreshing and very light. Now on the other hand, AZee went all out
and got the French Toast. Yes, French toast in a French restaurant, go figure... It was finished with a rich caramel sauce with hazelnut ice cream. I normally do not go OMFG over French toast; but I will here. Pure buttery, sweet and slightly crispy heaven which would blow any calorie restrictions.
Chef and owner Philippe Gardelle greets and welcomes every guest sometime during their meal. He is a gracious host and shows his appreciation for their patronage. In fact, when he found out that Sal lost her leftovers, he marched straight into the kitchen and made up a partial portion for her to take home. I really enjoyed my dinner at Chapeau! from the food to the service. Combine this with reasonable prices, especially with the early bird, you really can't go wrong here.
- Great value
- Well-executed dishes
- Philippe Gardelle is a gracious host
- Although bigger than the old location, it's still pretty small