Tuesday, November 22, 2005

La Provence - Guerrero - San Francisco - CA

A Little Corner of France on the Edge of the Mission

olive1.jpgThis is a copy of my most recent article for SFist in which I eat my way around the Bay Area in alphabetical order and then write about it in SFist-style using the 'royal we'. This entry, covering the letter P, was actually published a couple of weeks ago and I just getting round to repeating it here for my SF-based Becks & Posh Readers.

A short while ago we read the scoop, on SFist, about a new French restaurant on the scene. If you live in the area around Guerrero and 22nd, you might be thankful for the opening, a few months ago, of a friendly little French bistro calling itself La Provence. Whilst the neighbourhood itself might not conjure up images of neat little lavender fields, windy cobbled streets and lively pavement cafes, this addition to the outer Mission has a bright, sunny disposition and a friendly, welcoming persona that is definitely French.

We had reserved a table at 9pm on a Tuesday but found that calling ahead wasn't strictly necessary since the lofty, golden-hued room was only half full. The four diners in our party for the evening were all relaxed and in good spirits, perhaps because none of us had any difficulty parking? As we had a Frenchman among us, we allowed him a little witty repartee, in a familial fashion, 'en Francais' with the French speaking staff. The fact that the French appeared to be engaged in very friendly banter made us feel comfortable in our surroundings and we were eager to start imbibing. Very soon we were sipping the largest Kir Royale we can remember ever being served. They were cool and crisp and difficult to stop supping on once we had started. Likewise, the complimentary bread, delivered along with little pots of olive and tomato tapenade, were difficult to stop nibbling on once we had discovered how more-ish these most savoury and salty of spreads actually were.

We elected to share the starters. La Pissaladière, a little pastry tart topped with onion, peppers and olives was offered either with or without the anchovies that by traditional rights should be adorning it. Either way, it was tasty and its petite size was reflected in the reasonable pricing of $5.95. A Tartare de Saumon, at $8.95, was marinated in a citrus cure and then unusually paired with an eggplant caviar. The combination itself was nothing exceptional but each component was well prepared and the portion size was more than generous. Salade de Chèvre, $6.95, with a warm goat cheese, glistening vinaigrette-dressed salad with candied pecans was a perfectly good example of its genre.

Our mood was convivial, and because we had tricked one of our neighbours into being designated driver for the evening, we decided we could safely share a bottle of red without any going to waste. The wine list, again, was cheap compared to uptown prices and so we settled for a bottle of Brouilly at just under thirty bucks. We asked for it fresh or frais and because the staff actually understood what we meant by that, our bottle of red soon appeared with an ice bucket so we could chill it to the correct temperature for drinking.

Of the Main courses we managed to sample, the Gigot d’Agneau St Tropez, $18.95, was the most delicious. In fact, it was superb. The Californian-sourced lamb, cooked exactly to the requested shade of pink was extremely succulent and tasty with accompanying soft little pillows of grilled polenta that were the perfect for mopping up the thyme jus. The duck dish, Magret de Canard des Garrigues, $21.95, with a seasonal fig and red wine reduction was slightly less of a crowd pleaser. Don't be afraid to ask for you duck rare if that is the way you like it. The staff will recommend it medium but we stood our ground and insisted on it almost bloody for one of the portions, which made the Dracula-wannabee in our party much happier than they would have been with the medium-done version. The duck is on the sweet size so bare that in mind if you have more of a salty tooth.

We only shared one dessert between the four of us, but at just $5.95 each everything sugary is very good value. Our Clafoutis - which they describe as a French Bread Pudding with seasonal fruit and we would perhaps describe, instead, as a thick battered pudding was a fabulous interpretation of this classic French dish. We almost wish we'd asked for one spoon and four dishes, instead of vica-versa.

La Provence is not the fancy French place you would drive out of your way to, to look for the epitome of classic fancy dining, but it is certainly a charming and relaxed place for a causal and well-prepared meal in a very friendly atmosphere. So, if you live not too far away, make sure it is on your list of places to visit next time you want to sit down to a decent meal and a nice glass of wine without breaking the bank. The French. Really. You've just got to love them.

La Provence Restaurant
1001 Guerrero St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tel/fax: (415) 643•4333

Dinner served Tuesday through Sunday
from 5.30 to 11.00 pm

Reservations: by telephone - (415) 643•4333

PS This review was a

Archive Alert! A year later, it's still one of my favourite spots in the city. On this day in 2004 we were reviewing Oola. Pork ribs that dreams are made of.

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La Provence - Guerrero - San Francisco - CA


  • At 22/11/05 11:31, Blogger Amy Sherman said…

    I recently passed that place and wondered about it. Thanks for the review!

    Now maybe you can linger in my neighborhood and check out the brand new Ottimista Enoteca. (I prefer it when you scope these places out for me first)

  • At 23/11/05 18:15, Blogger Sam said…

    Amy - I had read about it and decided to give it a try. It was very nice, friendly, a little bit quiet. Definitely a neighbourhood joint.

    I haven't heard about Ottimista Enoteca, I guess I have been a bit out of it. Time to do some google research...

  • At 3/2/06 12:30, Blogger Sam said…

    it was ok - perfectly passable - not the best i have ever had.
    fred doesnt eat fish so we dont do fish restaurants as much as i would like.


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