Frances in San Francisco is the sort of neighbourhood restaurant everyone would like to have: Warm, welcoming and serving delicious food, it combines everything a glutton could possibly look for.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that this place is nearly always packed. If you want to make sure that you get a table, do book in advance, as you will not have to fight for a bar seat. That, if it comes to the worst, is not so much of a hardship as it simply means that you are closer to the action. Apart from the food here, one really has to mention the extremely friendly atmosphere in here. If Robuchon’s Ateliers tried to get people talking with each other, at Frances that really happens if you’re up for it. This creates an feeling in the dining room that is truly unique.
The wine list covers a wide range of interesting bottles from natural wines, to some fairly rare things such as Yves Gangloff’s syrahs and viogniers. Prices are fair, and there is something interesting on the list for pretty much every budget, which is interesting. For travellers from Europe, the Californian section of the list is perhaps a little bit thin, but then again, this is a restaurant where you don’t come to drink Harlan or Colgin.
The food on the other side combines the wealth of California’s produce with classical European recipes. This is a cuisine that is a cross between French, Italian, Spanish and Californian, combining the most interesting elements of all of them. Think of a squid salad with orange. This bursts with freshness, and is packed with flavour. The squid of surprisingly good quality are cooked perfectly, and the citrus fruits lift it all up a bit. Without doubt, this is spontaneous and incredibly satisfying food.
The same goes for a few crab cakes. A classic that goes well with pretty much any white wine, these are virtually made up of crabmeat alone and are perfectly paired with orange segments. Finally, one ought to mention the beautiful faux fillet of beef they cook here. Tender, with lots of flavour and perfectly cooked this comes with very simple, but potent garnishes which all work beautifully with the meat.
In general Frances is a place that spices classical recipes up a little, without engaging in silly experiments that lead nowhere. Eating here is not only fun, it is also very satisfying. It provides the perfect contrast to experiences at Manresa, Coi, Aubergine or Meadowood, in delivering the simple pleasures of the table in a most convincing manner.