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"Small Plates" restaurants in San Francisco


rshorens
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The New York Times had a review today by Brian Miller about Baraka, Chez Papa, Chez Spencer, Tallula, and The Last Supper Club as restaurants in San Francisco featuring small plates(sorry I'm not high tech enough to supply a link). I value the opinions of e.gulleteers who have eaten in any of these restaurants recently. How would you rate them in terms of quality of food, value for the price, and overall experience?

Thanks!

Roz

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In San Francisco, Good Things Come on Small Plates

I haven't eaten at Chez Papa, but it was the secret delight of a San Franciscan friend, and I will never forget her dismay when the NY Times featured it in their food sections one day. It was definitely a "there goes the neighborhood" kind of day in her life. Her reports of the meals were exquisite.

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We ate at Chez Papa around this time last year. (Amanda Hesser wrote an article for the NYT in early December '02 that focused on "French bistros" in SF. Chez Papa & Chez Spencer were both noted in that piece.)

Chez Papa was will worth the trip to the Hill. Recommended.

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I wasn't terribly impressed with Chez Spencer, but I know people who love it. The food was fine, but it was very expensive, considering the small size of the portions. The salad mentioned in the article, for example, contains about a quarter cup of frisee, a little diced bacon, and three small paper thin slices of (admittedly very good) smoked duck breast, plus an overdone poached egg, for (as I recall) about $15. I spent $40 plus tip for the salad, a small serving of okay bouillabaise, a glass of rose, and a marble sized scoop of sorbet (three of us split that). Then I went home and had a grilled cheese sandwich, which was the most satisfying thing I had that night.

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First off, I'm not particularly impressed with the NY Times article. The article starts of with:

In early September, after five days of rummaging around restaurants in San Francisco, that most fervent of dining cities, it became evident that the big trend there was small plates. "This is nothing new on the East Coast, but it's catching on here big," a local restaurant critic told me as we stabbed at miniature lemon pancakes with chutney at a popular new spot called Tallula.

It's really silly to imply that small plates restaurant are a new thing around here, or that the restaurants listed in the article are a good sample of SF small plates restaurants. The Small-Plate Club article from the NY Times a couple of years ago did a much better job on this subject. Small plate restaurants might have been a new trend in SF four years ago, but today they're ubiquitous not only here, but up and down the West coast (all the way to Vancouver).

As for the restaurants listed in the article, I agree with the above posters that Chez Papa is the best of the lot. It's one of my favorite mid-range French bistrots in the city right now. Baraka, which has Morroccan/Spanish influenced food, is pretty good though not particularly worth a trip out to Potrero. Tallula, the Indian/French small plates restaurant in the Castro, is interesting but if you want truly authentic Indian small plates, head over to Vik's Chaat House in Berkeley. I'd skip The Last Supper Club altogether, I had a very disappointing meal there. There's a ton of better restaurants in the Mission to go to instead, including Luna Park which is owned by the same people. I haven't been to Chez Spencer yet so I can't comment on it.

By the way, of the restaurants mentioned in the article, only Baraka and Tallula are true small plates restaurants, the other three are regular restaurants with appetizers (small plates), entrees (large plates) and desserts. If I were to recommend small plates restaurants in the Bay Area, I would start with Chez Nous and A Cote, and probably add places like Grasshopper, Isa, Andalu, Cesar and Bacar. Another interesting twist on the concept are the Japanese small plates restaurant, in particular at the higher end Ozumo and Le Poisson Japonais (currently closed but hopefully reopening this summer).

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