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SF – Bizou … trying pintade


Krys Stanley
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I’ll briefly mention a special upcoming K&L / Bizou event before sharing my adventure with pintade.

Every few months Bizou has special dinners featuring K & L Wines and a French wine region. I attended a dinner last year that featured the food and wine of Provence and enjoyed it very much. Even before K & L moved to the neighborhood, Bizou would host special events like the night Mario Batali of Babbo was the guest chef.

In January you can lunch with Bordeaux Owners (and/or winemakers) from Angelus, Haut Bailly, Suduiraut, Petit Villages, Haut Bages Liberal, Phelan Segur, and Leoville Poyferre.

Just a note, Bizou has a special agreement with K & L Wines. Bring your bottle of wine from K & L and Bizou will waive the corkage. K & L is located ½ block away from Bizou.

Bizou is my favorite restaurant in San Francisco. I have dined there about once a month since it opened for over 12 years ago. Warm, sophisticated and cozy like a neighborhood French bistro, Bizou makes rustic Cal French dishes with Mediterranean influences I can't think of many places where the dinner is more satisfying. Restaurants and food trends have come and gone over those years, but Bizou has consistently provided great food and service.

Many of the professional, friendly staff has been there since opening. They treat customers like valued friends and are knowledgeable about the food and wine. You will see customers from all economic brackets. Blue collar workers will are as likely to be found at the bar as the latest dot.com CEO. Everyone is made to feel equally welcome. I usually have dinner at the bar because I like the atmosphere there. I go to Bizou to celebrate the good times, escape for a while the bad times and enjoy the food at any time. It is my Cheers.

The menu changes according to the season and Bizou uses the Bay Area's best food vendors. I suggest ordering whatever the special is. If there is squid on the menu, order it. No matter what the preparation, the squid is always outstanding. I remember one presentation that was in a tiny sizzling skillet. The tender squid was served on rice black from the squid ink. Crab appetizers are great like the Crab with Saffron Sauce, asparagus and buttered grilled bread.

The braised dishes, especially at this chilly time of year, are always wonderful, warm and soul soothing. The meat, like the lamb shanks, is fall off the bone tender.

I remember one lunch when I only had time for one appetizer. There were six tiny fresh sardines with a poached egg. You dipped the sardine in the egg. There was lovely hot house baked foccacia with olive oil to dip it in. That is all I had and yet I left the restaurant totally full and satisfied. That is how I always feel after a meal there.

During strawberry season, I highly recommend the strawberry shortcake type desserts. Flavored crème brulee’s are always rich in flavor like a spicy pumpkin creme brulee which was as pleasing as pumpkin pie.

The signature dishes,recommended by critics are always on the menu.

Batter Fried Green Beans with Dipping Sauce

Bizou Crisp Italian Flatbread

Beef Cheek “Sainte-Menehould” with Mustard, Watercress and New Potatoes

Bittersweet Chocolate and Coffee Vacherin~ Swiss Meringue, Crème Anglaise, Chocolate Sauce,Coffee Ice Cream and Candied Almonds

With the exception of the Vacherin, I’ve only ordered these dishes once. The specials are always so outstanding and I would highly suggest that.

That Vacherin is on my list of top ten desserts. One woman ordered Vacherin in Paris. Vacherin is also the name of a dessert cheese. When the meringue was put on the table, she looked the waiter in the eye and asked “Where’s the vache?” (cow).

A lot of thought goes into selecting wines to best complement the foods. The staff is very knowledgeable about which wines best accompany each dish.

There is unusually one dish with an interesting ingredient on the menu. I trust Bizou, so I have tried things I might not elsewhere. At Bizou I have had my first taste of sweetbreads, escargot, skate, octopus, fois gras, bone marrow, pork belly, beef cheeks, fiddlehead ferns and nettles, to name a few.

So last week I tried pintade.

Wednesday’s dinner started with an amuse of the lightest chicken liver mousse. For an appetizer I had Local Dungeness Crab Cake with Meyer Lemon Mayonnaise and Cabbage Salad...Bizou’s crab cakes are mostly crab and virtually no filler. I love when they have Maryland crab. The Dungeness has a more delicate taste.

The entrée was the breast of pintade with Bloomsdale Spinach, Butternut squash Gratin and dates, a dish that was as delicious as it looked. I have never tried pheasant which is what pintade is supposed to taste like. It tasted like very good chicken to me.

Dessert was Persimmon Pudding with Blood Orange and Brandy Chantilly. The warm pudding, like a small moist cake, was on top of three blood orange slices and topped with the brandy Chantilly. A nice way to finish the dinner.

Michael Bauer recently downgraded Bizou, and unfairly criticized the restaurant as being complacent and having "middle-age doldrums'' The Chronicle received a number of letters of protest and printed this letter (scroll down). Considering the outrage of many diners, I think the Chronicle should include the link to that letter as well as Bauer’s current and past reviews.

The kitchen is always evolving, experimenting with cured meats and house made cheese, such as mozzarella and Ricotta. Bizou started as Cal French and is broadening their scope to be more Cal Mediterranean.

I strongly disagree with Michael Bauer. You can probably tell from my post that I am biased in favor of Bizou and an enthusiastic fan. As someone who is there monthly, I can only say that the food was as wonderful on my last visit as my first. It is the standard I use to judge other restaurants. When you seem me favorably compare a restaurant to Bizou on this board, that is the highest complement I can give.

Some other Bizou memories:

THE FOOD AND WINE OF PROVENCE

This was a pleasant evening that left me with warm memories.

I am not a socializer. When I heard that tables were pushed together and we would be sharing the table with other diners, I cringed. However, people who enjoy either Bizou or K & L like good food and wine, so the conversation was easy. We started as strangers and left friends. Then again, enough wine will do that to you.

A woman in French country dress played French tunes on an accordion.

There was a representative from France who talked about Provence.

For added entertainment and drama, the power went out just before the first course was served. Fortunately it returned in five minutes.

The wines from K & L were affordable and paired nicely with the food.

Here's the menu:

Delicious roasted almonds and Bizou's regular bread from Acme.

Fried zucchini with stuffed zucchini flowers paired with Tavel Rose. My favorite dish. Nice contract in texture with the crunchy zucchini and the soft cheese stuffed zucchini. One of the better stuffed zucchini flowers I've had.

Marinated local anchovies and grilled calamari paired with Coteaux d'Aix en Provence Blanc. As always, Bizou excelled with the calamari. The anchovies were a little too fishy for my taste.

Sweet onions stuffed with bacon and sage paired with Bandol Rouge.

Leg of lamb with tomato confit and olives. I liked the rosemary with the juicy lamb, but my friend thought it too strong.

Fresh fig gratin paired with Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. My second favorite dish.

In all a highly enjoyable and delicous evening.

ESCARGOT

Saturday night I had escargots served with fresh English peas on a bed of greens.

This is the second time I've had snails. The first time was on the East Coast and I remember a lot of butter and certain chewiness. I thought "Well, if you put enough butter on anything it will taste good".

So I was surprised to see a different preparation. There was an actual flavor to the escargot themselves. I have trouble describing the dish without being unintentionally funny. All I can say is that the flavors were unique and I would order it again.

I was telling my "uncouth" friends about the snails. I should have expected trouble when after saying the snails were on a bed of greens, someone asked if they were still moving.

When I tried to describe the texture which was not chewy, I said they were tender. A chorus of eeewweees.

I knew better at this point than to describe the delicate flavor as earthy, so I tried saying the taste was vaguely like a green garden. More moans and the comment that they were snails. Of course they would taste that way.

Well, they were not there. It was a delicious dish and a whole different escargot experience.

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Thanks for the thorough review.  Bizou sounds wonderful. I think I'll go there for a DAT dinner.

Not to take any business away from Bizou, but Bizou offers the DAT prx fixe lunch and dinner year round. It is usualy soup of the day or salad. There are two entrees of the six entrees off the regular menu. Looking at the menu today, I would guess it is the sea bass and pork. You can give them a call on the night you plan to go. You can select any dessert on the menu and if this is the first time, go for that vacherin.

Please post back with your impressions, positive or negative. That's what makes food forums great. You get a balanced point of view. Bizou, like Chez Panisse, has people who are not impressed.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have heard good things about Bizou for a long time. We took advantage of the January SF Dine About Town to go there. As mentioned above, they have a very nicely priced prix fixe menu (~$30 offered year round. One chooses between two appetizers, two main courses and any dessert.

Two of us chose the prix fixe menu the night we went.

Off the prix fixe, we ordered a plate of oyster to start off (can't recall what kind) that were very good. We accompanied this with an excellent Loire wine (I think Sancerre, which was excellent).

Choice of app was a mixed green salad or an artichoke cream soup. We both got the soup and it was very good. Wonderful texture, creamy but not too thick and it had some interesting spicing that I couldn't postively ID but which accented rather than overwhealmed the artichoke.

We brought a bottle of our own red wine; a 1997 Matanza's Creek Merlot. The waiter opened this for us at the beginning of the meal.

The main course options were a vegetarian rigatoni dish that was not too exciting sounding and a rolled pork loin stuffed with a black olive mixture. We both chose the pork. It was served with some type of fruity, oniony mix (slow cooked) and some sauteed greens. This went nicely with the pork. Overall this dish was a little disappointing to me because the there was a very thin band of olive surrounded by lots of pork. The onion marmalade was nice, but I felt that the olive flavor was lost somewhat and the overall dish was just kind of blah rather than the rich, more lustily flavored bistro fare I was expecting.

For dessert, one of my friend's got the Vacherin which they liked very much. Two of us (including me) got a buttermilk panna cotta. Layered on top and on the bottom of the panna cotta was a clear mandarin gelee. Top was garnished w/a few fresh mandarins. This dessert was excellent. The texture of the panna cotta was very good (no hint of rubberiness) and the gelee added a wonderful flavor. (A big plus to me: their dessert menu had quite a few interesting looking items that I wanted to try).

One friend go the famous Beef Cheeks and enjoyed them; another a more delicate sole fish. (can't recall anymore on this).

Overall we were pretty happy. One thing that negatively impacted our visit a bit (and that was not really the restaurant's fault) is that there was a large noisy "celebratory" group sitting pretty close to us... Our waiter suggested that we try to order before the large group, as that would help expedite our order. This was nice, but overall we did end up feeling a bit rushed. Our reservations were for 9:00 and they were really pushing to get us out the door by 11:00 sharp. (We and the big group were the last to leave).

In a nice gesture, our waiter comped the corkage fee. (maybe because we bought another bottle, two of us ordered off regular menu or having to deal w/the big group...?)

Overall, I would consider going back another time, even though I was disappointed in my main course. Hopefully that dish was an aberration given that it was DAT. Re: the rushing and noise, it was likley that they were extra crowded with the DAT.

I definately would try to get an earlier reservation though and maybe go Tues-Thurs rather than on the weekend. Seems like it could be a relaxing place although it wasn't particularly so the night we were there.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Bizou is one of my faves. Keller's tastes are in sync with mine. I'm not sure what to think about the green beans, beef cheek and vacherin still being on the menu. I ate each one of those dishes there in ... 96 maybe? Then again, I believe many bistros in France have menus that don't necessarily change at all. I'm not crazy for the beans, but the cheeks and the vacherin are truly gorgeous dishes, so even though the "scene" demands a near constant revamping of menus, if a dish is good enough, there's no reason it should stay. I'd be surprised if Delfina didn't still have their signature spaghetti on the menu. (I have the recipe, got it from the Chron, if anyone wants it.)

As to Senor M.B., I have difficulty taking him seriously most of the time, in large part because he smokes. Puhleeze! No wonder he's always on about not enough salt! Plus he is one of the main reasons for thewhole menu changing frenzy, I believe. One of his complaints about Bizou might have been about that, I can't remember for sure. Anyway, go to Bizou, have the cheeks, have the vacherin (lick the plate good), and bring a nice little Gigondas or Cote Rotie or Chateauneuf from K&L and skip the corkage! How good is that?

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I attended a special wine dinner at Bizou on Tuesday and the restaurant prepared a special menu to accompany the wines...

Dungeness Crab with Celery Root and House Made Steelhead Caviar

Mediterranean Branzino with Bacon, Currants, Pine Nuts and Escarole

Breast of Squab with Potato Leek Galette and Truffle

Oxtail Ravioli

Cheeses: Pont L’Évêque, Cave Aged Gruyère, Fourme d’Ambert

Wine Poached Pear with Pistachio and Crème Fraiche

The service and food were excellent. Just to round out the post, the wines (brought by the participants) were:

1985 Salon Champagne Blanc de Blancs

1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon

1990 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape

1990 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape

1990 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée

1982 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle

1988 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage

1989 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle

1994 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle

1995 Domaine La Milliere Châteauneuf-du-Pape

2002 Alban Vineyards Estate Syrah Reva Vineyard

2001 Sine Qua Non Midnight Oil

2001 Michel Ogier Côte-Rôtie

1998 Alban Vineyards Estate Syrah Reva Vineyard

2002 Saxum Syrah Bone Rock James Berry Vineyard

1986 Château Climens, Barsac

The moral of the story is: if you want to have a special event, Bizou can accomodate you.

Edited by chaud-froid (log)
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I attended a special wine dinner at Bizou on Tuesday and the restaurant prepared a special menu to accompany the wines...

And I will forever be pissed that I had to cancel out of that dinner in the midst of the planning!

I am SO jealous and should have driven back from Carmel earlier! :angry:

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I definately would try to get an earlier reservation though and maybe go Tues-Thurs rather than on the weekend. Seems like it could be a relaxing place although it wasn't particularly so the night we were there.

Great review. Thanks for taking the time to post. I always like to see how people enjoy my favorite restaurant.

What was an abberation was that crowd at 9 pm. Even on the weekend, that's usually the quietest time to go. The bad part about going that late is that some of the specials are sold aout.

Noiest and most crowded time is usually Friday- Sat from 7 - 9. If you go on the weekend and don't mind early hours, showing up at opening is the most relaxing.

Tue - Wed means that some of the more professional servers may not be there. Thursday is good. Everybody is there, the weekend specials are being introduced.

However, you never know. Sometimes a party like the one you mentioned shows up out of the blue. Also not sure about the nights when there is a ball game. The regualrs seem to stay away. I've shown up occasionally on game nights, but usually just after the game starts and it is quite. However, on those days, parking is a bear.

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Thanks for the additional tips on times to go (and not) to Bizou, Krys.

The offerings at the special wine dinner sound excellent.

As essvee mentioned also, nice deal to have an excuse to do some wine shopping at K&L; then skip the corkage.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I attended a special wine dinner at Bizou on Tuesday and the restaurant prepared a special menu to accompany the wines...

Was that a Bizou event or a private party?

It was a wine-centered event planned on a different, wine-centric chat list. There, they are known as "offlines." I was slated to go but was spending several days in Monterey and Carmel and couldn't get back up to town fast enough for it. Now I really regret that I didn't get out of my commitments earlier!

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