Steak, Bacon Beignets, Pecan Cake, Spring Salad, Fennel Soup, Monkey Bread, Halibut
Frances – Castro
Last week, I was lucky enough to join Donovan, Genevieve, Rebekah, and Carina for a mind-altering dinner at Frances! If you aren’t familiar, Frances is located in the Castro on 17th Street & Pond. It serves Traditional American dishes, and is one of those restaurants where you need to make reservations months in advance. That should already give you an idea of how good it is.
Melissa Perello, the genius chef at Frances, has access to the freshest ingredients from local farmer’s markets. Her recipes are simple yet deliberate, and raise the bar for fine dining.
In keeping with the food, the ambiance of Frances is simple and sophisticated.
Little touches like these cloth coasters make all the difference.
As I mentioned earlier, Chef Melissa gets the freshest local ingredients, including fresh juice from the market for the house market shot, shown above.
Blue Bottle Coffee
This adorable coffee gourd was yet another testament to the attention to detail at Frances – not to mention the quality of the coffee itself. As a former Blue Bottle barista myself, I can tell you that Blue Bottle is the highest quality coffee and espresso in the Bay Area. They have their own strict, simple regimen to create the freshest, strongest, organic and locally-owned coffee and espresso. Yet another point for Frances!
Roasted Almonds w/ Rosemary + Lavender; Massala-spiced cauliflower & house yogurt with Nigella seed lavash
Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets + Maple Chive Creme Fraiche
When you come to Frances, you must try the Bacon Beignets. It’s not even a question. They are doughy, hearty and absolutely delicious.
Close-up of my delicious Bacon Beignet
Octopus Salad, with potatoes and celery
This dish was so unique from anything I’ve had before. Octopus Salad, with grilled potatoes and celery. I’ve had octopus before, and I’ve had salads and (believe it or not) potatoes before, but never have I had them in combination. The juxtaposition of flavors, textures, and even colors was delightfully interesting.
Close-up of the Octopus, Potato, and Celery
The octopus was meaty and full, as you can see here. If you’ve never had it, the texture is very chewy. At Frances, the seafood flavor in the octopus was thankfully not overwhelming. The hearty potatoes were offset by the bright celery, which harnessed an almost tart quality that lightened up the chewy octopus as well.
Salad of Spring Greens – Enlish Peas, Shiitake Mushrooms, Farm Egg, Crisp Shallots
I ordered the Salad of Spring Greens as my appetizer, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Another first for me, I adored the combination of soft greens with the crispy, fried shallots! The English Peas themselves were fresh and full of flavor (almost sweet), and the farm egg was cooked perfectly – not overcooked but not too runny either.
Celery Root and Fennel Soup
For their appetizers, Rebekah and Genevieve ordered the Celery Root and Fennel Soup, above, which was creamy, smooth, and delicious.
Squid Ink Tagliatelle – Grilled Calamari, Meyer Lemon, Green Garlic, Espelette
Donovan’s appetizer was the Squid Ink Tagliatelle, with grilled calamari, meyer lemon, green garlic, and espelette (dried red pepper). Tagliatelle is a long, flat noodle that is usually blonde or yellow in color. At Frances, however, the noodles are blackened with squid ink! So innovative – when was the last time you had darkened pasta??
Lacinato Kale Salad – Pecorino, Charred Mandarin, Shaved Fennel, Medjool Dates
Even though I had ordered my own salad, I just had to try this Lacinato Kale Salad when it came out! With pecorino, charred mandarin, shaved fennel, and medjool dates, it was a healthy treat before the main courses came out. The mandarin was a light, tart accent to the kale. I also appreciated the presentation of the orange against the green, with a white fennel sprinkling to bring it all together.
Five Dot Ranch Bavette Steak – Bintje Potatoes, Horseradish Creme Fraiche, English Peas
Look at those colors! Donovan and Carina each ordered the Five Dot Ranch Bavette Steak for their main course. It came atop Bintje Potatoes, Horseradish Creme Fraiche, and English Peas. The steak was tender and bursting with flavor, as you can see in the above picture!
Half Moon Bay Halibut – Green Garlic Fumet, Asparagus, Butter Ball Potatoes, and Salsify
The rest of us ordered the Halibut, which was clearly even more tender, buttery and absolutely delicious! My strategy here was to alternate between bites of the halibut, asparagus, and butter ball potatoes. I reveled in their dance of textures and flavors – from the tender fish, to the soft potatoes, to the crunch of the asparagus.
Monkey Bread – with Mexican Spiced Chocolate Ice Cream and Anglaise
Everything at Frances is delicious, and I honestly believe you cannot go wrong with anything you order here. However, there are a couple dishes I must recommend specifically. Earlier I mentioned the Bacon Beignets. I would like to add to that list the Monkey Bread dessert! I may be biased because this was my first time having monkey bread, but it really did blow my mind. For the curious, it tastes somewhere between a cinnamon roll and a doughnut. The cinnamon flavor is highlighted with the Mexican Spiced Chocolate Ice Cream. I liked it so much I’ll give you a close-up:
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
All this delicious fancy food all night, and I must say this gigantic scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream is the dish everyone jumped on! Testament to Frances splash of simplicity – sometimes it really is the best.
Lumberjack Cake – Lady Apple, Kumquat, Medjool Date, Maple Ice Cream
This is the dessert for the chocolate lover. I’m still curious as to why it’s called the Lumberjack Cake – maybe because it’s so hearty? Filled with Lady Apples, Kumquats, and Medjool Dates, it struck me almost more like a delicious pie than a cake. Maybe somewhere in between. The maple ice cream was a great complement to the flavors in the cake-pie.
Toasted Pecan Cake – Strawberry Semifreddo, Citrus Marmalade, Minneola Tangelo
My second favorite dessert! This soft and sweet Toasted Pecan Cake came with Strawberry Semifreddo, which is a semi-frozen whipped cream (the light-colored block), Citrus Marmalade, and Minneola Tangelo. The tangelo was extremely tart- enough to make you pucker! It was the perfect kick to the sweet pecan cake.
I am simply smitten by Frances. Melissa Perello’s Traditional American restaurant has all the ingredients for an impressive dining experience.
The comfortable, clean ambiance is the appetizer of the whole experience from the moment you walk in. The friendly waitstaff have to be the starters, who get you settled in and prepare you for the main course: the food itself.
To me, food presentation is very important. I really believe in the Japanese belief that the presentation of the food is just as important as the food itself. After all, we are equipped with 5 senses, vision being one of the most commonly used in our daily lives. Each dish at Frances seems to take this into account. I absolutely loved looking at each and every dish that came out- each with a variety of colors, enticing the eater to be excited about every new bite!
The dessert of the Frances experience was the twist that came to the American dishes – the ink-blackened tagliatelle, the octopus salad. With each dish, I was experiencing a new combination of flavors that somehow seemed like they should always go together!
Clearly, I highly recommend Frances. Whether a local, SF Native, or a tourist passing through town, you won’t be disappointed here.
Thanks for reading & Happy eating!