Dinner with friends at Frances

by foodhoe on August 4, 2014

870 17th Street SF, CA 94114 | 415.621.3870 | website
hours: Sun – Thurs 5:00 – 10:00 | Fri, Sat 5:00 – 10:30


I met my friends Libby and Chris for dinner at Melissa Perello’s restaurant Frances in the Castro, which has been on my list for a long, long time.  In fact, it’s already been 5 years since Mr. K and I sampled chef Melissa Perello’s cuisine at her Monday night supper popups at Sebo in Hayes Valley!  Well, I certainly took my time getting over here, but truth be told, I’m glad that things have settled down and you no longer have to wait two months to get reservations.  That’s how crazy it was when they first opened. The cozy restaurant was full when we dined and I read that they are doing well enough that the chef is thinking of opening a second location.  It’s conveniently located on a quiet residential street a couple of blocks from Castro street and the long narrow restaurant is lined with tables and was quietly abuzz with a friendly energy when I walked in.


I have to point out this very cool option if you choose the house wine, which Sommelier Paul Einbund, formerly of Coi restaurant, currently blends with the CORE Wine Company and brings in by the barrel, decanting them into carafes marked with two-ounce measures (he charges $1.50 an ounce).  Choose red or white and a carafe will be set down at your table. Etched on the glass are lines measuring every 2 ounces. You pour as much as you want and at the end of the night, your wine tab is calculated based on how much you’ve drunk.

Chef Perello studied at the CIA in Hyde Park, NY, externed at SF’s Aqua, then she worked at the former Charles Nob Hill, where she became chef following Ron Siegel’s departure. While at Charles Nob Hill, she received considerable critical acclaim including a 3½ star review and the Rising Star Chef honor by the San Francisco Chronicle, recognition as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs and three James Beard Rising Star Chef nominations in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Next, she took over the helm of the Fifth Floor, earning three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle and then she decided to pursue her own project and opened Frances (named after her grandmother) in 2009.  We began with an order of the Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets served with maple chive crème fraîche ($7) the dumplings were fried to a crisp and full of smoky bacon bits.  They were delicious dunked into the maple perfumed crème fraîche.
I love eating with these girls because, instead of my usual fried food fixation, we ordered a series of vegetable dishes (after the initial beignets…)  The Winter Kale Salad ($11) – was a well balanced mixed of roasted delicata squash slices, toasted hazelnut, thin shavings of Dutch gouda tossed with apple vinaigrette.  Her seasonal menu showcases the exceptional produce and products from local farmers, the simple and expertly crafted dishes accentuate the freshness of the ingredients.  Now you may be wondering about the title winter kale, and yes I must admit that this meal was months ago and I am seriously delinquent in posting about it.  So yeah, her seasonal menu was absolutely correct at the time…

The dishes were all served in bowls by Akiko’s Pottery in Seattle, rustic and elegant at the same time.  They emphasized the beauty of each dish.  Grilled Beet & Apple Salad ($7) – served with rich burrata, fresh chives, and toasted pistachio nuts.

Roasted Cauliflower & Romanesco ($8), with smoky raisin jam, toasted cashews and sprinkled with fresh herbs.  I love roasted cauliflower and romanesco with its beautiful lime green spiraling points, this dish was a balance of bright flavors and chewy texture.  The flavors of being cooked in a slow oven make the ingredients shine.

I loved the Charred Baby Turnips, Toasted Farro, Salsa Verde ($8), it was simple and so packed with flavor.  The tender turnips were so expertly burnt!


We split one entree, Risotto ‘Nero’ – which is velvety risotto that gets its color from squid ink topped with Sauteed Dungeness Crab, Celery Root, Meyer Lemon ($22). This was rich and satisfying.


We shared the Lumberjack Cake ($8) made with winter fruits, coconut, medjool date, and served with a scoop of muscovado ice cream ($8).  The cake is served warm with a dusting of powdered sugar, it was like sticky toffee pudding, really dense and so good with the ice cream.


I really enjoyed the meal, the cozy proximity of the tables adds a bit of conviviality and we all unabashedly compared plates.  I only wish that I lived closer because I would  definitely be a regular diner if not for the bridge-tunnel-muni schlep involved…

Frances on Urbanspoon

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda Ton August 8, 2014 at 2:27 pm

The Bacon Beignets! I want ’em so bad! Looks wonderful. Frances has been on my list too – just haven’t prioritized it.


Ben @Focus:Snap:Eat August 9, 2014 at 10:25 am

I’m glad you finally made it to Frances. I’ve been there a couple of times, but the last time was awhile back so may be time to do a revisit especially if it’s easier to get reservations. Your photos look great, even if they’re a season old. 😉


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