Petrale Sole with Mushrooms in a Cream Sauce Topped with Frisée Salad; Pâté and Charcuterie; Chocolate and Walnut Tart
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Chou Chou
Reviewed Chou Chou: Monday February 18, 2008
Chou Chou has become THE favorite hangout for my entire family! It is an ultra charming bistro in the heart of the city with the "feel" of what might be your "clubhouse" if you were living in Paris.
Because of my own profession, first impressions and how I am greeted at restaurants and other social gatherings is very important, and the "Front of House" man (maître d' Nick) does not disappoint. Because we are regulars, we are greeted like family -- and more than most of the time -- with hugs and Kir Royales as well! There is usually classic French music playing, ranging from Piaf to current Euro-disco sounds. The service is top-rate, yet not intrusive. Fresh and HOT baguettes are delivered on a regular basis to our table. Oh, and we also received a complimentary crab appetizer as well.
The night we were there, one of my daughters and I had a lovely mushroom soup for an appetizer, my other daughter enjoyed tuna tartare with taro chips. The second courses included a warm goat cheese crottin with baked pears and arugula -- fabulous -- Scottish salmon with peas, rice pilaf, and an orange citrus beurre blanc, and the aforementioned Petrale sole that I enjoyed!
I inquired about one Sauvignon Blanc, our waiter suggested another, a Westerly, that was excellent. Chou Chou is just such a comfortable place to be, we seem to never want to leave, thus the ordering of a cheese plate with accompanying Sauternes and then another complimentary port brought over by Nick himself.
Chou Chou is lively, fun, reminiscent of the best neighborhood bistros in Paris, and a place I return to often, mostly with family, but occasionally with friends who marvel at such a place in this neighborhood of the city!
Occupation: Human Resources Director
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Bette's Oceanview Diner
Reviewed Chou Chou: Wednesday February 20, 2008
Trekking out to Forest Hill was an adventure, and we were happy to find the restaurant as easily as we did after coming out of the Muni station. We were early but seated immediately; being just after 6 on a Wednesday, the cozy, brightly-colored restaurant wasn't full, and we chose a seat by the window.
We ordered a half bottle of wine, the frisée salad, and tuna tartare appetizer to share, and I chose the salmon dish, complete with two of my all-time favorite ingredients: peas and arugula. My guest ordered the flank steak with frites, asparagus, and a shallot pan sauce.
A minute after ordering, the waitress brought out a full bottle of the wine we ordered -- we didn't think about the discrepancy until we saw the bill and realized the mistake -- ah, well. The food arrived very quickly, and I fell in love with the frisée salad. It was wonderfully dressed with a super-salty vinaigrette, crispy pancetta, and a poached egg. The tuna tartare, by comparison, was completely without flavor. I wanted to like the addition of cucumber and the sprouts on top in a cleanses-the-palate sort of way, but the whole dish just ended up very bland.
Our main dishes came out almost too close to the removal of our starter dishes, but the salmon was perfectly cooked. The orange beurre blanc, although initially interesting, ended up tasting more like an experiment than a good flavor combination, and the rice pilaf was chewy, but ultimately I was satisfied with my dinner. The steak was tasty but not write-home-able, and the frites tasty but limp, however the shallot sauce and asparagus were very well-executed.
Immediately, the dessert menu was presented, and we chose to share one of the tarts that the restaurant specializes in. The chocolate and walnut tart arrived and we enjoyed both the ganache-style filling of the tart, and the perfect froth of the cappuccinos we had ordered to go with it.
The check arrived, and we were out the door on our way home within an hour of setting foot in the restaurant. I appreciate speedy service to a degree, but we did feel a little rushed, and overall, though definitely decent, the quality of food we received did not line up with the price tag.
Occupation: In-Flight Training Manager
Location: Redwood City
Favorite Restaurant: Stella Alpina Osteria
Reviewed Chou Chou: Saturday February 23, 2008
Overall Chou Chou is a good little restaurant. We went for dinner on a stormy Saturday evening. I originally had reservations for Friday night, but had a conflict and had to change them a few days before. When I called, they were very accommodating to the change. When we arrived, parking was very easy (one of the easiest areas in the city to park). When you walk in the restaurant the first thing you notice is the size. It is very small and quaint. The colors on the walls are fun and my date noticed the warm colors on the bottom and cool colors on the top. We were greeted quickly and seated at a two-top near the door (it was a little chilly). It was not very busy with only about five of the tables occupied. (Again, a very stormy evening.)
We ordered appetizers and wine to start. The wine list is extensive with many choices in all price ranges. We had wine by the glass so that I could taste a few. The La Violette Viognier was very tasty. I am a huge fan of escargot so the decision for my appetizer was clear. I was going to try the mussels (they looked great!) but the escargot won out. The escargot was good -- bright with a lot of citrus flavor. The baguette on the table was a great pairing with the oil from the escargot. The beet and mozzarella salad was not very good. It was very bland with a bizarre texture. I would not recommend it.
Right after the appetizers, the owner (Nick) sat down at the open table next to us and welcomed us to the restaurant. He was very friendly and told us about the history of the restaurant and how it was a neighborhood favorite. We felt very welcome. I asked the waiter for some suggestions and appreciated that he was honest about his favorites. On his recommendation I chose the cassoulet. It was served piping hot, and the server cut it open for me at the table: nice touch. There was a lot of flavor in it. The lamb was very lean and tender. The potatoes had a firmness to them which I really liked. This dish has a lot of rosemary in it (choose a different entree if you do not like rosemary).
I had done some research on this place before going and they are known for their tarts. I am a chocolate fanatic so, of course ordered the triple chocolate tart. I would definitely recommend it. The decaf cappuccino was a great pair. After a bit more conversation with the owner about the meal -- he wanted to know how we liked the meal and was very open to the honest feedback about everything, including the not so great beet and mozzarella salad -- he brought over complimentary glasses of Banyuls Domaine de La Tour Vielle Vendages 2002.
Overall this is a good little restaurant. The food is tasty and the wine list is extensive. The service was good and the owner, Nick, knows how to welcome new guests. I would recommend checking this place out. I will definitely be back for another meal.