Fleur de Lys

by janet on August 12th, 2009

In ­­ honor of Hubert Keller’s performance on Top Chef Masters (which I did not watch because I do not have a TV yet in SF, but will buy off of iTunes tomorrow), I am blogging Fleur de Lys, his restaurant in SF that Tinx and I blew our entire cable refund ($78) and several percentages of our respective non-existent (both transitioning right now to new things; me to a postdoc that won’t pay me till October 1st, her to law school check out her baby new blog www.legallyginger.com) salaries on. They have either a three-, four-, or five-course meal option which starts at $75 without a wine pairing.

But I’m getting waaaay ahead of myself. When I made the reservation and they asked, “Is this for a special occasion?” I lied and said it was Tinx’s birthday. I then hit myself for coming up with a lie that was so easily verifiable, but then again, fancy places don’t card, so perhaps we were in the clear.

Just in case, though, we laid it on thick when we walked through the door. The hostess said, “Happy Birthday Katrina” and I said, “Yeah! You’re getting old! HAHAHAHA!” and she’s like, “YEAH I AM GOSH WOW HAHAHAHAH!”

The décor of FDL is … awful. It’s old school gaudy which I think was supposed to make it cool, but the whole thing was terribly claustrophobic. The main dining room had a huuuge canopy that was bolted in the middle of the ceiling with curtainy stuff hanging down, reminiscent of those parachute games you did in elementary school when everyone scrambled in and sat on the inside edge of the parachute and waved at each other across the chute until the material came down down down and covered all of you. Like that. Except bad and not fun.

We were seated at a lovely table next to a stuffy couple with bad fashion sense (he a silk handkerchief in his blazer pocket; she in a cute dress but ruining it all with a claw clip in her hair). That was all fine and well. The next couple seemed fun and really excited about the food. Until shit went down, but that comes later.

Our server was weirdly intense yet hands off. Does that make sense? It was at least ten minutes until we were even initially approached (Tinx thinks this is just the way with traditional French service – they want you to enjoy the time and not rush you. Fine. Maybe.).

Ohhhh man. Who invited Debbie Downer to this post? In truth, this meal was JUST FABULOUS, as you’ll see beginning with the next sentence.

I counted and we had over 50 separate food items over the course of the meal, but you would never know that from their menu. A simple “white and green asparagus salad” that Tinx got actually meant: White and green asparagus salad dressed with cream of salsify, with foie gras and smoked duck torchon (with a slice of beet under the torchon) and Brioche in a teensy terra cotta pot (with a slice of cucumber under the pot) to drag through the salsify. It was so lovely to see this big, complicated, multi-part plate with nooks and crannies and smears and corners of pure deliciousness.

My simple choucroute appetizer was even more astonishing, arriving triumphantly with Choucroute fondant topped with Osetra caviar in a tiny leaf; seared duck “burger” and foie gras on a Brioche bun; wagyu beef tartare with white and black sesame topping; duck sausage with aged balsamic and special grainy mustard; and chickpea fries with smoked chipotle aioli dots to drag them through.

You know it’s fucking fantastic when the worst part of a plate is (a) the wagyu and (b) fries. Not that they were bad, they were just not thrilling in the way that the salsify fondant was, or the way the duck & foie gave up any semblance of trying to be solid and oozed onto my fingers right before I licked it all up! Even the mustard was crazy good.

All this was after our amuse, which was a fava bean and mint puree jabbed with a fava bean chip and parmesan chip, and a cream of salsify with lemongrass and smoked paprika oil; both served on thin slivers of cucumber which Tinx nommed immediately.

The winning flavor of the night was the salsify (salsa-fee). I had never even heard of it before then, but we looked it up in my McGee On Food and Cooking book and it’s a cousin of the artichoke (can someone say STINKY PEE!). Chock-full of umami and very luxurious-tasting.

I should note our wine choice – a bottle of Trimbach pinot gris from the Alsace region, where Hubert hails from. I had probably 80% of the bottle so allllll of this detail recollection is thanks to Tinx. She even remembered the “smoked paprika oil” from the amuse!

Onwards. For our mains, Tinx had beef cheeks; I had lamb. Which translated, in HK-land, as wagyu beef cheeks with pretzel crust on a bed of spaetzle with choucroute gratin and a cabernet poached mini apple, and a Colorado lamb duo: a loin with some sort of cinnamon sauce (which changed my mind re: my deep-rooted hatred of cinnamon) and a lamb terrine with pine nuts, Israeli couscous and harissa (North African hot red pepper sauce).

Partway through her main, Tinx said “Hmm. I bet this is forkable,” and discarded her knife permanently. Super tender. I barely remember how hers tasted except to say that the choucroute gratin was stellar – choucroute is also from Alsace so it showed up everywhere, for good reason.

As for my lamb – the terrine was also forkable; practically spoonable. Actually, definitely spoonable. Even one of those plastic-coated babyfood spoons would have been too hardcore for this lamb. You needed only to look at it and it said “you win” and slid apart into bite-sized morsels. The other lamb was perfectly cooked so that the fat that squished out between the almost-burney bits was like heaven juice. I was in the tipsy state of mind where the only terms that come to mind were ones like “heaven juice.”

We were a bit distracted from our food at this point because the couple next to us, out of nowhere, started a really intense whisper fight. She was mad at him for an unknown reason, and was giving him all sorts of hell. It was funny because she would alternate between a sultrily uttered “mmmm, this is SO delicious” to a “I’m just SO PISSED at you right now!” The whole thing went basically like this:

Her: [whispering] I’m just so PISSED right now!

Him: [whispering] I just want to know where I went wrong.

Her: [whispering] The fact that you DON’T KNOW!

Both: Nom nom nom nom nom.

Her: [whispering while half-getting up from her seat menacingly] I’m just so. PISSED. OFF. Hahahahahhahahaahhaha [weird inapropro laughter].

Both: Nom nom nom nom nom.

Her: [whispering] It’s just about BEING A GOOD PERSON. I just don’t know if you’re a GOOD PERSON.

Tinx and I were like, “Ummmm we can hear you.” Tinx went to the bathroom to excape the awkwardness and came back all excited about the bathrooms. Apparently the rolls of extra TP were wrapped with a cute Fleur de Lys ribbon. I asked her if she stole one and she said no. Disappointment.

She was also excited because she thought she heard Hubert in the kitchen (our awk server chick said that he was indeed in the restaurant that night; he must have been exhausted from SF Chefs. Food. Wine. Festival, but he was still there!) saying, “Take this out NOW” in a French accent. Well we can dream.

Which reminds me – there’s hilarious footage of HK DJing at the festival earlier that day. And that reminds me that the music at FDL was not fitting for fine dining – very Euro-DJ music that I have to admit I danced to in my drunken silliness.

OK, onto our dessert course, which turned out to be a four-course dessert course. Here our recollection gets hazy because no one explained each component to us (we were told we would after I got back from the restroom but it never happened cry). Continuing with the HK style, my “poached pear” ended up being a dark chocolate ganache pyramid, a poached pear with three drops of berry sauce, blackberries and strawberries, almond ice cream on crispy popcorn, and a pistachio mousse on almond cake. Tinx’s “espresso chocolate mousse” ended up being a chocolate truffle fried in coconut (intense and melty), a grape covered in a thin bit of meringue and powdered sugar, cone of chocolate mouse in a meringue nest, and a couple other items we can’t remember. THEN came Tinx’s birthday treat, which was my pistachio mousse on almond cake, except a FROZEN version, which was terrific to eat in tandem with my non-frozen version. Finally, right before our check, some petit fours – a caramel chocolate tart, white and dark chocolate covered strawberry, fruit tart, sticky mini bundt, and a rolled, light as air butter cookie in a chocolate smear (pictured top).

We practically had to be rolled into our towncar that the restaurant provided to us (only $5 more than a cab would have been! And the driver [Roy] is also a PC repairman for his day job – very convenient!). In the car, we discovered to the other’s delight that we HAD both ended up stealing the TP ribbon – mine was tied in a bow around my panties, and hers was stuffed into her cleavage. Now they both grace my bathroom, prettily wrapped around my cheap-o TP.

I can’t believe I’m ending a post on fucking FLEUR DE LYS by talking about bargain toilet paper, but such is life when you’re me and blogging on MTFB.

Fleur de Lys
777 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
415.673.7779

5 Responses to “Fleur de Lys”

  1. tannaz says:

    janet this is incredible. i can’t believe all the teeny amazing components. this hubert character is so poised and calm and normal and smiley on top chef masters. clearly there’s insane amounts of genius behind the serene facade. i want to (save up and) go to this place!!

  2. Kim says:

    I think I will have to add this to my “places in the bay area I must try” list.

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