SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
“Money is no object. What is the restaurant you go to?”
I posed this query to my co-worker Melissa, who has been to San Francisco a number of times and shares my view of what is considered fine dining. Without missing a beat she answered: “Fleur De Lys.”
Hubert Keller‘s Nob Hill eatery earned a Michelin Star in 2011 and is ranked among the top restaurants in the city. The cuisine is modern French, so caviar and escargot are framed in risk-taking dishes that are not so old school. This is a theme among Keller’s restaurants. His best known outlets are the Burger Bars that are sprinkled across the country, including here at Macy’s in Union Square. The Wife and I stopped into a Burger Bar at the Mandalay Bay casino in Las Vegas for lunch one day. Everything on the menu was an update on the traditional burger-and-fries sit down eatery. You choose your meat, ranging from Black Angus beef to Kobe to turkey, your bun, your toppings and the half-dozen or so styles of french fries that will accompany it.
(NOTE: The lighting, nor did the mood of the restaurant, accommodate photos.)
We arrived early for our reservation, a product of taking a cab once we saw the line for the Powell-Hyde cable car that runs within a few blocks of the restaurant. We were seated immediately at 6 p.m. and worried that the empty restaurant was a harbinger of something greater. It was not, as the restaurant would be comfortably packed by 7 p.m. The decor was reminiscent of another dining experience The Wife and I had a few years back. Circo, the Italian sister of Le Cirque at The Bellagio, had large, colorful flowing fabric that created a circus big top in the center of the restaurant (hence, Le Cirque, or the circus). Fleur De Lys had the same flowing curtains, but without the bright hues. The darker colors lent itself to the intimate experience.
The menu is prix fixe for three, four and five courses. Three courses offers an appetizer, entree and dessert. Four courses splits the entree into scaled-down selections of seafood and meat, while the five-course selection adds a cheese plate before dessert. Wine pairings are available for each, as is a vegetarian flight.
An amuse bouche started the event. A pickled carrot salad with green pea puree was served on a spoon along with a pineapple-vanilla aqua frescas. The range of flavors awoke the palette.
With California’s foie gras ban on the horizon, I felt that it was incumbent on me to indulge. The symphony appetizer offered a petite Caesar salad, a tuna fondant with caviar, smoked duck crostini and a foie gras lollipop. Everything worked together in harmony. The earthy foie gras and smoky duck provided contrast to the tuna and romaine hearts. The Wife opted for a bacon-crusted sea scallop, which was served over pork belly with a black beluga lentil cream sauce. Neither starter disappointed.
I was torn between the coffee-rubbed buffalo steak and the oven-roasted venison, and eventually picked the latter. The Wife went for the former. Served as petite filets, the venison was surrounded by Spanish chorizo at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions, served over caramelized leeks, and topped with a cocoa-red wine reduction. The chocolate offered an earthy note, as the cocoa was unrefined and unsweetened. The venison was fork-tender and rich in flavor. The Wife’s buffalo steak was served with picked figs and an espresso-fig sauce. Both dishes were cooked perfectly to medium rare.
Upon our waiter’s recommendation, I went for the Fleurburger for dessert. Presented as a dessert hamburger, a dark chocolate ganache patty was served in the beignet bun with strawberries and kiwi taking the place of tomatoes and pickles. A raspberry coulis dotted the side of the dish, acting as ketchup. The French fries were lengthy slices of fennel ice cream. A small glass was “food-glued” to the plate with a banana-chocolate milkshake. The Wife’s apple tart was served with fromage blanc and maple syrup ice cream and chocolate creme brulee.
A mention of our 10th wedding anniversary led to the chef’s gift of shortbread cookies with apricot jam and a raspberry flan, and a razor thin sheet of white chocolate with Happy Anniversary written in chocolate drizzle. Petit fours ended the meal as the valets hailed us a return cab.
Fleur De Lys has earned every award, accolade and fan that it developed over its years. From impeccable service to splendid presentation to delicious food, it provided a first-rate fine dining experience.
Fleur De Lys is located at 777 Sutter Street on San Francisco’s Nob Hill. With cocktails and two three-course flights, dinner was $190 before tip.