Restaurant: Cafe Claude
Cuisine : French
Price : $$ (Main courses range from $18-$30)
Rating : 4 out of 5 Stars
Over the weekend, I was treated to one of the most delightful dining experiences I’ve had in a very long time. My boyfriend took me to Café Claude, a restaurant in San Francisco that seems like it was transported right out of Paris and placed in a narrow alleyway that just about screams Europe. The restaurant is fronted by sweeping red awnings that protect a heated patio perfect for people-watching. Of course, we happened to be there during a torrential downpour which made the glowing, cozy atmosphere of the patio that much more romantic and Parisian. A jazz band plays in the front window of the restaurant every Thursday through Saturday and their bluesy notes tantalizingly dance in the air with the delectable aromas that waft from the kitchen.
Upon walking into Café Claude, diners are met with a dazzling zinc bar and vintage tables rescued from a long-since-closed Parisian café. Candles wink and flicker, illuminating the period travel posters that hang on the walls and catch on the many glasses being lifted in toasts and good cheer.
Christian and I were seated at one of the tables on the patio and were kept warm by the heaters hanging from the ceiling and the delicious wine that filled our glasses. Or, more accurately, my glass; he had a sophisticated Johnny Walker on the rocks. We had a difficult time deciding what to order because, to be honest, everything sounded amazing and we were starving. Luckily, the waiter brought us freshly baked slices of baguette to curb our appetites. We settled on an order of the escargot because we were at a fancy French restaurant and we both love garlic and butter, no matter what they happen to be drenching. I ordered the tuna with cumquats and bean ragu, he the salmon with Israeli couscous and the escarole.
The first to arrive was the escargot. Some people may find it disturbing to eat snails. Even those people would have loved this dish. Not only were they soaked so thoroughly in garlic and butter that they were unrecognizable as snails, but they were also topped with a poof of a pastry button that truly melted in my mouth. It was like eating a little snail-shaped piece of heaven. I don’t even think it could really be considered escargot at that point; it was too delicious to have once been something that lives in a shell and quietly destroys gardens.
The main dishes were equally as delicious, albeit a bit on the small side, as San Franciscan cuisine is wont to be. My tuna was superb, especially paired with the sauvignon blanc I had ordered, and the cumquats added a zingy sweetness that tangoed well with the saltiness of the fish. Christian’s was also delicious, particularly the couscous, which balanced the salmon with the rest of the plate divinely.
Of course, to finish off an evening such as this, one must have dessert. We elected for the crème brulee, a classic French dish that nearly floored us with its sugary goodness. Unlike most American restaurants, the waitress at Café Claude never hovered, waiting for us to be done so that she could give us the check. Instead, in part because of the waterfall that appeared to be coming from the sky just outside the safety of our patio, she waited patiently for us to ever so slowly finish our drinks before asking if we would like the bill. Her serenity was pleasantly surprising in a country that often has you scooting out the door before you have finished your last bite. Thus ended a thoroughly Parisian night. As we ran away through the rain, the jazz music clung to our clothes and the taste of Paris lingered on our lips.
To learn more about Café Claude, check out their website: