Had a meeting in PacHeights this past Tuesday evening. The meeting was over by 8:30p. We headed a few blocks down to Union and west to see what sort of place Café des Amis was. The restaurant, which opened last July, is a French brasserie at Buchanan and Union, in the old Prego Italian space.
Having no reservations, and the restaurant being partly-packed with a disparate group of people that included “investors,” those who talk to investors, suits, what might’ve been bean counters, and people with their shirttails out (all the same group, I might add) we had to wait all of five minutes or so for one of the parties who was not a part of the motley crew to vacate a table.
(I’d hate to think what the total dinner cost for the motley crew was. They were at different tables/booths on different levels and there were plenty of them, eating and imbibing. … Definitely not a south-of-Market startup crowd. …)
The food was delish. The wine was reasonably priced with bottle costs ranging from the twenties up to over two hundred, if that’s the way you roll. We chose a French wine from Languedoc. The bread was chewy and tasty, a bit sour with a proper crust. Served with sweet butter.
We split a special, a plate of pasta with uni cream sauce and sizable chunks of fresh uni. The light was dim. The uni was the same color as the sauce and, hence, the same color as the pasta. Every once in a bit, you’d bite into what you thought would be pasta and oooooh. myyyyy. uni. If you aren’t a huge uni fan, this dish would not be for you. For those of us who are, heaven.
The lighting was dim, did I mention? Our attentive and charming waiter had a handy-dandy mini light to lend us so we could read the menu easily while we were deciding on our order. Thank heavens for people who realize that clients who are too old to ever be mistaken for hipsters can’t see well in dim light.
The plat du jour (it being Tuesday) was crispy frog legs. We opted instead for some menu items. His nibs had Blanquette de Veau — slow-cooked veal breast, crispy sweetbreads, carrots and maitakes. Reasonable. Not something I’d wow for. The veal was tasty, but I like my sweetbreads in larger portions and not crispy-fried, which interferes with the taste and experience for me. For the kind of sweetbreads I like, check out the non-crispy sweetbreads (when they’re on the menu) at Isa on Steiner and/or the lemon-caper sweetbreads at Sam’s Grill (Bush and Belden Place).
I had Hanger Steak Frites with béarnaise and a watercress salad. The frites arrived accompanied by small bins of catsup and aioli. The aioli was rich and garlicky, luscious. I used it for both the steak and the frites. I used the béarnaise for both as well. The steak came cooked medium rare, as ordered, and divvied into ~2″ square chunks. Tasty. Perfectly cooked, and so much of it, I had the restaurant bag up the last few pieces for me to have with breakfast on Wednesday.
For dessert we shared a house-specialty: 24-layer crêpe cake with sliced figs and orange chamomile syrup. The crêpes are stacked and separated by a rich whipped vanilla cream sauce. I should be able to make something similar at home. Should I try? or should I just go back to Café des Amis whenever I get the yen? Maybe better to visit whenever I’d hanker for this rich dessert rather than learn how to make it.
Happy evening. Good food. Definitely repeatable. Staff was great, attentive. Our whole-hearted stamp of approval on the restaurant. May it flourish (but not so much that we can’t pop in unexpectedly on a Tuesday night and get a table promptly). Plus the walk over and back came to four miles total — not enough to burn off even the dessert, but every little bit helps.