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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

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So, what’s your poison? Basil gin, lime and lemon juice over vodka? Moscow Mule, Saint Remy, or Mint Plaza Mojito? Just ask Lisa, the bartender at Chez Papa Resto, and she’ll create a knockout cocktail or suggest a smooth glass of red to go along with the Executive Chef David Bazirgan’s inspired French fare. His perfectly steamed mussels in a bowl of fragrant broth, infused with pastis, saffron and tarragon, are plump and velvety. Served with a paper cone of rosemary fries and aioli, the dish makes one think of a new moulle frites standard for the industry. Kobe beef tartar, surrounded by the usual suspects—Dijon, capers, shallots, and garlic—puts any anti-carnivore argument to rest, while the baby beets salad in citrus marinade with pronounced blood orange bittersweet flavor speaks loudly to a vegetarian in you midst. Dinner entrees include some spectacular takes on traditional creations, like bluenose bass with Meyer lemon buttery sauce and black truffle foam, or duck breast with parsnip puree, almonds, quince and sherry jus (sauce chef Mark Fantino). A hands down best dessert is a trio of Valrhona chocolate tidbits—hazelnut gelato will likely make you lick your plate. Located in Mint Plaza—a cozy modern enclave on Fifth and Jessie, Chez Papa Resto is a darkish, couple-friendly place, and gets vaguely Goth as the evening progresses, with all the flickering candles, mirrored walls, and dark red (almost black) glass chandeliers over the blood-orange-colored wall décor and bar lights shades. On a recent visit, the best indication of a great restaurant was sitting next to us on a comfy high-backed bar stool. “I eat here every day, I work here,” said Yannick, Chez Papa waiter, who on his night off was treating his girlfriend, Lara Kroop, to an array of Chef David’s scrumptious appetizers. The latter’s girlfriend, Michele, arrived by the end of the evening, too. This friendly atmosphere, when patrons are greeted and treated like a part of the family is pervasive here, introduced and affirmed by Jocelyn Bulow, a super successful restaurateur and founder of Maktub Group. A well-attuned team that orchestrates the Chez Papa Southern French experience, consists of managers Marc Henri Sempere, Andrej Oslica (event coordinator), Arnoud Giron, and George Aknin (wine director). In other words, come to Papa! (I surely will again). Chez Papa Resto is open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday at 4 Mint Plaza (414 Jessie Street), SF. Call 415-546-4134 or visit Photography by Yuri Krasov.


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