One of the hazards of being a foodie, at least among my friends, is that they often expect me to know the latest and greatest places to go. I'll admit, my Google Reader subscription list of food blogs has grown exponentially lately, but I'm still often at a loss when asked, "Where should we go?" My brain scans its archives, remembering bits and pieces of various reviews, which are all starting to sound alike: "The chef hails from Chez Blah Blah Blah," or "Located in hip, up-and-coming, Convenient Heights," or "Menu consists of only local, sustainable ingredients from an X-mile radius." The above scene played out almost verbatim recently with my friend Greg, and I ended up recommending Bar Jules. Chef-owner Jessica Boncutter did stints at Zuni and Hog Island, and she sources her produce from small local farmers for her new spot on Hayes and Laguna in Hayes Valley.
Bar Jules' menu is posted on the restaurant's web site and changes daily based on availability ingredients. So on the one hand, if you become a regular, you can't count on having a favorite dish. On the other hand, if you're like me and like to try different places more often than repeats, Bar Jules becomes a different restaurant every night. A tricky proposition but I'll tell you this much: if the food is as good every night as it was last week, I'll definitely be coming back again and again.
After shaking off the thunderstorm outside (a key element of our strategy to outwit a wait, since Bar Jules has a no reservations policy) and settling into the warm, votive-lit atmosphere inside, we checked out the menu on the chalkboard. Only two to three choices for each course made ordering easy.
We started with apps: I the Crab Crostini and he the Piquillo Peppers. The huge lumps of crab (untouched by the recent oil debacle, the waitress assured us) rested on lightly toasted bread drizzled with olive oil. I thought I'd had crab before, but this was something else! The peppers were roasted just enough to be soft but ever-so-slightly crisp, and they, too, were enhanced by a pool of the good oil.
For mains, we had Skirt Steak and Roast Chicken. I used to think that skirt steak was slightly more and dry than, say, its filet neighbors in Cowtown. But the skirt steak at Bar Jules redefined my perceptions. The meat was incredibly tender and juicy, and accompanied by a buttery potato celery gratin topped with breadcrumbs. Greg's chicken was well-cooked, and the chicken flavor infused the rice and sauteed greens quite nicely.
We topped it all off with a Flourless Chocolate Cake, which satisfied my sweet tooth, but wasn't a cut above the crowd like the rest of the meal.
In the "room for improvement" section, I'll say that the service is still getting up to speed, so to speak. Slow service usually drives me crazy, but the food was so good that this time I didn't care. Also note that Bar Jules is not yet technically a bar -- liquor license is pending so BYOB, baby.
Bar Jules |609 Hayes Street | 415-621-5482 | www.barjules.com
Open Tuesday - Saturday for dinner, Sunday for brunch. Lunch in the works for January 2008.