Note: You can find and updated review of Fringale here
We decided to go to Fringale for dinner early on a Saturday morning. We knew it would be difficult to get reservations, but we thought we'd give it a try anyway. I had heard several good things about Chef Gerald Hirigoyen, whose book The Basque Kitchen has gotten good reviews, and Mike and I absolutely love Basque food (at least, as it's cooked in the Basque Country). Furthermore, my dad was over for a visit and we knew it'd be a treat for him. We couldn't get same-day reservations until 10 PM, but we figured we could hold our hunger until then, as we had a late lunch.
Well, it was certainly worth the wait. The food was delicious, the service excellent (with only one noticeable glitch), and the ambiance very good (even though we were seated next to the kitchen). This is certainly a place where we'll return - and we're already looking forward to it.
The relatively small restaurant is located in the South of Market area, not a very good neighborhood though we didn't feel bad about walking there from the Metreon at almost 10 PM. It is dimly lit, and can be romantic and in any case, very relaxing. One caveat is that the wooden seats by the wall can be rather uncomfortable, specially after a while, I'd recommend trying to get one of the free-standing tables.
Our waiter was very good and attentive. He answered our questions and listened politely to one of my dad's stories. He also found my dad some plain French bread when he didn't like the bread offered with dinner or our appetizer. The only glitch with service was that later in the evening our water glasses were not refilled promptly - other than that it was perfect.
The food was also very good There were several appetizers (ranging from $5 to $16) and about ten entries ($13 to $20), in addition to some daily specials.
As an appetizer we ordered the pate de foie gras ($16), making it the third week in a row that we had some version of this dish. It came with small slices of toasted bread, and as usual, not enough for all the pate. The pate was very, very good. It was smooth, hearty and delicious. The portion was ample, and was easily shared between the three of us. However, it seemed rather expensive in comparison with what we'd paid at Viola and Bay Wolf the previous weekends (but it was better).
For dinner, my dad had the duck confit ($14), and Mike and I shared the roasted lamb ($20) and the chicken ($13). My dad said the duck was delicious - and he even liked the lentils that came with it (he's not a big legume fan). The chicken came in a wine sauce with diced potatoes and chorizo. It was absolutely delicious. The chicken was juicy and tender, but the sauce was out of this world - I'm still dreaming about it. It reminded us very much of the dishes we'd had in the Basque country. If you visit, you must try this dish.
The Marinated Roast Rack of Lamb with Potato Gratin was also good but not as good as the chicken. We had asked for the lamb to be cooked medium-rare, but it came very rare. I think that a little more cooking would have released more of the flavor of the lamb, but it was still rather good for me (but I tend to like my meat redder than most - the woman sitting at the table next to us had also ordered this dish medium rare, but it seemed to come too rare for her as well, as she didn't eat most of it). The potato gratin, however, was incredible. Soft, creamy and extremely delicious - our only complaint was that there wasn't enough of it. According to the menu online, it seems that they also serve it as a side-dish, and if so you should definitely order it.
The wine list was very good as well, it contained several '95 Bordeaux and we ordered the Chateau La Bienfagance '95 ($45). The wine was very pleasant (too soft for my father, who doesn't usually like Bordeaux), though not extraordinarily so.
For dessert, we ordered the Gateau Basque and the Biarritz "Rocher au Chocolat" (both $6.50). We didn't like the Gateau Basque very much. It was almond flavored, and kind of flat and unexciting. I like the Gateau Basque that I make much better (though it still can't hold a candle to the stuff we've eaten in the Basque Country).
The Rocher au Chocolat, a rich chocolate mousse resting on meringue was wonderful. It was very rich, creamy and airy and the three of us were enthralled by it. Highly recommended.
My dad had coffee and didn't like it, but that might just be him. The whole bill, including tip, came to $155.
All in all we had a great dinner. Everything came very quickly, which was good given how late it was, but at no point did we feel rushed. We will certainly go back.
570 Fourth St.
(between Bryant and Brannan)
San Francisco, CA 94107