I've been curious about Chez Simone for a number of years. I knew that it was a small restaurant on Piedmont Avenue and that it had a small menu, but I didn't know much else about it. I hadn't gone there before because I was afraid that it was too expensive (it's not). Yesterday (May 2008), my sister agreed to babysit the kids, so Mike and I went out on our last date for a couple of months. I was looking for a restaurant that was new and affordable. I found Chez Simone again on the East Bay Express website (which is often my first place to look for restaurants, despite the fact that Jonathan Kauffman, my favorite restaurant reviewer, is no longer there), and after reading some online reviews decided to go there. I won't be rushing back there, but it was a pleasant dining experience.
Chez Simone is a tiny and very modest restaurant serving French food situated on the second floor of a small shopping cove. The dining room itself probably seats 14 people, but on nice days tables are placed on the deck outside - it must be crowded during the day, as patrons of neighboring businesses come back and forth, but it is mostly empty in the evening. They have space for approximately 14 other people outside. The outside tables were full when we got there, but fortunately they were able to put another table outside because it would have been very unpleasant to eat inside as it had been a very hot day. Eating outside, however, was very nice.
Chez Simone's menu is rather short. It offers a onion soup gratinee ($9) and a soup of the day ($5). There are a couple of salads and meat or seafood filled crepes ($12). The rest of the dishes, five or six, vary nightly and average $15. When we went there they had several seafood selections, including a salmon steak, coquilles St. Jacques (scallops in a butter/wine sauce) and a calamari steak. The only non-seafood option was pork. All entrees seem to come with broccoli, carrots and a very small portion of mashed potatoes. Chez Simone offers three desserts: a fruit tart, a chocolate mousse, and a fruit pudding (I forgot its French name), all for $5, I think. Wine is offered by the glass and bottle; most of the latter are in the twenties. They also have French cider ($4 for a glass, but not available that night) and sparkling wine ($9) - the only non-alcoholic drink in the menu, besides Perrier, is apple cider ($1.50).
Given that I'm not a seafood afficionado, I ordered the pork. This consisted of thin slices of pork cooked in a sweet onion sauce. It was quite good - I particularly liked the onions - though nothing out of the ordinary. The portion was rather small and despite the fact that I'd eaten a lot of bread I was still a little hungry when I finished it. Though I liked it, I don't think I'd rush to order it again. Mike's calamari steak was very simple, but he enjoyed it. I thought it needed more seasoning. Mike liked the vegetables, though he thought the carrots were a tad too soft. The mashed potatoes were on the thin side and in great need of seasoning; they were good with a bit of salt added.
I had heard that their tarts were very good so I had to try it (and I was still hungry). That night's tart was strawberry and consisted of a paper-thin shell topped with full strawberries and cream. I didn't care for the shell, but the strawberries were plump and sweet and the thick cream was delicious (as was the strawberry sauce topping it). Mike wasn't as enthralled, but I really enjoyed it.
Service was very good, our waitress was very attentive and even took off a glass of sparkling wine off the bill when Mike spilled it.
In all we had a very nice date.
4125 Piedmont Ave