One of our favorite San Francisco restaurants.. Chapeau! is a French Bistro located in the San Francisco Richmond district in the middle of the Clement Street shopping district. At one time, they had two locations, but later wisely consolidated into this one location. Chapeau! SF opened in 1996 and means hat or wow in French.
Chef Philippe Gardelle and his wife Ellen, run this cozy restaurant and are often times seen warmly greeting guests. Chapeau! specialize in value oriented French Bistro cuisine. You can get 3 course meal for $44.50 (Choice of appetizer, Entree, and Dessert) or 4 courses for $56. (Adds a Tasting fish) Save even more with early bird specials at $36.95 Mon – Thursday 5-6pm. Some special items do require an up charge. A vegetarian menu is also available.
This review is a culmination of many visits over the years, the last of which was in Summer of 2018.
Decor, Vibe – Chapeau has a compact dining room, bar area, decorative paintings on the wall. The place is cozy so it gets cramped, crowded, and loud, which is part of the atmosphere. If they moved to a larger location, that would get lost. Families, couples, friends, neighborhood folks, and others were dining. Most people were in the 30-50 range.
The menu changes every couple of weeks and features a wide variety of classic French dishes. Many of the same items change only slightly. The multicourse prix fixe menus are of great value. They have daily specials which seem to always include foie gras (either sauteed or terrine) and sometimes prime rib or ribeye steak for 2 people. (Frankly it can feed 4!) Prices have risen over the years but are still an excellent value.
Chapeau SF Picks:
Mojito ($12) is an excellent version of the classic cocktail. Slightly on the sweet side.
Amuse Bouche of Asparagus soup was a nice complimentary refreshing start to the meal. Their warm bread is excellent.
Pan Seared Scallop Special Appetizer is available from time to time. A wonderful dish with a bed of well done risotto.
Trio of Salmon ($15) Gravlax, Tartar & Caviar/ Egg Mimosa, Fried Capers & Crème Fraîche/Micro Herbs with Lemon Dressing was a mismash of fish and egg goodness with some fish eggs. It looked beautiful and tasted even better.
Oysters on the half shell ($3 each or + $6 on the set menus) with red wine vinegar mignonette had 6 fresh oysters on the half shell. Hard to go wrong although the other appetizers were much more imaginative.
Traditional Escargots de bourgogne ($9.75) on rosemary skewer, warm fingerling potato salad with shallot and garlic confit, roasted garlic cream was a fun dish. The escargot were tender and did not possess any gaminess or pungent flavors. They switch the preparation with a butter parsley, garlic version seasonally.
Prince Edward Island Mussels ($12.50 appetizer, $25 entree size) Steamed with White Wine, Shallot & Parsely, Pommes Frites & Rouille was an excellent dish with lots of shell fish and top notch fries.
Mescalan Salad ($10.50) with Crème Dijonnaise, Red Seedless Grapes, Pistachio, Fried Camembert & Walnut Bread was very good with a slightly sweet dressing and well tossed greens. Excellent bread and cheese.
Salade Nicoise ($14.50) Ahi Tuna, Haricots Verts & Fingerling Potato Salad, White Anchovy & Kalamata Olive, 1:42 Quail Egg, Cherry Tomato, Mache with Lemon-Honey Aigre-Doux was a beautiful looking salad with fresh sashimi.
Porcini Crusted Veal Sweetbreads ($17/$34) King Trumpet & Oyster Mushrooms/ Baby Carrots & Turnips/ Truffle Sauce/ Fried Leeks/ White Truffle Oil were some of the best sweetbreads we have had. Very tender, very flavorful. If you love them try this dish. If you have not tried sweet breads, give this a try.
Deep-fried Tiger prawns ($13) with shredded phyllo dough, tomato and onion marmalade, herb aioli, petite legumes was excellent. Crunchy at first bite from warm to see and soft inside.
Sautéed Foie Gras Special ($25 or $8 upcharge on a price fine meal) with Apple, micro greens, had 2 medium sized pieces and was very good. Melts in your mouth with the included house made brioche. When they have the Foie Gras Au Torchon on the menu ($22), they usually can also create a sauteed version. Glad the ban is over!
Traditional onion soup ($13) was another great appetizer. No cheese crust on top, but excellent onion and cheese flavor. A bit on the sweet side.
Cote Boeuf – Bone in Ribeye for Two ($88) was available on our last visit in 2018. We had to give this a try and found that this decadent cut of meat and bone marrow would satisfy any meat lover. It is carved table side and comes with several bone marrow pieces, a stellar potatoes au gratin as well as vegetables and truffle sauce.
Filet Mignon ($34 or + $8 on the menus) Pommes de Terre Landaise, King trumpet and oyster mushrooms, sauce à la Perigourdine was one thick and super tender steak, cooked perfectly. Optional bone marrow for the hard-core! (+$5)
Cassoulet de Toulouse ($27) is a classic French dish that we needed to try. Visually not very appetizing, but a very good and hearty version with tender canellini beans, solid duck leg confit, nice sausage, and nice braised lamb shoulder.
Lightly Smoked Atlantic Salmon ($27) Olive Oil Crushed Potatoes/ Braised Green Swiss Chard/ Snow Peas/Saffron Shellfish Velouté had a large perfectly cooked piece of fresh salmon with a heavenly sauce. Sometimes they have Sauteed Striped Bass instead of salmon.
Canard au Miel & aux Épices or Duck Leg Confit & Pan Seared Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast ($29) Soft with white truffle oil/ Pears & Grapes/Peppered Duck Sauce was excellent. We asked for Medium rare but got Medium. The duck was tender and made extra great with the perfect duck fruity au jus gravy. Fruits made for a nice accent to this meaty sauce. On another visit, Chapeau they had a Peking duck special similar to this dish.
Chicken (Early Bird) was a huge portion of tender chicken stuffed. A good bet for early bird diners.
Poached Wild Alaskan Halibut ($27) in saffron broth, celery root “facon fettuccini ala creme, grilled fennel, country bread with rouille and gruyere was as the waiter termed it, a Feminine dish. Cooked correctly, subtle flavors, and deliciously accented with the noodles. Other times they will have Wild Caught Skate Wing.
California black cod ($25) braised fennel and leaks, bacon flavored fingerling potatoes, shallot confit, saffron emulsion was excellent. The fish was cooked perfectly and was very tender. The sauce was excellent and complement the fish perfectly.
Sautéed Striped Bass ($34) Fennel Purée, Bell pepper piper aide, grilled asparagus, shallot confit, jus de poulet was another well cooked dish. The accents were more on the veggie side that we expected but they did not overshadow the fish.
Pain Perdue or French Toast ($9.50) soft caramel, hazelnut ice cream was recommended by waiter and proved to be awesome. While we equated this with breakfast, this brioche was a perfect dessert and we highly recommend.
Nuage de Noix ($11) roasted pistachios, almonds and hazelnuts in a frozen Chantilly an Italian meringue was also recommended by our waiter. Another excellent dessert that looks like a big ice cream cake but proved to be a light meringue with subtle flavors in a soup of fruity goodness.
Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake, Banana Flambée/ Rum & Raisin Ice Cream/ Caramel Sauce ($11) takes about 15 minutes but is well worth it. Hot out of the oven, you cut it open and watch the chocolate filling droll out – stellar.
Tahitienne Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee ($11) had a classic super caramelized crust on top of a good sized portion of creamy and smooth custard.
Trio of Sorbet ($9.50) with Hazelnut Basket, Apple Compote had 3 homemade flavors, a robust Cabernet, a very tart passionfruit, and a more neutral lemon.
If you do not like these desserts, you can call ahead and ask for a panna cotta.
Salade Landaise ($12.50) Frisée/ Duck Confit & Smoked Duck Magret/Fingerling Potato Chips/ Classic French Vinaigrette was a huge salad tower full of greens with a nice chunk of super delicious Foie Gras on top. There was a small amount duck meat. The potatoe chips and croutons made a crunch balance out the greenery.
Pork Tenderloin (Early Bird) Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin, Gratin Dauphinois, Spinach Soubise, Apple-Calvados Sauce possessed a chemically after taste that didn’t work for us. It was cooked to a fine medium rare. On our last visit in 2018, the pork was still a laggard.
Roasted Quail Stuffed with veal sweetbread & chicken ($34) was a bit too meaty. We would just order the sweetbreads separately.
Chapeau! SF started strong with very good, friendly service then faded as the dining room filled up, a typical sign of not enough support people. On one visit, the waiter was not that knowledgeable about ingredients.
This restaurant has excellent food at very reasonable prices. Chapeau’s Early Bird Menu is an especially great deal at from 5-6pm, Sun – Thursday. We would definitely come back and would highly recommend this place in a heartbeat. They put a limited number of tables on Opentable, so be sure to call them when trying to reserve a table.
Having eaten at top tier Gary Danko the day before one visit, made us appreciate how high the quality and value of food is here. On another occasion, we dined at Chez Spencer out week after Chapeau, and still found Chapeau to the unrivaled. If you like Chapeau be sure to try this bistro in Paris. They charge a 4% healthy San Francisco fee.
Compact wine list with reasonable markup. Glasses of wine from $7, Bottles from $34, $18 corkage.