Frances is run by Melissa Perello, formerly of Charles Nob Hill and Fifth Floor, was winner of several accolades including San Francisco Chronicle’s rising star chef in 2002. Her California Cuisine Castro district restaurant, named after her grandmother, is one presently of the hardest reservations in town. We didn’t have a reservation and went early for bar counter seating before the restaurant opened. (some seats here are pretty tiny) Frances never answered the phone when we called, but they did return our message. They use local, sustainable and organic products when possible.
Decor, Vibe – Frances is a warm, tiny, narrow restaurant with simple decor, black-and-white pictures on the wall. Neighborhood restaurant with an urban feel. Neighborhood folk, middle-aged hipsters, serious foodies filled the place.
Menu has an ever-changing short menu with just a couple options. Four different appetizers and four different entrées, and several bouchees.
Warm almond amuse, free filtered water, and Acme bread.
Market shot ($3) spiced and spiked juice, Pixie Mandarin, Meyer lemon, blood orange, pommeau, Visciole was a refreshing, fruity concoction with a little bit of brandy and Italian wine.
Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets – Maple Creme Fraiche & Chive ($6.50) were their famous savory deep-fried delights with more bacon flavor than we expected. Very nice dipping sauce. The chef must have a thing for Creme Fraiche!
Grilled calamari, warm bean salad, preserved lemon, Sicily olives ($6.50) was full of nicely cooked fresh calamari with perfect texture, lite citrus flavor, and very tender beans. Greens were a bitter.
Dungeness crab salad ($13) little gem lettuce, kumquats, avocado vinaigrette had tons of fresh crab and an excellent dressing. The kumquats were nice contrasting accent.
White corn soup ($8) sweet red onion, dill, peas, and Bodega Chevre came out super hot. It was excellent and had a slightly creamy texture, and lite corn flavor.
Watson Farms spring lamb ($26) butter beans, artichoke, Castelveltrano olives looked beautiful and tasted just as good. Cooked to medium rare, full of high-quality non gamey lamb, and featuring a perfect meat juice sauce. It also came with a braised lamb chunk, making this a pretty meaty dish.
Smoked steelhead trout ($24) fingerling potatoes, crème fraîche, grain mustard was juicy and cooked perfectly and looked delectable.
Bittersweet chocolate pot du creme ($7.50) roasted bing cherries and Vino Visciole had soft decadent pudding but was worth it. The wonderful cherry topping had a slight spike to them.
Early Treat Golden peaches space warm Chandler strawberries ($5) with vanilla crème fraîche was excellent. The strawberries were in a perfect sweet marinade, and the peaches simple and snappy.
Service – Frances had very good service with servers keeping eyes constantly on diners. Pacing was very good although it took a while to get bread.
Value – Pricing is in line with upper midrange restaurants serving this style of cuisine. Frances is a cross between a neighborhood restaurant and a destination restaurant.
Verdict – Frances serves excellent food that met our high expectations. The food was super fresh, perfectly prepared, and showed off the top-notch local ingredients.
Good wine list, with wines by the glass from $9, bottles from $36. The house wine by the ounce from a eco friendly tap.