Be sure to read Boulevard: The Cookbook
Where does a food blogger go to celebrate a birthday?
We have been coming here for years to Boulevard San Francisco Restaurant near the Ferry Building in the Embarcadero waterfront area. It is one of our favorite places as it is pretty consistent.. Always a candidate for the short list of best restaurants. It earned One Michelin Star in 2009. Nancy Oakes open Boulevard, a New American/French comfort food restaurant way back in 1993. She opened nearby Prospect in 2010. Our last visit was in the Summer of 2018, where we found the food quality still top notch, service slipped a little. Alumni Ravi Kapor now runs Liholiho Yacht Club.
Boulevard’s busy Kitchen in Action
Boulevard Decor, Vibe – Pat Kuleto design with an “intimate Belle Epoque aesthetic”. Couples, business people, and groups were all enjoying the fine food.
Boulevard has been voted most popular by Zagat’s guide for years. The place was packed when we entered at 6pm. If you don’t have a reservation, you can get a seat at the bar or kitchen counter, while they last.
The kitchen counter seats let you see the masters in action. Menu changes daily, so some of our review items might not be available or may be slightly different.
Boulevard San Francisco Menu:
Boulevard’s Menu changes all the time, depending on the season and fresh ingredients. They try to keep it influx, so that the regulars have interesting dishes to try. There are some dishes like the pork chop and fish that remain on the menu, but change preparation style.
Boulevard Food Picks:
Caipirina ($10.50) with Sagaliba Cachaca, Sugar, Lime, Blackberry was balanced and a refreshingly good drink that was on the rocks.
Mojito ($14) was a decent cocktail. The version on our last visit was far better than the past. Very Tall and unsuspectingly very strong. We wanted a little more sweetness and they were kind enough to give us some simple syrup.
Chilled Lobster, Avocado & White Melon Coulis ($21) Coconut & Lime Creme, Galia Melon, Chayote & Cucumber, Kaffir Lime & Citron Oils, Crisp Rice & Shallots was a unique 2017 starter with a vegetables and small pieces of Lobster. More soupy than we expected buy very good.
Roasted Beets, Fourme d’ Ambert, Wild Pecas & Figs ($17) was an excellent modern salad. 2 kinds of beets and not a bitter note in the 2018 salad. It probably took a bunch of tweezer placements to arrange this.
Brokaw Avocado, Heirloom Cucumber, Spanish Goat Cheese & Kale ($15) Cana de Cabra, Serpent & Lemon Cucumbers Galia Melon & Jalapeno Yogurt Crema Lentil & Quinoa Crisps was a modern salad with lots of diced veggies on a nice smooth yogurt. Refreshing, but not a breakthrough.
Gnoccho grande ‘carbonara’ – Summer Truffle & Veal Bacon, Sunny Side Up Del Oakes Farm Egg, Fennel Parmesan Fondue ($16) was a beautiful, modern pasta. Rich with a poached egg accenting the tender pasta.
Brent Wolfe Quail Starter- Buttermilk Fried Leg & Pan Roasted Breast, Hopi Blue Cornmeal Fried Green Tomatoes & Roasted Hatch Chili Ranch Green Tomato, Lime & Pepper Jelly, Water Spinach ($21) was an excellent starter in 2017, with the Quail cooked almost cooked in a Peking Duck style. Juicy, crispy, perfect accent with the Rhubarb. They have quail as an entree from time to time.
Roasted Seckle Pear & Bayley Hazen Blue Salad Toasted Walnuts, Asian Pears with Citron Castelfranco, Field Greens & Lettuces ($14.25) was a nice refreshing salad with leaves carefully placed and fresh pears.
Ahi Tuna Tartare – Emerald Shiso Apples, Cucumber & Myoga Ginger Melon & Citrus Pearls, Matcha Aioli, Fresh Hon Wasabi, Sesame Nori Rice Crisps ($24) was a very good version of the classic dish that seems to be on every restaurant menu. Much more inventive than most. Interesting that they also added daikon.
Royal Blue Hamachi Crudo & Avocado Tempura ($21) Elephant Heart Plum Gazpacho & Green Plum Pearls, Myoga Ginger, Red Shisio & Opol Basil was a great starter in 2018. Beautiful dish with really fresh fish and accents.
Dungeness Crab Salad – Purple & Green Basil, Lemon & Mediterranean Cucumbers, Watermelon, Aleppo Pepper & Greek Yogurt Coulis ($18.25) was very large salad with a surprising amount of crab. Very Seasonal.
Baby Beets & Shaved Summer Truffles ($14) with organic mixed greens, truffle tremor cheese, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil was a nice fresh and light summer salad. 5 big tender red beets. The truffle cheese had subtle flavor, being a truffle fan, we wanted more zest.
Beet, Pink Apple & Champagne Grape Salad – Fourme d’’Ambert, Seeded Walnut Brittle, Red Endive, Castelfranco & Treviso Radicchios, Acacia Honey & Spanish Cava Vinaigrette ($14) was served in September 2014. This salad was extremely large, filled with huge chunks tender beet along with excellent cheese bits. A must to contrast the meats to come.
Crispy Maryland Soft Shell Crab ($18) with Crisp Coconut Milk & Rice Flour Jacket, Red Noodle Beans & Rice Noodles, Holy Basil, Tobago Sweet Chili Jam, Lime & Cashews was a lightly battered, eggless fresh crab that had a nice crunch to it. Every bite had a crisp and soft element to it. The noodles added an Asian flavor to the dish. We ate this with one other appetizer instead of an entree. More flavors and variety at the same price!
Crispy Veal Sweetbreads ($17.75) with a Poached Slow Cooked Egg, Baby Artichoke & Lobster Mushrooms, Soubise, Natural Jus was an awesome dish. Not large quantities of sweetbreads but high quality and other items to balance them out.
Monterey Red Abalone ($19.75) Fried Green Tomato, Green Tomato Tartar Sauce, Sydney’s Watercress was an very good dish dish, but very small portion. Double portion would have been more like a normal size.
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras ($38) with Almond Green Tea Cake, Ginger, Dapple Dandy Plums was an ok dish, it could have been better with better tasting foie. The other items were fine. In 2015, this dish was again stellar. This variation included Fresh & Confit Strawberries, Dragee Pine Nuts, and Black Russian Rye Toast & Fennel. 2016 was also excellent. This version: Rosehip Syrup Poached Plums Rosé Pearls & Rosewater Jellies with Pistachio Toasted Caraway Roll. 2017 had a smaller portion of foie but much more creative accompanying items – Pan Seared & Foie Gras Ganache Poached Damson Plum, Cognac & Star Anise, Dapple Dandy Pluot, Honey Toasted Oats, Almond Super Seed Loaf. The loaf was a bit odd. In Summer 2018, the dish disappeared from the menu, a victim of the forthcoming ban!
Calamari special ($19) was available in the Summer of 2015. Perfectly cooked calamari stuffed with lobster and crab. Uni accent on top kick it over the top.
Butter poached Maine Lobster ($38.50) with Creamed Brentwood Corn, Summer Frying Peppers Fritto of Cornmeal Crusted Baby Corn & Padron Peppers, Lobster Nage was out of the fresh shell and ready to eat. Cooked perfectly and nicely accented with the sweet creamed corn. Not exactly French Laundry’s butter poached lobster, but very tasty nonetheless.
Wild King Salmon ($39) Grilled with Rosemary & Salted Wild Plum, Lonely Mountain Artichokes & Jimmy Nardello Sweet Peppers, Late Summer Shelling Beans, Braised with Avocado Leaf and Fennel Flowers, Oregon Chantrelles was a very good dish and especially with all the vegetables and beans. The fish was cook to a nice medium rare. The bottom accent was too salty though. A couple days previous to this we had an even better Salmon at Stella Alpina in Burlingame.
Brent Wolfe King Quail Pan Roasted Double Breast with Sage Main Dish – Soft White Polenta & White Carrots with Lavender Honey, Crushed Pistachios with White Pomegranate Seeds, Roasted Bird Jus with Sage ($39) included three pieces of quail, two of them deboned. Tender, cooked to a soft medium rare, this delicate entree is sure to satisfy poultry fans. Definitely an inventive preparation. The menu has quail as a starter, most of the time.
Lamb T-Bone Wood Oven Roasted, Served Off The Bone Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Fondant German Butter Ball Potatoes Red Lollipop Kale & Tokyo Turnips Roasted Lamb Jus with Mugolio Pine Cone Syrup ($41) was cooked to a perfect medium rare and included 3 large pieces of high quality lamb. Even better in 2018.
Liberty Farms Duck Breast Roasted In Our Pancetta ($36) – Squash Blossom Stuffed with Duck Sausage Vialone Nano Risotto with Ronde de Nice Squash, Roasted Morel Mushrooms & Duck Jus appeared to be a very hearty and meaty version that could easily be too salty, but they pulled it off just right. Cool and tasty mini sausages. We would call this dish one of Boulevard San Francisco’s signature dishes. In 2017 they served the duck with Pearled Barley Braised with Barolo & King Trumpet Mushrooms, Blistered Grapes & Mission Figs, Minus 8 Concord Grape Vinegar Kalettes & Crisp Sunchokes.
Berkshire Pork Prime Rib Chop – Wood Oven Roasted with Poppy Seed Spaetzle, Lemon & Sage, Adriatic Figs, Fig Mostarda & White Poppy Seed Crumble, Roasted Chanterelles & Pork Jus ($41) is a signature dish and must order, also looked very appetizing. Their wood oven works wonders on this. Ridiculously huge portion. Tender, flavorful, juicy. The figs added a nice sweet component. They continue to make one of the best pork chops in the City. Also check The House. On another visit it was accented with Braised Gigande Beans, Celery Root, Cotecchino & Clamshell Mushrooms Porcini & Spring Onion Buerre Fondu, andRoasted Hen of the Wood Mushrooms with Agresto Condimento.
California Lamb T-Bone (Dixon) ($37.50) Wood Oven Roasted Stuffed With Oven Dried Tomatoes, Feta & Eggplant, Fondant Fingerling Potatoes with Feta Cheese Rosa Bianca Eggplant, Pistachio, Currant & Nicoise Olive Relish, Sauteed Erbette Chard with Lemon & Butter, Rosemary Lamb Jus was a huge entree. Great for meat eaters who like lamb. High quality, No gaminess.
White Sea Bass (California), ($33) Wild Caught & Pan Roasted was excellent. Better than the halibut. Cooked well, super fresh, tender, flaky, great rice bedding.
Braised Pasture-Raised Beef Short-Rib ($30) was an excellent entree. Nice hearty quantities, tender meat, cooked to a medium rare, good sauce, and meat flavor.
Gnochetti ($32) was good but not great. Order the pork chop instead! A couple days previous to this we had an even better version at Stella Alpina in Burlingame.
Irish Coffee Ice Cream Bon Bon ($3.50 each) is an adult version of the classic. High quality chocolate and ice cream.
Strawberries’n Cream Sour Cream Mousse, Balsamic Vinegar Olive Oil Financier ($9) was an excellent dessert with lots of fresh strawberries and a light mousse.
Warm Gravenstein and pink Pearl Apple tart ($11) with layers of caramelized Apple, flaky puff crust, Apple swirl ice cream was an excellent dessert, not overly sweet, but including several types of textures. On our visit in 2014, this morphed slightly into CARAMELIZED PINK PEARL APPLES – Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Caramel Sauce, Walnut Apple Pave, Airy Meringue.
Peaches & Butterscotch Desert ($10.75) Roasted O’henry peaches & Fresh Peach Sorbet, Butterscotch Coated Meringues, Buttermilk Panna Cotta had a little bit of everything and tasted great. So many different tastes made it a fun dessert.
Butterscotch Pudding ($12) Caramel Rice Krispies, Butterscotch Truffles, Crinkle Cookies, Dark Chocolate Marshmallows, Chocolate Chip Meringue is a signature dessert. Highly recommended! We try to save room for dessert by getting part of our entree boxed up to go!
Dark Chocolate or Blood Orange Sorbet ($5 each) was a refreshing lighter dessert. Home made of course. Chocolate was better than the Blood Orange. In 2015 Dark Chocolate and Cherry sorbet were both superb, strong dark flavor. About as good as sorbet gets.
Triple Chocolate Napoleon Cake ($11) banana chocolate streusel, fleur de sel caramel, cocoa nib ice cream was very rich and came warm out of the oven. Light but chocolaty.
Warm Vanilla Crepe Suzette & Fresh Blackberries ($10.50) el rey white chocolate, macadamia semi-freddo manila mangos, sauternes syrup was very good. Crepes weren’t very large but everything was balanced. Not too sweet.
Dayboat Sea Scallops ($25) with Heirloom Red Okra with Parmesan crust in 2018 included 2 but the prices and the quantity had fallen over the past.
Pan Roasted Squab ($18.75) was just ok. We’ve had better tasting squab at Chinese restaurants. Pick something else unless you love squab.
Northern Halibut (Alaska) ($36) Wild Caught & Pan Roasted with Crispy Squash Blossom Stuffed with Brandade Summer Squash Risotto, Roasted Chanterelle Mushrooms, Herb Beurre Fondu was a good dish. The halibut was cooked well, but the risotto was really outstanding. In sitting by the kitchen, we noticed that this was easily the most popular entree. Frankly, the non-fish entrée’s are stronger than their fish.
Angus Wood Oven Roasted Filet Mignon ($52) – Smashed & Crisped Yukons with Smokish Tomato & Summery Herbs, Red Chard & Hen of the Wood Mushroom, Red Okra with Chili Vinegar, Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Catsup, Taggiasca Olive & Beef Jus was just ok. A little over cooked on our 2017 visit. In past years it was fine!
Warm summer berry crisp – Farmers Market Mixed Berries, Whole Wheat Crumble, Candied Hazelnuts, Bourbon Ice Cream ($10.50) was simply too tart.
Key Lime Mascarpone Cream ‘Cheesecake’ ($11) in 2017, Graham Cracker Cookie, Blueberry Chia Seed Jam, Casamigos Margarita Sorbet, Key Lime Curd, Raspberry Crisp is a modern cheesecake, but more of a key lime pie. It was just ok.
Vanilla ‘Creme Brulee’ ($13) Vanilla custard, Chocolate Quinoa Crunch, Plum Port Sorbet, Sauternes Poached Blackberries, Black Sesame Tuile in 2018 was a modern version of this dessert. Difficult to visualize but more of a mess than a re-interpretation.
Alaskan Halibut A La Plancha Assorted Summer Beans & Marcona Almonds, Fingerling Potatoes with Almond Oil, Garlic & Lemon, Sauce Vert Aioli ($36) looked perfect. It was over cooked and dry, this was the one disappointment of the night. The House still has the best one in San Francisco.
Boulevard’s service has consistently been very good, no need to ask for water or bread. There were some longer pauses but no slip ups.
Caveats: We have a feeling food seems to be better if you go early and the kitchen is not in a super busy mode although in 2017 and 2018 it took a while to get starters even after arriving shortly after opening. They admitted they were understaffed in 2018. Starters remain very strong, sometimes overshadowing the mains.
Prices at Boulevard San Francisco have climbed over the years pushing it into more expensive territory and lessening its value. With prices this high, people start to compare Boulevard to places like Michael Mina and Gary Danko. The New American cuisine with French influence here is very accessible, no need for a menu decoder when ordering, making this place ever popular.
5% Service Charge Added For San Francisco Employer Mandates including Healthy San Francisco.