Gitane is a neat little place tucked inside an small alley between Bush and Sutter in downtown SF. You have to really be looking for this place to find it though, because I doubt the restaurant could possibly get a lot of customers stumbling upon the place, having such a hideaway location. There is a very intimate yet eccentric (for lack of a better word) kind of vibe. In fact, Gitane actually means “gypsy” in Spanish and that is exactly what the restaurant feels like… the decor and lighting all have a gypsy-like feel, kind of dark, ecclectic, funky…. I’m not sure how else to put it into words. Nevertheless, name aside, the food itself is mainly Basque with French, Spanish, Portuguese and I would say Mediterranean influences…. and so like the vibe of the restaurant, the menu was similarly a mix of tapas, pizzas and larger plates. I went with a few people from work so we ended up ordering a variety of different plates and sharing it amongst the four of us.
Since I don’t have any pictures, it’s probably just easier to discuss the high points and not so high points from the menu, because for the most part, the food overall was pretty solid. I think one of the really great dishes was the Bacon Bonbons which sauteed prunes stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in smoked bacon. This was a slight variation on the bacon-wrapped dates that is often a staple on Spanish tapas menus. Truthfully, I couldn’t really tell it was a prune, because the flavors and even textures of these bonbons were pretty similar to the dates. The Frisee was also surprisingly good considering it’s basically a salad, but in truth, it also had serrano ham, snap peas, crispy croutons and poached egg, all in drizzled in a black truffle dressing. I think the poached egg really made this salad stand out. The egg was well-cooked and the yolk added just enough creaminess to the salad to make it taste very flavorful, yet ironically fatty. We all really liked it. Another really good dish was the St Jacques Scallops which pan-seared and served with a parsnip puree, sauteed Brussels sprout leaves and chorizo vierge sauce. I really like scallops when they are well-cooked, and the chef did a great job making sure not to overcook the little guys so that when I took a bit of the fleshy white meat, it was still soft, tender and filled with flavor.
The Champignon pizza was okay. It was a think crust style pizza, more like a flat bread almost. It actually tasted pretty darn good probably because of the white truffle oil. It is amazing how much truffle oil really hits the G-spot in the taste buds. All that excitement aside, the rest of the pizza wasn’t that special. It was just a pizza. I had high hopes for the polenta which was fried with diced sun-dried tomatoes and paprika. Unfortunately, the graininess of the polenta just didn’t sit well on my tongue, and I actually found it to be a little bit on the bland side.
The one dish I really was disappointed in was the Chicken Tajine. It was pan-seared free range chicken breast with dried apricots, carrots, turnips, and zucchini in a spiced broth. I just didn’t like it. I’m not sure how else to explain it. I think this was probably where the Mediterranean flavors were focusing on, but I found it weird tasting. The chicken was also a on the dry side. Blah!
Overall, the restaurant was pretty good. Most of the dishes were solid, and there were many little gems. I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a night on the town at a fun and funky place that serves some quality food. If you’re looking for Basque cuisine, I think it does a good job.
PAFO Ratings for Gitane:
Price 3 ½ stars
Ambiance 3 ½ stars
Food 3 ½ stars
Overall rating 3 ½ stars