Pdho surprised me with dinner at Fringale to celebrate the day he proposed to me. It is interesting to note that he proposed on Valentine’s Day, and although he chose that day to propose, he probably wouldn’t make a big deal of that particular day if it didn’t happen to have a significance other than being an overly-commercialized holiday. Luckily for him, I don’t expect much for Valentine’s Day, but luckily for me, he knows that the day he asked me to marry him means so much more.
Given that it was a Sunday night, I was surprised to see how busy the restaurant was. The dining area is on the small side, but every table was filled…. with couples, groups, etc. The restaurant has been around for almost 20 years (which seems amazing considering I don’t think the area was all that developed until the last 10 years), so I think it’s been able to create a following beyond just the neighborhood. The restaurant serves Basque-inspired French bistro fare, so there are some distinctly French dishes prepared with a slightly Spanish flare.
This was probably one of the better dishes of the evening. The prawns were sautéed in a sauce made from sun-dried tomatoes, shallots and chives. I’m not exactly sure what Pastis is, but I think it’s an anise-flavored liqueur of some sort. The sauce was quite buttery, and I enjoyed the sun-dried flavor so much that I couldn’t help but dip several pieces of French baguette and sop up as much of the sauce as I could. I thought this was a really very well-made dish.
Although I tried my best not to order calamari, we still ended up ordering this appetizer. It was different than the usual preparation where instead of being battered and deep-fried, it was pan-fried with jalapenos, chorizo and olives. This tasted more distinctly Spanish especially with the chorizo. The calamari rings were on the small side and a little bit chewy, but the flavors were very good.
I’ve had duck confit a number of times, but I can’t say that I’ve really enjoyed it at all. Most of the time, the duck meat ends up being salty, dry and slightly overcooked. I’m starting to think it is supposed to taste like that, but I’m not quite sure. If there is one thing that is consistent, it’s that the duck meat falls off nicely from the bone. However, this preparation was probably better than the rest in that the skin was very crispy which added some nice fatty crunch to the duck meat. I can’t say that I feel any more excited to order duck confit in the future though.
Seafood Basquaise seemed very similar to a bouillabaisse but with less liquid. It included salmon, cod, prawns, tuna, mussels, red pepper and tomato coulis. I liked the flavors particularly of the tomato coulis, and the seafood was plentiful. It was definitely my favorite of the entrees.
The Crème brûlée was very good with the characteristic layer of glazed sugar, but it tasted pretty much like your typical crème brûlée.
Overall, I really liked the food here. We don’t often go out for French food, but unlike most French restaurants, I felt the flavors at Fringale weren’t as rich. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a fair amount of butter in the preparation of many of the dishes, but the sauces didn’t taste so heavy. I think the use of tomatoes, especially sun-dried tomatoes added some nice flavor to the dishes. I kind of think this is attributed to the Basque influence which really lent to a very delicious menu of dishes. The prices were relatively reasonable for a nicer sit-down meal, and I think the ambiance is cozy and intimate for a neighborhood restaurant.
570 4th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
PAFO Ratings for Fringale:
Price 3 stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars