San Francisco, CA - A power lunch, an after work drink, a break from the convention delegates, a meet-up with out-of-town visitors, a date night, a low key birthday celebration with a friend who loves Paris and dessert.
In crisp white shirts, black vests and bow ties, servers and bartenders look as smart, sleek and sexy as the new interiors at Gaspar Brasserie at 185 Sutter Street. Here's a FiDi/Union Square/Downtown swanky substitute for the Left Bank, presenting diners with a virtual escape to the 10th arrondissement, complete with oysters and champagne, but without the airfare.
The mood is set right at the pavement by the tomato red (or is it International Orange?) splash of a just-like-in-Paris awning and a smartly tiled, branded threshold brightening up the block between Kearney and Montgomery Streets.
"Classic," the room says via period light fixtures, chandeliers suspended from a gold tin type-like ceiling, spot lit bookshelves displaying bottles of spirits lining the walls. A proudly plumed ceramic rooster framed by the window sill says, "We're not too serious, folks."
If it's your first visit (they opened in May 2014) what you don't know quite yet is that there's a second, romantically-lit bar at the top of the staircase. Pull up a stool, pop your feet comfortably on the essential polished brass railing or cozy up at the Cognac-colored long leather tufted banquettes dotted with a few chic-but-shabby little tables to study the cocktail and bar menu.
A "hi-octane" vodka, honey, lemon and ginger Ma Chérie ($12) concoction had a little kick to it. A "low-octane" champagne cocktail selection ($10) might point toward pacing oneself for the wine list ahead. The (hurray!) bar menu ranges from olives to burgers, so have it your way. The Happy Hour until 6 p.m. actually has bar bites (oyster, deviled egg) priced at a dollar to pommes frites priced at three.
This is destination dining "worth a detour," to borrow a Michelin phrase. The selection of half dozen market oysters served with a mignonette are a treat at the corner table in a dark wood paneled room which says "brasserie." A discussion of gluten-free requirements went exceedingly well, right down to the attentive (and highly appreciated) details of a coating of flour to be left off in the kitchen.
We didn't need mother's advice to clear every crumb from our plates. As fish lovers, the wild flounder and salmon made that enviable task simple. However, if you follow the advice of other diners, not saving room for dessert would be a mistake. Our choice was the lovely crème caramel, which means five more return trips to Gaspar to try all the others.
Gaspar Brasserie is the fifth in Franck LeClerc's restaurant group which (Dieu merci) delivers a bit of Paris to San Francisco via Café Claude, Café Claude Marina, Gitane and Claudine. Bienvenue!