The famed Fleur de Lys (777 Sutter St., 415/673-7779, www.fleurdelyssf.com, daily 5:30–10:30 p.m., prix fixe $70–92, reservations strongly recommended) is open again. The San Francisco institution burned nearly to the ground in 2001, and the rebuilding took over a year to complete. But now one of the longest running and finest dining establishments has had the time to re-establish itself, and chef Hubert Keller (Keller may be the best name in Bay Area dining, ever) continues to create delectable and inventive dishes.
The dining room is magnificent, with its elaborate tented ceiling, lushly upholstered chairs, and perfect glass accent pieces. But the reason people flock to Fleur de Lys is and has always been the food. The absolutely cream-of-the-crop menu isn’t really à la carte—instead, you’re encouraged to peruse the items and create your own three-, four-, or five-course feast.
Vegetarians aren’t left out here, since Keller creates fish-only and vegetable-only with the same love he dedicates to his meats. You’ll probably want wine with your meal, which means it’s going to cost a bundle. But it’s worth your money to save up and splurge at this world-famous spot.
Tucked away in a tiny alley that looks like it might have been transported from St. Michel in Paris, Café Claude (7 Claude Ln., 415/392-3505, www.cafeclaude.com, Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10:30 p.m., bar Mon.–Sat. until 2 a.m., $10–25) serves classic brasserie cuisine to French expatriates and Americans alike. Much French is spoken here, but the simple food tastes fantastic in any language.
Café Claude is open from lunch all the way through dinner, serving an attractive post-lunch menu for weary shoppers looking for sustenance at 3 or 4 p.m. In the evening it can get crowded, but reservations aren’t strictly necessary if you’re willing to order a classic French cocktail or a glass of wine and enjoy the bustling atmosphere and live music (on weekends) for a few minutes.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition