New Chef Shines at Chez Papa Resto
The day it first opened, Chez Papa Resto in Downtown San Francisco became my undisputed favorite. Whenever I need to treat someone special, dazzle out-of-towners, or just have a great wine-and-dine with my family, it’s always Chez Papa Resto.
Tastefully decorated in a vaguely Marie-Antoinette style, atmospheric and cozy, but with enough elbow room, and boasting a great bar and a purely Parisian outside seating in Mint Plaza, this place is best known for its consistently excellent cuisine and outstanding wine selection (Wine Director George Aknin).
Chez Papa Resto’s new ambitious Executive Chef Steven Rojas calls his new menu Contemporary French. However, most of the fanciful morsels he puts on the table can be attributed only to his own creativity.
Amuse bouche of parmesan cheese puff with Bechamel sauce sets the stage for some amazing fare.
La Belle Farm foie gras mousse comes in an airy roll, adorned with yuzu marmalade and hazelnuts, looking rather unusual, but tasting great, especially with sauternes.
House-made veal sweetbread sausage with quince preserve is a little masterpiece on toast. It contains a tad of chicken breast meat for added texture, some measured spices, and is pink and tender, and absolutely dreamy. A glass of 2009 Cotes du Rhone Heritages nicely compliments it.
During our dinner, several new chef’s creations at once came on a tasting plate looking like a master’s palette. Blood sausage, mixed with lardo and redolent of cumin and smoked paprika; spicy tomato confit; charred octopus – chewy and smoky, with chili sauce; excellent chorizo, and a date, unrolled, stuffed with blue cheese, then rolled back again, and covered with coconut shavings. Like a paintbrush dipped in crimson red, a porcelain spoon at the edge of the plate held a shiny pepper gelee sphere.
Then our entrees arrived with great fanfare. Pacific sea bass, golden-brown over firm white flesh, set in a colorful frame of fava greens, blood orange segments, garlic confit, and earthy artichoke, was paired with San de Guilhem 2009 – a wonderful colombard blend, fragrant with apricot and gooseberry.
Decadent braised Beef Cheeks with green Romanesco broccoli and arugula, red beet purée, and yellow potato fondant, was nicely complimented by Talbott Kali Hart 2008 pinot noir.
Finally, an amazing vegetable cassoulet made me forget everything I knew about its lamb-duck-sausage counterpart. Apparently, the new chef is very good with vegetables. Presented in a miniature cast iron cocotte, his fantastic stew was made of white beans, green peas, abalone mushrooms, Romanesco broccoli, and strips of red pepper, all slow-cooked in a vegetable stock, then mellowed with parmesan cheese and butter, covered with bread crumbs, and crisped in the oven.
I would have gladly considered this side dish my dessert, but then I heard that crème brulee was made with Bora Bora vanilla and citrus confit, and that cocoa nib éclair contained house-made pistachio ice cream. Moreover, it came with toasted almonds and warm chocolate sauce. A sip of Muscat, and – au sante, Chef Rojas and Wine Director Aknin – you surely know how to keep us, San Francisco gourmands, happy!
Chez Papa Resto is located at 4 Mint Plaza, San Francisco. Lunch Monday – Saturday 11.30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (3:00 p.m. on Saturday). Dinner Monday – Thursday 5:30 to 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5:30 – 11:00 p.m. Call 1-415-546-4134, or visit their website.