Philippe Gardelle - The Chef Artist of Chapeau!

Philippe Gardelle – The Chef Artist of Chapeau!

February 8, 2012  |  featured, food & drink  |  No Comments

When you enter Chapeau! and look around, you can’t miss Philippe Gardelle, the chef and owner, stopping from table to table greeting customers. That is when he is not in the kitchen. Laughing and cheerful, his love and appreciation pour over all, faithful clients and newbies to his food. It is fun watching his theatrical personality in action in the restaurant that bears his signature and style on Clement Street. Gardelle has made a name for himself on the San Francisco culinary scene over the years, and his success is due to his immense love of the craft and his passion to share it with others. When you see a chef putting so much meticulous effort and poetry into his food – the decoration of the plates, the colors of his dishes – and into the human connection, then you understand why Chapeau’s has been voted Best French Bistro in San Francisco by Zagat for many years in a row.

A self-taught chef and proud of it, he creates all his recipes by using French techniques spiced with his prolific imagination. The results are unique flavors to make you come back for more. And the food is superb and the ambiance of his small Brasserie is perfect to enjoy it. The salmon-roulade à la sauce mayonnaise is not only beautiful to watch but it is to die for when you taste it. If you’ve never tasted sweetbreads, it’s time to expand your palate and try them here, there is no better place to order them. As for the scallop risotto, I don’t know how to describe it. It was so good, the taste so refined, I still remember it! Nuage de noix is Philippe’s favorite dessert. It has been crafted with love mixed with nougatine, pistachios, roasted hazelnuts, Italian meringue, whip cream and soupe à l’orange – a terrific mix to satisfy any sweet tooth. The chocolate soufflé is also a must.

There is another dimension to this creative man, and it is writing. His own recipes are written beautifully like poems. He wished he could have been alive at the time of Baudelaire or Toulouse-Lautrec. Hélas! Every time he has a day off from work, he stays alone in silence with himself and writes stories. He recites his own poetry and talks with enthusiasm about his historical fiction in the making, taking place in the last century. And the story of Chapeau! Well, that is another story involving a play he wrote. He staged it and played a character wearing a hat, something he couldn’t do in real life. And after the play, he wore the hat every day until he opened Chapeau!, with an exclamation point, meaning hats off!

As he was talking to me, he saw clients leaving the restaurant, he excused himself and went to kiss them goodbuy, the French way, kisses on the cheeks. He came back and said: “San Francisco is a series of beautiful movie scenes but Paris is a post card.” And sometimes, as everyone does, he tends to get a little nostalgic, and then he misses some things from his French past:

Le produit laitier, l’arrière pays, Le Pont Neuf, La Fnac, La Seine and l’humour français.

To meet Philippe in person and taste his beautiful culinary creations, rendez-vous at Chapeau! on 126 Clement Street.

Phone: (415) 750-9787

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Summer at Le Garage

Summer at Le Garage

July 25, 2011  |  food & drink, san francisco  |  2 Comments

It is summer and in my mind there is not a better place to escape the notorious San Francisco fog than at Le Garage in Sausalito. This casual French bistro, facing a boat-filled harbor with crisp sheer light and romantic sunsets, offers an unparalleled Mediterranean experience. For brunch or dinner, and when the weather permits, sit at the terrace with its extensive views of the bay. Hear the sounds of seagulls, watch the boats, breathe the fresh California air, and let yourself be pampered with amazing food and service by the staff at Le Garage.

I visited the place three times this past week, and I loved it every time. The gorgeous setting definitely has a positive effect on patrons’ state of mind. Everywhere I looked, I saw happy and relaxed faces. There is no doubt that once you experience the ambiance at le Garage, you will come back again and again, in search of the lingering effect it has on you.

If you get there for lunch or brunch, you can find an array of easy dishes to order. I had the Masami Kobe beef burger in a ciabatta bun with cheese, tomatoes, and grilled red onions and aioli, served with fries and sprinkled with herbs. The meat is fresh, well done, and in generous portions. The following week I ordered the Duck confit with a maple gastrique, and I was equally impressed by the tenderness of the meat. My friend chose les œufs à la coque served with Serrano ham, roasted potatoes and oyster mushrooms. She told me, “You rarely find this dish served in a restaurant.” For dessert, I tasted the cherry clafoutis. I loved the amount of big cherries inside. It made a big difference to me. I also had the rhubarb tart. It is light, salty and sweet, and it represents the perfect summer dessert!

For dinner, I sat at the bar next to a couple from Sausalito. They were regulars they told me, enjoying very much their dinner and time together. I could see Mount Tam through the big bay window to the north and imagine the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean in a splash of red light. Then behind me I saw the dishes being ordered and leaving the kitchen. They looked yummy. I wish I could taste them all. But I know what I will order next time – the duck in a bed of stone fruits and huckleberries. The bartender recommended the Mussels Napoleon with Early Girl tomatoes, basil pistou, fresh mozzarella and white wine. I was raving about my choice soon after I took my first bite. The T-bone veal chop with girolle mushroom jus looked awesome on the plate as did the Black Canyon Angus Rib-eye au beurre rouge. On Friday and Saturday the chef offers nightly specials.

Bravo to owners Bruno and Olivier (the executive chef) who have done an amazing job by creating this place, having the most welcoming staff and tending to their clients with care and delicious food.

  • Le Garage’s web site!
  • 85 Liberty Ship Way # 109, Sausalito 94965
  • Lunch/Brunch 10Am-2:30PM, Dinner 5:30PM-9:30PM
  • (415) 332-5625







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The Bar at Gitane

The Bar at Gitane

May 11, 2011  |  food & drink, san francisco  |  No Comments

Every time I go to Gitane (gypsy in French) and sit at the bar, look at the luscious décor and let myself get immersed in the sensual orange light, the openness of the space and the Andulusian influence, my energy changes and joy fills me up. If you are looking for a good meal with an escape, a sense of inner transformation, this is the place for you. Nothing here is left for granted. As you enter the door, your entire experience is calculated and cared for.

The night I was there, the music shifted from French lounge to Spanish, perfectly corresponding to the change of mood after the food and the wine started arriving. The three bartenders had their eyes set to the needs of the customers, shaking the cocktail mixers almost to the rhythms of flamenco. The wines on the list are mostly Spanish, Portuguese and Southern French, mirroring the concept of the restaurant. It was a delight finding a great selection of French cognac, armagnac, calvados and liqueurs, all lined up in colorful bottles, reflected in a mirror behind the bar!

The food has Iberian, Moroccan and Provençal influences, with a lot of flavor and spices. Mint, almonds, olives, and peppers add exotic tastes to the palate. The stuffed calamari (Calamares) with bacon and onion, Manzanilla olives, cherry tomatoes and heirloom potatoes were superbly delicious. The Tajine (spiced chicken breast, saffron tomato broth, green olives, cauliflower, almond, couscous) rivals the original Moroccan inspiration. The pan roasted rockfish (Peix Roca) with chickpea stew, eggplant yogurt and broccoli rabe was light and exuded the summer flavors of a Mediterranean meal. You can order the whole menu at the bar, which included other notable dishes such as Bastilla (sweet and savory pastry with chicken, spiced almonds, apricot fennel salad), lamb mergez, Bacon Bombons (stuffed prunes with goat cheese, spiced port glaze), etc.

The Beignets, perfectly French, perfectly fluffy, arrived with three dipping sauces – melted chocolate, naughty cream, and seasonal fruit preserves. The dessert, big enough to be enjoyed by two people, was the crescendo of the night. The bar at Gitane is definitely the place for pleasure seekers, bohemians, and nostalgia for the past, where time was cherished and fervently enjoyed with all the senses. And this is why Gitane is one of my favorite places in the city. Do I need to mention that the owner is French?

  • Gitane restaurant, 6 Claude Lane, San Francisco
  • Reservations: (415) 788-6686
  • website


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