Jeanty at Jack's, San Francisco (closed)

Jeanty’s four-story building has a traditional French bistro feel. The décor includes black-and-white tile floors, red velvet curtains, classic bent wood chairs and gold globe-light chandeliers. Tables are dressed with butcher paper over white linen tablecloth. Turn of the century posters and vintage menus adorn the walls. Surprisingly, It all feels authentic, not staged. Something you don’t often find in California. Just make sure your table is on the ground floor.

The generously high ceilings give the small ground floor room a somewhat grand feeling, but only about 10 tables fit in. Chances are, the hostess will take you on an elevator ride. On the upper floors the feeling is not the same. The downstairs charm gives place to a more pragmatic, nondescript setting that makes for a somewhat bland dining room.

The menu

Wait staff is friendly and professional, our waiter politely described the specials and responded to menu questions with the savoir-faire of a royal butler.

The one-page menu offers a good selection of classic French fare. It includes acquired-taste favorites like Escargots, Pieds de cochon (pigs feet), Rognons de Veau (veal kidney) and Steak tartare (noted on the menu as “uncooked” as an advise for oblivious diners). But if you’re looking for something, say, easy on the palate, there are options like Tournedos au poivre, Coq au vin and Côte de porc (filet, chicken and pork chop, respectively).

The meal

Some restaurants are famous for their signature dishes. Like Carnegie Deli’s Pastrami sandwich and Raoul’s Steak au poivre. People go back, over and over, to order the same thing. At Jeanty, that’s the Tomato soup.

The creamy soup is covered with puff pastry, baked golden brown. Break the incredibly flaky crust to find a flavorful and decadent soup. Take a spoonful and feel both pastry and cream melt in your month. It just can't get any better than that. Jeanty has great appetizers but somehow I just can’t resist ordering the tomato soup; that’s what I ordered, again, in my last visit.

As a main course, I had the Short ribs with horseradish whipped potatoes, haricots verts and gremolata sauce. The meat was tasty, moist and tender. The horseradish puree was a perfect compliment to it bringing a Dijon mustard like bite to the dish. Green beans on the other hand were a minute undercooked and would have been better if served not squeezed between meat and the purée.

I also tried the Sole Meunière which was fresh and well cooked. Probably the lighter option on the menu, that if you can resist the delicious butter sauce.

For dessert, I had a Crêpe suzette with mandarin liqueur and orange butter. I have to say that Jeanty’s version of the classic, usually tableside-prepared crêpe, is not how I like to remember it. First, it’s not prepared tableside, but most importantly, it’s somewhat dry. Instead of the rich buttery orange sauce, it is served just with powdered sugar. It’s not a bad dessert but certainly not my favorite crêpe suzette.

I also tried the Chocolate mousse creme brullé. In this dessert, the vanilla custard is covered with a layer of rich dark chocolate mousse. The mousse could have been lighter and, sorry to say, brullé works better on custards than on mousses. Instead of a crisp caramelized crust, the brullé tasted borderline burnt.

In short

Jeanty is one of my favorite traditional French restaurants in San Francisco. Go on a cold day and try the best tomato soup you’d ever have. It’s hard to go wrong any of the appetizers and entrées. You can order “safe” if you want but I’d recommend bistro classics like Steak tartare and Cassoulet, they are delicious. Portions are generous too, which is a good thing considering you may want to skip dessert.

Jeanty closed in May 2009.

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