La Folie: Reviews

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Goat Cheese and Fourme DAmbert TerrineMushroom-Stuffed Roti of Quail and SquabChocolate Caramel Mousse
Goat Cheese and Fourme d’Ambert Terrine with Baby Pickled Beets, Toasted Walnuts, and Frisée Salad; Mushroom-Stuffed Roti of Quail and Squab, Wrapped in Crispy Potato Strings and served with Truffled Natural Jus; Chocolate Caramel Mousse


Liam Mayclem
Name: Liam
Occupation: TV Host and Producer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: La Folie
Reviewed La Folie: Monday June 4, 2007

La Folie, on Polk Street is a high-end French bistro that has long been one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. It’s a place I will venture to for a special occasion, for a memorable culinary experience. I have never been disappointed here, and on this Monday night, I was hoping to be transported to food heaven once again.

Valet parking is available upon arrival. Parking on this busy stretch of Polk Street can be tough, so it’s worth the $15 to let someone else worry about parking the car.

A warm, friendly hostess greeting us as we walked into La Folie for our 8.45pm reservation. We were asked where we would like to sit? The prized window seat and the table where Bill Clinton once sat was taken, so we took a nice four-top that looked out over the entire restaurant, perfect.

The décor is warm and inviting, upscale but not pretentious. La Folie is a restaurant with a sense of fun, BUT is serious about ensuring you have a top drawer experience, and there are chefs at play in the kitchen who will make it so.

Chef Roland Passot is the grand fromage here; executive chef and a master of French culinary fare. He has worked his magic here for almost twenty years; for pop stars, movie makers, and politicians, and tonight it’s my turn. In fact, no matter who you are, you are made to feel like the aforementioned here, I’ll go for pop star!

The sommelier, Kristin, stops by to share the expansive and impressive wine list, more of a book. There is wine to choose from all corners of the globe. I decide to go French, so on our wine expert’s recommendation we start with a bottle of Henriot Brut, a delicate sparkling wine, delightful.

La Folie features four different set menus:
The three-course at $70
The four-course at $80
The five-course at $90
The Menu du Marche for $105.

We decide to go crazy, go all out, and choose the five-course menu. A long night lay ahead, would our tummies survive the test? Before we even ordered our first dish the chef sent out an “amuse bouche” (French dictionary please) to help wet our appetites, and boy did it. Pea sorbet with crispy bacon and small, marinated vegetables. Yes, ice cream and bacon. What an unlikely combination, but it worked and set the tone for the evening.

Reading the menu alone was a fun adventure: Frogs Legs, Trio of Rabbit, Pig Feet — all things I rarely find on a menu. A clue that the evening will be, if you choose, an amazing culinary adventure.

I began with the poached organic duck egg, accompanied by crispy sweetbread. The egg was slightly richer than chicken egg, half the size, and bursting with double the flavour. Ahh. A first for me, and it was heaven.

Next course, The roti of quail and squab stuffed with mushrooms was another first and another homerun. The medium rare quail oozed buckets of juicy goodness, and combined with the crispy potato strings, it was perfection. Along with the natural jus and truffles, it made for a party on my palate. The portion was just right, not too small, nor too big, as there was still much food to come on the road ahead. Every dish served offers an element of surprise, even with the dishes you think you know, you are met with a plate full of culinary artistry that fills you full of wonder.

|Dinner at La Folie is the gift that keeps on giving, and our fourth mouthwatering dish was proof of that: the Chesapeake Bay soft shell crab with wild arugula, sweet corn and, yes, more bacon in the smoked bacon chowder. It would be rude to dine here and not sample some seafood, always fresh, always complimented, but not overwhelmed by, other flavours, and this dish was tasty with a capital “T.”

Oh, my word, the food marathon is not over yet. We still have dessert to come and I have no idea where we are going to put it…but alas we find room. Dessert is a warm Edam cheese soufflé with fromage blanc sorbet and, wait for it, crispy bacon and white sesame tuile. So, to translate: a soufflé with cheese, cheese, and our old friend bacon. Luckily, I love bacon, you have to if you are to eat here. And the idea of bacon as part of a dessert may alarm some. However it worked perfectly with the soufflé.

What can I say. You get what you pay for and yes, dinner here is a pretty penny, but it is worth every single one. A memorable meal in a first class restaurant with first class service and food. I will savour and cherish this exquisite night of food for some months to come.

Merci, Chef Roland Passot. We venture home with happy tummies…ooh, all that bacon!


Corie Tyson
Name: Corie
Occupation: Dance Choreographer
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: Golden Lotus
Reviewed La Folie: Saturday June 9, 2007

La Folie was a fabulous treat. Parking was tough, as it is in that area, and after a brisk few block walk to the restaurant, I found out they have valet parking! The interior was beautiful: mirrored walls, perfectly dimmed lighting, deep rich colors. It was definitely modern elegance that was balanced nicely by a friendly waitstaff. This we didn’t find out at first though.

We arrived exactly at the time of our reservation. The hostess asked us to wait at the bar while they set our table. While marveling at the decor, we noticed two other couples walk in. They were seated within a few minutes. About 15 minutes after our reservation time, the hostess told us that the diners were just leaving the table and we would be seated shortly. She did thank us for our patience, but it created an unpleasant feeling of being brushed aside and misled.

As soon as we were seated, that feeling was completely left behind. I can not praise the waitstaff to their worth. The attentiveness was ideal, with us never having to ask for anything and always feeling like I was being pampered.

As a preset seasonal menu, there was one vegetarian option. This meant I actually did not order and because I thought I was waiting for a vegetarian menu, I had no idea what had been ordered already. It turned out to be a five-course meal and possibly my only suggestion to the restaurant would be the option of ordering a three, four, or five-course meal for vegetarians. I definitely would have been comfortably full with a three course dinner.

We began the first course quickly. As an amuse bouche, the tiny serving of coco bean, frisée, and carrot salad with truffle vinaigrette was earthy with a nice amount of spice. Immediately after finishing it, the waitstaff cleared our dishes and utensils and the asparagus soup was brought out. This course was served with a choreographed presentation, but completely lacked pretension due to the ease and warmth of the waiter. While I didn’t enjoy the flavor of this course, the beauty of it was impeccable.

Following the soup was a goat cheese and Fourme d’Ambert terrine with baby pickled beets, toasted walnuts and frisée salad with a sherry sauce. This dish was lovely. Even though the pickled flavor each beet had its own unique taste. The terrine was delicious and the sherry sauce added just the right range of complimentary flavors. Even though the portions were small, this is when I started realizing I was having a five-course meal and was getting full.

Our entree was polenta, squash, and eggplant lasagna with a roasted Vidalia onion stuffed with couscous. Both of these items were perfectly prepared. The polenta sandwiched the roasted vegetables and a mild cheese, creating a rich and delicious lasagna. The onion balanced the richness with its stuffing of couscous with cranberries and slight curry flavor. Again, the presentation was artistry.

By the time desert came, which is always my favorite way to end any meal, I was too full to enjoy more than a sampling. The chocolate beignet was chocolaty yet not sweet, allowing the strawberry jam to add that element. I only dipped my spoon into the tiny ice cream cone of basil ice cream, but thought it was an interesting and wonderful contrast.

At the end of the meal, the chef came to each table and asked about our experience. It was a lovely touch to meet the master himself. As a “parting gift”, the restaurant gave us one last dish, four mini deserts, ranging from Madelines to chocolate that unfortunately for me, I just could not find room for.

La Folie was pure luxury. Every aspect of the meal from service to presentation to thoughtfulness of flavors was elite. Only after I left did I check my watch and found out it had been two hours! I highly recommend this restaurant for anyone wanting a special night of being treated to an absolutely fine dining experience.


Marc Latimer
Name: Marc
Occupation: A/V Specialist and Vocalist
Location: Los Gatos
Favorite Restaurant: Aldo’s Ristorante & Bar
Reviewed La Folie: Saturday June 9, 2007

I appreciate it when restaurants post a website which shows their menu, wine list, pictures of the restaurant, etc. I was very intrigued when I looked at the La Folie website and saw what a beautiful remodel they had done and had a fabulous review by the Chronicle. The prix fixe menu, which offered three different price levels, including a 3-course for $70, a 4-course for $80, and a 5-course for $100, all had very good choices for various different foods. I had high expectations that this restaurant would definitely please me.

We arrived promptly at 8:30pm on a Saturday night. The valet parking was conveniently located in front of the restaurant. The valet asked if we were dining at the restaurant and indicated that we should give our valet ticket to the hostess. We were seated promptly and we couldn’t help but notice how pretty the restaurant was with the vaulted ceilings and the burgundy fabric motif with lots of mirrors. I thought all these soft surfaces would help diffuse any noise in the restaurant and our dining experience would be quiet and intimate, but the noise level was quite high and we could hear all of the conversations around us, which detracted from the beautiful ambience of the restaurant.

My wife and I both decided to try the 4-course menu. I had called in advance to ask what the corkage fee was ($35) and was told the corkage fee would be waived if we bought a bottle of their wine. We brought a bottle of Cabernet and purchased a bottle of their Chardonnay. As a seasoned wine enthusiast, I felt somewhat intimidated by the wine list and found very few recognizable choices.

The service was prompt, friendly, and efficient. We started with a complimentary lobster custard from the chef. It was served in a soft-boiled egg cup with a demitasse spoon. The first bite was a strange combination of lobster custard with anise, but as you worked your way to the bottom you found a layer of chunky vegetables. The whole dish got better the farther down into the layers you went.

Our first courses consisted of asparagus soup with a poached quail egg and a piece of lobster claw on Meyer lemon gelee with Hawaiian Kampachi and a fennel radish salad. We found both dishes extremely bland and in need of spicing up. Unfortunately, there was no salt and pepper on the table. In addition, the soup was served in a deep dish bowl with a regular table spoon, which made the soup very difficult to scoop.

For the appetizer course, I had the day boat scallop, and my wife had the Dungeness crab napoleon. Again, we found both dishes bland. In addition, the crab napoleon was served on top of a grapefruit gelee, which we felt overwhelmed the dish.

The next course consisted of the roasted veal loin and the salmon with morel mushrooms. Both dishes were cooked to perfection.

For dessert we had a chocolate caramel mousse and an apricot-cherry biscuit-like cake. The cake had a thick outer shell that was difficult to cut, but the cake inside was moist. The mousse was delicious and went well with the Cabernet.

The cost for our meal, including the tip and the $15 valet fee, was $300. I did not feel that this was a good value. Although all of the dishes were presented beautifully, the flavor of the first two courses did not hold up to the artistic presentation and were very disappointing. The service was very good and the restaurant was very pretty (although very noisy). Would I eat here again and recommend this to others? Definitely not. It was not worth the price.

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  • Joseph Anderson, Berkeley, CA

    Leslie Sbrocco opens the show every week by saying that this is a restaurant review show by “ordinary San Franciscans / Bay Area people”: she should stick to that format.

    I’ve never been a fan of celebrity San Franciscans appearing on this show because it doesn’t then reflect the real-world treatment of “ordinary people”. (Like my African American dinner party being almost literally shoo’d off even before we could finish our after dinner tea at Tadich Grill in San Francisco or how long another party of mine was once kept waiting for our table –with advance dinner reservations– at Oliveto in Oakland. Needless to say, we never went back.)

    For one, the celebrities and other rich folks usually have tons of money for going out and like to brag about how often they go to Postrio or someplace that’s at the very least $50-$75 and over –without drinks. For two, of course, they’re often unconsciously snobbish (like Liam Mayclem, supposedly “a man of the people”, yet are surprised that reservations aren’t normally made at a +/-$10-$12 average entree place, unless you have a large group) and they’re used to personally special treatment at very expensive restuarants who already know them well as “special customers” who get service, treatment and food exactly the way the restaurant knows the celebrity likes it. Of course, when everyone (the owner, manager and staff) knows you as a celebrity or someone else rich who has deep pockets, you’re going to get the best service, food and treatment all around.

    Finally, the celebrities and other rich regulars take it so *personally* when someone else doesn’t especially like “their [the celebrity’s] restaurant” — and then they use the whole show trying to get back at the other person and often butting heads with them — or back-&-forth with each other if they other person is a local/minor celebrity too and/or financially fairly well-off in his own way.

    It’s sometimes fun to see that the really expensive restaurants often rely more on the posh, exclusive, *expensive* furnishings, decor & atmosphere, rather than really concentrate those expensive prices on on positively, utterly memorable, “I’ll-never-forget-it”, “somthing-to-write/call-home about” food, while still having a lovely restaurant. (Like, the good service, the good but-not-great food, and the just awful greasy calimari appetizer my party once had at Scotts *Seafood* Restaurant.) And while I tend to avoid the over-dependency on the poshness of those kinds of restaurants, if *they* can’t give you fantastic food at those prices, well then it is ironic and sad. But you know what?: they often don’t — just an overly small portion of some chefs kid’s Lego idea of a small portion of food piled ‘architecturally’ high. And as for “bland food”, as two of the well-off guests complained about at each other’s restaurant choice, of course they get their food fixed just the way the staff knows they like it, and of course it’s a place filled with the old/older money people who can regularly afford such places; so the food is often going to be blandly seasoned.

    Leslie, let your show stick to the kind of real-world people who have to actually stretch their wallet/purses to do to an expensive “destination restuarant” (and then not even a Farallon, Aqua or French Laundry at about $150-$200-a-head) as a special occasion, not as their regular so-called “neighborhood restaurant” hangout.

  • Joseph Anderson, Berkeley, CA

    I just had to add this (as I check my weekend email after arriving home late Sunday night) about Tadich Grill (also okay/good, but not great, food –especially for all the wait and the money, given so many other, and wonderful, San Francisco restaurants (rather than this business expense account and ‘tourist trap’ kind of restaurant): one of my Asian friends, who likes to go out to upscale restaurants, quiped, when I told her that my African American dinner party was almost literally shoo’d off before we could even finish, hell barely even *start*, our planned-to-be-brief after-dinner tea (but, of course, *after* the check, and a ~20% tip, had already been paid — i.e., *after* Tadich and the waiter got their money), that, “Looks like your African American dinner party got some ‘old-fashion *treatment*’ in that old-fashioned restaurant.” You can see my more expensive review and saga at yelp.com restaurant reviews, or Yahoo/Google search “tadich grill”+joseph. I called the owner of Tadich the next day and left a voicemail, but, of course, this ‘tourist trap’ restaurant owner couldn’t be bothered to return my call.

    Some VERY expensive restaurants *CAN* get it all right, for all the priceyness: I do want to say that the SCALLOPS — OHHH, THE *SCALLOPS* — I had at Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley *WERE*, POSITIVELY, TO-DIE-FOR! — TO MATCH THE VIEW FROM THE OUTDOOR BALCOLNY! The EXCELLENT food at Tre Vigne was quite positively memorable and worth every cent too, as was the EXCELLENT food at Domaine Chandon, as well as the EXCELLENT food at Farallon (a VERY EXPENSIVE, almost over-the-top but kind of cool and definitely novel, place with noticeably a lot of fashionable young skinny blondes, often in red or silky designer dresses, at the dinner tables of silver-/white-haired men: the people-watching is great and will much add to the dinner conversation)! But, I’m really a big fan of *moderately* priced restaurants with *character* than can create very memorable food (now *that* combination is more sporting), or just tastey food that you really like, that you can go back to time and time again — in the same year!