Le Charm French Bistro: Reviews

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Steak and Pommes FritesConfit Lamb Shoulder with Flageolets and Crisp Red OnionsTarte Tatin
Steak and Pommes Frites, Confit Lamb Shoulder with Flageolets and Crisp Red Onions, Tarte Tatin


Susan Jesse
Name: Susan
Occupation: Mortgage Broker
Location: San Mateo
Favorite Restaurant: Le Charm French Bistro
Reviewed Le Charm French Bistro: Tuesday February 8, 2008


COMMENTS: Lively inside with a Good Energy

  • A great LOCAL place in San Francisco
  • I like places where locals hang out (not at all touristy)
  • Parking was easy, lots of neighborhood parking
  • Very close to my office 1 block away, convenient and fast, one of the fastest lunches in SF
  • All the different lunches are all great tasting.
  • All 3 girls with me had a great lunch, were happy and enjoying the great food and easy atmosphere and very fast service, the waiters know we are hungry/on a lunch hour.
  • You can tell it is definitely a place people frequent a lot and everyone knows everyone. I felt very welcome.
    My lunch entrée: Steak and Pommes Frites

  • BEST FRIES in San Francisco: small and crispy and fresh
  • Price $10.50: great value, hearty meal, like a dinner for a great price
    Diana’s entrée: Caesar Salad with Prawns

  • $9.00: great price and delicious lunch
    Dessert: I had to have the Floating Island dessert

  • It’s my favorite; whipped egg whites with a sauce around them that tastes like caramel and whipped cream and slivered almonds on top — like a sundae but diet.
    Dessert: We split a great dessert, pecan tart with salty homemade ice cream

  • Tastes unbelievable tastes and is absolutely delicious.
    Beverage: Cappuccino

  • This is why I first started to love this restaurant, I think they make the best cappuccino in the city.
    Beverage: Diet Coke with lime and water

Décor: Art on walls, black and white photos, nice. Also, orange walls and the LARGEST chandelier in the world — it must be 10 ft wide.

Atmosphere: It feels European, which I love. Very nice, and very OPEN, LOVE the HUGE chandelier, and the architecture outside is very nice and feels European. Very high ceilings, which are nice

Lighting: Nice and bright with huge windows. During the day, the afternoon sun exposure, and the atrium, and the high ceilings make it feel bigger.

Parking: Very easy, street parking right out in front every time, meters, just bring your quarters or cards for parking in the city.

Portion Size: Huge, perfect for big appetites, we were starving.

Quality of Food: Excellent

Service: GREAT, very attentive, FAST, and courteous, and they know us from frequency. They treat us like friends and tell us their specials and always have good comments and they are very polite. The manager is always very friendly and makes sure we have what we need. She keeps an eye on every thing in the room.

Food Arrival Speed: Just right, very fast.

Bang for Buck: Best deal in town for food, taste, and quality. Lowest priced in SOMA area.

Wine Service: Great selection available, most people order wine with lunch and dinner, they have a great selection and the bar is attractive.

Noise Level: Very good. It gets crowded, but somehow the high ceilings work well with the noise.

Wait for Table: No wait at all, they are well organized, it gets crowded sometimes, but they never make you wait. They will even open the atrium seating if it gets too busy; they are very accommodating.

Experience: Great atmosphere, crowded with locals every day, every table was taken, but the outside dining was closed for bad weather. Always start with their French bread and butter, great sweet French bread, irresistible for us on diets.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE things, and this sounds weird, but they have white paper over the white tablecloths, and I LOVE TO WRITE on it. I make notes while we chat at lunch about things to do and goals, and I tend to write down everything; a website someone mentions, etc. I always have small tablets in my purse but it’s more fun to use the paper in front of you.

Everyone in the restaurant appears to be having wine, but we don’t because we have to do numbers when we get back to work. The average lunch with drinks is under $15.00, and for San Francisco, this is a rarity.

One of my favorites is the coq au vin, which is served with linguini. This is delicious and tastes like your mom’s home cooking in France. There are unusual flavors of mushrooms and bacon and you can taste the flavor of wine. It is very hearty and filling, and sometimes Jessica and I split it, which only costs $10.50, and divided by 2, it is $5.25 each.

You see and hear a lot of people speaking French. I know there are locals who come there once a week, because every time we are there, we see the same patrons, which means we are all coming back on a consistent basis.

Overall, we loved the dining experience. The food was great, service was friendly and we all enjoyed the dessert too. Like their brochure says: you will think you are in the South of France, not South of Market. This was a business lunch and it was so affordable we couldn’t believe it.

It is a chef-owned restaurant with many choices of delicious full meals for a price that you can’t even make at home for that cost. We go here often, it is consistently great for the food, price, and service! My favorite is eating out in their atrium where you are sheltered by the walls of surrounding buildings. It is open and airy. The restaurant is romantic at night with the tablecloths.

If I have a tennis match at 6pm at San Francisco Tennis Club, then I like to have this hearty lunch at noon so that I am not hungry at 7pm. I can even skip dinner sometimes after this lunch, which worked well on my diet last year.

If you love Europe like I do, you will love this restaurant. I am going back this week for the French onion soup!

I went to Le Charm again with a date. The food was delicious, and we had a really good bottle of wine from France for only $27 that tasted like it cost $100. We both really enjoyed every sip, and his lamb shank was delicious. My date’s reaction was great on his first bite and he said the meat fell right off the bone. I tasted the shank and it had the most superb flavors I’ve tasted in a long time. Something you would experience in Paris in a local restaurant.

I had the rib-eye steak with potatoes au gratin with tons of vegetables and salad; it was very flavorful and delicious. The restaurant had great dim lighting, which made it fell like a real date. He had the 3-course dinner for $30 and loved it. He started with the smoked salmon and capers, which he loved and finished with orange crème brûlée, which was made to perfection; best I’ve ever had.

The manager was French with an accent and was very warm and friendly. He answered the phone within 3 seconds when I called ahead for a reservation and was so great on the phone. He said, “Don’t worry — come right over.” They weren’t too busy at that hour — 6:00pm — and he was so nice. When I arrived he recognized me and let us sit anywhere we wanted, and we loved that. This was my date’s first time there, and he is an Architect so he appreciated the very high ceilings. The gigantic chandelier showered very soft light over the restaurant and made it a very nice atmosphere.


Toan Tieu
Name: Toan
Occupation: I.T. Referee
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Vung Tau Restaurant
Reviewed Le Charm French Bistro: Saturday February 2, 2008


What a quaint restaurant nestled on the busiest of intersections! It was a comfort to come in from the rain that night. The interior of the restaurant was warm with soft lighting against the wood background.

The hostess was quick to welcome us and sat us next to the door. Luckily, there was a tall partition between the tables and the door that prevented the cold air from hitting us. The crowd was very diverse. It was a mixture of young and mature, casual and dressy. Not at all like the stuffy French restaurants one hears about. It was crowded, but there was enough room between the tables for the staff to walk by, so we didn’t feel like we were sitting on top of the other customers. The chairs were a bit uncomfortable, though.

The waiter was cheery and welcoming. Very patient when explaining the food and he was all smiles, unlike the typical waiter in Paris. I ordered the Périgourdin salad, which shall be immortalized as the “meat-lovers salad” It had duck confit, foie gras, and duck breast on top of some greens with a light dressing. It was a salad that ate like a meal. I was ready for dessert! My friend ordered the crab cakes, which were large, very fresh and made with lots of crab. Unlike steak houses and American bistros, we received two crab cakes instead of one. That would have been enough as a meal too.

Then came the entrees. I ordered the boar shoulder with spaetzle. The first bite was the best. Something about the boar, the rich sauce, and the blandness of the spaetzle made a perfect combination. Then, the oil from the dish hit me and, at once, I realized why French food is served in small portions. The cod that my friend ordered was a bit overdone and dry. I wouldn’t recommend it, but do order the side of bitter greens; it complemented the richness of the entrees very well. My friend liked the warm chocolate pudding cake, but I didn’t find any pudding or moistness in the cake. Glad it had crème anglaise.

The disappointing part of our experience was the service. Our “main” waiter was awesome…when he was around. The restaurant was either short-staffed or adopted a laissez-faire attitude towards customer service. We ran out of water. We ran out of wine. If you were the favorite child in your family and wanted to experience the neglect of being the middle child, dine here. I would’ve ordered more wine, but I couldn’t get anyone’s attention. Eventually, more water was rationed during dessert along with the check. There was no invitation to an after-dinner drink or coffee. During dessert, a different person came to take the check before we inserted any money or a credit card. I wondered if he worked there, because he was dressed like a customer rather than an employee.

I would go back for the food. But next time, I will sit at the bar and order only my meat-lovers salad.


Gary Clayton
Name: Gary
Occupation: Speech Technology Pioneer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: NOPA
Reviewed Le Charm French Bistro: Saturday February 16, 2008


I’d been to Le Charm once before, for lunch. At that time the food, ordered from a lunch menu, was fine. I hadn’t been back for some time until I recently dropped in for dinner. Again I was flying solo and had a small table in the back, outdoor section of the restaurant. In the evening, the front area with the warm incandescent sconces and the orange walls casts a romantic ambiance. Along one wall is a three-seat bar serving wines. In the back is a patio, enclosed with walls of clear plastic, lots of twinkle lights, and plenty of heat lamps. It was as comfortable as if I was eating indoors. The patio tables were just that: patio tables. Nothing fancy, but totally serviceable and definitely unpretentious. I was seated immediately and the service was brisk and friendly. The ambiance was fairly intimate and the noise level low. Very French.

As it is a French restaurant I knew I couldn’t go wrong ordering the onion soup. It was, as you might imagine, cooked perfectly with the cheese nicely browned and the broth savory, but not too salty. While I was enjoying the soup, a half bottle of a 2003 E. Guigal Gigondas arrived. This wine is an old friend and it’s hard to go wrong with it. The markup seemed reasonable, at least for what I ordered. While I was savoring the wine, my entrée arrived. I had the confit lamb shoulder with flageolets and crisp red onions. French comfort food. The portion was generous.

The lamb was tender and easily pulled apart with my fork. The beans were chewy and not overcooked or mushy. Given that I’d ordered from the prix fixe menu, this dish was the center of attention for the evening’s menu.

After finishing the wine, I relaxed as my dessert was served. I’d ordered the Vacherin, which was a sweet puck of hard meringue, passion fruit mousse, and fresh strawberries. I’d never had this dessert before, but I would order it again in a heartbeat.

Street parking was easy. Throughout the evening, the service was quick and pleasant. The food was expertly prepared, the portions were well sized, the prices (especially for the $30 prix fixe menu) were a great value, and I walked away happy. Highly recommended.

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  • Lee

    We went there the following day after the program because your reviewers made it sound so great, but wow, was I disappointed. The food is mediocre at best. I can’t believe you think this is excellent food! And who are you fooling about parking right out front! This is downtown central where parking is very hard to come by at meal times. Toan was right about the service too; they are very short-handed – no water or service, until asked several times. But when they did serve, it was friendly enough. No, this is by far not the place to go for something special. Let me on this show to prove it!

  • John

    My friend and I finally made it in to Le Charm. I enjoyed the food although I think my friend was a little disappointed. The dissapointment was probably more because of the service than the food. We were to the right wall as you enter the dining room. We were wondering if we were ever going to see our waiter again for drinks, even water. We could tell that other tables in the immediate area were having the same problem.