Softly flickering candles light the red booths and white-cloth tables at Bistro Unique SF, while the attentive wait staff rolls out traditional French appetizers of butter-and-garlic-bathed escargot or flavorful French cheeses. For entrees, rich bouillabaisse soups reel fresh catches of monkfish, calamari, and scallops into a saffron broth, and the cassoulet's white-bean stew fills palates with flavors of duck confit and garlic toulouse sausage. For brunch, diners can opt for eggs benedict with rich hollandaise sauce or the savory crepe paysanne with chicken, mushrooms, and gravy to pair with bottomless mimosa flutes or clarinets filled with coffee.
Chef Laurent Guillaume, who has helped open hotels and restaurants in Paris, brings years of culinary expertise to Chouquet’s menu and adorns time-tested continental fare with surprising New World elements. Attentive servers emerge from the kitchen carrying escargot and niçoise salads, cruising past sleek stools at a bar accented by swirls of natural wood grain and designed by Dominique Maxime Genauzeau. On the patio, diners soak up the sun or choose least-favorite clouds for a sky writer to edit out. The dining room's sand-hued walls and burnt-orange accents resound with the sounds of glasses clinking together, bearing more than 70 wines from Europe, South America, and the Pacific Northwest and a rotating selection of draft beers from France and the United States.
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The anticipation of finding out what executive chef Eric Lanvert chose to include on today's menu is part of the charm of dining at Rue Saint Jacques, where dishes are crafted from organic and sustainably farmed ingredients whenever possible. Lanvert draws inspiration from his childhood in southern France's Roussillon region and relies on ingredients from local producers, area farmers' markets, and gourmet food fights. The San Francisco Bay Guardian remarked in 2009 that despite their Californian origins, "the dishes rely on a timeless appeal and are very much the ones you'd find in countless neighborhood bistros in Paris."
The intimately sized dining room strikes a balance between refinement and rustic allure, featuring plaster-textured walls and exposed ceiling beams that tower over crisp white tablecloths.