Friday, May 2, 2014

Le Charm Bistro: Traditional French Bistro Fare in SF

During my brief stay in San Francisco (not "San Fran", mind you), I only had one night for a great meal. In addition, I also want to go for a cuisine that's done well that I typically wouldn't be able to get in Southern California which is why I wanted to choose to dine at a traditional French bistro. Granted, there are places in Southern California that serve this fare. Be that as it may, I have to say that SF and the Bay Area does both modern and traditional French  better in general compared to its southern counterpart just like how SoCal beats NorCal when it comes to Latin and Asian cuisines such as al Pastor Tacos and High-End Edomae style Sushi. After searching throughout many reviews and finally coming to a consensus with my brother of which bistro to dine at like how Frasier and Niles would bicker over where to eat for supper, we ended up choosing Le Charm Bistro in SoMa (South of Market).

After making the reservations on which is generally the typical procedure when making dining reservations in the SF Bay Area, we've arrived at Le Charm Bistro. From the outside, the building itself has quite the adorable composure as if it were a slender woman in a springtime dress however surrounded by a bunch of ruffians as the other buildings didn't match its exterior. Once inside, it's as if we'd entered its heart. Their beautiful dining area had dim lighting setting a romantic tone for a date or simply a comfortable one for any other setting. What's also amazing is that the bistro has an enclosed outdoor patio dining area in the back. After noticing the interior, what really brought out the warmth of the bistro is the extremely friendly staff greeting you with "Bonsoir" and getting us comfortable for the meal.

After looking throughout the wine/beverage list after choosing sparkling over flat for water (note: there is a charge for sparkling), I would like to point out after noticing that they do not have a full bar. So, if you do decide to come here, make your beverage selections more wine-centric. Once we ordered our entree and main dishes, our French-speaking waitress recommended a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc for me (sorry, forgot the name) which paired well with the following dishes.

Although the following pic may seem like a basket of a simple baguette to some, it was definitely some of the best bread and butter I've had as it has a nice moist, not dry composure which made it excellent for mopping up sauces.

Our appetiz... I mean, entree were the steamed PEI Mussels Mariniere style with White Wine and Cream. These mussels were steamed perfectly which is a word that I rarely use for my writing as they were done to the right point without them being overdone as they had a soft springingness to them in addition to all the shells being open as well. Of course, the flavor of both the mussels and the liquid were amazing and spot on when it came to its traditional preparation. This is a great entree to start out with when it comes to starting a traditional bistro experience due to not only the quantity of how many mussels were offered but mainly due to its  very solid and authentic flavors.

After enjoying the entree, our main dishes were delivered. I ordered the "La Marmite" of Lobster baked in a puff pastry.  Although this may be initially perceived as a large starter as the "sauce" that was described in the menu is more of a bisque, this is one of their signature dishes they should be more than proud of. With thick chunks of delicious lobster cooked well to the right point as it wasn't tough at all, and lots of it, along with its richly flavored bisque; this certainly is such an amazing dish that the reality of it being a large soup should definitely be overlooked. The creamy bisque itself, along with the fresh vegetable of peas, spinach and potatoes contributing to its flavor and texture, was intensely loaded with the essence of lobster. With the remaining amount of bisque left in the bown, the remanants of the pastry top clinging to the rim went well to cut the richness of the bisque for its finishing. I have to say, although the lobster itself contributes
mostly to the price, this dish is definitely worth the $35 that makes it the most expensive dish on the menu albeit still being very reasonably priced. It is for sure their flagship dish that one person in the party must order.

My brother had the Traditional Cassoulet with White Beans, Duck Confit, Toulouse Sausage, and topped with Bacon. This was a very hearty dish with all the things you want in a classic, rustic dish such as duck confit, sausage and bacon. It paired well with the Syrah that he ordered with his dish.

At the end, we've decided to share the Tarte Tatin a la Mode. Done beautifully (Sorry, I took a couple of bites before remembering to take the pic), even with the drizzle of caramel, this traditional French apple tart was not only a terrific way to end the meal with its very delicious flavors, it had the right amount of sweetness that wasn't overwhelming at all. Although vanilla ice cream on the side is meant to cut the sweetness of a slice of pie or tart, it actually complemented well and served more as of it rather than being a relief to one's palate as the sweetness of both the tart and the vanilla ice cream were of similar levels. This classic dessert should definitely not be overlooked as it was a fabulous way to end the meal.

Although it may not be a Michelin-starred institution, Le Charm Bistro definitely is one SF's highly acclaimed restaurants and is an extremely ideal choice if one is looking for solid, straight-forward,  traditional French bistro fare. It is great for many occasions whether it be for a date, a business dinner, a meal to catch up with family members, or a night alone in the town. Even if there are other traditional French bistros in town, not only in terms of price but the quality of the dishes and the warmth of the service should make a meal at Le Charm Bistro a must during your time in San Francisco.


  1. Great review of Le Charm! I live in SF but I have yet to go there, so I'll definitely have to give it a try. I was hoping to ask you a couple of questions via email, could you let me know where I could reach you? Thank you!

    1. Hi Paulina, unfortunately I don't have an email for my blog and would like to keep my personal email private. I hope you feel comfortable posting your questions but you may also Direct Message me on my Instagram Page at "Mlbartender". Thanks!