If Gaspar Brasserie’s Cognac Room hasn’t yet drawn you in, then let it be chef Adam Nichol’s new ‘all day menu’ that lures you to the sexy spot on Sutter St. Nichol has streamlined Gaspar’s offerings to a single menu featuring the French favorites one finds at authentic Parisian bistros.
In this sultry French brasserie setting that features a stamped tin ceiling, crystal chandeliers, heavy fabric drapery, tufted banquettes, and second floor view of the ‘boulevard,’ Gaspar and Nichol needn’t have upped the menu ante to increase popularity. The recent happy hour throngs crowding the upstairs Cognac Room provide testament to the power of le magnitism français (and an expertly mixed House Old Fashioned).
But a fresh menu never hurts, and Nichol shares an undeniable expertise with cuisses de grenouilles and escargot. Start with the Assiette de Fromage, the daily selection of French and local cheeses divided by cow, goat and sheep, served with toasted crostini, fig jam and sugar boiled assorted nuts. Pair with one of the 50 brandy centric cocktails, selected from a leather bound bar menu divided by brandy types eau de vie, pisco, calvados, Armagnac, and cognac. Nowhere else in the City will one find this same stellar selection of brandy-based cocktails.
Move on to the poulpe (octopus). Octopus is making its move on many restaurant menus, and Gaspar’s version is perhaps one of the best around. Extremely tender and meaty, Nichol makes no attempt to disguise the dish’s provenance – full arms and suckers are presented in all their oceanic glory.
The revised beet salad is a meal in its own. Red and gold beets mixed with fresh red radicchio in a house made almond-base dressing. The lobster bisque ‘en croute’ is a thing of pure beauty, and fans of oysters shouldn’t skip Gaspar’s buttermilk fried version.
The larger ‘plats’ change occasionally according to market offerings; a luscious trout was available during this outing, as well as a succulent braised short rib, poulet roti, and vegetable pot au feu. Each dish is deeply layered and plentiful. Sharing is recommended in order to experience the full range of Chef Nichol’s flavor prowess. And for the brasserie purists, Croque Monsieur, Quiche Lorraine, and pomme frites are menu mainstays.
Cap your meal with a classic chocolat pot de crème with espresso whipped cream, and if you desire a little drama with your dinner, pair it with the restaurant’s signature coup de foudre, Café Brulot, a theatrical production comprised of flaming lemon peel, orange zest, cognac, orange liqueur, brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon and coffee. Ooh la la!
For French fare in San Francisco, Gaspar is la crème de la crème.
Gaspar Brasserie : 185 Sutter Street, San Francisco : (415) 576-8800