Gitane, San Francisco.

October 2013.

Fishing for a middle-of-the-road classy restaurant in San Francisco, we decided on this one which was described in the Michelin Guide as sexy. Maybe the reviewers consider hiding down a narrow alleyway sexy, or maybe it’s that French cigarette brand (no smoking allowed here of course). The space is somewhat intriguing in being located on several levels, with servers apparently coming and going via a kind of fire escape. Nothing about the lighting, smell, serving staff, or indeed the food felt particularly sexy to me, but a pretty nice restaurant just the same.

We chose lamb tongue and sweetbread, suckling pig, and seared scallops as the things on the menu that looked most exciting, and they were all respectably prepared and quite delicious. We were intrigued by the effective use of mirror surfaces in the cramped main dining space to enlarge it.

The service was a bit quick and snippy. Eventually the food arrived, we enjoyed it, and we found our way back out of the alley to the subway.

What distinguishes this place? In the end not much. A nice restaurant at the level of places mentioned in the Michelin Guide, but not much different from the others at the same level. Nothing special.

Ambience 7.3, service 6.2, food 7.8, overall value 7.3. There are so many interesting alternatives in this city I wouldn’t be going back in this lifetime.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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