Best French Restaurant - 2000
This SOMA landmark -- a trailblazer when Reed Hearon opened its doors in 1992 -- is still going strong nearly a decade later, serving up fabulously rustic creations in a noisy, high-spirited, oft-imitated milieu. The ripest, most aromatic fruits and vegetables and the freshest meats and seafood are complemented with dense, delicious house-baked breads, a wide array of fine wines, and all manner of mustards, vinegars, and condiments created on the premises. The result is memorable French food, improbably hearty and invigorating at once, brimming with vibrant flavors and soul-enriching textures. The iron skillet-roasted mussels are a modern classic, there are light little noshes like a salata of supple roasted beets, ricotta, and walnuts, or house-cured sardines with spiky green peppercorns; tender-fleshed whole snapper is boned tableside and served with a lusty niçoise amalgam of tomatoes, capers, and fresh fennel, while warm lentils, watercress, and goat cheese cushion a powerful wild boar sausage, and a bourbon-caramel pot de crème concludes things deliciously. Service is allegedly a problem, but we've never felt bereft.