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Best Early Bird Special San Francisco 2006 - Prix fixe at Chapeau!

We love owner Philippe Gardelle and chef Jesse Frost's rich, sophisticated, and delicious French cooking at any time, but we're especially impressed by the astonishing bargain dinner he offers Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m. For $19 you get three courses — two or three choices in each category — of food cooked with as much care as it will be after 6 (when an entree alone will run you $14 to $19; still a bargain for such high-quality cuisine, we hasten to add). A recent menu offered mesclun salad with chevre croutons, onion soup gratinée, or a winter salad of endive, Roquefort, walnuts, and apples; followed by salmon with leeks, potatoes, salsify, and red wine butter or pork loin with green lentils, caramelized apples, and Calvados; finishing with cr�me br?lée or profiteroles. The slightly cramped but Gallic-ly charming surroundings are the same whether you're getting out for under a sawbuck (difficult even at a much less posh dive) or feasting on foie gras au torchon and cassoulet at triple the tab.
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