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Monday, June 9, 2014

Gaspar Bucks the Casual Trend With Genuinely Upscale French Fare

Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge Tuna Tartine. - PETE KANE
  • Pete Kane
  • Tuna Tartine.

When even august hotel dining experiences are revamping to go casual (Fifth Floor's transformation into Dirty Habit being a good case in point), you half-expect to be paying in advance and gathering up your own silverware at Chez Spencer upon its reopening. For good or for ill -- mostly good, IMHO -- San Francisco is de-emphasizing service to glorify what's actually on the plate. So in a way, it's very nice to see Gaspar Brasserie, inside the Galleria Park Hotel, bucking the trend.

See Also: Bar Agricole Spinoff Trou Normand Is Designed to Awe

This Francophone duplex at the border of Union Square and the Financial District faces north, rendering it dark and club-like, with burgundy banquettes, fabulous chandeliers, and big framed posters for long-gone aperitifs. The large staff was unerringly unctuous as any hotel manual dictates, and I wished I weren't wearing sneakers. I heard almost no English among the other patrons.

click to enlarge Gaspar's mosaic entry. - PETE KANE
  • Pete Kane
  • Gaspar's mosaic entry.

Probably by design, one of the few things on the lunch menu that suggests you are eating in the twenty-first century is a pork belly salad (with butter lettuce, Mission figs, pickled red onion, fresh goat cheese and Banyuls vinaigrette). Otherwise, it's moules à la bière, steak frites, duck confit an appealing variety of French and Californian cheeses -- and that's a fine thing. A plate of tuna tartine (with olive-oil poached tuna, hen egg, oven-dried tomato, Moroccan tapenade and field greens) pulled sweetness and saltiness together into a perfect salad-on-levain.

Even if it's just for a drink at the bar -- which has its own menu, plus a cocktail list cleverly divided into "Hi Octane" and "Lo Octane" -- Gaspar would be a fantastic place to take visiting relatives who are generally horrified by everything, because everyone will enjoy it. Gaspar isn't so much a revolution against conspicuous composting, mandatory exposed forearm tattoos, Mason jars, and hipsterism in general. It's what going out to eat meant before any of that ever existed: the slightly starchy yet smashingly executed cosmopolitanism I wish Pacific Heights had more of. "Un hipster? Qu'est-ce- que c'est?" Well done, Gaspar.

Gaspar Brasserie, 185 Sutter St., (415) 576-8800.

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Pete Kane

Pete Kane

Pete Kane is a total gaylord who is trying to get to every national park before age 40

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