Trou Normand: Bar Agricole Spinoff Is Designed to Awe

There sure are a lot of art boobs at Trou Normand, the new multi-meal restaurant-bar-café on the ground floor of 140 New Montgomery, aka the PacBell Building. Even when you exclude the giant nude (who is facing coquettishly away), almost all the art on the walls features breasts, in some level of abstraction. Turning a ground-floor space in the corner of an august edifice into the new zenith of nose-to-tail cuisine and communal dining shows the team behind Trou Normand felt a certain pressure. As with an ancient church in a secular Nordic country that's since become a pub, there is little margin for error. It's a Bar Agricole spin-off, and every aspect of it is designed to awe, naked lady or no naked lady.

A bowl of duck noodle soup ($15) checked off every appropriate box but the broth lacked much pizzazz beyond the duck's succulence and the well-cooked vegetables. A dish of lamb ragu ($14) was magnificent: perfectly seasoned, with just a bit of mint to soften the meatiness. Plate after plate of charcuterie passed by and it's seldom been clearer how whole-animal butchery can yield its best stuff at the level of offal. Pair that ciccioli with a Bombay (brandy, sweet and dry vermouth, Curaçao and absinthe) and you will feel decadent enough to inhabit a room with 25-foot ceilings. There's a solid wine list, as well as that coffee window open all day.

We couldn't help but laugh at the sight of a “full” house at lunchtime, with no more than three people occupying each of the five enormous booths. A dozen people occupied space for 60, yet the front room was effectively maxed out, 13 counter seats excluded — which really means that the communal table trend has now birthed communal booths. Consider yourself warned.

Oddly, this particular Art Deco skyscraper's main client these days happens to be Yelp. Being on New Montgomery, one of the most congested downtown streets there is, Trou Normand is basically trolling for that most aggravating of reviews: “I loved everything about this place, but there's no parking. ONE STAR.” Maybe the upstairs neighbors will intervene? Odds are, they won't ever need to.

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