Filet Mignon

Like the best of restaurants, I enjoy keeping things fresh. Last week saw the launch of a new series about where to find the best meals among the city’s flourishing Happy Hours. This week I am going in the opposite direction with a look at the ultimate in dining, the cream of the crop – the places you only go to on the most special of occasions.

Being that it was just The Japhman’s birthday this weekend, I made a special trip over to the inner Richmond to wallow in the delectability of one of the city’s prime culinary destinations: Chapeau! (126 Clement Street) The exclamation point is theirs, not mine…although I would happily add a few of my own in exclaiming how fantastic this place is.

Before I launch into a mouth-watering description of gastronomic bliss, I should make it clear that although this is one of the best restaurants for fine dining in the Bay Area, the prices here will not break the bank – an appetizer, fish tasting, entree and desert for just under $50 is damn near one of the best dining bargains around.

I began my adventure with a duck confit salad immediately revealing itself as one of the best ensembles of greenery that I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Little sliced medallions of perfectly seared duck – with a crisp skin to balance out the savory fattiness of the meat – served on a bed of prickly and bitter frisée, masterfully dressed in a French vinaigrette.

Next up was the ‘fish tasting’, which – thank the culinary gods – consisted of seared dayboat scallops. Have I ever mentioned that seared scallops are just about the best thing to ever come from the sea? Of course not, because you already were damn well aware of this. The golden brown exterior was fried to perfection and was brought to life by a rich, creamy sauce, the kind which makes French cuisine famous.

The main event was also the highlight of the entire meal: Filet Mignon, served around the shank, atop fried potatoes and oyster mushrooms-endlessly enhanced by a light dousing of Sauce à la Périgourdine. I would not change one thing about any of this. It is a moment of perfection that has tattooed itself to my unconscious conceptualization of utter satisfaction.

For desert, what else? The restaurant is French after all, and I hear that these people know a thing or two about crème brûlée. To me, one of the divine pleasures in life is the first dip of the spoon into this classic desert–you know, the one that gently breaks that torched, golden brown crust of caramelized sugar. It was a sublime moment, and the perfect exclamation point to this meal – a statement of profound deliciousness.

To make the next special event in your life one that you’ll remember for years to come, get to Chapeau! as soon as possible. But be forewarned: that exclamation point is contagious.