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L'Ardoise Bistro

A Taste of France on Noe Street

On a leafy stretch of Noe Street in Duboce Triangle, it seems everyone spends the hour between work and dinner walking their dogs or chatting with neighbors. Taking in the view from the many benches posted along the wide sidewalks, the setting is bucolic, in a uniquely San Francisco way. But step inside the door of LArdoise Bistros storefront on the corner of Henry Street, and you might wonder if youve been transported to one of Pariss quieter arrondissements.

A heavy, floor-length drape keeps drafts at bay, and a jewel-toned room in crimson and gold opens up to reveal banquettes and dark-wood tables, plus a small wine bar facing the kitchen.

Like its setting, the food at LArdoise might best be described as unapologetically traditional. A version of the classic baked goat cheese ($12) starter takes pleasant liberties, with a layer of sweet apples sandwiched between the generous disc of chvre and its crouton. The cheeses accompanying mixed greens were a touch overdressed and garnished with pale, mealy tomato slices, but otherwise proved a perfect winter starter.

Tiger prawn ravioli ($10) featured whole shrimp draped in silky pasta and dressed in an almost-floral, herb-infused sauce vierge. Duck foie gras ($16) with toasted brioche and a stripe of orange marmalade was worth the indulgence; a hastily garnished, muddy tasting cream of asparagus soup special ($12) was not.

Main courses read like a study in bistro classics. The coq au vin ($18), served atop a puff of pureed potatoes and a rich pool of sauce, offers a bit of sauted spinach nestled between two perfectly braised chicken thighs. A beefy hanger steak with pommes frites and Saint Emillon red wine sauce ($18) includes a small green salad and a thoroughly garcliky aioli without a trace of bitterness one of the best weve ever tasted. We hardly missed the traditional pot of mustard. The menus lone vegetarian entree, mushrooms in puff pastry ($16), was decadent enough to satisfy even the most ardent carnivore.

Though a menu footnote touts the expected seasonal/local connections, few are in evidence on the plate. With the exception of the asparagus soup, we found nary a nod to seasonality; nearly every savory dish we tried came with a scattering of diced or sliced tomatoes, even in the dead of winter.

The most adventurous option on the short dessert list, an apple and raisin clafoutis ($7), was whisked out of the kitchen moments after we ordered it, warmed but obviously premade a disappointing end to the evening. A generously proportioned vanilla crme brule ($7) proved a better, if unimaginative, choice.

But even lackluster desserts cant detract from LArdoises most notable feature: Truly stellar service from a crew of French-accented professionals. Wine is another strong suit. In addition to a deep, two-page bottle list ($32 to $450), we appreciated the broad assortment of wines by the glass ($8 to $15). Standout selections include a brightly balanced Chateau de Montfaucon Cotes du Rhone ($9), a musky Chateau de Malleret Haut-Medoc ($11), and a note-perfect Telegramme Chateaunef du Pape ($14.50).

Castro/Upper Market
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Reservations Essential? On weekends