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Something Fishy

Alamo Square is French done simple and sublime

When guests pop in from out of town full of stories and craving French, call André at Alamo Square. You just might be able to pull off a last-minute reservation. The ambiance in this tiny room set around the corner from Alamo Square Park, on what is arguably the most charming block of the entirety of Fillmore Street, is perfect for catching up with old friend - or for getting to know new ones. The interior is warm, with blond wood and deep mauve coloring, multicolored pillows along the banquette, and an exposed kitchen staffed by one very good-looking chef.

Over a glass of Domaine Caton, the crisp, dry house white, you may find it difficult to choose between the steamed mussels in an uncomplicated wine broth and the Alamo Square crab cakes. Well, of course, the answer is to save the crab cakes in their lovely light orange sauce for the entree, as they are offered as such on the menu, and opt for another of the house specialties, perhaps a delicious traditional nicoise salad or the Coquille Saint Jacques, a buttery, gooey, mini-casserole of scallops and caramelized onions. It's rich; you should share it. Notably, no starter is priced above $6.95.

Once you've taken a stab at finishing up the first course, your waiter may breeze by in his khaki jeans and light blue oxford and ask you in a very French accent if you are ready for the entree. While he chats with regulars at the four-seat bar, you find on your menu a chart with three columns and four rows. Using this table, for $13.50 you may choose a type of fish, method of cooking, and sauce. Mom can have her medium-well poached salmon in bearnaise while you enjoy a rare grilled ahi tuna with buerre rouge. The side vegetables are lovely, a scoop of mashed yam, a square of savory polenta, a spoonful of sautéed zucchini, a little this a little that.

Desserts are large and lovely: the biggest, most decadent slices of tiramisu I have ever seen grace a plate, huge, pluffy profiteroles stuffed with ice cream, and of course, if you need it, the crême brulée is available for your quivering lips anytime. A first-rate coffee station makes all of your caffeine wishes come true.

Bargain shoppers, prick up your ears: Alamo Square offers an early bird special on Sundays and Mondays. If you are seated by 6:30pm, you may enjoy soup, entree, and salad or dessert for a mere $11.50. The concept is more American than French to be sure, but when in Rome...