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Jeanty at Jack's

Country Boy in the City

Jeanty at Jack's, a delicious big-city brasserie, is both bustling and romantic. Take a date after a long workday, or a client for lunch. Once you step inside, thoughts of deadlines and stock trades melt away like butter on a baguette. Request a table in the mezzanine, which puts you close to the graceful plasterwork, and provides just the right amount of privacy.

The chef, Philippe Jeanty, was part of the opening team at Chandon Restaurant, where he helped shepherd haute French cuisine to the Napa Valley. In 1998, Jeanty opened the more rustic Bistro Jeanty, which was immediately and widely celebrated. With Jeanty at Jack's, he has imported much of Bistro Jeanty's heartwarming French family cuisine to the city.

The typically French menu is beautifully laid out on one big page. Categories such as "charcuteries and patés" and "les plats" make it easy to plan your meal. Most everything looks delicious, so those not accustomed to eating richly should order with caution. One dinner for two that included oysters ($10.50), duck paté ($10.50), escargots ($10.50), steak tartare ($17.50), and cassoulet ($23.50) was a recipe for fitful sleep.

This is true French country family cooking: unusual cuts of meat are commonplace, and dishes come with few distractions. From rabbit terrine ($11.50) and lamb tongue ($10.50) to steak frites ($28), no animal in the barnyard is spared.

Highlights include Duck "Foie Blond" Paté ($10.50), perfectly paired with a fanned pear poached in red wine. Cassoulet -- deeply satisfying, expertly executed, perhaps a bit salty -- benefited from the waiter's recommendation to ask for fewer breadcrumbs. In Jeanty's terrific version of frisee aux lardons ($9.50), a beautifully poached egg sits atop escarole with bacon and perfect oversized croutons.

The restaurant, which has a rich red façade, fills all three floors of an 1864 landmark, home for over 135 years to Jack's, where generations of San Franciscans met to dine on lobster tails and mutton chops.

The space was carefully renovated several years ago and is warm and romantic, with elegant historical flourishes. Nonetheless, some aspects of the interior seem hokey: plastic ferns line the mezzanine railing, the lights are a bit too bright, and the third floor dining room, with its antique ice cream cart and striking greenhouse ceiling, is overly staged, more evocative of Paris, Las Vegas, than Paris, France.

Jeanty at Jack's lacks some of the allure of its country counterpart. Nonetheless, the food is delicious, and the building is an attraction in its own right.


Reservations Essential? Yes