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La Suite

A French Brasserie on the Embarcadero

After bringing Parisian flair to San Francisco's Belden Lane with Plouf, and conquering Potrero Hill with Baraka, Chez Papa, and Chez Maman, Jocelyn Bulow, along with business partner Marc-Henri Sempere and Chef Bruno Chemel, opened La Suite, a traditional, late-night brasserie in September 2004. With large windows offering sweeping views of the Bay and Bay Bridge, La Suite features fresh seafood and Provencal specialties, and is a welcome addition to the Embarcadero -- whether you just want to grab a drink or experience a bit of Provence.

Unlike its siblings, La Suite is spacious, with an outside dining area, two dining rooms, and a large bar. The interior of the 180-seat restaurant includes cozy accents like chocolate leather banquettes and rich wood paneling that soften the pressed tin ceiling and tile floor. Details like the art deco light treatments that resemble elongated raindrops of crystal and glass add to the ambience. But, it is the roomy, zinc-topped bar that sets the mood, displaying an ample selection of alcohol as well as an artfully arranged oyster and seafood bar. The atmosphere is energetic -- some might say noisy, especially in the front, but there is also a back dining room that is a little more intimate.

Timely and pleasant service, a trademark of Bulow and Sempere's restaurants, is present here. On a recent visit, seated next to us was a French-speaking lady in her late sixties dining alone. She ordered the Kobe beef tartare (with rosemary fries); after presenting the ingredients, the server mixed it into the shape of a heart -- a thoughtful touch, as it seemed to make her night.

The wine list, all 10-plus pages of it, spans the globe, from France (of course) and the rest of Europe to South America, Australia, and California in addition to Washington and Oregon. There were hundreds of market-priced wines to choose from -- by the glass, half-bottle, or bottle, plus champagne, beer, and cocktails.

The enormous menu was hard to narrow down. Shying away from delicacies like roasted bone marrow, foie gras, and poached pig trotter carpaccio, we opted to start with pan-seared scallops on a bed of meaty sautéed chanterelle mushrooms topped with an orange truffle sauce ($10) and a warm lobster salad ($15). The salad's presentation was high drama -- the greens were accompanied by a meticulously extracted lobster claw, a lobster tail in its shell, and orange sections carefully scattered about.

The entrees on the menu are divided between fish and meat. If you're undecided, stick with anything from the wood-grilled oven: like the pizza, steak, or whole fish. The whole fish was tempting, but in the end, we feared it would have been more than we could handle. While keeping a mental list of what we'd order for our next visit, we went with the roasted halibut on top of braised leeks and endives ($23) and the wood-grilled Niman Ranch steak with a side of pommes frites ($29). Our selection was affirmed by the couple two tables down who ordered the same thing and didn't leave a crumb.

Although the cheese cart rolled by several times, our sweet tooth, along with the fact that Chef Chemel graduated from the Lenotre Pastry Academy in Paris, broke the tie. Saving the warm Madeleines drizzled with honey ($7) for another day, we ordered the apple tart tatin with lavender ice cream. While the tart was good, the lavender ice cream was a perfect ending to our dinner -- fresh, simple, and elegant.

La Suite
French Brasserie