French food may be many things: elegant, rustic, complex, and rich; but the one thing that always holds true is that it is borne of an incomparable attention to detail and speaks to the pride the French take in the cuisine’s peerless reputation. For the French, food is a way of life.

What we know as traditional French food, or haute cuisine, dates back to the 17th century when La Varenne published what is widely accepted as the first true French cookbook. In the late 19th century, Georges Auguste Escoffier took on the task of modernizing and organizing what would become the national cuisine of France through separating cooking stations and publishing a series of articles in professional journals embracing the service a la russe (serving meals in separate courses on individual plates). The 1960s brought about nouvelle cuisine characterized by:

  • A rejection of excessive complication in cooking.
  • Reduced cooking times for most fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables and pâtés in order to preserve natural flavors. Steaming developed as an important trend.
  • Only using the freshest possible ingredients.
  • Shorter menus.
  • Elimination of strong marinades for meat and game.
  • Heavy sauces such as espagnole and béchamel thickened with flour based “roux”, were replaced by seasoning dishes with fresh herbs, quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar.
  • Regional dishes became the inspiration for food rather than haute cuisine.
  • Embracing new techniques and modern equipment.
  • Chefs began to pay close attention to the dietary needs of their guests.
  • And finally, inventive new combinations and pairings.

Luckily for us, this way of life continues to evolve.

lafolieduckbreast Best Nontraditional French Cuisine In San Francisco


Price: 3-course menu – $80; 4-course menu – $90; 5-course menu – $100.
Hours: Mon to Fri – 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Click here to make a reservation.

Chef Roland Passot has earned La Folie a coveted Michelin star and countless rave reviews for the restaurant since opening it with his wife Jamie in 1988. The menu showcases “French contemporary” cooking and prides itself in using fresh local ingredients and farmers. Highlights from the menu include:

  • Dungeness Crab Salad, on Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Yellow Curry Tuile, Curried Spiced Crab Vinaigrette
  • “Tasting of Passot Roe”, Sea of Cortez Diver Scallop Ceviche, Hiramasa Yellowtail Sashimi, and Kusshi Oyster
  • Liberty Farm Duck Breast, Smoked Duck Tongue, Cranberry Orange Sauce
  • Huckleberry Baked Alaska, Huckleberry and Basil Ice Creams, Lemon Biscuit, Huckleberry Panna Cotta

Those who yearn for a taste of La Folie in a more casual setting can step next door to the lounge for some exquisite nontraditional French bar bites:

  • Truffle Deviled Eggs
  • Wasabi Ginger Ahi Tuna Tartarewith Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Lobster Croque Monsieur and Chilled Pea Soup
jardiniere Best Nontraditional French Cuisine In San Francisco


300 Grove St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 861-5555

Price: Entrees – $32+; Chef’s Tasting Menu – $120; Sommelier Wine Pairings – $65; Monday-night prix fixe – $49 including wine pairings.
Hours: Daily – 5 p.m.
Click here to make a reservation.

Chef Traci Des Jardins brings her award-winning California French cuisine to life at the Pat Kuleto-designed landmark restaurant through “produce from the garden and game from the land.” It is no surprise that her reverence for California’s bounty comes from being raised on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley. The menu changes daily to reflect only the freshest available ingredients. A sample tasting menu may include:

  • Tartare of Venison, Blood Orange, Celery Root and Pickled Mustard Seed
  • Fort Bragg Sea Urchin, Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Cauliflower and Red Padrón Peppers
  • Murdock Ranch Duck Egg, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Rugosa Squash and Goose Sausage
  • Pawlet, Medjool Dates, Hazelnuts and Field Greens
hubertkellerfleurdelys Best Nontraditional French Cuisine In San Francisco


Fleur de Lys
777 Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 673-7779

Price: 3-course menu – $72 + $50 wine pairings; 4-course menu – $82 + $60 wine pairings; 5-course menu – $95 +$70 wine pairings; Vegetarian Feast – $72 + $50 wine pairings.
Hours: Tue. through Thur. – 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Fri. – 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sat. – 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Click here to make a reservation.

Chef Hubert Keller proves that he is still a “chef’s chef” by earning Fleur de Lys a 2011 Michelin star for his “truly original” California French cuisine. Critics call his food, “imaginative and modern.” The food draws from contemporary French cooking techniques accented by Mediterranean flavors while managing to use minimal butter and cream. Chef Keller pioneered the first six-course vegetarian menu for an American restaurant of its caliber. The vegetarian feast includes:

  • Virgin Cosmo “Icee”, Spicy Sesame Kettle Corn, Truffle and Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich
  • Avocado and Frisee Salad, Seared Watermelon, Carrot Gelee, Served with Golden Panisses
  • Roasted Fennel Barigoule, White Wine and Basil Fumet, Vegetable Nage, Saffron Aioli
  • Colorful Vegetable Ragout, Poached Egg, Truffles, Truffle Port Wine Sauce

No need to step next door or outside at all: Bring the taste of Fleur de Lys home with recipes from Chef Keller’s website.

masasrestaurant Best Nontraditional French Cuisine In San Francisco


Masa’s Restaurant
648 Bush St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 989-7154

Price: 4-course menu – $98 + $59 wine pairings; 7-course menu – $140 + $89 wine pairings.
Hours: Tues. through Sat. – 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Click here to make a reservation.

Executive Chef Gregory Short continues the tradition of elevated California-French cuisine offered by founder Masataki Kobayashi almost 30 years ago. Masa’s has been Michelin-rated for three years in a row and provides an elegant yet unstuffy, truly superior dining experience. Chef Short prides himself on creating new dishes daily and rarely repeats himself. A sampling of the current four-course tasting menu includes:

  • Heirloom Beets, Roasted Pearl Onions, Black Truffle, Garden Mache
  • Wild Striped Bass, Pommes Fondant, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Curry Emulsion
  • Paine Farms Squab, Turnips, Pruneaux, Baby kale, Vadouvan
  • Bête NoirePine, Cranberry Compote, Eggnog Ice Cream, Candied Cranberries

As part of the Executive Hotel Court’s “Masa’s Dinner and Dreams” package, guests can “take the elevator home.” The promotion includes a wine reception in the hotel lobby, a three-course tasting menu at Masa’s and accommodations for two.

Related: Foodie Chap: Fleur de Lys & Burger Bar in San Francisco 

ateliercrenn Best Nontraditional French Cuisine In San Francisco


Atelier Crenn
3127 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 440-0460

Price: 9-course “Chef’s Classic” menu – $115 + $65 wine pairings; 18 Moments, “An Introduction of Winter” menu – $160 + $100 wine pairings or $170 premium wine pairings.
Hours: Tues. through Sat. – 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Click here to make a reservation.

Atelier Crenn is named after Chef Dominique Crenn’s father’s workshop, Atelier Papa Crenn, in France. His artwork can be seen throughout the restaurant, while his artistic spirit is the inspiration for the restaurant’s culinary artistry. “Poetic Culinaria,” the restaurant’s motto, is reflected throughout the menu, which changes seasonally and currently features “18 Moments – An Introduction of Winter.” Although no course descriptions follow, a poem does: “Winter arrives- the year’s fourth movement. A shallow pool stirs With those looking for the warmth Of a faraway place. Salty waters swirl As they scuttle across the sands. Scales shine through the deep, Stirring the earth. They stop… Finally, soft richness. The treasures of the earth give sanctuary To those beneath the black waters. The game is finished. Above, a light snow falls.” Highlights from the classic menu include:

  • “Rice” and Caviar
  • Kir Breton
  • New Potato “Memoire d’Enfance”, Chestnut, Manchego and Truffle
  • Soba “Gnocchi”, Onion, Radish and Dashi
  • Guinea Hen “Thailandaise”, Bok Choy, Coconut, Basil
  • Mignardises

Chef Crenn’s menu demonstrates molecular gastronomy gone right. Expect foams and mini-mouthfuls of flavor to burst in your mouth at this newly-minted Michelin-starred restaurant.

Related: Foodie Chap: Atelier Crenn


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