During the late aughts, it began to feel as if the restaurant and bar space at 185 Sutter Street was doomed. Every couple of months a bright-eyed restauranteur would come in with a new concept, chef, and decor—only to see the idea flounder and inevitably close. However, when Franck LeClerc of the Au Bon Repas Restaurant Group, took over the lease, it finally seemed as if the curse was lifting. Two years ago, LeClerc debuted a stunning extensive remodel of the 115-seat restaurant in the form of Gaspar Brasserie. Now as its settling into infancy, LeClerc has decided to give the eatery a spring makeover. He’s brought in a new chef, Adam Nichol, to update the menu, which will focus on authentic French favorites that are inspired by the beloved bistros of Paris.
The new menu will be offered all day at Gaspar Brasserie, which has a sexy, dark, and masculine vibe thanks to the sleek decor. There are recessed ceilings with excellent LED mood lighting, tufted red leather booths, a striped wall with a massive vintage advertisement, and a happening upstairs bar that’s separated from the restaurant by old elevator caging. Walk into the restaurant and you’ll instantly feel as if you’re in San Francisco’s golden age — an era where three martinis were sipped over a leisurely lunch. You might also be tempted to drink three libations as well: With vodka, hibiscus tea, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and honey-ginger syrup, the delightful Ma Cherie goes down fast and easy. Other noteworthy concoctions include a lovely classic Champagne cocktail, an old-fashioned with Armagnac, and a potent Manhattan. It should also be noted that The Cognac Room, as the upstairs bar is known, has the largest selection of brandy cocktails in San Francisco. There is an assortment of drink options for each type of brandy including eau de vie, pisco, and calvados, and cognac.
But we digress: you’re here to learn about Nichol’s revised French food menu. It’s a mixture of traditional dishes such as Burgundian escargots in parsley garlic butter with pancetta, shallots, and brioche, steamed mussels in white beer and creme fraiche, and lobster bisque en croute, and modern preparations like piquillo pepper tart with goat cheese and hen egg, ricotta gnudi with brown butter, nettles, and mint, and grilled pork with herbed spaetzle in a juniper-mustard sauce. The duck confit melts in your mouth and comes with bitter frisse doused in a salty sherry-bacon vinaigrette. The braised beef short rib is cooked to perfection and is served with baby root vegetables, Bordeaux gastrique, and sauce verte. Sometimes short ribs can be overly rich and decadent, but that’s not the case with Nichol’s superb version which is satisfying, but on the lighter side. The roasted wild mushrooms with fine herbs is a must order—the mushrooms are meaty, earthy, and slightly caramelized. It may be the best side of mushrooms you’ll ever taste. Don’t skip dessert: the chocolate pot de creme is a delicious deeply chocolatey pudding with a savory espresso whipped cream. All the more reason to book a reservation and revisit this French sensation soon.