Bar Jules

Up the block from the dive bars, grungy delis and tuna belly emporiums of the Hayes Valley neighborhood lies Bar Jules, a glowing and ingredient driven forty eight seat bistro run by owner and chef Jessica Boncutter. Calling it a bar implies rusticity and conviviality, a bit of restaurant marketing that is not evil. Jules is Jessica’s basset hound, which ups the charm ante considerably in a city where canines seem to outnumber humans.

Jessica’s culinary pedigree includes London’s River Café, San Francisco icon Zuni Cafe, a side exploration of nouvelle Vietnamese at the Slanted Door, and then as executive chef at Hog Island Oyster Co., in the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. Her cooking style is Cal-Med farm to table and the daily changing menu, which is mostly pescatarian, has the obligatory in San Francisco organic-sustainable produce, meat and fish mantra. It is handwritten and posted in the window and in chalk above the bar with only a starter or two and three mains at dinner, and fewer choices at lunch. Plating style is spare and unfussy, without foams, emulsions or artsy gastrique flourishes.

For dinner, we had the sunchoke and fingerling potato soup with green garlic puree, and at lunch a few days later celery root subbed for potatoes. The dollop of crème fraiche added texture and a lactic mouthfeel. The wood fired skirt steak was notable for its bed of garlicky white beans, rapini and oregano jus, but what made it memorable was how the meat juices bled into the accompaniment, morphing the dish into a savory meat stew. At lunch the steak appears in the guise of a sandwich, paired with avocado between slices of rustic grilled bread. The preserved tuna sandwich was a delightful mess, done pan bagnat style with grilled bread coated in a slick of extra virgin olive oil. Desserts are simple and sometimes use seasonal ingredients, as with the blood orange cake. Butterscotch pudding added a candy store patina of nostalgia, and the River Café chocolate “nemesis” evoked nothing except the desire for a cold glass of milk

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