***Seems they decided to refresh this place and have totally revamped the menu to a more specific Mediterranean focus***
Located down in the Financial District on a little side street called Claude Lane sits Gitane. A stalwart of the San Francisco dining scene, it's been around awhile yet I've never quite made it down there.
I finally had the chance to experience the place recently right before they totally revamped their menu and also had a little fire that caused a temporary shut down. Nevertheless, I'm surprised I hadn't been here sooner considering it's bathroom was voted one of the coolest in town. The decor of the whole place is very Moroccan Middle Eastern with hues of gold and red enveloping the place to create a warm atmosphere that melds perfectly with the low lighting to make this a perfect spot for a romantic dinner.
I was with 3 other friends and not a date so I tried to just concentrate on the food and not the couple in the booth next to us recreating the food scene from the movie 9 1/2 Weeks. We decided to split some apps between us and first up were croquettes, calamari and bacon bonbons.
The croquettes were rabbit and serrano ham with pickled white asparagus, piquillo coulis and mache. A variation on a crabcake these had a lovely breaded crunch on the outside and a nice mix of non-gamey rabbit and salty ham inside. Dipped in the spicy pepper coulis it was a taste treat, just wish there had been more of the sauce. As for the asparagus, eh, it was okay. The calamari was stuffed with bacon and onions, covered with manzanilla olives, cherry tomatoes and garlic almond butter. It was oddly served with two pieces of butter toast which turned out to be good as we used it to sop up all the garlicy buttery goodness. The calamari was cooked tender not chewy and bacon and onions are a salty sweetish flavor treat. It's not enough for 4 people but more than enough for 2 to share. The bacon bonbons were prunes stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in bacon, dipped in a spiced port glaze. I've had something similar using dates instead of prunes, but even with the bacon this didn't work for me. The bacon wasn't crisp and the prunes had gotten mushy and gummy then you add in the goat cheese and the port it becomes an overly sweet, gooey mess. Well, like Meatloaf sang, "2 out of 3 ain't bad."
For my entree I picked the pork duo--grilled pork loin, crispy pork cheek, slow cooked romano beans and whole grain mustard sauce.
The pork was cooked perfectly tender and the sauce had a nice tang to it. The cheek had a great crunchy crispy outside and pull apart juicy cheek on the inside. The beans were cooked well if a bit salty. While I liked the meat I did feel this dish could have used another green or possibly a starch and some texture other than the crispy breading on the cheek. While I'm being a bit nit-picky, it was still a decent tasty dish.
Finally, of course, we had to get dessert--beignets with three sauces for dipping--chocolate, vanilla cream and caramel.
When they first brought it to the table I was like "holy crap" that's a lot, and I don't usually say that for desserts in this town. The beignets were square pillow sized donuts fried to a golden brown and lightly dusted with powdered sugar. On their own they were light, airy and delightful. The chocolate sauce was pretty basic but the vanilla and caramel were the best giving the beignets and taste somewhere between a cream filled donut and french toast. This is one of the better desserts in town and more than enough to share with your rowdy friends who like to eat off other peoples plates. In fact, stopping by after work for just this dessert and a peek at the bathroom would be well worth it.
I guess the good part about this review is that the food in this place was good (minus a few misses). The bad news is they've totally changed up the menu and most of these items are not available anymore. But from my standpoint, it's always good when restaurants can keep things interesting, especially when they've been around awhile. They did so well with this array of food I'm real interested to see what they can do with their new direction.