There are restaurants whose raison d’être is to impress. Boulevard, at the Embarcadero end of Mission Street in San Francisco is just such an establishment.

It was a grand occasion – the first time Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband had been back in San Fran in two years and catching up with La Reine Fille (don’t call her Princess). But this was even more momentous; we were being introduced to her soulmate and betrothed, Tippy Toes.

Boulevard is rendered in an Art Deco/Nouveau style. It’s a long dining room, with a largish bar and a sea of tables. We were early for our booking, while La Reine Fille and Tippy Toes were en route from San Jose. We figured we’d prop up the bar waiting for them. Hah. There was a wait to wait, so we gratefully accepted the option of waiting at the table.

Seated at the table, with a pile of menus in front of us (food, cocktails, wine list) we ordered a Laguintas IPA and a Lillet Blanc and waited for the happy couple (we were in the Bay Area to celebrate their wedding) which didn’t take all that long. Ordering a bottle of Billecart-Salmon we settled in.

The chef/patron at Boulevard is Nancy Oakes, with Dana Younkin listed as chef de cuisine in the kitchen. The restaurant opened in 1993 and has won a slew of awards in the US, including from the Zagat guide and the James Beard Foundation. The style here is overwhelmingly French with a few twists.

Our starters were generally quite light dishes (except for Greedy Girl, but more on that later). Gluttonous husband began with the ahi tuna, served with nopales, pasilla, hearts of palm and watermelon radish slaw, cara cara orange and cumin oil, avocado, corn duck fat, and tostada and taro crisps. A few explanations – nopales is prickly pear, a form of cactus often used in Mexican food, apparently. Pasilla is also known as chile negro, a dried form of the chilaca chili pepper. Forkfuls of this were handed around. The tuna was soft and luscious and not overwhelmed by the heat, which came in right at the end. Delish.

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Ahi tuna

Tippy toes opted for favas and burrata. This was a fava (broad beans to us) and garbanzo bean hummus with summer truffles and truffled pecorino, topped with creamy burrata, char-grilled baby favas, arugula (rocket) and pea tendrils. It was a sensational array of flavours. Again, the forkfuls were passed around.
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Fava beans and burrata

La Reine Fille took scallops, pictured at the top of this post (a side note: she started off the evening sounding decidedly American and asked for ‘Skal-ops’ when the Aussie pronunciation is ‘Skol-ops’ but as the wine flowed her accent did start to revert). These were served with salsify, smoked shiitake mushrooms, buttered buckwheat and nasturtium. OMG. These were seriously good; the scallops were cooked perfectly and had just the perfect amount of searing.

Greedy Girl bucked the trend and ordered something decadently rich – the Hudson Valley foie gras with black sesame babka, lime and kiwi preserve, apricots, blackberries and mulberries, with. Tippy toes had never tried foie gras so a forkful was sent across. A discussion was forthcoming about duck or goose foie gras. La Reine Fille didn’t know geese were also used for foie gras; indeed, the goose version is often thought to be superior. We didn’t mind which variety was on offer – finding it on any menu is a source of delight for Greedy Girl.

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Foie gras

The champagne having been drained, we ordered a bottle of Greedy Girl’s go-to French red, Chateauneuf-du-pape. Sadly, the bottle she chose was no longer available. Apparently other diners this particular evening also had sublime taste. We were offered a slightly more expensive bottle at the same price as our first choice – a 2012 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne. Nectar. Sigh.

It was time for our main courses. Gluttonous husband chose the Alaskan halibut, served with potato fondant, grapes and morels. He commented the fish was prepared well and had plenty of flavour. And then he tasted the morels; many we’ve had around the world in various dishes have been either full of oomph or almost tasteless. These were the former. Pieces were shared around the table to everyone’s delight. The grapes, however, didn’t really add anything to the dish. Gluttonous husband said they were hard and didn’t have any flavour.

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Alaskan halibut

La Reine Fille and Greedy Girl both had the asparagus risotto with fava beans and summer truffles. It made an exceptionally pretty plate of food and the flavour lived up to it. Delicious vegetables, rice cooked perfectly; a very harmonious dish.
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Asparagus risotto

Tippy toes took the wild King salmon; it was a large serving and pieces were also sampled around the table, except for Greedy Girl who prefers her salmon uncooked/smoked/cured (in that order). Tippy toes was well pleased with the dish.
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King salmon

We then moved to dessert. Gluttonous husband took a glass of Moscato d’Asti Saracco from Piedmont, to accompany his cheese, a Blu Bottera also from Italy. This was a semi-soft cow’s milk blue, served with local honeycomb. It was exceptionally mild and the wine was a bit of a disappointment. Gluttonous husband pronounced it ‘ordinary’.
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Artisanal cheese

Tippy toes opted for blackberries, white chocolate and Matcha stone ground green tea. This was a ganache tartlet, served with black sesame ice-cream and coconut foam. Apologies for the quality of the pictures but the restaurant was very dark by this stage. She was very happy with the combination of flavours.
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Blackberries, white chocolate and green tea

La Reine Fille took the red velvet layer cake. This was an incredibly light cream cheese cheesecake with frozen pavlova puffs, malted ice cream, English toffee and a fudge sauce. This was a very well-balanced dessert that wasn’t overly sweet.
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Red velvet layer cake

Greedy Girl went for the Valrhona dark chocolate pudding, with a peanut butterfinger, Medjool Salame Di Cioccolato, raspberry Zinfandel pearls and chocolate pop rocks. The butterfinger was delicious but too small to share (that’s Greedy Girl’s excuse and she’s sticking to that). The Salame Di Cioccolato is a typical Italian recipe and the addition of the date (Medjool) gave it more moisture. But the dish didn’t have an intensely chocolatey hit and if there were pop rocks on the plate, Greedy Girl couldn’t taste them – there was no fizzing or popping in the mouth.
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Valrhona dark chocolate pudding

But these were fairly minor quibbles in the overall scheme of things. It was an enjoyable and relaxing dinner. Service was prompt and reasonably friendly without going overboard. Our table of four was able to converse easily despite a fairly solid level of noise.

Boulevard is a good restaurant with interesting, if not spectacular food. It’s obviously well patronised by business types and people seeking a special occasion venue and the restaurant itself looks great. The banquette seating was comfortable. You could do a lot worse.


The Foodie World star rating
1 Mission Street, San Francisco (Embarcadero)
Boulevard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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