Brasserie St. James - San Francisco, Mission District

It may be unfair to review Brasserie St. James so soon, as they only opened about three weeks ago, but I was really disappointed. This is an offshoot of their Reno restaurant of the same name, and is a Frenchie brasserie/brewery. I love a Frenchie anything, so I was excited to try it. Also, the online menu touted a $28 rib eye and I thought that price wouldn’t last long, so we rushed on over. It turned out the menu online is for the Reno joint, and there was no rib eye in sight. First strike.

We sat in the back, at the beer bar. At first they had a nice old black-and-white movie playing silently over the bar, which was in keeping with the rest of the décor – again, Frenchie brasserie. Soon enough, some young dudes wanted to watch the game, and that ruined it for me. But that’s not the restaurant’s fault. Except, maybe, stick with your theme.

I ordered a Sazerac to start, and something about it was just not right. Not bitter enough, but also not sweet enough, and I don’t like sweet drinks. They were out of three or four of their own house brews, so I asked the bartender to make me a three-brew sampling of his choosing – they offer nice little pours for $3-5 dollars, which I appreciated. Unfortunately, I can say this in no kinder way: the beers sucked. All three of them. In a brewery! They have the tanks in already, but for now they’re still trucking in their beers from Reno. I have no idea if that affected their quality, but they were characterless – bland, watered down, and flat. Even the chocolatey brown stout had no finish whatsoever. Strike 2.

We did not fare any better with the food. It wasn’t horrible, but mostly dull, and I have no desire to go back and try anything else. We tried a special on the board - duck/pheasant terrine with thinly sliced apples inside, and served with some kind of berry coulis and grainy mustard. That mustard was the only thing that saved it. The texture was a little too crumbly, and the whole thing was rather tasteless, except for a bit of clove flavor in the middle of one of the pieces. The endive and mandarin salad looked great but was a big yawn – the dressing wasn’t tart enough, needed salt…something. Strike 3, and we haven’t even come to our mains yet.

Since they didn’t have the rib eye, I got a burger, which was actually tasty, nice and beefy. But they overcooked it, and the fries were meh. They were crispy, but somehow tasted like they’d been fried previously and then sat too long under a heat lamp. The BF ordered the Argentine flank steak, which was fine, but the chimichurri on it was almost sweet. He minded it less than I did.

The sports-watching dudes next to me ordered the poutine, and it looked like a gloppy mess. I’ve had poutine before, so I do know what it looks like, and this version still didn’t look good. When I asked, they shrugged and said “Yeah, it’s fine.” A woman dining solo on the other side of us had the fish and chips – cod and prawns, which was a nice touch, and she said they were good and crispy. She liked her fries, too. But, in talking about other restaurants, she said she was a fan of La Mediteranee. Which called her taste into question for me….

They have Thai mussels on the menu. And flatbread pizzas. And tacos. Again, maybe it’s growing pains, or maybe they’re trying to do too much and just not doing any of it well. Or maybe it’s, they’re great in Reno but in comparison here, they suffer?

I’m not trying to be harsh, or snobby. I just hate wasting the calories on a sub-par meal. There are just too many great places to eat around here for $100. As my sister said, when I described our meal to her, “How dare they.” How dare they indeed, taking up prime Valencia real estate and serving boring, under-seasoned food? How dare they suck at making beer?

Sorry the pics aren’t very good (it was a bit dark), but they do show that the food looked promising, which made its lackluster-ness all the more disappointing.




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Too bad about the ribeye. For $10 more ($38), you can upgrade to a generous portion of "American Kobe " beef medallions at M.Y.China (SF), actually surprisingly good if you request rare and IMHO blows away most steaks I’ve had which cost twice as much. Plus every piece is good, unlike ribeye which often seems less tender in the center. No fries, though. They might make a sazerac but might be better to walk a couple blocks to hakkasan for their smoky negronI ;), or to Mikkeller for a beer or Perennial for a drink

or to Perennial for dinner!

a smoky negroni sounds awesome.

Our favorite place for a rib eye right now is Lolinda - it’s $48 but it’s big enough to share.

Thanks for the info on M.Y. China, i’ve not tried it yet.

Shandong beef rolls are also good at M.Y. China

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That’s a shame :frowning: We’ve eaten several times at their Reno place and always loved it. Here’s some CH comments.

Would you consider forwarding your comments to the owner? I’m betting they would appreciate it.

I was going to say if you like Saints, I think St Vincent is underrated. But, it’s closed. The mission is too tough these days.

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I didn’t know that about St. Vincent’s… I haven’t been in at least 2-3 years. i liked it! Certainly better than this new St.

I pretty much agree with the spirit of this review.

They seem to be having some issues with pricing. The first time I went a week after they opened the flank steak was $19 and the steak frites were $24, both of which seem like really cheap prices for a restaurant on that stretch of Valencia. A week later the flank steak was $24 and there wasn’t any other steak on the menu at all. Fairly sure all the other entrees got bumped up a few dollars as well.

Beer tends to the maltier side. Not my kind of thing but not actively offensive. Just sort of boring. I probably tried ~5 of them and I wouldn’t spit any of them out but it’s unlikely I’d deliberately choose them if there were other options around. At least one of the servers knows very little about beer - again, early days, so maybe they’ll train them up better, but I was kind of on my own for picking beers. In general there was a definite feeling that the servers were still learning what to do.

Flank steak is, as previously described, kind of sweet. Also a bit charred on the edges, albeit nicely pink in the middle. Neither server asked me how I’d like the steak cooked, so I guess that’s a reasonable default. It’s definitely the best thing I had there.

Tartare is build your own - big blob of ground beef in the middle with a giant egg yolk on it, ingredients around the edges, mix it up yourself. The bread was kind of disappointing - basically just a big soft untoasted roll. I’ll eat basically any tartare but this one did not impress.

Braised oxtail dish was fine but didn’t really stand out. They were out of the tripe dish when I asked.

Incidentally, at one point the black and white movie playing on the TV was the Phantom Menace. Points for being black and white at least?

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold