Number 32: Panisse Frites From Frances

Gil Riego Jr.
Frances's panisse frites.
SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition

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If the era of gorgeously simple Bay Area cuisine ushered in by chefs like Judy Rogers and Paul Bertolli has taught us anything, it's that nothing is too humble for us to lavish attention on. We have become a city of cooks and diners trained to appreciate the radishes perched among the leaves of a simple salad and the 17 different textures a beet can take on, depending on how it is cooked.

And at a restaurant like Frances, whose chef, Melissa Perello, is steeped in that tradition, the small dishes -- roasted cauliflower with olives, a Little Gems salad with grilled asparagus -- are often the ones whose refinement surprises us the most. We wouldn't be shocked to spot Peril cooking with a jeweler's loupe strapped to one of her eyes to inspect each ingredient as it cooked.

And so while SFoodie has fond memories of Frances's bavette steak, it's the panisse frites that we've never been able to shake from our minds. The chickpea-flour bricks are cut so precisely they look like you could build a fort with them. Just out of the fryer, their gold surfaces have a fine, sandy texture, and they crackle a little if you pinch them too hard. But then, just past that crackle, the frites' solidity evaporates. Swab one through a green-garlic aioli and bite in, and you find the steaming insides are as creamy and soothing as 12-hour polenta. It's an astonishing metamorphosis. Isn't this supposed to be just a pre-dinner snack?

Frances, 3870 17th St. (at Pond), 621-3870.

Other favorites in this series:
33: Izakaya Yuzuki's chawanmushi
34: Fatted Calf's chorizo
35: Silvanas from House of Silvanas
36: Linden Street Brewery's black lager
37: Aged oolongs from Red Blossom Tea Company
38: Broken Record's crawfish grits
39: Cebiche mixto from La Mar 
40: Nutella-hazelnut hand pie from Black Jet Baking Co.
41: Fifth Floor's burger
42: Perbacco's agnolotti dal plin
43: Iced coffee from Sightglass
44: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze Chevre
45: Lechon from Tastebuds Cuisine
46: Duck with beets from AQ
47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi
48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 
49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

Location Info


3870 17th St., San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

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