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Metro Cafe
311 Divisadero Street/Page St., SF
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Pretrial hearing at Chances
6/28/01

Guest Judge Ninja

What do I like better than a four-course French meal with a supple red wine? A four-course French meal with a supple red wine for 30 bucks. And for that price, you get real French waitresses and waiters -- nice, kickin' accents, but none of the attitude.

Metro Café offers prix fixe menu every day of the week: three-course meal for 15 bucks, $12.50 before 6:30 p.m. Now that's one hell of a deal. Makes me want to yell out "O, le petit chat! Comme je t'amore!" We started with an amazing French Onion Soup, or as the French call it, Onion Soup. This sublime mix of gooey yet slightly hardened cheese, toasty yet soggy bread, and warm oniony yet not tear-inducing broth finally has relieved me of my childhood hatred of onions.

We ordered a couple things from the regular menu too, including asparagus with Parmesan in a balsamic vinaigrette. Hot damn! I was sucking those spears and scooping up that Parmesan with my fork. I would have licked the plate clean if Judge McClure hadn't beat me to it by soaking up the rest of the sauce with his bread.

Cornish Game Hen in a red wine and fresh herb sauce was the main course. Mmmmm mmmm! So good it made me want to go get a hunting rifle and find me some wild chicks to shoot. After much discussion, we agreed that none of us have any clue what a game hen looks like so I had to be content to nibble and devour this tasty bird. The mashed potatoes and vegetables, although nicely presented, needed to be a little warmer. More heat, less show!

Finally, I was a little apprehensive of the dessert: a lemon tart and I ain't no tart lover. Oh yeah, but now I am, baby! That was one of the sauciest tarts I've ever eaten. I mean, that lemony delight was doing the backstroke in a crème fraîche and raspberry pool. I'm a changed man.

Add on to all that good food some intriguing pear art (there really isn't enough intriguing pear art in the world), Edith Piaf on the sound system, and an outdoor garden and you got yourself a low-key French winner.

 

Vardigan

I was recently in France. I won't say too much about that until Judge Turner and I unveil our European Füd Report (covering Paris and Switzerland). But I can say I ate my face off there in several bistros, and coming back to America there was a little hole in my evenings where the two-hour prix fixe had been.

Thanks to guest judge Antin, I've now got the Metro Cafe when my stomach grows nostalgic. French in only good ways, this bistro offers real French waitpeople and delicious three-course meals in a laid-back setting. Get there before 6:30 and the prix fixe runs you a paltry $12.50 (and all night on Sunday). Try finding an early-bird special in Paris! Many restaurants there don't even serve food until after 7.

The other judges have thoroughly covered our selections, but I'd like to give one more shout-out to that little game hen! I'm not usually a fan of tiny game items, but I devoured this one without a second thought. So that's saying something. Something really good about the game hen.

When I want France I won't look through mediocre vacation photos anymore. I'll stroll up Alamo Square pretending the tennis court is Sacre Coeur and walk down Divis like it's the Boulevard St. Michel, where soon I'll hear a waitress talking about food in endearingly accented English. Metro is Paris enough for me, for now.

 

McClure

And the fifth petite cochon squealed, "Oui oui oui" all the way home, from the Metro. That little cochon knew what she was talking about. Guest Judge Antin turned us on to this fantastic establishment. I'd heard of it before but was never in the right frame of mind or stomach to give it a go, French and all, you know. Now I know what I've been missing: friendly folks, attentive service, nice atmosphere, and delicious food.

Before I continue I want to say that Metro is not cheap eats -- $30 a head by the time we checked -- but that did include a bottle of wine and you know what that can do to them final bills. We started up our appetites with a couple of starters. The crab cakes($6.95) were served up on a bed of greens and were pretty good but it was the sauce that made the cakes worth getting. It was a fresh red pepper sorta puree, nice and tangy. The asparagus was cooked to perfection and covered with one of those hard cheeses, maybe parmesan, with a yummy balsamic vinegar sauce drizzled upon them.

We all chose the prix fixe menu -- maybe not so adventurous but we all knew a good thing when we saw it. I chose the soup, French Onion of course, and if you like this sort of thing I don't think you'll find anything to complain about here, with the onions and the bread and the cheese all put together just right. The main course was game hen and MMMMMM was that little bird tasterrific, cooked in a red wine herb sauce with vegetables and a mound of fancy mashed potatoes on the side. They may have spent too much time sculpting the potatoes because they were served a bit on the cool side but, tasty nonetheless. We finished off with the lemon tart accompanied by an awesome creamy white sauce with splashes of raspberry goodness. I must admit that I was in agreement with Judge Turner's view that a good old piece of chocolate cake sounded better but after one bite of that heavenly tart I never looked back. Wash that down with a cup of joe and you're done, done with one fine meal.

So, if you find yourself drifting aimlessly wandering on Divisadero, caught between the Upper and the Lower Haight, take a chance and enjoy yourself at the Metro.

 

Turner

When it comes to French cuisine, the Füd Court's expertise lies mainly in the French FRIES area. But when guest judge Antin (a.k.a. The Ant or The Ninja) informed of us a French meal for 15 clams, we were all over that action.

Of course, the 15 clams is for the fixed price menu, meaning you don't do much choosing. I was worried they would be serving some ghastly organs or goose bladder, but was delighted to see "game hen" on the sign outside. With that you get soup or salad and dessert. If you get there before 6:30 it's only $12.50. Damn.

We strayed from the fixed price for appetizers: sautéed asparagus and crab cakes. Tasty spears with parmesan and balsamic vinegar, and peppery crab cakes. Both good, but that kicked the bill up a good 12 bucks or so. Then came the onion soup, which was good and plentiful. Not sure what kind of cheese that was, but it was melted on a hunk of sourdough bread swimming in onions and broth. Then our waitress threw down the birds, the game hens from heaven. These perfectly roasted, golden brown, juicy, half mini-chickens were elegantly plopped into a pool of red wine herb sauce. Excellent, excellent bird eating there, and that sauce was so good I could drink it straight. On the side were some not-warm-enough mashed earth apples and buttery vegetables.

Plenty of bread on the table made for some good sopping up of various sauce leftovers. Finally it was dessert time and the lemon tarts arrived. I'm no tart freak myself, but this little sliver of lemon pie surrounded by crème fraîche and raspberry sauce (I guess) really hit the spot with a cup of coffee.

With our two appetizers and $20 bottle of wine we ended up paying $30 each, but if you stuck to the fixed price and skipped the wine you would have yourself a French gourmet bargain of Eiffelian proportions. Vive Le Metro Café! Vive le game hen!

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