Meeting the Gypsy

IMG_3967I rarely get drawn in by what I’ve heard about a restaurant’s setting. But Gitane’s European bohemian chic decor seemed so right up my alley that I wanted to see if for myself. And it didn’t hurt that it was on the SF Chronicle’s list of Top 100 Restaurants, so the food had to have some redeeming qualities.

The place is named after a gypsy and the food is inspired from the Basque region nestled between Portugal and Spain. But there seemed to be a touch of Moroccan influence as well. The menu is very eclectic and decor exotic and hip without being snooty. In fact, the staff was very friendly without trying too hard. Even the manager came by to check on us and seemed genuinely interesting inhow we were doing.

So my pals and I went for the Yelp Eats! prix fixe menu, and all the dishes were ones you could find on their regular menu. For our appetizers I ordered the Bastilla which was almost like a fried samosa filled with duck, chicken, nuts, spices, and raisins. It was served with some roasted red peppers for savory contrast. The dish was excellent, rich and meaty, and sweet with warm spice. It’s a heavier appetizer, so I’m happy I ordered the scallops for my entree. But more on that in a minute…

My friend ordered the Taboule appetizer, which was a revelation. It was bursting with lemon and mint and fresh shrimp, in this cool couscous salad. It was wonderful. The flavors were so fresh yet somehow, not overwhelming.  Perfection.

IMG_3946For our entrees I got the St Jacques, which was pan seared royal sweet scallops with parsnip puree, fried padron peppers, and chorizo on top and chorizo oil sauce. It was wonderful. The combination was unexpected and yet delicious. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the chorizo oil was such a wonderful complement to the light scallops and parsnips. Yum!

My friends ordered the Solomillo, which was pork tenderloin and braised pork belly with a five spice sauce and carrot puree with pine nuts. The dish was rich and warm with those spices. And again, it all was perfectly cooked. The perfect autumn dish.

For dessert, we had beignets with a lemon, chocolate, and honey sauce, and the Vins de Fruits which was a chilled sangria with yogurt sorbet, berries and spices. Both were fantastic. The beignets were soft, warm, and perfectly fried. Sometimes they’re a little too brown on the outside but they were perfect here. The sauces were good, but honestly, they could’ve been better. Either way, a great dessert.

IMG_3952But it was the Vins de Fruits that impressed me. I’m not one for alcohol desserts, but this dish was so incredibly fresh and fruity, again made warm with the cinnamon and star anise. It was so fragrant that it was like perfume. Again, another surprising dish.

This place has so much character and diversity in both its menu and decor, it’s hard to imagine a more charming place to go in the city. It’s hip without making you feel out of place. It’s like a tiny European bistro because it’s in this little cobblestone alleyway and the service makes it a neighborhood gem. There’s also outdoor seating, but because of it’s size, I wouldn’t recommend it for a group larger than 6-8 people. And if you’re into that sort of thing, the bar was a super hot place to see and be seen on the Friday night we were there. Although personally, I wasn’t a fan of their special cocktails. A little too much spice, but that’s just personal preference.

We were truly entranced by this gypsy, for sure.

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