Hubert Keller’s Classic Flagship

Hubert Keller has gotten a lot of press lately with his top three finish on Top Chef Masters last year and the new Burger Bar in Union Square.  But it was Fleur de Lys that put him on the map before all else.

This restaurant is one of those places that’s quintessential San Francisco: classic, sophisticated, and intimate.  It’s known for its service and it definitely didn’t disappoint in that area.

The staff is obviously trained well since all the courses were placed perfectly, timed perfectly, and explained to you perfectly, all while being friendly and unintimidating.  That’s no small feat in this town.  I wish the food were as impeccable as the service, though.

I can’t exactly put my finger on it.  Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by all the different newer restaurants around town.  But nothing I had really “sang” to me.

We both had the 4-course menu, starting with the Foie Gras Pate w/Aspic, and the Dungeness Crab Salad with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese.  These two dishes were the highlight of the entire meal.  The crab was fresh, sweet and meaty.  And the goat cheese was perfectly creamy and not gamey at all.  But the beets were boring.  And my Hubby is a freak for pate, so he loved his dish.

Then I had the Maine Scallops with Pinenuts, Potato and Sundried Tomatoes, while he had the Jumbo Prawns with Pork Belly pieces.  My scallops were tender, sweet and cooked perfectly.  But I found the sundried tomatoes way too bold for a delicate dish like this.  And the potato seemed oddly out of place on the plate.  I wanted to love this dish but it just didn’t work for me.

Meanwhile, his prawns and pork belly were all cooked well and melded together nicely, but the dish was almost a bit dry, both in texture and in pairing.  Again, off.

For our entrees, I got the Filet Mignon with Truffled Lobster Mac and Cheese.  The beef was cooked to tender perfection.  But the mac and cheese was slightly disappointing.  The lobster and truffles totally overpowered the dish, leaving it difficult for me to appreciate any cheese flavor.  And the texture was more gummy than creamy.  Another disappointing overall execution.

The hubby had the Buffalo Strip Steak with Lemongrass and Ginger.  It was all prepared nicely, but the strong Asian flavors seemed strangely out of place at a restaurant with French overtones.

I ended the meal with a cheese plate that had some very distinct elements.  There was a swiss from the Netherlands, a blue cheese from Australia, a French “cheddar”, and a local cheese that had the texture of brie.  None of it worked for me, surprisingly.  They were either way too mild or way too strong; nothing in between or memorable.  And I love cheese!  How could they have gone so wrong?  Frankly, some textural contrast like a good piece of toasted bread would’ve been nice.  And the golden raisins on the side were again, boring and unimaginative.

My Husband finished with a Grand Marnier Souffle that was huge.  He enjoyed it, but almost wished he’d ordered the Lemon Cheesecake instead.

All in all the appetizers and the amuse bouche of Cream of Asparagus and Cauliflower and Pumpkin Seed were the highlights of the meal.  Most everything else seemed outdated and boring, yet overly complicated.  I wanted to like this restaurant more, but the combinations on the plate just didn’t work.

But again, the service is perfect and that alone would make it a lovely celebration or date night restaurant.

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