photo credit: Krescent Karasso
Do you love Paris? Do you not care if an oyster costs $5, or if the bar you’re hanging out in smells like fish, or if a bartender looks at you like you’re a wad of gum stuck to the bottom of his Ferragamos? Then you’ll probably like Petit Marlowe, a little spot in SoMa with expensive but tasty French food.
Provided you enjoy eating raw things, this is a good place to grab drinks and snacks with friends in the neighborhood. Petit Marlowe sells itself partly as a wine bar, but the wine list isn’t actually all that long or unusual - in general, the food is more interesting. We recommend getting a bunch of little things to share, rather than tackling the bigger dishes like the lamb ribs.
From the oysters to the escargot, the seafood and other French small plates here are all high-quality, and for the most part very delicious. The well-balanced tuna toast and rich beef tartare are standouts, and the few hiccups on the menu tend to happen with dishes like the avocado toast and trout crudo, where they can overdo it on spices, toppings, and oil. Portions are not large and prices can be steep (crudos under $15 seem reasonable, but a burrata dish for more than that does not), so it’s easy to rack up a significant bill.
There’s a long, classy-looking bar that feels authentically European and is ideal for Happy Hour rosé and oysters. The tables that fill the rest of the space are very, very close together, but if you get in on the earlier side and snag the front window spot, you’ve made it. As Happy Hour turns into dinnertime, the place settles down, so you can linger over your wine (the tiny plates of food will be long gone) and not feel like you’re being hustled out the door. It’s a hard balance to strike - not busy but still cool - and Petit Marlowe manages to do it.
The laid-back, eat-at-your-own-pace ambience and “you should be grateful I’m allowing you to order a drink from me” bar service might not be for everyone, but they do feel like an escape from the Heath plates, succulents, and “let me tell you about the menu” situations we find at more and more restaurants these days. Ultimately, we really like this place - the only thing holding us back from giving it a higher rating is the price point. On the plus side, it’s still cheaper than a trip to Paris.
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A bit hit or miss. Depending on how heavy the olive oil pour is, this is either light and refreshing or trying to break free from its dressing like a sad pelican on a National Geographic cover. Hope for the former.
Very, very fresh oysters that they keep up front for you to see/drool over. $3-$5 per oyster is a lot, but they do some Happy Hour deals at the bar, so the best bet is to get involved there.
One of the more reasonably sized dishes at Petit Marlowe, this beef tartare is excellent. There’s a little bit of truffle in it that makes it even richer and more decadent than normal. Very strong.
Slightly better than most deviled eggs, due to spicy meats. These are pricey but quite tasty (especially the pork ’njuda option).
A sizeable salad with winter fruits and pecans that’s perfect to share, provided you’re into chicory. Not a true “health” salad, but that’s not why you’re here.
This has way too many toppings. It’s also just four bites. Skip.
Tuna Conserva Tartine
This is a great plate. The roasted peppers, aioli, and tuna are hearty and delicious, and the black olives are the kicker. You’ll probably want to order another.