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Review

Melissa Zink

Routier

$$$$
Written by
Melissa Zink

The chicken liver mousse at Routier isn’t like the other chicken liver mousse you can find around town. It’s shaped like two eggs, is topped with a sweet red currant compote, and served on a charming vintage floral plate. When you cut through the ultra smooth, downright luxurious stuff with a knife, spread it on a slice of multigrain toast, and then top it all with a bit of fruity preserve, your transformation begins. The clouds part, the birds sing, and like an over-enthused hyena, you might find yourself cutting, spreading, and topping at warp speed.

This is just the beginning of an excellent dinner of memorable dishes at this relaxed French restaurant in Pacific Heights. And when it’s all over, it’s likely you’ll have the distinct sensation that Routier is a destination restaurant in disguise.

Melissa Zink

The draw of Routier is that it has the air of a casual neighborhood spot, the kind where you can comfortably pop into on a whim, hang your coat on a wooden rack, and run into an old friend before settling into your table. It’s also co-owned by the baking pros at b. Patisserie, and takes its informal approach from the truck stop routières in France. But Routier is no ordinary truck stop. The blue velour banquettes, brass accents, and wraparound windows are stunning. There’s also a gorgeous marble bar in the back that pretty much beckons you to slide into a stool after a long day, order a plate of roasted white fish or snacky potato pavé, and enjoy a cocktail while you’re at it. But if you feel like doing the night up with a $400 bottle of Chardonnay and some pork shoulder confit, you’re in the right place.

Melissa Zink

But don’t expect traditional bistro or brasserie food like coq au vin or hefty steak frites. Yes, this spot is French, but is all about shareable plates that play up the local ingredients of the season. Which is why you’ll see crispy Monterey squid with a rich butter sauce and pickled chilis, roasted eggplant that arrives on fluffy ricotta and a walnut vinaigrette drizzle, and, if you’re lucky, a well-balanced risotto with sweet corn and summer beans (a dish so wonderful, it earned a spot on this very specific list).

Everything that lands on your table, whether you order a la carte or the $45 three-course set menu, somehow feels like a surprise gift, even though you intentionally ordered it. That’s one reason that keeps us coming back. The other is getting to dine in a beautiful space we’ll happily go out of our way for, whether it’s to cheer yourself up at a round table with a friend after the Worst Week Ever, or to sit alone at the bar with a glass of wine and shovel down an order of chicken liver mousse.

Food Rundown

The food menu at Routier changes regularly depending on what’s in season but here’s an idea of what you can expect.

Chicken Liver Mousse With Onion & Red Currant Compote

There are a lot of great versions of chicken liver mousse all over town, but we’d bet good money that you haven’t had a chicken liver mousse quite like this. The combination of two silky mousse quenelles and red currant compote is decadent. Thin slices of multigrain bread toasted to a perfect crisp bring everything together.

Melissa Zink
Crispy Monterey Squid

Yes, the fried squid is crisp and delicate and airy and perfect, but the butter sauce takes this to another level: spicy with a refreshing zing from the pickled red chilis. Sip up every last drop.

Melissa Zink
Dungeness Crab Pavé

The most memorable part of this dish is actually the crispy potato pavé, which is why we feel OK skipping it with the Dungeness crab and spicy mayonnaise and just ordering them plain as a side ($7).

Melissa Zink
Roasted Hen Of The Woods “Au Poivre”

The meatless version of steak au poivre. Crushed potatoes are an ideal bed for peppery mushrooms and a gravy-like sauce. It’s heartier than a Thanksgiving dinner (and equally comforting), so we’re glad it only comes in shareable small plate form.

Melissa Zink
Pork Shoulder Confit With Cipollino Onion & Braised Chard

Like everything here, this larger plate is well-balanced and simple. The tender pork shines next to the onions and braised chard. And if you also love figs, you will love the fresh quartered ones here.

Melissa Zink
Marinated Fairytale Eggplant, House Ricotta & Walnut Vinaigrette

One of several vegetable items on the menu and is served cold. The eggplant itself is marinated in the walnut vinaigrette, grilled, and marinated again before being placed on top of a plate of cloudlike ricotta. But what really pops is the nutty vinaigrette.

Melissa Zink
Caramelized Croissant With Plums, Raspberries & Vanilla Cream

Remember, you’re eating at a spot co-owned by the folks behind b. Patisserie, so the only acceptable answer to, “Did you save room for dessert?” is an enthusiastic, yes. This one, a buttery, sugar-crusted croissant with poached fruits, is divine.

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