A few months ago, a friend invited me out to lunch in the Financial District of San Francisco. "So do you want to go to Boulevard or Cosmopolitan? Both are equidistant from my office and have pretty much the same kind of food". Without doing any research, I blindly chose Cosmopolitan solely based on the fact that the cosmo is one of my favorite cocktails (just like Carrie from SATC!). Boy, was that a ditzy decision. Not that Cosmopolitan is horrible, but it's definitely no Boulevard, and I never would've known had @jrjohnson not shown me (and @djevoke, too!) the light.
(By the way, I'm embarrassed to admit that I even suggested a taqueria, deli, pizza joint and Indian place to J.R.'s fine, discriminating palate before he suggested Boulevard. Forgive me! :P)
The Creators Boulevard was opened by chef Nancy Oakes in partnership with designer Pat Kuleto in 1993. Nancy Oakes is a former art student at the San Francisco Art Institute, and amazingly, a self-taught chef who received the coveted James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef in California in 2001. Her partner's credentials aren't shabby either. Pat Kuleto was hailed as one of the Top 100 Innovators in the Milennium issue of Time magazine in 2000, has several namesake restaurants in Northern California, and has helped design close to 200 others. So it's no surprise that this collaboration spawned the Michelin-rated Boulevard.
The Kuleto Design When I was dining at Boulevard, I didn't realize that it was a Pat Kuleto-designed restaurant, but when I later found out through Google, I could see how Boulevard is totally a Kuleto restaurant. As a Northern Californian food lover, I know that the name Kuleto is synonymous with lovely, classy decor that can come off as prententious, but isn't actually; Kuleto manages to create a very warm, welcoming and laid back atmosphere. Since it was the first time Sam and I had ever been there, J.R. suggested that we scope out the place. It was gorgeous. We even found the bathroom, which was a trip. Literally. We had to walk down two flights of stairs and go through about five doors to get there. It almost felt like we was going through a secret path to find bathtub gin during the Prohibition!
The Boulevard Building Pat Kuleto said that when Nancy Oakes saw the Audiffred Building when they were hunting for a location for their restaurant, "She walked right up to the building and hugged it", and that's when they knew that it would be the location for Boulevard. The Audiffred has a very rich history. Built in 1889, it was named for Hippolite D'Audiffred, the French architect who created it and whose vision was to create a building that reminded him of his homeland. The Audiffred Building is one of few structures in San Francisco that survived the 1906 earthquake. It actually almost didn't make it because, as the story goes, firefighters wanted to blow up the Audiffred with dynamite to stop the spread of fire caused by the earthquake, but a saloonkeeper bribed the fireman by offering them two quarts of whiskey each, and a firehouse cart full of wine.
Besides having lovely Kuleto decor and a colorful history, Boulevard is also in a great location. Since the Audiffred is a historic building, in the Financial District of all neighborhoods, it really stands out among an area that has mostly modern skyrise buildings. It is nestled both in the Financial District, and SOMA neighborhood and is right next to the Embarcadero, so it's a close walk to the Ferry Building, and right across the street are the lovely Hotel Vitale and the delicious Yank Sing.
The Food The food was amazing. I loved the combination of ingredients of each dish. My two favorites being the scallops and the filet mignon. As you can see below, they're not the biggest dishes, but they are packed with a delicious combination of ingredients, and subsequently, packed with flavor. It should also be noted that the week that I went to Boulevard was the week that I started eating meat again after 11 years of not doing so, and what a way to start with filet mignon at Boulevard! Oh, and I can't stop thinking about their truffles and their buffalo mozzarella. Their desserts are amazing as well. Funny story about that.
There were about ten selections on the dessert menu. J.R. thought it would be fun to see if he could figure out what I would've picked out of the ten based on my food reviews (like my French Laundry and Chez Panisse reviews!). I should add that this is the first time I've ever met and dined with J.R. and Sam! I had my top two desserts picked out, but narrowed it down to one and whispered my choice to Sam. J.R. went through every dessert on the menu and thoroughly explained why I would or wouldn't choose it. He got my first choice (Raspberry, Raspberry, Raspberry) AND my second choice (Vanilla Brioche Bread Pudding) right! :o I didn't realize that you could get to know someone's tastes so well through their Lunch reviews. That, or I'm just predictable!
Take a look at the food that we had that night, and you'll see what I mean about Boulevard's dishes having awesome combinations of ingredients and being super flavorful:
Fresh Italian Bufala Mozzarella Bruins Farms Organic Heirloom Tomatoes, Arugula, Basil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Seared Dayboat Sea Scallops Fresh Morel Mushroom & Corn Ragout, Ham Hocks, Rock Shrimp Vinaigrette
Pacific Walu (HAWAII) Wild Caught, Grilled Sweet White Corn, Gold Chanterelle Mushrooms, Yellow Wax & Romano Beans, Shaved Fresh Italian Summer Truffles, Chervil Beurre Fondu
Wood Oven Roasted Angus Filet Mignon (California)
Fondant Fingerling Potatoes, Blue Cheese, Celery Salad & Crispy Pancetta, Bloomsdale Spinach Wilted with Roasted Shallot & Trumpet Mushrooms, Warm Mustard Vinaigrette, Red Wine Beef Jus
Shamelessly Repping Lunch at Boulevard There's nothing like delicious food and wine in great company. Thanks, J.R. and Sam! :)
I think it's worth mentioning that we showed up pretty late, a bit past 10 PM and they close at 10:30, yet they didn't turn us away. In fact, they seemed more than happy to have us and service was great.
The next time I'm given the choice between Boulevard and Cosmopolitan, I'm choosing Boulevard, hands down.
On a related note, apparently Boulevard is so luxurious, and the 2009 Acura RC is so savvy, smart and intuitive, that if you're craving steak, it will recommend "the filet... atBoulevard".
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About the reviewer
When I'm not Lunching, I'm a jeweler, and an all around, self-proclaimed web geek. My passions include social media, the interweb, technology, writing, yoga, fitness, photography, jewelry, fashion, … more
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Boulevard is a French-American restaurant located in San Francisco, CA. Boulevard was opened by beloved San Francisco Chef Nancy Oakes, in collaboration with designer Pat Kuleto. Nancy Oakes is a self-taught chef who went to the San Francisco Art Institute, and has been known for her down-to-earth, yet elegant service and hospitality.
Says Oakes of her cooking philosophy, "When you order a chicken, we actually cook it to order for you over the open fire in our wood-burning oven. There are no shortcuts. Even our pastries and cookies are made in small batches so they have a home-baked quality. We all feel a reverence for the food we use... we choose diver scallops rather than dredged, and fruits and vegetables straight from the farm or the farmer's market. In our kitchen, we all share San Francisco's love and commitment to good food".
Boulevard's building is a 1889 French-style Audiffred Building, and one of few structures that survived the 1906 earthquake and fire.