STEVEN J. MOSS
Last month Bonjour Restaurant opened at 655 Townsend Street, along the small commercial strip that houses a hair salon, computer repair store, Starbucks, and Holy Grill. The restaurant is a kind of permanent pop-up, with Bonjour Patisserie vending macaroons, cakes, and croissants by day, and the bistro serving Full Belly Farm Goddess Melons and Petrale Sole, among other delectable offerings, by night.
And what a night it is! Bonjour, the restaurant, staffed by Chef John Reyna and Pastry Chef Samer Salman, offers a tasty menu, with perfectly paired wines selected by Sommelier Chris Lamm available. On a recent night, the Grilled Octopus was sufficiently succulent to, well, induce one to eat grilled octopus, and ask for more. The Monterey Bay Halibut, with blue lake beans, “forbidden” rice, and port wine-grape sauce was sublime. And all three of the desserts were worth a visit to the restaurant in their own right. Passion Fruit Savarin, Vanilla CrПme Brulee, and Chocolate Beignets Salted Carmel Chocolate Tart each were delicious; bring a friend or three, and order them all.
Reyna, Salman and Lamm have worked in the fine-dining industry for more than twenty years. After graduating from the California Culinary School in San Francisco in 2002, Reyna headed to Las Vegas, Nevada. While working for celebrity chef Roy Yamgauchi, he fell in love with French and Asian cuisine. He moved back to the Bay Area, and landed at Blackhawk Grille as a line cook. Within three years, Reyna had worked his way up the ranks to senior sous chef. His next stop was Pres-A-Vi in the Presidio, where he served as sous chef. In 2007, Michael Bauer awarded him two stars for his French and Asian Cuisine. In 2008, Reyna became the executive banquet chef at Cavallo Point under Michelin star Joseph Humphrey, where he worked for three years.
Lamm, a native of Tacoma, Washington, began his wine and service career in Las Vegas. While studying criminal justice at the University of Nevada, Lamm discovered his passion for food and wine from a Master Sommelier. Lamm worked at restaurants in Las Vegas, Orlando and Miami before moving to San Francisco. With his sommelier certification, Lamm worked for Michelin-starred One Market Restaurant and Cavallo Point.
Salman, who comes from Jerusalem, has been making pastries since he was 15 years old. He started working at the Five Star King David Hotel in Jerusalem, moved to the La Rome Hotel, before traveling to the U.S. to make a name for himself. Salman was the pastry chef at the The Caprice and Sweden House Bakery, both in Tiburon, Market Bar in San Francisco, and ran the Strawberry Gourmet Deli in Mill Valley before joining Bonjour.
At $16 to $20 an entrОe, and $12 to $13 for first courses, the menu reflects a solid value, given the quality of the food. In addition to the wine pairings, wines by the bottle are available for a minimal mark up. For example Laurent-Perrier, Brut, Maison Fondee, typically priced at $125 or more, are on offer for $52. The interior tables and chairs are lovely, as is the selection of background music, though the pastry display cases don’t add to the elegant dining atmosphere. Diners seated facing the large front windows are treated to views of the red brick buildings across the street, as well as a steady parade of Adobe, Zynga, and other technology workers making their way home — or to their favorite watering hole — after a hard day staring at their screens.
Bonjour is definitely worth a try, and chances are, once you’ve tasted one of the impeccably crafted entrees or extraordinary deserts, you’ll return.
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