Note: This restaurant has closed.
I'm tempted to start this restaurant review with a diatribe as to how it can possibly be that suddenly all my friends (as well as I) are turning 40. How can we feel so young and be so... mature. But alas, nobody wants to read about that - and I definitely don't want to think about my age any more than I have to, so let it be sufficient to say that we went to Soizic a Saturday night in September 2008, to celebrate Lola's birthday.
Lola didn't want me to make to big a deal about it, she barked at the suggestion that we try to get reservations to Chez Panisse, but I wanted to go some place special and, of course, good. Bistro Soizic has been on my list of places to visit for years and years, but for whatever reason I've never ended up there. This time it popped out as a distinct possibility. The menu looked good, the reviews were mostly positive and I was intrigued by the fact that this mostly under the radar restaurant had been awarded a Michellin star. It must be a sign of the weak economy that I had no problems getting same-day reservation, that the place was quite empty when we got there around 6:30 PM and that it never really filled up. It was definitely not a sign of the experience Bistro Soizic provides.
The restaurant itself is quite nice. It's located in what looks like a former warehouse near Jack London Square. It looks sort of scruffy from the outside, but the dining room inside is both inviting, stylish and somewhat funky. What it doesn't seem to be is very intimate, we chose to eat in the bar area instead - where more subdued lights and only two tables (one mostly unoccupied during our dinner) provides some sense of privacy. I think there is also a dining room upstairs, but we didn't see it.
The menu was basically that shown on the website, complimented by couple of nightly specials. The offerings seemed both traditional and eclectic, and they seemed well priced for a restaurant of its caliber. My only complaint is that they have very few non-soup/non-salad options as appetizers. The one both Lola and I fixed on were the highly recommended (by our waiter) chanterelle mushrooms ($10), they came with large mozzarella cheese crostini and very nicely dressed watercress. The combination of the three elements was very good, but the mushrooms were the real show stoppers. They were meaty and savory and infused with a somewhat bacony/beefy/stewery flavor that can only be described as delicious. This is definitely a must-order dish. I had read that the portions at Soizic were on the small side, but Lola and I shared the appetizer and while I could have eaten a full order, half was enough for one.
I had the grilled lamb filet mignon ($25) as my entree. This came with a potato gratin, grilled shiitake mushrooms and some greens. Once again, the greens were perfectly dressed and the shiitake mushrooms were very good. Soizic definitely knows how to treat mushrooms. The potato gratin was good, but nothing special - the potatoes were nicely cooked and were quite tender without disintegrating. The lamb itself was perfectly cooked and was tender. The sauce, however, was a little bit too intense and hid the flavor of the lamb. I liked it, but would have preferred a lighter sauce. The portion was very generous, including two lamb tenderloins.
Lola had the scallops ($23) on special that night, served with cauliflower. The scallops were seared and came with a white sauce - I can't remember what went into it. They were delicious.
I had a glass of one of the cabernet sauvignons ($10), but I don't remember which one. It was quite nice. The waiter let me taste it before filling my glass, which I thought was great. I didn't quite like the house syrah that he'd have me try before.
There were several tempting desserts but Lola and I decided to split the pear tart with the "kickass Tahitian vanilla gelato" (as described by the waiter - $7). We liked the tart quite a lot, the shell was nice and flaky, but I thought the flavor was also a bit intense, it definitely needed the ice cream to balance it. And yes, the gelato was quite good.
I had read that service is not always great at Soizic, but we couldn't have been happier with our waiter. He was very nice and friendly, gave us good recommendations as to what to order (in other words, he knew the food and wine). The timing of the dishes was also perfect.
In all, we had a very good experience at Soizic and I'd definitely go back for a special occasion.