Favorite Restaurant: Le Garage
Reviewed Le Garage: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Le Garage serves French bistro fare with a Bay Area flare; it’s a great destination for brunch or dinner. The restaurant’s space is its most remarkable aspect and memorable for those who live in SF and visitors alike. The space is fun and unique — a converted open-air garage in one of Sausalito’s marinas — and is one of the main draws for dining here. Sailboats will float into their boat slips as the sun sets in the evening; how picturesque!
The servers only add to the ambience. The waiters are French (with the French accents to prove it!) coupled with just the right amount of French charm/attitude. Also, their cheeky mechanics outfits are a stitch. And set aside any preconceived notions — the servers are attentive and friendly by most standards.
The food is high-quality French cuisine, yet the menu remains fairly accessible. The appetizers are all delicious and ideal for sharing, considering how rich and strong the flavors are. The foie gras torchon has sea salt sprinkled on top, complemented by kumquat marmalade, and served with slices of pillowy brioche. The mushroom soup was creamy (without any cream!) and earthy with truffle oil dollops on top. And the steak tartare was authentically salty, served with a quail egg and cornichon. The main entrees have well-balanced flavors. For dinner, there’s a nice variety of fish and more traditional French options, like duck confit. The noodles in the rabbit pasta tasted unexpectedly mustardy at first but ended up being well-balanced and delicious. The trout was well prepared, but the real highlight was the delicious chanterelles. Though the buttery vegetable side was more flavorful than the trout itself, they may leave you guessing as to what they actually are (potatoes? sunchokes, according to the menu). Also, the wine list has quite a few reasonable French and Californian wines that you can’t go wrong with. And if you go for brunch, you can’t beat a burger and fries paired with bubbles!
If Le Garage were in San Francisco, it probably would be a different experience all together because it would be a total scene. It’s worth the drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, especially when you have out-of-town guests. Enjoy the fresh air, the ambience, your friends, and your meal.
Occupation: Marketing Manager
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Loló Restaurant
Reviewed Le Garage: Wednesday, May 9, 2012
One of the benefits of having three kids in a French school is that I’ve been exposed to a lot of French food, and a side benefit of that knowing how to order in a French restaurant. Everything in moderation, and always indulge.
When we arrived at Le Garage I was a little taken aback to see that there were only a handful of seated tables on the outdoor patio and nobody was sitting inside the restaurant at 6:30. I was really hoping that this wasn’t going to be another “restaurant with a view.”
Being from San Francisco, we thought better of sitting outside this close to sunset, as I’m quite used to the weather changing from pleasant to overly chilly. I wanted to focus on the food, so we grabbed a table inside the restaurant in the corner. It was the best seat in the house where we could see everything in the bar and dining room.
The menu was typically French with nice details throughout. The foie gras came with a house made kumquat marmalade and ginger gastrique, it was interesting and it cut through the fatty goodness of the foie. Squash blossoms are typical, but these were stuffed with Dungeness crab before they were lightly fried. The piquillo sauce that it was on top of was also a nice contrast so the light flavors.
Honestly, I would have also been just as happy to try the charcuterie or cheese plates, or any of the other appetizers they offered.
Our waiter was knowledgeable about the wines, steering us in the right direction of something crisp (and French) that would complement both dishes quite well. Even though I’m typically a red wine person, I knew that the call for these dishes would definitely be white. Sancerre it was.
Knowing I was hoping to get to dessert, we opted to split a main course. Like the appetizers, I would’ve been happy with any of the main entrees. Since we were trying to stay on the light side, we went with something traditional, the P.E.I. mussels marinière, with a side of fries (frites).
The mussels themselves were plump and well cooked, but the sauce needed just a little something extra. The dish worked well in the “bread dipping” test of how well you want to dispense with the mussels and just dip the bread in the sauce, or better yet just drink the sauce from the bowl. The bread that is served with the meal was so good in fact that we asked where they got it from, and we will be tracking them down at our local farmer’s market.
Throughout the evening the service was attentive without being intrusive, and surprisingly enough, the restaurant was now completely full and the service stayed at an even keel. It was impressive.
The end goal was in site, as we shared a dessert of fondant au chocolat (and split another glass of Sancerre). The chocolate cake I thought was a little dry and the espresso ganache didn’t have the hint of coffee that I was looking for, but that still didn’t prevent us from eating the whole thing.
Overall, I really liked Le Garage and look forward to coming back for a sunny day brunch, or any other meal for that matter.
Occupation: University President
Favorite Restaurant: Salute E Vita Ristorante
Reviewed Le Garage: Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Le Garage Bistro is exactly as billed — it is a French bistro in a garage in Schoonmaker Point, a Sausalito marina. The food is equal to that of a Parisian bistro, simply served from an American garage. The garage theme is continued by attaching bathroom keys to large soupspoons for the bathrooms, which are some 50 yards around the corner. It is a picturesque spot, with both sail and powerboats at anchor.
There is an unusually good selection of wines by both the glass and bottle. I had a slightly dear ($16), but classically rendered French Chabilis. My partner had a lovely Kir Royale ($8.50) and a glass of Whispering Rose ($13).
We began with a classic preparation of foie gras pâté, complemented by perfectly prepared egg toast. This was given a full run for its money by the exquisite squash blossoms stuffed with crab. These were followed by mussels Marinière, fully fresh and plump, if served in a slightly under-seasoned marinière sauce. An air-cured chicken presented us with very tender breasts with lovely sauce. However, in the reverse of the usual difficulty with this dish, the dark leg meat was somewhat dry.
These substantial dishes did not leave any room for dessert, but the crème caramel had the look of Paris all over it.
Service was courteous, but stretched thin in the early evening. As the sun sets, some tables, external to the bistro and without heaters, become outposts only for the most hardy and warmly dressed. The tables within the garage and under its external canopy, where there are heaters, remain most agreeable.