98 Fourth St.@ Brannan
phone: 415.543.2222
hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, Mon-Thurs 5:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30-10:30pm
Full bar

Over 10 years ago, Bizou opened on an unpretentious block in SOMA. Touted for its excellent food and welcoming atmosphere, chefs Loretta Keller and Joseph Graham stuck gold with their unique combination. After my miserable experience, I am quite frankly baffled as to how it has survived this long and received such good reviews. Every aspect of my dining experience at this restaurant (named ironically for "little kisses") was completely sub-par.

The Ambience:
In this capacity, they've almost done it right. Its one large, warmly lit room with high ceilings, tasteful art and an upscale bar (replete with funky neighbors) seats 70. Because it's on a corner, there are plenty of window seats. Table cloths are covered with white paper (?) which I guess is intended to evoke the bistro atmosphere, though to me it just says "cheap."

The Menu:
French. Mostly meat, not much cheese or cream. They offer several interesting salads. For your entree, vegetarians beware: tomato braised veal shank, roasted pork loin, beef cheek, rabbit, duck, etc. Appetizers are $7-$10, entrees are $17-24.

The Food:
Extraordinarily bland. We both received a huge piece of meat and some rather unsavory side dishes. What's more, there's no salt and pepper on the tables. Rarely, if ever, do I use extraneous spices on restaurant food, but in this case, I would've killed for a little flavor. My dinner partner ordered the squab special. At least half of her meal, however, was chicken livers, which were never mentioned by our inept waiter. She was left with two remarks. "If I eat another bite of chicken liver I'm going to scream," and, "I guess after eating squab at Jardiniere you should never order it anywhere else."

The Service:
Negligent. First of all, he completely misrepresented both the soup and the special entrees to us. I ordered the "pepper potato soup" and was a little surprised when it was green. Turns out it was pepper watercress and potato. Big difference. My dinner companion order the special "squab, risotto, chanterelles and beets." Instead, it was a beet risotto and, as I mentioned, overwhelmed by chicken livers. Was there miscommunication between the waiter and the kitchen, or were they trying to disguise the lack of $8/lb chanterelles with .80/lb chicken livers? We'll never know.

Our waiter also put all our dishes down backwards and then ran away before I could order a glass of wine or water. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was rather empty and we STILL couldn't get his attention, but by the time we left, the joint was full so that any attempt to catch his eye was entirely futile.

Suggested, but even more strongly suggested is to make reservations somewhere else. Don't get suckered by the hype.

Overall: F
Overpriced, tasteless and careless.

Reviewed : Feb 2004

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