Actually Pretty Awesome

Actually Pretty Awesome: Sand Dabs at Bar Jules

Perfect little fish...
Perfect little fish… Photo: J. Barmann/Grub Street

Bar Jules is well known and well loved in its Hayes Valley environs, having brought simple, consistent, California farm-to-table food to the neighborhood in 2008. Chef Jessica Boncutter has received many comparisons to Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, and her style remains the same sort of fresh, daily changing, seasonal approach with a Mediterranean bent. The cozy restaurant was named one of Bon Appétit’s best new restaurants in the country in 2009, and since then has fallen a bit off the radar with the press (though not with its longtime fans) given the ascendence of new San Francisco restaurants in 2010 that tried to break free of the Waters-inspired Cal-Med shackles that characterized our city’s cuisine for a couple of decades. But Bar Jules remains packed every night for a reason: the food is still pretty awesome, and never disappoints.

On a recent visit we were especially impressed with a simple preparation of sand dabs, quickly seared and served with a chive beurre blanc and served with baby spinach, English peas, and braised fingerling potatoes. You can hardly get more simple, and seasonal, with the fish served whole but headless, bone-in — luckily it’s a fish that practically filets itself, with the whole stiff skeleton easily sliding out in one piece.

The sauce was light and perfectly seasoned, with the essence of white wine and a touch of lemon to balance the garlicky minced chives, and having often had sand dabs fried in recent years on many other menus, it was refreshing to find them served this way, without the distraction and richness of batter. Also, the fish were impeccably fresh, tender, and barely, welcomingly fishy — a great complement to the fresh greenness of the peas and blanched spinach. And what does one really want in a neighborhood restaurant besides the perfect execution of good ingredients, and a pleasant room in which to pass an hour or two.

Earlier on Actually Pretty Awesome:
Green Farro-Sausage Risotto at RN74
Vegan Charctuerie at Gather
Pickled Eggs at St. Vincent
Beef Tongue at Namu Gaji
Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken at Brasa
Green Garlic Bread at State Bird Provisions
A Dinner of Small Plates and the Duck Confit Salad at Frances
Duck Fat Chex Mix at Truck Stop Café
The Lamb Tongue Salad at Txoko
The Branzino at AQ
Dinner at Local Mission Eatery
Suckling Pig Sandwich at Sweet Woodruff
Crudités at Saison
The Roasted Broccoli Sandwich at Split Pea Seduction
George Mendes’s Partridge in a Pear Tree
The Buffalo Burger at Double Decker
A Preview of Dishes at Haven
Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas
The Cocktails at Outerlands
The Meatball Gigante and the Honey Pie at Tony’s Pizza
Three New Gins from St. George Spirits
The Date Night at Sneaky’s BBQ
Crab and Dumplings at Pican
The Fried-Chicken Sliders at The Lookout
The Tripe and the Pickles at Bar Tartine
Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Doughnuts at Beast & the Hare

Actually Pretty Awesome: Sand Dabs at Bar Jules