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126 Clement St. (near Second Street)
Cuisine: French bistro
Pluses: Delightful new bistro.
Minuses: Can be hard to get in.
Overview: Dinner Mon.-Sat., Brunch Sun.
When chef Alain Rondelli decided to step back from his signature, upscale restaurant, he leased the place to two energetic Paris-born operators, a front of the house person and a chef. Because it is in the Richmond District, the neighboring restaurants are primarily Asian, so it is a refreshing change to make believe one is in la belle France. The small dining room is decorated with vintage French posters and fresh flowers. Clementine has been taken to the neighborhood's bosom. Again, like other San Francisco bistros there are traditional French dishes and more modern combinations. For starters try the cassoulet of escargot; or the more trendy prawns marinated in balsamic vinegar served on a bed of roasted peppers. Main courses include a sauteed halibut with four spices and a matelote sauce; a veal shank is perfumed with sage and served with a carrot puree. The menu changes every two weeks, but if the rack of lamb ($16.75) is listed be sure to order it. Sweet endings include a seasonal fruit soup, creme brulee or a cinnamon apple tart highlighted with hazelnut ice cream. The wine list, like the food is affordable.