Produce Ally

Melissa Perello treats vegetables with uncommon care

Melissa Perello calls her approach to cooking vegetables "kind of simplistic." We beg to differ.

With its familiar menu tropes and relaxed ambience, Perello's new Castro restaurant, Frances, functions as a modest neighborhood destination. But Perello's rigorous way with produce broadcasts her fine-dining pedigree.

A main-course example: Caramelized Brussels sprouts from Iacopi Farm and roasted cipollini onions are hearty foils for sautéed skate ($23) with finely diced Spanish chorizo and Meyer lemon brown butter.

Of course, Frances' outstanding sides–which change regularly–highlight Perello's plant prowess, unadulterated. Her luxurious bean ragout ($6) is assembled from legumes cooked slowly with onion, garlic, thyme and oregano stem, then finished with butter accented by stewed fresh porcini.

Perello's creamed greens ($6) are a 180-degree turn from the steakhouse staple. She braises greens like baby fava leaves and Lacinato and Portuguese kales individually, then combines them with melted leeks and a shallot-infused cream sauce (click here to download the recipe). It's bright and rich, healthful and indulgent.

But "simplistic"? Not on your life.

Frances, 3870 17th St. (at Pond St.); 415-621-3870 or frances-sf.com