Classic Table: Jardinière

Traci Des Jardins' restaurant is 17 and going strong

Jardinière may have a "wonderful and loyal" clientèle, says chef-owner Traci Des Jardins, but that doesn't mean the 17-year-old Hayes Valley restaurant is squatting on its laurels, taking a smoke break.

"When I came up in the ranks, diners wanted fantastic food, wine and service," she says. "Now they expect a novel experience every time they dine out."

Des Jardins and her executive chef, Morgan Mueller, are quietly mirroring the zeitgeist. Reduction sauces and meat-starch-veg mains have slipped out the door, though Jardinière's signature warm bread salad with artichoke is barred from ever exiting.

The dining room at Jardinière

The dining room, with its dramatic U-shaped bar, brick walls and burgundy carpets, is aging as well as its patrons. This is a restaurant that believes that warm rolls should still be served with spoon and fork and that white wines deserve their own ice bucket (built into the railing on the mezzanine, no less).

In turn, the kitchen believes in the redeeming power of opulence, whether that means honoring Dungeness season by tossing crab meat with slim tajarin pasta, cream and shaved yuzu zest ($24), preparing lamb four ways and serving it with cubes of fried chickpea-flour panisse ($32), or roasting Brussels sprouts in goose fat ($13)–yes, they are as good as you might imagine.

Broccoli di ciccio | Morgan Mueller

Absent are dehydrated vegetable soils or koji-marinated fir tips. What keeps Des Jardins' food timely: precise, elegant cooking.

"San Francisco has a tradition of old restaurants surviving for a long time and becoming classics," Des Jardins says. "I hope that continues."

With cooking this good, she has nothing to worry about.