How about a club sandwich ($13) on brioche, with Dungeness crab salad instead of roast turkey? (And plenty of crisp bacon!) If it's not quite as fancy as Postrio's lobster version, it's at least as good. In a similar vein, there's an ahi tuna melt ($8), the cooked fish here mashed up with red bell pepper dice and bits of cornichon into a kind of salad.
A few of the dishes seem to hold dual citizenship. An example: lobster bisque ($4), rich and creamy, spiked with brandy, topped with crème fraîche and minced chives, and served in a tall shot glass, like a miniature cappuccino. French? New Englander? Excellent, certainly. No aura of vague cosmopolitanism, on the other hand, surrounds the duck buns ($12). Here we have a classic Chinese treat: shreds of poultry, slow-cooked to moist tenderness, set between halves of little steamed buns, like tiny duck burgers. Versions of this dish aren't hard to find on menus around town, but Degala's duck, moist and rich and with unmistakable five-spice breath, is superlative.
Although the restaurant opened shortly after Thanksgiving, service is already at a high level, with bread and water flowing liberally and the staff knowledgeable about specials and shortages. Timing from the kitchen can be a little erratic, though, and this matters more than it might at some other place because dinners tend to be improvised arabesques rather than the more usual first coursemain coursedessert ballet. You can never be quite sure which dish will show up next, but that's not such a high price to pay when it could be coming from any place in the world. *
PRES A VI
Mon.Thurs. and Sun., 11:30 a.m.9 p.m.; Fri.Sat., 11:30 a.m.10 p.m.
1 Letterman Dr., Bldg. D, Ste. 150, SF