It had been fried to toughness rather than crunchiness, could not be cut, and was generally an inconvenience. Otherwise, the kitchen didn't miss a step; the cooking is a series of gentle euphonies, polished versions of bistro favorites. (There is a real difference in France between a bistro and a restaurant, and les frères Meloni calling their place a restaurant isn't a casual choice.)
Duck confit ($22.50) is a rustic staple on many a bistro menu, but here the leg (good crispy skin!) was accompanied by a boneless half breast grilled to a gratifyingly steaklike medium rare. Lending the plate architectural interest and style: a cylinder of gratin potatoes, looking like a pillbox.
Potatoes fingerlings got a more natural treatment with the roasted monkfish ($23). They were simply steamed, halved, and thrown into a peppercorn sauce, velvety but with sharp edges. Lying at the edge of the sauce pool was a bundle of pencil-thin asparagus (too early to be local, I'm afraid), baby pattypan squash in green and yellow, and a fine dice of tomato. I would give this combination no better than a C for seasonality but an A for color and texture.
Even the small dishes are memorable. You hardly ever see panisses ($4.25) the chickpea fries of Provence anywhere, but Cassis's are excellent: crisp outside, creamy within, and presented in a geometric stack. And spinach ($5), seared with garlic and shallots, unfurls on a long platter like a length of knotty, kelp-swaddled rope recovered from a long-sunken ship.
Cassis doesn't seem to have generated the buzz of its most recent predecessors, and maybe this offers us a clue to its prospects. Although it's a nice destination, it's not a destination restaurant but a neighborhood one, and the neighbors, having reclaimed the space after a long struggle, seem to be pleased. Everybody likes a new chapter.
Tues.Thurs. and Sun., 5:3010 p.m.; Fri.Sat., 5:3011 p.m.
2101 Sutter, SF