As lentil-cookers will likely agree, a large virtue of Puy lentils is their determined resistance to overcooking. They don't easily turn to mush. The bigger sorts have to be handled more carefully, but Bistro St. Germain's kitchen passes this test.
I found a bourride ($17) a seafood stew, complete with aioli-smeared rounds of toasted bread to be defined by the presence of what I took to be some form of cheeks, perhaps halibut cheeks. The rest of the players, including shrimp, mussels, and chunks of salmon, I could easily identify by shape, texture, and flavor. The suspected cheeks, however rectangular tabs of flesh, thumb-sized offered a strong, almost cheese-like flavor. Can fish be gamey? I offered tastes around the table as a cross-check, and the reactions returned were mild. Nonetheless, I hesitated for a bit before finishing the last piece.
Vegetarians can find French cooking a tough go, but Bistro St. Germain is accommodating. The meatless choices are explicitly identified and aren't shabby a shallow bowl of ravioli ($15), say, stuffed with squash purée and bathed in a mushroom cream sauce. Not quite legendary, perhaps, but pretty good.
BISTRO ST. GERMAIN
Dinner: Tues.Thurs. and Sun., 5:309:30 p.m.;
Fri.Sat., 5:3010:30 p.m.
Brunch: Sun., 10 a.m.2 p.m.
518 Haight, SF
Beer and wine
Very noisy if busy
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