New & Notable

Le Marais expands from bakery to full-fledged French bistro

Rillettes at La Marais Bistro.

French ex-pat Patrick Ascaso fulfilled his dream of opening a truly Parisian-style bakery in the Marina with the launching of Le Marais Bakery on Chestnut Street in July 2013. In September this year, he carried his dream further by opening Le Marais Bistro, expanding the space adjacent to the bakery to accommodate tables, both indoor and out, to seat 60.

Le Marais is named after the Paris district known for its outstanding Mediterranean food, so to create a menu blending classic Mediterranean dishes with artisanal traditions, especially spices and locally grown and sourced ingredients, Ascaso enlisted executive chef and A16 veteran Nicolette Manescalchi and a “power team” of other accomplished sous chefs and pastry chefs.

The bistro, which is separate from the bakery, has a light, open feel, accented by reclaimed California redwood and Bundt pan light fixtures. While the bakery and cafe bustle with customers lining up for Stumptown coffee, house-made pastries and sandwiches during the day, Le Marais Bistro is much quieter at night. The seasonally changing menu offers an ample selection of dishes with European and California influences. Starters include beef carpaccio with fried mustard seed, mizuna (Japanese greens), and turmeric aioli ($14) and Alma paprika peppers stuffed with hazelnuts, anchovy, breadcrumbs, and agrumato (olive oil pressed with lemons) ($9). Salads range from a tomato levain panzanella with chicories, tomatoes, a soft-cooked egg, and bacon vinaigrette, ($13) to farm lettuces with radish, herbs and lemon ($9). A late-summer soup was chilled beet and red pepper with seeded levain, sheep-milk cheese, and pimenton paprika ($10).

Le Marais features three pasta dishes, including saffron scialatielli, or fat spaghetti, with two kinds of clams, mussels, white wine, and tomatoes ($18) and trenne pasta, much like rigatoni, with eggplant, olives, crispy lamb sausage, and smoked caciocavallo cheese ($17). There are also three mains: When I visited in October, they included a crusted albacore tuna with charred corn, shelling beans, and anise ($28); and a rosehip-and-cumin-spiced half chicken with mint-almond chutney, pickled grapes, and olive levain crouton ($25).

Desserts are both classically French and modern, including a vanilla panna cotta with plum cardamom sorbet and marcona almond streusel ($8), and a sumptuous milk chocolate hazelnut bar with Stumptown coffee ice cream and hazelnut praline ($9). The wine and beer list is comprised of selections from mostly family-owned and smaller-production wineries from California and Europe and both local and European beers.

This little cafe is still settling in, but for a pre- or post-movie date in the Marina, its simple yet authentically French fare and homey atmosphere hit the mark.

Le Marais Bistro: 2066 Chestnut Street, 415-359-9801,; Sunday–Thursday, 5:30–10 p.m., Friday–Saturday, 5:30–11 p.m. (The cafe and bakery are open daily 7:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.)

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