La Folie's food was excellent, but the service and ambience pushed this dining experience to the top. We felt at ease the minute we walked though the door. They welcomed us graciously, as if we were treasured longtime customers, instead of first-timers. Wait staff were unhurried, personable, took time to explain and listen, seemed genuinely friendly, without being unctuous, patronizingly chatty or artificially interested.
Even though the restaurant offers fine dining, it retains the small-scale intimate feel of an elegant, romantic neighborhood restaurant.
I went for the five-course dinner. What impressed me most of all was that each dish consisted of a creative combination of contrasting and/or complementary flavors and textures, stunningly presented. For instance, my first course, the Dungeness Crab Salad consisted of succulent moist chunks of crab sandwiched between two thin and crisp yellow curry tuiles. All of this rested on a base of creamy yet firm English pea panna cotta. The dish was fresh and delicate, its flavors subtly pronounced. The crab was the star, the English pea and yellow curry flavors were discernible yet did not overwhelm the crab. It was a strong start to the meal.
As you can select more than one item from every category except the pountry/meat group, I followed this starter with two seafood courses: "Seared Day Boat Scallop and Sautéed Sweetbreads, Morel Mushrooms, Almond Pistou,Truffle Bacon Vinaigrette" and "Pan Roasted Black Cod, Smoked Mussel stuffed Squash Blossom, Fennel-Saffron Sauce." This was the first time I'd ever tasted squash blossoms stuffed with smoked mussels. Loved it. The fennel-saffron sauce was delightful counterpart.
My final savory dish was "Rôti of Quail and Squab stuffed with Wild Mushrooms, Wrapped in Crispy Potato Strings, Truffled Jus." I savored every bite. The presentation and aroma were so enticing, our neighbors couldn't help but ask what dish I had ordered so that they could order the same. The dungeness crab salad and the quail and squab were overall my favorite dishes. The savory courses started and ended on a high.
I had the "Valrhona Caraibe Chocolate Mousse, Beet Sponge Cake, Lychee-White Chocolate Macaroon, Hibiscus Sorbet" for dessert. A pastry chef seated at an adjacent table couldn't resist asking what I had ordered. The dessert choices were all tempting, it was hard to pick just one.
My husband ordered three courses: "Lobster and Mushroom Risotto (with shavings of white truffle)"; the Black Cod; and "Roasted Emigh Farm Lamb Chop with Butter Beans, Fava Bean and Goat Cheese Puree, Smoked Lamb Bacon" He was particularly impressed with the generous serving of lamb (which was perfectly done)--and, as we live in New Zealand, my husband isn't easily impressed by lamb preparations. He also loved the risotto, which he found just al dente enough (though he found the truffle too mild).
We enjoyed our meal with a bottle of Scharffenberger Brut Rose. The restaurant will waive the corkage fee if you also purchase a bottle of wine, so for our poultry/meat courses we popped open a Pinot Noir that we brought along.
I noticed some reviewers here and on other sites compare La Folie to Gary Danko and the latter often wins out. We also ate at Gary Danko a few days after dining at La Folie, and found the food of equal standard to La Folie, although I found the flavor combinations of La Folie more imaginative and the particular dishes I ordered more complex at La Folie. In advance of dining at both restaurants, I studied the reviews here, which probably saved me from ordering dishes that might have disappointed.
We had a beautiful time at La Folie. Oddly, when we lived in Marin for 23 years, we never ate here. We feared trying to find parking in this neighborhood, but the restaurant offers valet parking for $15. Worth it. When we next visit San Francisco, we will definitely try to return to La Folie.