Thursday night delights: Melissa Claire cooks at Velo Rouge in San Francisco

Last night I went to Velo Rouge, a cafe on Arguello Boulevard (corner McAllister) just north of Golden Gate Park, for the weekly (Thursday) four-course prix fixe dinner hosted by Melissa Axelrod, a chef who runs a catering business. I signed up for the dinner because I like the idea of dining on communal tables. It’s a great way to meet people in the city. Indeed, I was not disappointed. I had very interesting and amusing conversations with those who shared our table.

The other reason I came to the dinner is that Melissa creates a menu based on fresh, local organic ingredients. There’s an element of surprise and anticipation. Initiatives like this — a chef who takes over a cafe once a week to cook meals based on fresh local ingredients — are becoming popular around the world. Having a short menu that changes every week (versus the traditional restaurant menu) satisfies our desire to eat fresh, locally sourced food and reduces the amount of food that is thrown away. And, back to the social aspect, it’s fun to dine at communal tables.

The food

– Local albacore tuna confit over fresh cranberry beans and Treviso radicchio salad

– Puree of artichoke soup with lemon chive crème fraiche and thyme croutons (this was very refined, light and savory)

– Herb braised local lamb, fresh corn polenta with a cherry tomato and green olive relish OR hand-made ricotta, melted leek and pecorino ravioli with a spicy broccoli rabe sauce (I opted for the ravioli which was delicious and again, light and fresh)

– Cream puffs (vanilla custard and whipped cream) with warm chocolate and salted caramel sauces

I did not feel stuffed at the end of the dinner because the portion sizes were perfect. I was concerned that a four-course dinner would be too much, but this one was just right. Each dish was well balanced; no one flavor overwhelmed another. The price: $45 (excluding wine), cash only.

The menu changes weekly so don’t expect the same thing next week, although you might want to look out for the apple galettes with cinnamon ice cream, which was “divine” according to Thursday evening regulars.

To reserve:

Thursday nights (6:15 pm and 8:00 pm sittings)
Velo Rouge Cafe
798 Arguello Boulevard
San Francisco, CA
+1 415 752 7799

For more information:

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About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.