As Jardinière comes up on its 15th anniversary next week, the swanky Hayes Valley spot has announced some big changes: namely, a wholesale revision of its food menu, complete with drastically reduced prices. Chef Traci des Jardins' entrees, which previously ran $32-40, have been cut down to $23-28, and surprisingly, the offerings are more or less the same (the menu currently on their site offers salmon, duck, lamb, albacore tuna, and hen, while the new menu boasts salmon, duck, lamb, chicken, and New York strip steak).
The likely culprit in this shift is none other than the Chronicle's Michael Bauer, who blasted the restaurant's prices in a January review, knocking it down from three-and-a-half to three stars based solely on the tab. In April, he also removed it from his Top 100 Restaurants list, again citing price as a determining factor: "The food is still excellent, but prices are high. In January 2011, main courses were $32-$38; a year later, the range was $35-$44. Plus, there’s an additional 4 percent San Francisco surcharge."
Adding credence to the Bauer-did-it theory, the price changes really only address his entree-related complaints. Appetizers didn't see a price drop (they were previously $14-19, and are now $13-18), and prices in the pasta section also remained constant, though each of the three pastas, formerly only available as appetizer-sized portions, can now also be ordered as entrees (previously $18-19, and now $18-22 for smaller portions and $24-29 for larger ones). The tasting menu also remains steady at $110, but unlike the previous incarnation, which featured mostly unique offerings, most of the food is now drawn from the regular menu. The Monday night prix-fixe (which our own Leanne Maxwell has cited as a good deal in the past) will continue, and the wine, beer, and cocktail menu in the lounge has been expanded.
To Des Jardins' credit, the food on the new menu continues to be sourced primarily from local and organic farms, which she cites by name at the bottom of the first page. Considering that Jardinière plays to an older pre-theater/pre-opera crowd that's not likely to take kindly to unusual forms of protein like beef cheeks and squid (to name a couple of regular players on top-level SF menus), she has to be taking a pretty big financial hit in the name of pleasing the city's most powerful food critic. Anyhow, the one-time Top Chef contestant played off Bauer's influence explaining, "Of course there has to be value, and we hope our diners find that, but this is more to address the needs and comments of regular customers than it is to address the criticisms of any one person."