BiteClub, Restaurants

French Garden: Closed

If you know anything about Dan Smith, the owner of Sebastopol's French Garden Restaurant & Brasserie, you know that local boy-turned-entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist-
turned-restauranteur doesn't go down without a fight. Though he's struggled to attain his ambitious vision of a Michelin-starred farm-to-table eatery after two chef departures and mixed reviews of the cuisine since opening in 2006, he's far from throwing in the towel. In fact, he seems more excited about the restaurant than ever

If you know anything about Dan Smith, the owner of Sebastopol’s French Garden Restaurant & Brasserie, you know that local boy-turned-entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist-
turned-restauranteur
doesn’t go down without a fight. Though he’s struggled to attain his
ambitious vision of a Michelin-starred farm-to-table eatery after two
chef departures and mixed reviews of the cuisine since opening in 2006,
he’s far from throwing in the towel. In fact, he seems more excited
about the restaurant than ever.
After bidding au revoir to recent chef Christophe Bony, Smith conducted an extensive chef hunt which included “tryouts” by at least two very well known SoCo chefs. Very well-known.
Neither was a fit but BiteClub got the news this week that Smith has named Frenchman Didier Gerbi (a Craigslist find, no less) to the position. Recently arrived from the Languedoc region of southern France, Didier will be overhauling the menu to better reflect more Mediterranean influences
over the next few weeks. He’s also been tasked with better utilizing
the farm’s produce (Smith says it’s a rare chef who actually gets the
farm-to-table philosophy) and moving the price point down from
the current $23 to $30 entrees to a more approachable $20 range.
Appetizers and second courses will move into the $10 to $15 range. “We
want it to be more flexible and affordable. More of a tasting menu,”
Smith tells BiteClub.
In addition to the changes in the kitchen
(Pierre Lagourge, former owner of Chez Peyo remains on the team), Smith
also tell us he’s doing some serious work on the interior to
make it more cozy. And less like a warehouse. Aware of the
extensiveness of the former Marty’s Top ‘O the Hill space, the focus is
on making the dining room less formal and “warmer”.
The restaurant is scheduled to be closed for about five days at the end of this month but will reopen with the new menu and look in early August. Stay tuned.
French Garden Restaurant and Brasserie, 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, 707- 824-2030

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4 thoughts on “French Garden: Closed

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  2. Too bad this pretentious restaurant has just ok food, terrible service and an arrogant owner. A perfect place for the elder riche of Sebastopol to hang out and pretend they like it there.
    We really miss the fun of Martys Top O the Hill, sigh, those were the good old days! I’m not even a cowgirl, but I liked the fun and dancing at Martys. At least it was real.
    And by the way Jardin is the French word for garden so why is it not just called Jardin?

  3. This place is a rip off and a shame. Food is so horrible and the service non-existant, the decor awful, that they should have gone outta business along time ago. Now the owner is screwing up another business in our county, Palm Drive Hospital. Dan Smith should resign from both places as he is an arrogant, ego-driven snob who does not care about anyone but himself. Get a life and go live in NAPA, Dan. They like that sort of stuff over there. LEAVE!

  4. Posted By: Jack (22/09/2008 7:53:28 PM)
    Comment: Out-of-town friends who are Googlers insisted we take them to the French Garden for their supper the night before their same-sex wedding at the end of September 2008. At 6:30, the FG was out of the “lamb” whereupon the chef sent out a demitasse cup of butter dubbed “pumpkin soup.” The FG salad was okay, and the steak was okay but its companions on the plate were two ridiculous tiny carrots and two scoops of unintentionally cold “air potatoes.” The temperature in the FG itself was so hot and humid that patrons begged that the door to the patio be opened. What a ridiculous pretense. Never again. Be warned. Be afraid. Be very afraid. We were ripped off.
    Posted By: Jack (22/09/2008 7:49:30 PM)
    Comment: Out-of-town friends who are Googlers insisted we take them to the French Garden for their supper the night before their same-sex wedding at the end of September 2008. At 6:30, the FG was out of the
    Posted By: Local Caesar Lover (12/08/2008 8:07:57 AM)
    Comment: My husband and I went to French Garden for lunch on Sunday. We were both starving and looking forward to eating out on the weekend. We both ordered the Caesar Salad ($10) and shared the Antipasta Plate ($10). The Antipasta plate had two thin slices of cheese, some proscuitto, salami, three olives, one tiny piece of bell pepper, and two artichoke hearts. It looked like the smallest antipasta plate I had ever seen. Then came the Caesars – each had four leaves of romaine lying side by side. The dressing was drizzled over each piece with whole anchovies. The advertised cherry tomotoes turned out to be one (count that – one) tomotato in the corner of the plate. We were so shocked we almost started laughing. Sure, if they want to serve four pieces of lettuce as a $10 salad, they have that right. But shouldn’t the waitress have warned us that we may want to order something more? I was so irritated and still hungry!!! Needless to say we left hungry and disappointed with $40 less in bank. I will never return and take heed – neither should you.
    Posted By: sandy chronic (06/08/2008 10:17:38 PM)
    Comment: love it. I had the lamb, he had the beef wellington. Delicious. Nice service. i agree that the interior could use a little more coziness, but at the same time I like not being on top of the table next to us. The bar always seems to be popping! or at least when I’ve been. This place is quality, I am a fan. We’ll have to check the new chef.
    Posted By: frequent feeder (04/08/2008 12:29:11 AM)
    Comment: Ate there once, never returned. Probably wasn’t fair of me — but the service was terrible (lost our entire order) and when the food came, it only vaguely resembled what we ordered. The “bouillabaisse” was nothing like any bouillabaisse I’ve eaten before, in Mediterranean France or elsewhere. A real disappointment. And when I say the service was bad, I’m not actually blaming the poor server, who seemed to be doing her best. She seemed woefully untrained (had to help her with the wine opener) and it appeared that the kitchen was in total chaos that night, which resulted in our order being lost. Note to Heather Irwin: I love what you’re doing with the column, and please keep up the good work…but you should really learn how to spell “restaurateur” or make sure your editor knows how to spell it. Forgiveable error as it’s a tough word to spell, but in a food column it’s important.
    Posted By: junior (29/07/2008 11:51:50 PM)
    Comment: Ouch with a capital OUCH! That had to hurt. There are enough good restaurants in this town for one to fade away.
    Posted By: insider (28/07/2008 12:22:03 AM)
    Comment: In response to “Michelin Guide”, as a former employee of French Garden I can tell you that what Smith needs to do is be willing to pay people what they deserve. He would rather pay some unexperienced pawn that he can bully around for $10 an hour than pay someone with experience the extra $2 it would take. He also needs to step off of the high horse he thinks he’s on and let the chef do his job. While I was there he came into the kitchen constantly, like a shark looking for prey. Nothing was ever good enough. The morale in the kitchen was dead. He also could treat his workers with a little respect. In the 4 months that I managed to work there, I saw 2 workers show up for work and be fired on the spot, replacements already hired. Also, I heard about 2 other employees that had the same thing happen to them. Smith’s method of running a business is to scare everyone into thinking that at any point you might be fired. That he is constantly vigilant and unimpressed. That you are expendable. What he needs to do is figure out that he should throw in the towel, because after all of the postings on craig’s list, anyone with experience could tell that 4 chefs in 6 months is not good odds. Having to rehire the whole back of house is not a good sign(which is what’s been listed on craig’s list in the last month). What person with experience is willingly going to start work there? I don’t know think a “real team” with restaurant experience is in the future at FG. We’ll see how long this new chef lasts.
    Posted By: Michelin Guide (24/07/2008 10:30:18 PM)
    Comment: What Smith needs to do is just be the owner and hire a real team with restaurant experience run the place. A local chef with experience (not another European import that doesn’t know what locals want) and a real GM, not a former construction company administrator. Want a Michelin star? then lose the family portraits and cut out the interpretive dance sessions and performances that take place in the dining room…and season your food.
    Posted By: Chris (24/07/2008 11:49:02 AM)
    Comment: I wish you so much luck! This could be….. a GRAND place…. so let’s pray this Frenchman can do the Trick… We all want you to succeed.
    Posted By: Someone (22/07/2008 6:22:58 PM)
    Comment: Mike Ellis from Dry Creek Kithchen new Chef at Barn Diva.
    Posted By: Al Koholic (21/07/2008 11:47:55 PM)
    Comment: I asked the waiter if they had frog legs–he said he’d check–so I told him to hop over the bar and fetch me a drink.
    Posted By: YWV (19/07/2008 9:41:33 AM)
    Comment: I have never had a bad meal at the French Garden. The restaurant has always had a warm and welcoming feeling to me. The service is perfect. This is the place I always take guests and family for special occasions. This is a local business with a local commitment both in food and to the community. A real treasure in Sebastopol, I hope they do not change to much.
    Posted By: MJ (16/07/2008 11:01:05 PM)
    Comment: I’ve never been there, but I heard the mushrooms are excellent.
    Posted By: http:// (16/07/2008 9:51:47 PM)
    Comment: Ya third chef in the last six months…Who ya going to hype up this time.
    Posted By: Jark (16/07/2008 11:24:05 AM)
    Comment: In this age of localism, the menu has always been too “pitty-poo pretend” and expensive to let FG survive. Among locals, it’s a joke that the sniffy FG can’t even print the “dollar sign” on its price list! That’s the tip of the “affectation iceberg” for a venue that no amount of attitude or cuisine or redecorating or magical thinking can change the fact that it’s still “Marty’s Top o’ the Hill.” When will some restaurant owner “get it” that Sebastopol needs a good restaurant that can cater nightly to locals with variety and taste and nutrition and prices that are “average,” especially for locals who like to eat out in town two nights a week. In Sebastopol, the saying is, “Such and such a restaurant is our kitchen away from home.” Is it let-them-eat-cake irony that the FG wants to use its “farm nearby the restaurant” while it caters mainly to wine-and-gas-guzzling tourists even as locals, instead of eating “nearby,” have to drive to Santa Rosa and other towns up and down the 101 corridor?
    Posted By: Laura (16/07/2008 8:16:30 AM)
    Comment: If they would just turn down those bright lights that would help make the restaurant a big warmer. Food was good but the restaurant is very cavernous and the lighting made it seem like we were dining in a supermarket

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