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Chapeau! (1408 Clement St., San Francisco) – Despite a zillion trips to San Francisco, I’ve never eaten at this Richmond District bastion of traditional bistrohood, though I have walked by it a few times. Chapeau! is chaotic, crowded, and always on the edge of disaster, yet it works in the way that really good locals-only restaurants all over France do. The menu is nearly-indecipherable insanity, the wine list is classic French (both a good and a bad thing), but everything is just loads of fun. I inhale a majestic cassoulet – the best I’ve had on this side of the Atlantic – and banter with Philippe (the owner) about the tiniest of improvements he could make to what is, after all, one of my favorite dishes on the planet. (8/04)


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