Starting Thursday, April 7, diners will once again be able to slide into a tufted leather banquette to dine under skirted chandeliers at Villon, the praiseworthy and “eclectic cool” restaurant on the bottom floor of the San Francisco Proper Hotel. For two long years, the restaurant’s been mostly dormant, open for breakfast, lunch, and cocktails primarily to serve hotel guests and entirely closed for dinner. Now executive chef Jason Fox, who came to the hotel not long before the pandemic upended everything, is ready and able to roll out the tight but technique-driven dinner menu he’s been dreaming up for years.
Fox, previously executive chef and owner of Michelin-starred Commonwealth (which closed following a landlord dispute in 2019), says he’s drawing inspiration from a number of sources when it comes to the new menu. For one, he’s looking to the aesthetics of hotel, which gives “early pre-modernist European styles” a modern update. He was also mulling over the restaurant’s location near the art and theater district of the city and hopes to bring a little theatricality into the dining room. Finally, he’s leaning into the diversity of produce grown around northern California — from Japanese citrus to Italian chicory — to give the menu a distinctly Californian sense of place.
The result is a menu that meanders from San Francisco classics like a seafood tower to a dim sum-inspired scallop and shrimp roll to beef tartare with the unexpected addition of pear kimchi. Riffing on old-school institutions and their elegant service style, there’s also a two-item dinner for 2 that stars a gem lettuce, smoked mushroom, and beet salad, as well as lamb grilled over redwood — both of which will be rolled out into the dining room on carts. The team’s also playing around with some interesting cooking techniques: roasting carrots over hay to serve with date ice cream and grilling spring asparagus over charcoal.
On the beverage side, the clever San Francisco-themed menu Bon Vivants Hospitality (Trick Dog, Chezchez) first crafted for the bar in 2017 is back — with a notable new addition. Bon Vivants’ Josh Harris says the modular 7x7 menu, which features an impressive seven themed sections of seven classic cocktails for a total of 49 drinks, now includes a section of non-alcoholic cocktails. There’s an “unprecedented” number of zero-proof ingredients available to bartenders these days, Harris says, adding that he’s excited to be bringing in two non-alcoholic vermouths from Martini & Rossi plus Ghia, a non-alcoholic drink with a similar flavor profile as an aperitivo.
At 45 seats in the high-style dining room and lobby lounge, Villon remains relatively small but ambitious. The restaurant will continue to serve breakfast, lunch, and cocktails, and will open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. starting April 7.