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Royale Brasserie Bar
224 Fifth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter
619-237-4900

If you've a yearning for the life of a moneyed fin de siècle Paris bohemian, then surely in some past incarnation you must have frequented restaurants that looked very much like the Royale Brasserie. Vast but sectioned into intimate boîtes, retro but shiny new, the restaurant is a mass of eye-filling and witty Art Nouveau artisan detail -- a multiroom reproduction of a world long gone. But amidst all the delicious retro detail, the heart of the action is a 21st-century gleaming, glass-walled exhibition kitchen of awesome scope. There, Hawaiian-born, San Francisco-raised chef Hans-Trevor Gossman turns out creditable and delicious versions of Gallic bistro classics -- with a few twists of his own, such as an enchanting tartare of dayboat yellowfin and a sophisticated, buttery cold terrine of foie gras served with rhubarb compote. But the star of the show -- it's like having a movie star walk in; you just have to get over it before you can concentrate on anything else -- is the "plateau de fruits de mer," a multi-tiered assortment of fresh, cold shellfish of many species, accompanied by many dressings. The portion options are huge and humongous. Share a plateau with a friend or three (or more for the large size), and it's guaranteed you'll be closer friends by the time you're done.

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