Foreign Cinema: A Whole New (Delicious) Meaning to “Dinner and a Movie”

19 Jun

Foreign Cinema, a quiet and elegant spot seemingly hidden amid the loud chaos of Mission Street, takes dinner and a movie very seriously. Every night, starting just after sunset, the restaurant plays foreign, independent and classic films for the benefit of the diners sitting on the patio. (Currently the movie is “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”—click here for their movie schedule.) But even if you don’t make the movie—which can be difficult to do in the summer, when the sun sets as late as 8:30 PM—the dinner is well worth the trip.

I went with my family on a Monday night during Dine About Town*, which meant the reservation options were slim and the restaurant full. However, they were still able to accommodate us easily when we asked for an outdoor table instead of the indoor one they had set up.

Walking in through the giant steel doors, you are greeted with a long and beautifully lit hallway—red carpet and all—leading to the hostess stand. The indoor dining room is chic but understated, with a clean and minimal décor of mostly white tablecloths and chestnut wood. The outdoor patio looks similar but with strings of lights overhead, while heat lamps and a clear canopy over most of the ceiling made it comfortable even on a cool June night. Large, rustic windows separate the indoor and outdoor dining rooms, making both spaces feel bigger than they are. And for a nice bonus, a small modern art gallery off the outdoor patio serves as both an attraction while you are waiting for your food and a bar-equipped private party venue.

the patio

Our waitress was extremely knowledgeable and very nice, and was very accommodating when we asked about our nut allergies. The bread turned out to be nut-friendly (but my fellow allergic sister and I still chose the white bread over the wheat one just to be safe), and our entrees were as well. The only thing that was not safe was the calamari my father had ordered, but she offered to put the sauce on the side or to remove it entirely, and we chose the latter.

Two sweet, tiny Kumamoto oysters on the half shell with mignonette sauce were a wonderful start to the meal, followed by Indian-spiced calamari baked with romesco sauce (but without the sauce for us). The calamari was incredibly tender and flavorful, served in a great broth with slices of toasted bread. We waited about 20 or 30 minutes for our entrees after they had cleared our appetizers, but it was worth the wait.

I had the king salmon with black rice, asparagus, carrots, sweet onions and microbasil. The salmon was buttery, flaky and light, while the black rice was cooked perfectly—tender, but still tough enough to have a great contrasting texture. The asparagus was sliced into half-inch pieces, and the onion and carrots were chopped finely, adding another subtle layer of flavor (the asparagus was amazingly sweet and flavorful). I would have loved a slightly larger serving size, but I was still satisfied after finishing it.

king salmon

My brother and father had the bavette steak with endive and butter beans, while my mother and sister had the sole, and both dishes were very well-received. I hadn’t checked about nuts for the steak so I had to take my brother’s terse and non-helpful words for it, but I can attest to the fact that the sole was delicious—light and flaky, it had a beautiful golden crust and a smoky flavor. It was served with an aioli-style sauce of eggs, Dijon mustard, chives and parsley, which complemented it wonderfully. The dish also included roasted potatoes (confirmed to be roasted in grape seed oil), which had a seemingly impossible combination of crispy skin and an inside so tender and soft it just fell apart in your mouth.

bavette steak


Unfortunately we didn’t have room for dessert, but did have some great coffee. The meal was definitely not cheap (thanks, Dad!), but everyone agreed it was delicious. Definitely recommended! But if you’re watching your spending, it may have to be relegated to the special-occasion list, at least for dinner. I hear they have a great brunch, so that’s always another option.


  • Food: 8.5
  • Presentation: 8
  • Menu: 7
  • Service: 7
  • Ambiance: 9
  • Allergy-friendliness: 7
  • Cost: $$$

Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Foreign Cinema
2534 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-7600

See a sample menu here

*I can’t speak to the Dine About Town experience here because we did not order off that menu. Sorry!


3 Responses to “Foreign Cinema: A Whole New (Delicious) Meaning to “Dinner and a Movie””

  1. Rick June 19, 2011 at 7:22 PM #

    I’ve been there also. I agree with the author. The food was outstanding. I recommend it highly!

  2. FreeSpiritEater June 24, 2011 at 7:55 AM #

    Wow, this seems like a real gem of a place. I’ve never been to California but if I’m ever in the area this looks like a place that’s definitely worth checking out, I love dinner and a movie themes, its reminiscent of much simpler times. Thanks so much for sharing! =]

  3. Manuel September 25, 2014 at 6:02 PM #

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