The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
December 11, 2018
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Ayala’s dining room. Photo: Grace Sager.

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Ebert’s abalone. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

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Seafood charcuterie. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

Now open in Union Square’s Hotel G in the former 398 Brasserie space is ~AYALA~, a seafood-focused restaurant with chef-partner Bill Montagne, executive chef Melissa Perfit (Bar Crudo, Hard Water), GM Essam Kardosh (Del Popolo), wine director Nick Tilly (who will also be working with Essam), and bar director Julian Cox (Tartine).

As I mentioned in a previous piece, the menu highlights California seafood designed to be shared. You’ll be able to start with selections from the raw bar—with oysters, and seasonal picks like Dungeness crab, and Santa Barbara uni (with shiso, cucumber and yuzu tobiko)—plus crudos, seafood “charcuterie” (including black cod with kombu and chartreuse), cioppino verde, nori spaghettini with Dungeness crab and white miso, and meaty dishes as well, like Full Tilt Farms roasted chicken with glazed trumpets and maitake mushroom stuffing.

The wine program was curated by Nick Tilly and Essam Kardosh, highlighting both old and new world coastal vineyards, primarily organic, biodynamic, or natural wines from smaller producers. The cocktail and martini program by bar director Julian Cox pairs spirits by boutique and unique producers with seasonal ingredients from local farms to showcase a rotating, nautical-themed list, including large-format drinks.

The style of the 1,400-square-foot restaurant (with 94 seats) is designed to feel fun and neighborhood-y, and the way it’s laid out makes it easy to swing by for bubbles and oysters, or a full meal. There are three areas: the Oysterette (a loungey extension of the bar, flanking the street, with a velvet banquette and marble-topped tables), the Dining Room (which is a little more private, with ash tables and navy banquettes), and the Raw Bar, with a standing communal bar under an arched ceiling.

Open nightly for dinner 5:30pm-10pm, with Martini Hour Mon-Thu 4:30pm-5:30pm and Fri-Sat 4pm-5:30pm. 398 Geary St. at Mason, 415-374-7971.

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Unagi and butterfish arancini. Photo: Nicole Parisi.

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Tropical fruit creamsicle brûlée. Photo: Nicole Parisi.

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The bar at Trailblazer Tavern. Photo: Kelly Puleio.

Michael Mina’s latest project, ~TRAILBLAZER TAVERN~, in partnership with Hawaiian-born chefs Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka of Honolulu’s MW Restaurant, is now open in the Salesforce East building.

The project is a big one: 7,000 square feet! Designed by Bishop Pass, there’s a mezzanine for up to 72 guests that overlooks the lobby, while the main dining room and bar have 34-foot ceilings, with 24 seats at the bar (with a white bar top and teal blue base) and 47 seats at a mix of standard tables, banquette seating, booths, and more. Deep orange, sea blue, trellises, and green foliage create a tropical feeling. The private dining space holds up to 18 guests, plus the outdoor patio can seat 54 guests at rattan furnishings and colorful tables and chairs (there are also heaters and string lights). The accordion-style glass doors will open on the ground level on nicer days.

The menus of elevated Hawaiian comfort classics include shareable dishes of sashimi, poke, crudo, pupus, and dim sum, plus favorites from MW Restaurant: unagi and butterfish arancini with nori tsukudani and kabayaki mustard, and SPAM musubi with housemade, mochi-crusted, smoked pork-arabiki meatloaf. There’s a mixed plate sandwich (spicy Korean pork, kalbi, fried chicken, and mochi hoagie bread); mochi-crusted fish with somen noodles, assorted banchan, and yuzu kosho-soy vinaigrette; and Hawaiian-style stew and rice, with oxtail, corned beef, pork belly, and peanut risotto.

Desserts look fun, like a tropical fruit creamsicle brûlée with lilikoi sorbet, tapioca pearls, tropical fruits, and lilikoi custard; malasada bread pudding with banana kinako ice cream and miso apple cream; and coffee and cream shaved ice.

The cocktail menu from Brian Means is full of craft tropical cocktails, local and Hawaiian beers, a private selection of bourbon and Japanese whiskey, and the wine program from Rajat Parr features a boutique, 100-bottle wine list with an emphasis on “low-intervention wines” from around the world.

Open Mon-Fri 11am-2pm for lunch and Mon-Sat 5pm-10pm for dinner. Happy hour is Mon-Fri 3pm-6pm. 350 Mission St. at Fremont, 415-625-5445.

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The pozole verde from El Pípila. Photo by John Ater.

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Chef and owner Guadalupe Guerrero of El Pípila. Photo courtesy of La Cocina.

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Khao mun gai at Gai. Yelp photo by Brandon R.

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Paper Rooster’s Emperor: Chinese roast chicken, crispy chicken skin, housemade dill pickles, hoisin mayo, spring onions. Photo courtesy of Paper Rooster.

Big congrats to Guadalupe Guerrero and her daughters Brenda and Alejandra on getting their brick-and-mortar location of ~EL PÍPILA~ open in SoMa! We last got to enjoy their pozole verde and other authentic dishes from Guanajuato when they had a stand in The Hall on Market Street (you may also know their stand at Off the Grid Fort Mason).

Guerrero is a graduate of La Cocina’s business incubator program, and she has such an inspiring story. When she emigrated to the United States in 1998, she worked 12-hour days at a taqueria in Berkeley, seven days a week, in order to save up enough money to bring her two daughters here. She was accepted to La Cocina in 2012, and they have been working on putting together her restaurant for five years.

It’s located right across from Airbnb in a new building (condos), and thanks to Schwartz and Architecture, who offered their services pro bono, plus developer Equity Residential, various contractors, and in-kind donations from Fox Marble, Ceramic Tile Design, Ann Sachs, One Workplace, Delta Millworks, The Culinary Edge, Design is Play, and PritchardPeck Lighting who all helped bring this to fruition.

How incredible to pull this all off—and now we get to enjoy dishes like bigote dorado (a large corn masa pocket filled with carne asada, lettuce, crema, and queso fresco); classics like sopes topped with picadillo, chicken, or nopales made with fresh masa from Oakland’s La Finca Tortillería and crisped on the griddle; and enchiladas mineras: three corn tortillas filled with potato, carrot, and zucchini in a tomato-onion sauce topped with lettuce, crema, and queso fresco. You’ll also find tacos (their carnitas!), salads, chiles rellenos, and more on the menu.

Can’t wait to come in and salute these three hard-working women! Hours for now are Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, with hours extending to daily 10am-7pm in 2019. 879 Brannan St. at 8th St.

Some other openings for your radar:

The chicken and rice (khao mun gai) place opening in the former Sofia Cafe, ~GAI~, is now open. Bring on the poached chicken, chicken fat rice, broth, and sauces! Open daily 11am-9pm. 3463 16th St. at Church. [Via Hoodline.]

I received word that there’s a new Chinese-American sandwich shop that has opened in the former The Chairman location on Larkin called ~PAPER ROOSTER~. SF native and owner Stanley Yee has created a menu with awesome-sounding sandwiches, like Chinese roast chicken in six different sandwiches, with sauces like XO sauce, Chinese chimichurri, plus Vietnamese pickles, Chinese hot mustard (yes!), and more, along with a couple vegetarian sandwiches. There are also housemade chips, from shrimp to salt and pepper to sriracha, and housemade sodas as well, with his own syrups. I’ll be checking this one out stat, stand by for more. Open Mon-Sat 11am-3pm. 670 Larkin St. at Ellis.

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The exterior of Seven Hills. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

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Azalina’s laksa with hand-pulled noodles (and it’s vegan!). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I just love seeing some of the things that sizzle on the ABC liquor license transfer wires, especially when it involves our dear Azalina Eusope opening ~AZALINA’S~ in the former Contigo space in Noe Valley! She doesn’t want to talk about details just yet, but is very excited to share an update soon. For now, we can dream of being able to sit and enjoy her beautiful laksa and Malaysian curries with a glass of wine in a chic restaurant space, with real bowls and plates. I can’t wait to hear more. For now, continue to enjoy her casual counter in The Market in the Twitter building. I love her cooking so much, and I know many others do too—she has a busy catering business, but this is definitely an exciting development. 1320 Castro St. at 24th St.

A switcheroo on Russian Hill: ~SEVEN HILLS~ is going to be moving from its cozy digs (seriously, have you ever seen the size of that tiny kitchen?) into the Stones Throw space (1896 Hyde St. at Green) after the location’s seismic retrofit is finished next year. Look for an expanded menu and more. [Via Eater.]

In the meantime, keep following their Instagram to see when they’re serving their veal osso buco with saffron risotto again—I had some last winter, and it was a dream dish on a cold night. 1550 Hyde St. at Pacific, 415-775-1550.

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Jay Foster doing his magic at Isla Vida. Photo: Melissa de Mata.

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Now that’s an egg sandwich (on housemade English muffins). At Theorita. Photo via Facebook.

Man, some definite bummers in here, starting with the closure of ~FARMERBROWN~ after holding it down at the corner of Mason and Turk in the thick of the Tenderloin for 13 years. It really is so hard to operate a restaurant in SF these days—so much work for not enough profit. You can read more in the Chronicle piece here. Fortunately, you can still catch chef-owner Jay Foster at his new project, Isla Vida. But still, what a shame, farmerbrown had a lot of original soul and vibes. Thanks for all the memories and trailblazing in that neighborhood, Jay.

Another unfortunate old-timer is throwing in the towel: after a couple years of trying to sell the business, owner Sidney Weinstein of ~PAULINE’S PIZZA~ is retiring and closing the pizzeria on December 21st. She sold the building, which she owns with her husband Ray, to a nearby elementary and middle school. The restaurant has been open since 1985, known for its vegetarian pies, pesto pizza, garden-fresh ingredients, and one of the most memorable and quirky bathrooms. Thanks for all the meals over the years! She will continue to run her farm, so the restaurants she supplies can continue to enjoy her beautiful produce. 260 Valencia St. at Brosnan, 415-552-2050. [Via Eater.]

~THEORITA~, the diner-inspired restaurant downstairs from Che Fico is serving its last brunch on December 16th (it just opened in August)—you can come by for pie, coffee, and pastries until December 24th (8am-3pm). The closure is due to a multitude of reasons that are plaguing many businesses in SF: staffing, size, and not a high-enough check average to keep things going. Partners Angela Pinkerton, Matt Brewer, and David Nayfeld are relaunching in spring with a new concept. [Via Eater.]

I am sorry to learn the Castro’s ~HEARTH COFFEE~ is also closing on Sunday December 16th, after being in business for four years. The café and roaster are for sale in case someone is looking. Darn! It was one of my favorite meeting spots, and their baked goods were awesome. Best wishes to them. 3985 17th St. at Castro. [Via Hoodline.]

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A brisket quesadilla with horseradish crema, pickled beets, and parsley from Tacos Oscar. OMG. Instagram photo via @tacososcar.

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Mixiote’s incredible morita salsa and lamb tacos at last year’s SF Street Food Fest. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I wanted to make sure to pass along some great East Bay news, starting with the opening of ~TACOS OSCAR~’s first brick-and-mortar location—complete with 49 outdoor seats—after chefs-owners Oscar Michel and Jake Weiss have held many, many pop-ups around town. East Bay Express mentions the menu includes “a quesadilla, a carnitas taco, a vegan taco with persimmon habanero salsa, and of course, the fried egg tacos that Tacos Oscar has become famous for.” Hand-pressed tortillas (made with masa from La Finca Tortillería in Oakland) for the win. Lunch is coming too (pssst, tortas!). There’s also beer and wine. Open Thu-Mon 5pm-10pm. 420 40th St. at Webster, Oakland.

Taco lovers will also want to swing by the ongoing pop-up from La Cocina’s ~MIXIOTE~ that is being hosted at ~PLUM BAR~ for three months. These labor-intensive, Mexico City-style tacos from Alma Rodriguez are rare and special, be sure to come by.

From Mixiote’s site: “Mixiotes can be made from various types of protein (beef, chicken, veggies, etc.). There are two main components that make mixiotes special. The first is the secret guajillo sauce that becomes thick and flavorful upon cooking. The second is the cooking method: we start by wrapping the marinated protein in avocado and banana leaves which give mixiotes a very pleasant, earthy flavor. There are no added fats or oils to the protein, mixiotes cook slowly in their own juices inside the leaf wrap until fork tender. Eating a mixiote is truly an unique experience of flavors and textures.” They are SO GOOD.

​Check the food menu on the Plum Bar site to see the lineup. You can try them alongside some cocktails from now through February. Served Mon-Sat 5pm-11pm. [Via EBX.]

In the closures department, Mary Canales unexpectedly closed both locations of ~ICI ICE CREAM~ after 12 years.

And ~CAMINO~ has set a closing date: December 17th is the last night of regular service, and there are two going-away parties (December 20th: Camino Finale Dinner Party and December 22nd: Camino Finale Cocktail Party). Tickets and details here.

November 27, 2018
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Mole flautas at The Saratoga. Photo: Karey Walker.

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The eggs Benedict at The Saratoga comes with house-smoked ham on a pretzel bun…and béarnaise! Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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You’ll be tasting through the trio of Westland Distillery’s whiskies (American Oak, the Peated, and the Sherry Wood). Photo courtesy of Westland Distillery.

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The Saratoga has fun with their doughnuts. Photo: Karey Walker.

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We’ll be taking over the swank downstairs room at The Saratoga. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Hey gang, I’m so excited for this Sunday December 2nd’s boozy holiday brunch with Westland Distillery at ~THE SARATOGA~ in Polk Gulch, which has one of San Francisco’s best brunches going on right now.

We have SOLD OUT of tickets with the main group, but we decided to open six seats at the bar so more of you can join us! You won’t be seated with the main tables, but you’ll be very, very close (a couple feet away), and won’t miss any of the action! Also: I really adore that beautiful bar.

We’re gathering at 12pm, and we’re going to be seated in the chic downstairs dining room, complete with mohair walls and beautiful vintage art from Lost Art—it has such a swank supper club vibe.

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Westland Distillery on the event—this Seattle-based distillery is known for their single-malt whiskies that use ingredients from the Pacific Northwest to craft a uniquely American single-malt. You’ll get to taste through three expressions: the American Oak, the Peated, and the Sherry Wood. Western Regional Whiskey Ambassador Trent Simpson will be leading us through a tasting and educating us about Westland’s philosophy, process, sourcing, and bringing a few surprises as well.

The Saratoga’s barman and partner Brandon Clements is a wizard with cocktails, and he’s going to be creating four (!) different cocktails for the brunch:

Welcome Cocktail: Bramble Royale
Prosecco, Marionberry Liqueur, Thyme

First Course: 4-Point Buck
Westland Sherry Wood, Persimmon-Clove, Lemon, Ginger Beer

Second Course: The Lily of Killarney
Westland Peated, Yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, Egg, Cinnamon, Nutmeg

Third Course: Central Perk
Westland American, Roast Co. Coffee, Demerara Sugar, Aztec Chocolate Bitters, Whipped Cream

And you’re going to be getting three neat pours of Westland’s whiskies (the American Oak, the Peated, and the Sherry Wood), so, yes, it’s going to be a boozy brunch. Drink your water. Please.

Now, about the vittles. Chef Francisco Baca puts on quite a brunch every weekend (maybe you were drooling over my recap in Table Talk a couple weeks ago?), and our three-course affair is going to be no exception. The family-style brunch will begin with some canapés; followed by their famed Jenga tots; mole flautas with braised chicken; fried chicken Caesar; eggs Benedict (with soft-poached eggs, house-smoked ham, pretzel bun, English peas, béarnaise); billionaire’s bacon with molasses and whiskey; the killer coffee cake with walnut streusel and vanilla bean gelato; and mimosa doughnut with strawberry glaze and Pop Rocks. Yeah, it’s abundant—bring your fat pants!

Since it’s the holidays, we’re going to have a raffle for charity, featuring some awesome bottles of whiskey, some groovy Westland swag, some tablehopper t-shirts, and more. I’m also happy to announce the kind folks at The Clift Hotel have donated a $100 gift certificate to be used on drinks and food at the new Redwood Room Decompression Hour! So generous!

We’ll be selling raffle tickets for $5 each, so please bring cash. Let me just say, you’re going to want to make it rain—these raffle items will in high demand. All proceeds from the raffle will be going to the SF-Marin Food Bank, which could use some support as they keep everyone fed this holiday (every dollar can provide up to four meals).

Not only does your ticket include all four cocktails, but you also get three neat Westland whiskey pours, an abundant three-course brunch, and tax and gratuity are included. Woot woot! The entire ticket price is just $70, all-inclusive (Happy Holidays to you from us!). We look forward to having some holiday cheer and cheers with you!

The Saratoga
1000 Larkin St. at Post

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The Marlowe burger. Photo courtesy of Big Night Restaurant Group.

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Of course there is some fun tile happening at Cow Marlowe. Instagram photo via @annaweinbergmarlowe.

Now open from Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas of the Big Night Restaurant Group (Marlowe, Petit Marlowe, Leo’s Oyster Bar, Park Tavern, The Cavalier, and Marianne’s) is ~COW MARLOWE~ in Cow Hollow, in the former Eastside West.

Chef-partner Jennifer Puccio and chief pastry officer Emily Luchetti have put together an expanded menu, with new dishes like grilled furikake green beans with smoked egg yolk, caviar, and truffle aioli, and exclusively for the late-night menu is Cow Marlowe poutine, featuring Kennebec fries with braised beef short ribs, cracklings, Caesar aioli, and Parmesan cheese. There’s an entire section dedicated to bar bites, including the trademark crispy Brussels sprout chips and their warm deviled egg, made with aged provolone, pickled jalapeño, and bacon. 

Chef de cuisine Steve Dustin also has an entrée of warm Brussels sprout and chicory Caesar with Spanish anchovies, and seafood-stuffed petrale sole with diver scallops and bay shrimp, celery root, spinach, smoked paprika, and sunchoke chips, and the favorite poulet vert. For dessert, Luchetti offers some playful spins on American classics like the orange creamsicle sundae with bourbon and caramel-soaked oranges, vanilla bean ice cream, orange sorbet, and candied almonds, and Key lime cheesecake with wild blueberry sauce.

The bar program features a new menu from Mike Anders of Marianne’s and Leo’s Oyster Bar, and expands on the classics from the original Marlowe. There are some fun new additions exclusive to the location, like the Lululemon Drop (hahahahahhaha) with Tito’s Vodka, Acqua di Cedro, lemon, and thyme, and Brad & Chad (also, hahahhahhaha), made with Avion Reposado Tequila, gin, and green Chartreuse. 

Seems like a good idea to go have Jennifer Puccio’s burger and soak in the always-fun style from Ken Fulk. Ken Fulk Inc.’s senior designer, Tiffany Kramer, installed a bar and communal table made of Sodalite blue granite in cobalt blue that looks a bit like a beautiful lapis. There are leather banquettes, vintage Thonet-style chairs, Carrara marble tiles, and of course some snazzy wallpaper.

Lunch and brunch begin Saturday December 1st, as well as Sunday dinner service and an all-day menu. For now, hours are Mon-Wed 5:30pm-10pm and Thu-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. The late-night menu is served 11pm-1am, and the bar is open Mon-Wed 4pm-12am, and Thu-Sat 4pm-1:45am. 3154 Fillmore St. at Greenwich, 415-508-5898.  

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The fantastic lasagna at The Italian Homemade Company, one of the many crazy-delicious pasta dishes they make. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The har gow with black truffle at Pushcart Fare. Instagram photo via @pushcartfare.

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Tea leaf salad at Beyond Burma. Yelp photo by Hiromi N.

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Grilled pork with vermicelli at Pho 335. Yelp photo via business owner.

Hayes Valley should be pretty stoked with the addition of an ~ITALIAN HOMEMADE COMPANY~ location that just opened. There are many housemade pastas to choose from, but their tortellini—one of the few places in town to make it with traditional mortadella and pork—in pasticciata sauce (bolognese with béchamel, mamma mia), lasagna, and piadine sandwiches are especially delicious—and affordable. Open Tue-Sun 11am-11pm (thanks to Eater for the business hours). 1 Franklin St. at Page, 415-757-0877.

IHC are also busy taking over the former Caffe Roma location in North Beach (which closed after close to 30 years in business). Eater reports they are busy updating the building and hope to open another Italian Homemade location in spring 2019. 526 Columbus Ave. at Green.

I’ve been following the Instagram account of a new dim sum place in the Mission that just opened and looks fun: ~PUSHCART FARE~. According to a post on Yelp, they are also behind the Hongry Kong and Wokitchen food trucks.

They’re serving some updated dim sum classics, like har gow (shrimp) with black truffle and charcoaled lava salty egg yolk bun (built for Instagram), plus siu mai, BBQ pork buns, and more—you can order three pieces or dim sum boxes. There are also some fun snacks like Taiwanese popcorn chicken and mushu chicken tacos.

Their butter egg custard tarts look really good. They also offer a variety of teas. Check out the menu on their site. Open Tue-Sat 11:30am-8:30pm and Sun 11am-3pm. 3224 22nd St. at Bartlett, 415-957-1688.

A new Burmese restaurant is serving dinner and weekend brunch in the Elmira Rosticceria location in Civic Center. It’s called ~BEYOND BURMA~, and has a menu of tea leaf salad, Burmese ramen, mohinga (catfish chowder), samosa soup, Shan noodles, many curry and rice dishes, and more. According to their site, they like to add some creative twists and updates to their dishes, and they like to offer healthy and vegetarian options too. Open Tue-Fri 4pm-9:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-2pm and 5:30pm-9:30pm. 154 McAllister St. at Hyde, 415-364-8425.

Castro residents will be happy to hear there’s a new Vietnamese restaurant in the neighborhood: ~PHO 335~ has opened, serving pho ga (chicken) or pho bo (beef) noodle, plus some apps like spring rolls and cha gio (fried imperial rolls), vermicelli bowls, and some rice plates. Open daily 11am-9pm. 335 Noe St. at 17th St., 415-829-2789.

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The cheerful exterior of Stones Throw. Photo courtesy of Stones Throw.

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Rendering of the bar at The Vault.

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Rendering of the dining room at The Vault.

Over on Russian Hill, the Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group will be closing ~STONES THROW~ on January 1st, 2019, after five years in the location. They decided to close after the City mandated a seismic retrofit, which would force the restaurant to be inoperable for months.

You can swing by for a four-course, prix-fixe menu of signature dishes (of course, the squid ink conchiglie are on there) for $40 from now until they close. Sunday brunch is also happening. And, obviously, their New Year’s Eve dinner will be a blowout ($130). 1896 Hyde St. at Green.

Good news for the staff, however: they will be able to retain their team, including executive chef Robin Song, as they prepare to open their new project in the Financial District: ~THE VAULT~. It’s going to be a fine-dining project, and “the menu will emphasize exciting and elevated takes on classic Americana dishes.” Fine wines and spirits will be a highlight, and there will be private wine and liquor lockers for the building’s tenants (which include Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley employees—paging Gordon Gekko).

It’s opening at the base of the 555 California Street high-rise building, clocking in at 4,800 square feet (there will be a 60-seat restaurant with private and semi-private dining for 25, a 60-seat lounge, and 15-seat Carrara marble bar). D-Scheme Studio is behind the design. Look for a spring opening. Lunch and dinner will be served. 555 California St. at Kearny.

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Tacos dorados from La Taqueria. Photo by Blair Heagerty Photography.

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Two kinds of shakshuka are at Oren’s Hummus for breakfast. Photo courtesy of Oren’s Hummus.

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The Magnolia breakfast sandwich. Photo: David Martinez.

Everyone can exhale, your carnitas burritos and tacos dorados are safe: fortunately ~LA TAQUERIA~ owner Miguel Jara Sr. was able to bid and buy the location for $1.7 million, after an inheritance dispute with his siblings threatened the famed taqueria’s future. You can read more in the Chronicle here. 2889 Mission St. at 25th St.

A couple reopening reminders: ~IZAKAYA SUSHI RAN~ is opening in the former Nomica on Friday December 1st (2223 Market St. at Sanchez), and ~ALFRED’S STEAKHOUSE~ is taking reservations for after December 3rd. You can read a past tablehopper recap here if either of these stories are news to you! 659 Merchant St. at Kearny, 415-781-7058.

Congrats to all the GGRA Saucy Award winners—unfortunately I received the list after my deadline. Take a look here and see who won—there were a bunch of great categories. Congrats to all.

Michelin has also released their list of 2019 Bib Gourmand restaurants, with eight new additions of affordable restaurants that serve high-quality food like East Bay faves Dyafa, Nyum Bai, Teni East Kitchen, and El Molino Central in Sonoma. The star selection will be announced this Thursday November 29th. (The Guide will go on sale Tuesday December 4th.)

Looking for a new breakfast spot? Love shakshuka? Uh huh. ~OREN’S HUMMUS~ in SoMa has launched breakfast, with both traditional or green shakshuka (made with spinach and kale cream sauce), Israeli breakfast, challah French toast, hash and eggs, and more. Served Mon-Fri 8am-11am and Sat-Sun 8am-2pm. 71 3rd St. at Jessie.

Also in SoMa: ~ALX GASTROPUB~ has kicked off Sunday brunch service, with duck confit croquettes with blue corn “Jessie” cakes (executive chef Jessie Lugo’s play on “Johnny cakes”); duck eggs Benedict with a miso English muffin and foie-llandaise sauce (it’s like they’re trying to kill you!); and a brioche French toast Monte Cristo with prosciutto and Monterey Jack. (Just be sure to check the prices on the website menu before heading over—it’s a bit steep, even if the ingredients are on the luxurious side of things.) There are cocktails, mimosas with freshly squeezed juice, Bloody Marys, and more. Sundays 11am-3pm. 680 Folsom St. at Hawthorne.

One more brunch option: ~MAGNOLIA DOGPATCH~ brewery and restaurant is also serving weekend brunch, Sat-Sun 10am-3pm. The menu includes a Magnolia breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs, hash browns, frisée, sambal chili mayo, chives, and choice of bacon or sausage; croque madame; and a breakfast flatbread: choice of bacon or sausage, sunny-side-up egg, hash browns, caramelized onion, Parmesan, and arugula. They also started weekday lunch service (11am-4pm) and happy hour (3pm-6pm daily). 2505 3rd St. at 22nd St.

Looking for a new lunch spot? The Jamaican ~KAYA~ in Mid-Market launched weekday lunch service, served Tue-Fri 11am-2pm. Chef Nigel Jones is offering sweet plantains with black bean sauce and sour cream; pulled-oxtail hash with a sunny-side-up egg: curry vegetables with rice, peas, and plantains; and a jerk chicken sandwich. They added some non-alcoholic beverages, although you can go for a boozy rum drink if that’s how you roll. 1420 Market St. at Fell.

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Elan and Brett Emerson when they were first opening Contigo. Photo via Facebook.

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Moya’s vegetarian combo. Photo from Yelp via Todd I.

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A look inside Little Taqueria in the Inner Richmond. Photo via Facebook.

This section is never fun, especially when there are a bunch of closures to announce. Gah. First, beloved ~CONTIGO~ has closed after 10 years in Noe Valley. Owners Brett and Elan Emerson decided to close the restaurant to focus on their upcoming project, Barceloneta, which is opening in Santa Cruz. Be sure to read their sweet goodbye note—that cozy little spot will be missed.

Tipster Jason B. was back in town, and clued me in to what’s happening at ~MOYA~ in SoMa, the heartfelt Ethiopian restaurant from Fana Alemayehu, which has been open since 2010. It ends up she’s closing the restaurant this Friday November 30th, and will be transitioning to a catering business only. Be sure to read her farewell note on Instagram. And if you need some catering, please support this female-owned business! Her dishes use spices prepared by her mother in Ethiopia! 121 9th St. at Minna.

Moving in to the location will be a second location of South San Francisco’s Big Belly Deli, with sandwich names that pay homage to mobsters, like the Capone.

Old-timer ~ALBONA RISTORANTE ISTRIANO~ is closing after 30 years in North Beach, the only Istrian restaurant in SF. Inside Scoop reports the last night will be December 31st. Owner Samuel Hernandez and his wife Beatriz took over the restaurant in 2008 from original owner Bruno Viscovi and are reportedly retiring. Regulars, head in for a final dish of rabbit while you can. 545 Francisco St. at Mason.

Some other closures: ~THE MEATBALL BAR~ in Hayes Valley has closed after eight months. The downtown location remains open. 602 Hayes St. at Laguna. [Via Hoodline.]

Also in Hayes Valley: ~MINAS BRAZILIAN~ has closed. 41 Franklin St. at Oak. [Via Hoodline.]

And in the Inner Richmond, ~LITTLE TAQUERIA~ in the Inner Richmond has closed after two years of business. 200 6th Ave. at Clement. [Via Hoodline.]

November 13, 2018
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Mole flautas at The Saratoga. Photo: Karey Walker.

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The eggs Benedict at The Saratoga comes with house-smoked ham on a pretzel bun…and béarnaise! Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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You’ll be tasting through the trio of Westland Distillery’s whiskies (American Oak, the Peated, and the Sherry Wood). Photo courtesy of Westland Distillery.

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The famed Jenga tots at The Saratoga. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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I know, some time has passed since we had a tablehopper gathering, so let’s kick off December with a boozy holiday brunch with Westland Distillery! We’re going to be gathering on Sunday December 2nd at 12pm at ~THE SARATOGA~ in Polk Gulch, which has one of San Francisco’s best brunches going on right now. We’re going to be gathering in the chic downstairs dining room, complete with mohair walls and beautiful vintage art—it has such a swank supper club vibe.

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Westland Distillery on this event—this Seattle-based distillery is known for their single-malt whiskies that use ingredients from the Pacific Northwest to craft a uniquely American single-malt. You’ll get to taste through three expressions: the American Oak, the Peated, and the Sherry Wood. Western Regional Whiskey Ambassador Trent Simpson will be leading us through a tasting and educating us about Westland’s philosophy, process, sourcing, and bringing a few surprises as well.

The Saratoga’s barman and partner Brandon Clements is a wizard with cocktails, and he’s going to be creating three different cocktails for the brunch: expect a citrus cocktail, a Pacific Northwest Irish coffee, and egg nog—I’ll be sharing more details on the actual cocktails soon. And you’re going to be getting three neat pours of the whiskies (the American Oak, the Peated, and the Sherry Wood), so, yes, it’s going to be a boozy brunch. Drink your water.

Now, about the vittles. Chef Francisco Baca puts on quite a brunch every weekend (maybe you were drooling over my recap in Table Talk this week?), and our three-course affair is going to be no exception. The family-style brunch will begin with some canapés; followed by their famed Jenga tots; mole flautas with braised chicken; fried chicken Caesar; eggs Benedict (with soft-poached eggs, house-smoked ham, pretzel bun, English peas, béarnaise); billionaire’s bacon with molasses and whiskey; the killer coffee cake with walnut streusel and vanilla bean gelato; and mimosa doughnut with strawberry glaze and Pop Rocks. Yeah, it’s abundant—bring your fat pants!

Since it’s the holidays, we’re going to have a raffle for charity, with some awesome bottles of whiskey, some groovy Westland swag, some tablehopper t-shirts, and more. We’ll be selling raffle tickets for $5, so please bring cash. Let me just say, you’re going to want to make it rain—these raffle items will in high demand. All proceeds from the raffle will be going to the SF-Marin Food Bank, which could use some support as they keep everyone fed this holiday (every dollar can provide up to four meals).

Not only does your ticket include all three cocktails, but you also get three neat Westland whiskey pours, an abundant three-course brunch, and tax and gratuity are included. Woot woot! The entire ticket price is just $70, all-inclusive (Happy Holidays to you from us!). Seating is very limited (just 23 spots!), so jump on these as soon as you can. We look forward to having some holiday cheer and cheers with you!

The Saratoga
1000 Larkin St. at Post

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The whimsical new design at Indian Paradox from Lorena Zertuche. Honk honk! Photo: Grace Sager Photography.

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The colorful and patterned new look (and nooks) at Indian Paradox. Photo: Grace Sager Photography.

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One of my favorite dishes: the sundal with warm garbanzos and unripe mango. Photo: Grace Sager Photography.

One of the first things people think of when they think of India is bright color, and walking into the newly updated ~INDIAN PARADOX~ on Divisadero, you’re going to get a blast of color, along with bold patterns, new lighting, and design whimsy. Owner and wine director Kavitha Raghavan worked with artist and interior designer Lorena Zertuche (co-owner of the vibrant Loló) to update the three-year-old space, and she has infused the wine bar with her trademark visual energy and clever use of materials.

Anyone who has traveled to India will immediately recognize the truck mural and artwork on the wall, an homage to the over-the-top adorned trucks you’ll see all over India, complete with a humorous “Blow Horn,” but leave it to Zertuche to add colorful milk crates which form a visual truck bed of wine shelving. It made me chuckle.

There are now upholstered and patterned banquettes in the window nooks, bright pillows, a checkered pattern under the bar, repurposed woven Indian floor mats that adorn the walls, and don’t miss the colorful turban installation above the doorway. So many playful touches and things to catch your eye.

There’s nothing like a new look to inspire some other changes, like new glassware to showcase Kavitha’s wine pairings. She’s so passionate about pairing wine with her region-hopping menu of Indian street food dishes, and now with chef Maribel Palomo, they have created a new tasting menu to take things to the next level. With the new four-course menu, you can sit back and enjoy the chaat experience for $35 per person, or go for chaats with four half-pour/2.5 oz. ($55) or four full-glass/5 oz. ($75) pairings for each course, which include both New and Old World wines.

Some sample pairings include the can’t-miss sundal (warm garbanzos with mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafetida, shredded coconut, and unripe mango) paired with a Hannes Sabathi 2017 sauvignon blanc from Austria. Another fun one is the dahi sev puri (semolina puffs filled with jaggery and mint chutneys topped with yogurt, sev, and cilantro) paired with the Ciu Ciu, 2013 sangiovese from La Marche.

I love coming in on a whim here (it’s a no reservations kind of joint), grabbing a seat at the bar so I can chat with Kavitha, but the new window seats are definitely going to be the hot ticket for date night.

Have you had Indian Paradox’s fab Saturday brunch yet? I’m obsessed with the egg akuri (soft-scrambled eggs cooked with Parsi masala, ginger, garlic, turmeric, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, served with buttered toast). Who can say no to something called disco fry eggs? (You shouldn’t—just say “yes.”) The place is going to be so cute in the daytime. And starting January 20th, 2019, they’ll be extending brunch service to Sundays too (11am-2pm).

Dinner served Tue-Thu 5pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. Come on by for some color therapy. 258 Divisadero St. at Haight.

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You lookin’ for some big bottles of amazing wine? These guys can help. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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A peek at the new “field guide” to Lazy Bear’s 1,000-wine-label list. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The upstairs mezzanine will now be The Lazy Bear Den after 9:30pm. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Last week, ~LAZY BEAR~ hosted quite the kick-off party to celebrate their new wine list and late-night mezzanine experience they’re launching in December. Beverage director Matthew Dulle has been working for the past two years on accumulating a cellar that will offer one of the country’s deepest collections of old, historical California bottlings, including over 60 different labels from Ridge Vineyards alone. And now it’s time for the unveiling. You’re going to have fun scouting through the red, cloth-bound, vintage-style book. 

Dulle, an Advanced Sommelier, decided to let taste and quality drive his choices, and even though you’ll find some big game Napa cabs and the like, there are also some hidden gems from under-appreciated regions and vintages as well. You can dive deep with a rare bottle of Bordeaux from the 1920s, or try something from a current, small producer. The result is a 1,000-label wine list, which you can peruse before your dinner reservation if you want, or enjoy through pairings (the standard $95 or reserve $175 pairing) curated by Lazy Bear’s sommelier team.

But you won’t have to buy a ticket to the full dinner experience to access it. Starting December 1st, guests will be able to head up to the cozy midcentury mezzanine for The Lazy Bear Den (not to be confused with WesBurger’s Den around the corner on Mission). You’ll have access to the new wine list (as well as cocktails and spirits), along with a limited à la carte menu of dishes that you can pair with the wines. You can take a peek at chef David Barzelay’s preview/sample menu, which includes flavorful bites like their miso-cranberry bean soup (with miso they have been fermenting for the past year), ham and biscuits, and then there’s their tableside campfire section, with burnt ends of wagyu ribeye from Miyazaki with smoked beet BBQ sauce and bone marrow-infused tater tots. Yeah, that.

For dessert, you can have fun with the grill-your-own s’mores, with redwood marshmallows, dark chocolate, and graham crackers. Expect things to change—of course that creative kitchen will be working on new bites inspired by the season’s offerings and new flavor discoveries, through the lens of the wild and outdoors.

While it will mostly be about ticketed reservations on the mezzanine (via Tock, $25 deposit per guest to hold, and redeemable on food and drink), they plan to reserve a few tickets to be released day-of (or close to it) so diners can experience it without always having to reserve a month in advance. Tickets go live on Tock Thursday November 15th at 10am. The Lazy Bear Den will be open Tue-Sat 9:30pm-late. 3416 19th St. at Mission.

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Calm in the Alfred’s dining room (just before we took it over for our Blue Fox dinner!). Photo: Blair Heagerty Photography.

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Katie Kwan and Valerie Luu at the entrance of their new restaurant location. Photo: Andria Lo.

Some fantastic news for my fellow ~ALFRED’S STEAKHOUSE~ fans: after mysteriously closing over the summer, the 90-year-old steakhouse (SF’s oldest steakhouse!) will be reopening December 1st, and former owner Al Petri and his family will be involved once again. Daniel Patterson took over the restaurant from the Petris three years ago—Al Petri is coming out of retirement and he will be the majority investor, but Patterson will remain an investor.

When Patterson took the space over, it got a light update, and with it came a menu upgrade with quality and seasonal products, grass-fed beef, à la carte menu options, and…higher prices. The new format back under Al Petri will offer a fixed-price menu: guests choose which cut of beef they want, and it will come with an appetizer platter for the table; a choice of a Caesar salad, heart of romaine salad, or prawn cocktail; and two sides ($39-$68). Stand by for more updates on the exact opening. 659 Merchant St. at Kearny, 415-781-7058. [Via Inside Scoop.]

In the last tablehopper issue, I broke the news about the changes at Nomica (and chef Hiroo Nagahara’s departure), and a few more details have been released. The new name will be ~IZAKAYA SUSHI RAN~, and will offer “a casual and inviting pub atmosphere, with small, sharable plates, classic izakaya-style ‘tapas’ and a sampling of Sushi Ran’s most popular rolls, selected raw fish, and favorites from the hot kitchen.” They want to offer “neighborhood-friendly prices” and a fun, casual space where guests can swing by for a drink and a bite or more. Sushi Ran’s executive chef Seiji (Waka) Wakabayashi will be overseeing the new menu, which will launch in late November. 2223 Market St. at Sanchez.

Boom: ~HARBORVIEW RESTAURANT AND BAR~ is now open. It’s the new Chinese restaurant from Kinson Wong, a founder of Chinatown’s popular R&G Lounge, that took over the former Crystal Jade on the Embarcadero. There’s no menu posted yet, but look for dim sum and classic Cantonese dishes (some R&G dishes will be coming over). It’s open for lunch Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm and Sat-Sun 10:30am-2:30pm; dinner is served nightly 5pm-9:30pm. Happy hour is also every day from 3pm-7pm. 4 Embarcadero Center, 628-867-7350

And now some unfortunate news: our dear Rice Paper Scissors ladies, Katie Kwan and Valerie Luu, just announced they unfortunately had to pull the plug on their Folsom Street/Mission location after working so hard to bring their first brick-and-mortar Vietnamese restaurant to fruition the past year and a half. In a post on Instagram, they state: “We experienced some major, unforeseen complications in the restaurant opening process in the last five months and are heartbroken to report that we’re no longer able to open a restaurant at Folsom and 22nd.” You can read more in the post. For now, they ask: “Please reach out to us for any lunch, event or holiday catering, and we encourage you to continue to support local business (like the ones at West Coast Craft this weekend, where we’ll also be—and especially ones run by rad women). We hope to see you soon.” So, do that. Best wishes to them both, they have a lot of fans who are here to support!

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The Mission’s new ramen shop, Ramenwell. Instagram photo via @ramenwellsf.

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San Diego’s Rakiraki is now in SF. Instagram photo via @rakirakiramen.

Okay ramen lovers, you have two new places to fill up with and enjoy a face steaming: now open in the former Ken Ken Ramen space is ~RAMENWELL~ from Chicago’s Harold Jurado (Yusho, Chizakaya).

You’ll find a variety of broths (a 20-hour pork tonkotsu, chicken, or vegetarian, which includes a mushroom-based broth and a spicy tantanmen broth). The chicken options include chicken tantanmen (a spicy broth made with ground chicken and ground turkey) and tori paitan with turkey chashu (instead of chashu made of braised pork belly, interesting!). Meanwhile, for the pork lovers/eaters, their pork chashu belly is smoked by 4505 Burgers and BBQ after being cured and marinated for two days—special! Bowls are $14-15, and there are some apps as well (like hamachi, a house salad, and the wagyu carpaccio looks amazing), with soft-serve for dessert (matcha-taro!).

The space was completely gutted and now has a sleek and minimalist look, with plenty of counter space for you to slurp in peace at. Beer, wine, and sake are available. Open Mon-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm. 3378 18th St. at [Via Eater.]

Now open in Bernal Heights in the former Ichi Sushi is ~RAKIRAKI RAMEN & TSUKEMEN~, an import from San Diego and this is its fourth location. Tokyo-born, chef-owner Junya Watanabe is offering Hakata-style tonkotsu and Tokyo-style tsukemen, along with kimchee ramen, vegetarian miso, plus there are some special edition ramen bowls too (like black or red; peep the menu here). The bowls/ingredients get a little torching on top before they are served. You’ll also find some Yokohama jumbo gyoza, some pretty awesome-looking chicken karaage, sushi rolls, takoyaki, and more.

Inside, there’s a combination of counter seating and two-tops, with lots of plants and a very simple look. Soft-opening hours: daily 5pm-10pm. 3282 Mission St. at Valencia. [Via Eater.]

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Of course there is some fun tile happening at Cow Marlowe. Instagram photo via @annaweinbergmarlowe.

~COW MARLOWE~ from the Big Night Restaurant Group (Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas) opens tonight for dinner in Cow Hollow (in the former Eastside West). Seems like a good idea to go have Jennifer Puccio’s burger, and soak in the always-fun style from Ken Fulk. Lunch and brunch begin Saturday December 1st, as well as Sunday dinner service and an all-day menu. For now, hours are Mon-Wed 5:30pm-11pm and Thu-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. (I’ll have pics and more details in the next tablehopper issue, the PR team didn’t have anything in time for our deadline over here.) 3154 Fillmore St. at Greenwich.

Meanwhile, Hayes Valley’s ~LITTLE GEM~ is going to be opening a second location in the former Umami Burger on Union. Co-founder Eric Lilavois and chef David Cruz will continue to offer their clean cooking, which is gluten-free, dairy-fee, and refined sugar-free. Eater adds on Inside Scoop’s story that the opening is slated for spring 2019. 2184 Union St. at Fillmore.