The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
June 12, 2018

The exterior of the soon-to-open Kantine. All photos: ©


The airy and welcoming interior of Kantine.


One of Kantine’s smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) on housemade Danish sprouted rye.

Last Friday, I swung by the soon-to-open ~KANTINE~ for a friends-and-family sneak peek of this Scandinavian-inspired charmer from Nichole Accettola and husband Joachim Majholm. The name is the Danish word for canteen, inspired by Accettola’s decade living in Copenhagen, and will be open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch six days a week.

Many locals have become fans of Accettola’s sprouted rye bread, or perhaps tried her savory or sweet breakfast porridges at her pop-ups and her Cali-Scandinavian smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) at her Ferry Plaza Farmers Market stand.

Now, you’ll be able to enjoy all these items, plus breakfast treats and pastries like chocolate-rye buns, spelt scones with lemon and dried blueberries, and cardamom knots. And then there are the choose-your-own-brunch boards (5 or 7 items), which will include items like cured trout with elderflower, warm potato salad with lovage, poached egg cup with asparagus and herbs, fennel-smoked bacon, and three-lentil hummus, plus overnight muesli with oats, chai, hemp, orange zest, honey, bee pollen, and huckleberries. Seriously.

Smørrebrød toppings include trout rillettes; “summer salad” with hay-smoked cheese, radish, tomato, cucumber, and chives; and fried pickled herring with charred lemon, cultured butter, and dill, among others. Their wholesale offering of baked goods will be expanding now that they have a large space of their own. Helping her in the kitchen is her sous chef Evan Bertolli, who previously worked at Bar Tartine.

They’ll be offering Heart coffee from Portland (which was founded by a Finnish man and offers the kind of Scandinavian-inspired roast they want), plus an elderberry yogurt drink, hot cocoa, rhubarb lemonade, and beer and wine.

If the space’s design feels authentically Scandinavian in its simplicity and warmth, it’s because a Danish firm (ATM Design) designed it—they worked on it from overseas! The light, airy space features communal tables, beautiful white oak wood panels, and groovy lights (from the Swedish HEM) that look like they’re enclosed in fabric bags with a drawstring and cast a soft glow. The huge pane windows will also let in some lovely light, as well as the windows above with Deco shapes and angles. Some sound panels and a canopy of plants and artwork are all coming too.

Opening hours are Tue-Fri 7:30am-4pm, Sat-Sun 9am-4pm. If inspections go according to plan, they will open this Wednesday June 13th—follow along on Instagram for updates. 1906 Market St. at Octavia.


An array of dishes at Gibson. Photo: Alison Christiana.

I’ve been hearing rumors that chef Robin Song has departed ~GIBSON~, one of my favorite openings last year, and he confirmed he’s no longer involved in the project. As for what’s next, he’s going to enjoy some family time for now (he has a new daughter) and is formulating his next steps—of course, this talented chef has some ideas.

Last week, I learned chef Marc Zimmerman has left ~ALEXANDER’S STEAKHOUSE~ after seven years as business development chef and executive chef of the San Francisco location, and now I’ve just been updated he has his own project in the works. He’s partnering with Rahman Berrada, a former general manager at Alexander’s, and previously at Spruce and Commis. They’re opening a project in SoMa, and the James Beard award-winning alm project (Benu, In Situ) will be designing the restaurant. The name, location, and more will be revealed as soon as the lease is signed. For now, it’s going to be a concept that is slated to have multiple locations, and they’re looking at a winter opening. I’ll keep you posted on deets.


Photo via Noosh’s Facebook.

There are some exciting new projects coming soon, starting with the revelation of what is going into the former Thai Stick on Fillmore: it’s going to be ~NOOSH~ from Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, who have made quite a name for themselves with their Istanbul Modern pop-up series on Feastly. For this brick and mortar, they’re partnering with John Litz, formerly a partner in Lazy Bear, who secured the location and approached them after trying their food.

They have a fine dining background (working in East Coast Michelin-starred restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and Le Bernardin) and are steeped in technique (in addition to their pop-ups, she has worked at Saison and he has been at Mourad), but will be keeping things casual for this location. (Read: no tweezer food.) Look for Turkish flavors, in addition to inspiration from Israel, Greece, and Armenia, and housemade pita bread and more. Eater reports it’s due to open at the end of the year. And there’s full liquor, so stand by. 2001 Fillmore St. at Pine.

Over in Dogpatch, Rebecca Fineman (the world’s 25th female Master Sommelier) and husband Chris Gaither (Octavia, Gary Danko) are opening ~UNGRAFTED~, a wine-centric restaurant and retail shop by early fall. Eater writes High Treason’s John Vuong is also involved. Look for street food-inspired small plates and pairings that play with high-low—more on this as it develops (and they hire a chef). Beer, wine, sake, nonalcoholic options, and education will also play a part. 2419 3rd St. at 22nd St.

The Chronicle reports Chris Yeo (Straits Restaurant, Sino) and his family (fourth-generation San Franciscans) will be taking over the historic Cathay House in Chinatown, which closed earlier this year. The massive space dates back to 1939, and has an extensive history. Building owner Betty Louie envisioned a similar revitalization scenario to what she inspired at the former Four Seas, with Brandon Jew transforming it into the glamorous Mister Jiu’s.

The plan is to have two restaurants on three of the four floors: ~CATHAY HOUSE~ upstairs (offering Cantonese cuisine, dim sum on carts, and a full bar), and ~601 DUPONT~ on the ground floor (Dupont was Grant Street’s original name)—it will be a fast-casual concept (Cantonese roast pork, rotisserie chicken, chicken rice), which will open first. Charles Doell of Mister Important Design (Gibson, Gitane) is behind the remodel and design; look for a retro 1940s Chinatown style, bringing the exterior pagoda style within. I’ll keep checking in on this one. 718 California St. at Grant.

A couple of months ago, a tablehopper reader tipped me off that the folks behind Ju-Ni were planning something in the former Stelladoro pizza shop. I didn’t get a reply from owner Tan Truong, but it ends up the rumor was true. Along with Ju-Ni’s chef Geoffrey Lee, Eater reports they’re partnering with chef-owner Tommy Cleary to open a new location of his ~HINA YAKITORI~, previously located in Temescal (he also spent two years at Ippuku). The 14-seat yakitori restaurant will offer a 16-course menu, featuring an Emmer & Co. half chicken that gets broken down into various cuts and prepared for each guest—all grilled on binchotan charcoal (not the easiest permit to secure in this city). Will keep you posted on the opening, it has been quite the construction scene. 808 Divisadero St. at Fulton.

And it looks like there is a new business taking over the classic-style hofbrau ~GEORGE’S BBQ~ on 24th Street in the Mission (named for George Prokopos, who was at Pete’s Barbecue in the Mission for 24 years before opening his own place in 2008). The new business is ~THE STORY OF RAMEN~, and they will open for weekday lunch with traditional ramen items such as lekei (Yokohama-style) tonkotsu, vegan broth, as well as some Latin-fusion ramen broth items. For weekday evenings and weekends, their restaurant accepts advanced reservations for their educational and interactive ramen experience, when diners participate in making noodles and learning more about ramen and the broth. They plan to open around late July/early August, pending some minor renovation work and health department sign-off. 3231 24th St. at Mission.


The dining room at Tosca. Photo by Sonya Yu via Tosca.

In the last issue, I reported on the departure of ~TOSCA CAFE~ chef Josh Even and manager Dana Katzakian after negotiations to take it over didn’t pan out. But it’s now a bit more clear why that didn’t happen with the new details of April Bloomfield’s dissolution of her business partnership with Ken Friedman (in light of numerous allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct). She is going to now own and control their West Coast restaurants, Tosca Cafe (which she took over with Friedman in 2013) and LA’s Hearth & Hound. They’re doing a coastal split, with Friedman maintaining ownership of New York’s Spotted Pig—let’s see if he comes up with a clever renovation of “the rape room.”

In a statement to Eater National, Bloomfield says: “Today, I am announcing the end of my partnership with Ken Friedman. There is much hard work ahead, and it begins with taking full leadership of the Hearth & Hound in Los Angeles and Tosca Cafe in San Francisco. In New York, I remain ​chef at the Breslin and will begin work on reconcepting the John Dory Oyster Bar [ed. note: Ken Friedman will not be involved with either location]. My complete focus now will be on the welfare and opportunity for my staff and building a company I can be proud of. This has been a painful time for many people, my past and present staff especially, and I will have more to say at some point in the near future. For now, I am looking forward to forging ahead.” Let’s see if more time in San Francisco will make her a more vociferous feminist and champion of employee rights and safety as she restructures her business and team.


The new Tsunami Panhandle location in the former Café Abir. Photo via Facebook.

An update on the Divisadero Corridor: the windows at ~CAFE ABIR~ have been closed since 2015, but now you’ll see them open and with people inside. The Dajani Group has moved their ~TSUNAMI PANHANDLE~ a couple doors down from its original location (at 1306 Fulton) into Abir’s corner space (the original location will be converted into a bar, stand by for what’s next).

As for the Abir space, it now holds Tsunami Panhandle restaurant and a shochu bar, with a list of 110 shochu selections (they want to be the city’s premiere destination for shochu, kind of like what they did for amaro at Bar 821). While they only gained 12 seats, they also added an oyster station with a pretty cool offer: purchase any bottle of shochu, wine, or sake during happy hour and you get a free dozen oysters. When is happy hour, you ask? It’s 5pm-7pm, and the restaurant hours are Tue-Sat 6pm-late. 1300 Fulton St. at Divisadero.


Don’t miss the pizzas from the wood-fired oven at Cento Osteria, like this Romana. Photo: ©


Eggs Benedict on the new brunch menu at Comstock Saloon. Photo: Lindsey Rice.

Some quick service updates for you, starting with the news that ~CENTO OSTERIA~ has started lunch service, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm. Peep the menu here. Brunch is next! 100 Brannan St. at Embarcadero, 415-543-1000.

Meanwhile, over in Dogpatch, ~BESHARAM~ has launched dinner service, Tue-Sat 5:30pm-10pm, which means their wine list is in effect as well. Read more about this Gujarati restaurant in my post from the last issue. 1275 Minnesota St. at 24th St., 415-580-7662.

Over in North Beach, ~COMSTOCK SALOON~ launched a new Afternoon Saloon Brunch over the weekend from chef de cuisine Jason Raffin. The menu is inspired by the intersection of North Beach and Chinatown, and includes a breakfast poutine with housemade sausage, scrambled eggs, cheddar, and Szechuan gravy; char siu pork belly eggs Benedict with lemon hollandaise, nori chili flakes, and tossed greens; and herbed falafel shakshuka with eggs, truffled tomato sauce, and cheddar cheese. There’s also a brand-new menu of brunch-inspired cocktails by bar manager Anthony Cozeck. The hours are great for late risers too: Sat-Sun 11am-4pm.

May 29, 2018

Start your meal with boquerones on a soft egg with thyme breadcrumbs. Photo: Jane Srisarakorn.


Grab your friends and get the tomahawk chop for family supper! Photo: Jane Srisarakorn.


The tobacco, tufted booths at Pearl will draw you in. Photo: ©

Opening tonight (May 29th) in the Outer Richmond is ~PEARL~, an immediately likable corner restaurant that is just up the street from Pizzetta 211. The project is a collaborative partnership-ownership model with some Pizzetta 211 fam, including co-chefs Mel Lopez (Pizzetta 211, Baker & Banker, Aziza, Zero Zero) and Joyce Conway (Zero Zero, 20 Spot)—who met at Bix—with bar manager Nahiel Nazzal and GM Susan Dunn all as partners, along with Pizzetta 211’s Jack Murphy.

The neighborhood must be so excited to have this stylish addition, which has classic good looks and a cozy yet airy feeling. (It was originally a drugstore, and the vintage tiled floor is downright precious.) You’ll want to nestle right into a tobacco tufted booth or perch at the curving marble bar. The 40-seat restaurant has two sides: one is more dining room-style, and the bar side is like a bistro bar, perfect for solo diners or a couple who like counters. In my Table Talk column for KQED’s Bay Area Bites, I mention it’s like a mash-up of Brooklyn and New Orleans DNA. It’s impressive since they did the design themselves!

The menu is notably affordable, especially considering the quality and seasonal ingredients they are using. There’s a killer chicory Caesar salad on there (so good), and starters like brandade fritters and local halibut crudo, plus a few housemade pastas (Conway was at Zero Zero, so she knows a thing or two about that). There’s a wood-fired oven, which they are not making pizzas in, to be clear. Mains include a juicy grilled pork chop that really hits the spot, with apricot-cherry mostarda. There’s also grilled Gulf prawns, seared local albacore—all appealing. The menu hits an approachable California bistro tone, with some international touches. Large-format roasts (including whole local fish and large pork and beef roasts) are built for group dining. Desserts include their housemade ice cream in a sundae, and rhubarb crostata.

Cocktails are also a part of the experience (and oysters too!). They are open in the morning, with Andytown coffee and wood-fired bagels, so come on by. There’s also outdoor seating, and brunch is coming this weekend. (Put those two together…) Hours: daily café 7:30am-2pm (note the café service stops at 10am on weekend brunch), dinner Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm, and brunch Sat-Sun 10am-2pm. 6101 California St. at 23rd Ave., 415-592-9777.  



The talented and stunning Heena Patel at the friends and family party for her new restaurant, Besharam. Photo: ©


Meet your next obsession: the silky Gujarati snack: khandvi (made from yogurt and flour). Photo: ©


That’s right! Love the plates from Hatecopy’s Maria Qamar. Photo: ©

Back in April, I wrote about ~BESHARAM~, a restaurant from Heena Patel (of Rasoi), a La Cocina Incubator Program grad who has made a big impression with the flavors, execution, and creativity of her food, whether through her catering business or her CUESA Ferry Plaza farmers market stand. But with this, her first restaurant, she gets to stretch her wings and cook her food.

I was thrilled to attend a friends-and-family welcoming party over the weekend, and she shared that the fact this is happening is “beyond her imagination.” The name Besharam translates to “shameless” and is inspired by the fact that at 50, she’s following her own dreams and doing something she has always been too scared to do. She says, “I am doing this to prove to myself that I can do this.” Well, lucky us that she took the leap to open her first restaurant.

Read my previous post for more about her background—this Gujarati chef is bringing dishes and flavors we don’t have in the city, cooking from her heart and like we are guests in her (new) home. And what a home it is: she moved into the former Alta location at Minnesota Street Project in Dogpatch. (And the punchy plates from Hatecopy’s Maria Qamar jibe well with the artistic neighboring galleries and artists!)

She is starting with lunch service, with a menu that includes some of her previous creations, like blue cheese naan, as well as the classic street food dish of Mumbai: pav bhaji (toasted buns with spiced vegetable curry and a soft fried egg). Snacky bites, yes! She also weaves in a seasonal California sensibility, with her khichdi bowl (with fava dill rice, moong dal, ringan batata nu shaak), and a charred broccoli quinoa salad with arugula and pounded mint-cilantro drizzle. Gujarati cuisine is known for being vegetarian, so expect to be well taken care of if you don’t eat meat, but there are also meat dishes if that’s your preference. She makes so much by hand, like her rolled flatbread for a wrap (with paneer or chicken). Take a look at the menu and start thinking about a lunch date. Served Tue-Fri 11am-2:30pm.

She is working closely with her husband, Paresh, and the restaurant is a second collaboration between Daniel Patterson’s Alta Group and La Cocina graduates; they work closely with Restaurant Opportunities Center United, an advocacy group committed to addressing racial equity and encouraging diversity in the industry.

I’ll keep you posted on the menu after dinner launches (on May 31st!). Brunch is coming too, and they should also be able to start serving cocktails in a couple of weeks. Cheers to all of this. 1275 Minnesota St. at 24th St., 415-580-7662.


How it goes down at Zuni: a table loaded with the classics. Photo: ©


Xavier Salomon, now the former executive chef of The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay.

There are quite a few chef changes to report on, starting with the departure of chef Rebecca Boice from ~ZUNI CAFÉ~. She started at Zuni back in 2002, and after 10 years, left to cook elsewhere (in 2012), and then returned to Zuni in 2015, picking up the mantle after Judy Rodgers tragically died in 2013. Of all the people to help preserve and build upon Judy’s culinary legacy, Rebecca was it. I reached out to her for an update, and she confirmed she has departed and is going to be enjoying some well-deserved time off and also working on a few projects. I’ll keep you apprised of her next moves. Enjoy the sunshine, Rebecca!

Another talented SF chef has left us: Sara Hauman (most recently chef de cuisine at Octavia and previously Huxley and Mister Jiu’s) is now up in Portland at Arden Wine Bar & Kitchen, a female-owned and -run restaurant; you can read more here.

Last week, I went to the farewell party for the jovial chef Xavier Salomon, who is leaving The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay after 17 years. He is also leaving his 27-year career (!) with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company—he has mentored so many chefs. As you can imagine, the party was packed, with friends and colleagues coming from as far away as Malaysia to salute chef! He is moving with his wife Laura to Los Cabos, where Xavier will be the executive chef at Montage Los Cabos. Merci beaucoup for all your dedication, talent, delicious food, education, friendship, hospitality, and always-warm smile, chef! We will miss you, Zaza! Have fun working on that tan.

I heard that chef Jason Franey departed ~VILLON~ at the San Francisco Proper Hotel quite awhile ago, but neither Franey nor PR would confirm the rumor for me, so obviously they wanted to wait to be able to announce a successor: executive chef Mikey Adams. The Santa Cruz native was previously at The Tower in Edinburgh (until his visa ran out!), Shimo Modern Steak in Healdsburg (with Douglas Keane and Kolin Vazzoler), and Central Kitchen here in SF. His new menu offers a “fine-dining twist on comfort food from around the world,” from a salmon belly tostada with coconut and tomatillo crema to okonomiyaki with prawn kimchi and bonito. You can look over his new menus here.

Over at ~CULTIVAR~ in the Marina, Emily Lai of Malaysian pop-up Masak Masak is now the consulting executive chef. You’ll see some of her ingredient touches on the menu. Get ready for their patio to open in June.


Coming in hot! Chef Anthony Strong is ready to light things up. Photo: Victor Wong.


Chef Anthony Strong at his recent Cibi Cotti pop-up. Photo: Victor Wong.

Back in February, I broke the news that chef Anthony Strong was taking over the Hog & Rocks location in the Mission, and now he’s ready to release some details about what he’s launching. The restaurant will be called ~PRAIRIE~, and it’s an homage to his Midwestern roots and his preferred style of eating (grazing). If you were expecting an Italian name—especially considering the 11 years he worked for the Delfina Restaurant Group (when he left, he was group executive chef)—he decided to take a break from the minimum three-syllable names with a bunch of vowels and embrace his American roots.

The menu will still have a primarily Italian sensibility and feeling, but he’s going to be integrating international ingredients and allow his travels (including his love of Japan) to inform the concept as well. He’s ready to loosen up, have fun, and stretch some boundaries.

The menu will offer a slew of antipasti, something he loves about Italian dining (“it’s an onslaught!”), and he’s going to be doing a lot of grilling on the two grills he’s bringing in (a Josper from Spain, which a friend of his says is “God’s gift to chefs,” and a J&R Grill from Texas). He fell in love with grilling as a kid and wants to continue with his passion for it. You’ll be able to order an array of items “by the each” (like sardines with tea leaf salsa verde) and seasonal vegetables, meats, and more—dishes will be sized to share with your dining partners as well (like whole fish). Handmade pastas, also in the plan. He wants it to be fun and relaxed. If you attended any of his recent Cibi Cotti pop-ups, you’ll get the vibe.

To be clear, there will not be delivery! His Young Fava delivery concept from last year is a distant memory—this is a full-service restaurant. There’s going to be a full bar, too, with Italian-ish cocktails. He’s also getting a Suntory Toki highball machine installed (bring on the carbonated highballs, something he enjoyed while eating yakitori in Japan; he liked how well they paired with grilled food).

Strong is doing most of the design and acting as the general contractor, and he’s keeping the look simple, clean, and natural. When the 75-seat restaurant opens in late summer, they’ll be serving dinner nightly and plan to open for brunch on the weekend right out of the gate as well. You’ll be meeting Strong’s kombucha Bellini soon enough. There are also 15 sidewalk seats, always nice for cocktails and bites. Service will go until 11pm during the week and 12am on the weekend. I’ll keep updating you! 3431 19th St. at Mission.


Smørrebrød from Kantine at the Saturday CUESA Farmers Market. Photo via CUESA.

Consider this a rapid-fire news update, just so you can go check things out in case you are a fan of soft openings or just want something to look forward to. I’ll have more details in the next tablehopper!

Due to soft open on Thursday May 31st is ~DOUGLAS~, the new all-day café and corner market in Noe Valley from Maggie Spicer (Baana), Michael Molesky (Marker), and his father, Jim, who reportedly has quite the palate and cooking skills. Stand by to see what they start with, but breakfast, lunch, coffee (from Portland’s Heart Coffee Roasters) and tea, snacks, and stocked pantry shelves are all part of the plan (read more here). Here’s their Insta for updates. 1598 Sanchez St. at 29th St.

I was chatting with Nichole Accettola about the opening of her upcoming Scandinavian café, ~KANTINE~, and she’s targeting mid-June! Can’t wait for porridge and her smørrebrød (open-faced Danish sandwiches) on her housemade sprouted rye bread. I’ll keep you updated. (Pssst, she’s hiring!) 1906 Market St. at Octavia.


The dining room at Tosca. Photo by Sonya Yu via Tosca.

A week ago, 60 Minutes dropped a bombshell of a segment outlining further (horrendous) allegations of sexual harassment by New York-based restaurateur Ken Friedman, who is a co-owner of our ~TOSCA CAFE~ with April Bloomfield. The segment also confirms Bloomfield is ending the partnership (finally). You can read more in this New York Times piece about what the dissolution of the partnership entails.

There were more horrific accounts (including a sexual assualt allegation) about Mario Batali’s monstrous behavior revealed in the segment as well (read more here), which seems to finally have been enough for Joe and Lidia Bastianich of the B&B Hospitality Group to (again, finally) announce they are ending their partnership with Batali. The NYPD is investigating this second sexual assault complaint against Batali. So much for the bosom buddies of the “rape room.” And last Friday, it was revealed that three of his Las Vegas restaurants are closing.

More fallout: the Chronicle reported that Tosca’s chef Josh Even and manager Dana Katzakian are leaving the restaurant after negotiations to take it over didn’t pan out. No word on what’s next for them, or the restaurant.

But hey, let’s see if Friedman finally announces plans for the former Lusty Lady space, which he took over in 2014 with Bloomfield. Actually, no, let’s skip that.

May 15, 2018

The airy and serene main dining room at Birdsong. All photos:


Half of the chef’s counter overlooking the open kitchen.


The downstairs bar and meat locker/aging room.


Fish and chips: a scallop snack with pomme soufflé.


The Birdsong spin on New England clam chowder (with the evil Parker House roll brushed with pork fat lurking in the background).

Last week, I took a break from the madness of my new business launch and event hosting and soaked in the tranquil and chic atmosphere at the newly opened ~BIRDSONG~ in SoMa. The former AQ has been given quite the makeover from the design firm SAINT. There’s a handcrafted aesthetic with all the custom woodwork, but it doesn’t feel like something we’ve already seen before. Jeremiah Collection and Max Johnson crafted ash tabletops, Douglas fir flooring, custom cabinets, and more, balanced with pops of sea green. Even the open kitchen is full of wood instead of stainless steel, so diners who opt for the chef’s counter have a view of an enviable kitchen (designed by Alec Bauer from Kitchen Restaurant + Bar Specialists), with a Hestan custom oven suite and hearth.

Below, there are two private dining rooms (with room for 10 and 30), with a fun bar counter with peacock blue seats that look into a custom, walk-in glass meat locker accented by tiles that shimmer like abalone shell. There’s also a comfortable lounge area—the idea is guests will eventually be able to enter the downstairs lounge through a separate entrance on Minna and enjoy wine and bites.

The chef-owner is Chris Bleidorn, whose background includes Saison, Atelier Crenn (where he served as chef de cuisine), Benu, and Alinea. For Birdsong, he is creating a menu that pays homage to the Northwest (although he’s from the East Coast), nature, and employs heritage cooking techniques (like live fire, smoking, dry-aging, and fermenting). His ingredient sourcing is impeccable, as you can imagine, spanning NorCal to Alaska, featuring beautiful seasonal mushrooms, cold-water shellfish, and wild game. His chef de cuisine is Brian Limoges (previously executive sous at Quince and sous chef at Atelier Crenn).

Right now, you can experience the tasting menu for $135, which will go up to $168 on May 29th, when the preview is complete (an à la carte menu is launching soon as well). It includes 13-14 dishes, including playful yet elegant snacks like a fun spin on fish and chips (halibut draped over little puffs of pomme soufflé stuffed with tartar sauce), and their bacon and eggs (little rolls of dried bacon filled with egg yolk, caviar, and crème fraîche and dipped into chives). Inventive and delicious, another round, please.

A stunning dish was a play on New England clam chowder, with geoduck clam in whey instead of traditional dairy, celery, smoked potato, and lardo (its cured flavor beautifully permeated the dish), and on the side were Parker House rolls with a nice brushing of pork fat. Dipping those rolls into the broth, let me tell you, it’s the business. (There are other breads on offer, you should probably get them.) I have never had morels stuffed with spring Sonoma lamb, with a kiss from the fire, so it gives you an idea of the creativity going on here. (I’m posting pics on @tablehopper tonight if you want to see even more!)

Everything is served on custom ceramic plateware, designed by Bleidorn with Korean ceramic company KwangJuYo (taking a page from Benu’s playbook). The Benu connection doesn’t stop there: Bleidorn’s life and business partner is Aarti Shetty, director of operations for Benu, Monsieur Benjamin, and In Situ. The sommelier is Freddy Foot (formerly Gary Danko), featuring lesser-known selections from the Pacific Northwest, along with classic European wines, plus quality craft beers from Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

Open Tue-Thu 5pm-8:30pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-9:30pm. 1085 Mission St. at 7th St.


The Table at Merchant Roots. Photo: Kassie Borreson/Fotografie.


The counter at Merchant Roots. Photo: Kassie Borreson/Fotografie.


The café tables and stunning woven fiber art piece by Meghan Bogden Shimek. Photo: Kassie Borreson/Fotografie.


Now that’s what I call a mortadella sandwich. Photo: Kassie Borreson/Fotografie.

It kind of kills me that I had to miss the preopening party of this new beauty, because all I want is to head over and spend an evening in one of their spiffy chairs, stat. This long-awaited project (oh, SF, why do you make it so hard to open a business?) is such a cool concept: ~MERCHANT ROOTS~ is a specialty food store, wine shop, casual eatery, and fine-dining restaurant, all rolled into one. So whether you want to come by for a mortadella sandwich, glass of wine, full dinner (launching in five weeks!), or pick up a bottle to bring home, your bases are covered. It’s all highly curated and crafted, and everything is made in-house, from the housemade pastries to all the items in the larder.

This project is from life and business partners Madison Michael and chef Ryan Shelton (previously Baumé, Palo Alto). They are quite the power duo: she is a certified sommelier and cheesemonger, and he’s a skilled chef with a passion for all things Italian (hey, it’s in his blood!).

During the day, you’ll find salads and sandwiches (which you can also get to go), daily pastas, and more. And not just any sandwiches: there’s smoked carrot with shaved carrot, Point Reyes Toma, and raisin jam on focaccia ($9), and pasta like ricotta cavatelli with wild mushrooms, porcini cream, and sage pesto ($11) (check out the menu here). House-baked cannoli, cookies, and more will be there for you when your sweet tooth strikes. Coconut-lime doughnuts in the morning, that sounds good too.

Launching in five weeks is The Table at Merchant Roots, which will be offered three nights a week, featuring a themed tasting menu that will rotate every four to six weeks. There will be room for just eight guests, who will dine at the live-edge Monkey Pod wood table (by woodworker Ian Avidan of Berkeley-based Z&E Slabs). The Table experience will be $110 per person, with the option to add a wine pairing ($70) or partake by the glass.

It’s a petite 1,000-square-foot space, but they also managed to squeeze in quite the larder, stocked with their housemade food products, like salt blends, seasonal preserves, charcuterie (including salumi and uni pâté!), and five kinds of dried pasta, including kale spaghetti chitarra and gnocchetti sardi. (Impressive! They must have elves. Actually, they don’t—you’ll see chef Ryan and his team making pasta at the counter). They also have Eric Miller (Maker’s Common, Mission Cheese) helping out on the cheese selection and in-house charcuterie program, which will need some time.

And then there’s the wall of wine! Madison has selected more than 80 bottles, highlighting rare finds, natural wines, and lesser-known grapes, both locally and internationally. You can grab a bottle for a party, or come by for some daily selections by the glass. The space is so pretty, you’ll actually want to do both. There are live-edge wood café tables with copper wire chairs, and a showstopping 30-by-5-foot custom-made woven wool fiber art piece by local weaver Meghan Bogden Shimek. Obviously so much thought has gone into this place, can’t wait to check it out and soak in the details. And they have some great neighbors (like State Bird Provisions). That little stretch in the Lower Fillmore now has a lot going on.

Open Tue-Sat 9am-5pm. I’ll keep you posted on the dinner launch. 1365 Fillmore St. at Ellis.


The handsome interior of Cento Osteria. Photo: Nadia Andreini.


The menu is full of housemade and stuffed pasta dishes. Buon appetito! Photo: Nadia Andreini.


The katsu sandwich at Stonemill Matcha. Photo: ©


Trust, you want everything in that case at Stonemill Matcha. Photo: ©


One of Mikiko Yui’s cream puffs (filled with black sesame cream and made with two kinds of dough). Photo: ©

Many of you got a taste of the dishes at Donato Scotti’s ~CENTO OSTERIA~ at the tablehopper preview party a couple of weeks ago (thanks for comin!), and now everyone can head over since it’s officially open, right on the Embarcadero. It’s a handsome and spacious room, with enough seats for 110 diners and barflies (if amazing barman Casey Carr is bartending, that’s where you’ll find me!).

The casual but crafted menu spans all the regions of Italy, with dishes from Sicily to the Veneto. You’ll find plenty of antipasti (including unique ones like house-cured beef with Castroville artichoke and Parmigiano), housemade pasta (including raviolo norma with eggplant, almond pesto, garlic, spring onion, ricotta salata), fantastic pizzas from the wood-fired oven, and larger dishes like roast chicken. (Take a look at my Table Talk post on KQED Bay Area Bites for more and some pics too!)

There’s an extensive wine list featuring small-production Italian wineries, plus a house cocktail list (with plenty of amari!). And there’s a nice outdoor patio with room for 30, which is where you’ll want to hang out when Cento Osteria launches predinner apericena, starting this Wednesday May 16th (they’ll open at 3pm). Open daily for dinner Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm, Sun 5pm-9:30pm. Lunch and brunch are coming next. 100 Brannan St. at Embarcadero, 415-543-1000.

Last week, I was lucky to get a preview of the newly open ~STONEMILL MATCHA~ on Valencia, and it’s quite the charmer. It’s the flagship from a Japanese founder—Eijiro Tsukada—with a focus on quality matcha, so it’s your chance to try the really good stuff, and not what’s usually ending up in those iced matcha lattes you’re seeing all over town. I was a little sad to think that the iconic Bar Tartine space they moved into was no longer, but what can you do, time marches on. And they created a truly tranquil space, well, except for the crowds of people crushing the place right now. I love how they worked out a partnership with Tartine Manufactory, a classy homage to the DNA of the space, creating amazing treats like a matcha croissant and an everything croissant topped with furikake and cream cheese inside.

Pastry chef Mikiko Yui (State Bird Provisions, Coi) has created a lineup of pastries and desserts that is full-throttle delicious, from one of the best chocolate tarts I’ve ever had with feuilletine and sesame, to inventive cream puffs with two kinds of dough (and you can choose matcha cream or black sesame). Her matcha matcha mochi and the “matcharelli” cookies (inspired by Italian ricciarelli) are both studies in fantastic texture and flavor. The lineup is truly fine—it’s like having a dreamy Cal-Japanese pastry shop inside a café.

There’s a savory menu from chef Keisuke Akabori, with a fantastic rice porridge I am so coming back for soon (it’s the perfect all-day kind of dish), a katsu sandwich, and more. Take a peek at more pics (and details) in my Table Talk post!

The list of matcha beverages is extensive, featuring high-quality, stone-ground matcha from Kyoto (the birthplace of Japanese matcha). There are sparkling matcha drinks with yuzu or mint, a matcha latte with ginger, and you can enjoy hand-whisked matcha from the Slow Bar. They are dealing with a crush of humanity right now, so maybe plan a midweek visit if you can while they ramp up! Open daily 8am-6pm. 561 Valencia St. at 18th St.


The Marlowe burger, with fries of course. Photo by Eric Wolfinger.

Some quick updates on the north side of town: coming to Cow Hollow in September will be another location of Big Night Restaurant Group’s Marlowe: ~COW MARLOWE~. Eater reports the popular SoMa bistro is opening in the former Eastside West, and chef Jennifer Puccio will be adding some dishes just for that location. 3145 Fillmore St. at Greenwich.

Fort Mason is going to be getting quite the Bavarian beer hall! The beer-lovin’ folks behind Biergarten and Suppenküche are opening ~RADHAUS~ in Fort Mason Center by early summer. The Chronicle reports there will be some Cali-Bavarian food and beer and wine. The industrial space (it used to be a U.S. Army machine shop) is 3,700 square feet, offering enough room for a 200-foot ponderosa pine tree to be carved on site and transformed into a bar, communal bench, and tables. Envelope A+D is behind the new design. Stand by for more.


The private back room at Palio. Photo courtesy of Palio.


The famed Chubby Noodle pork tacos. Photo: ©

Some big news at FiDi longtimer ~PALIO RESTAURANT~: after making it through some positive lease negotiations, owner Martino DiGrande is going to be closing the restaurant on May 28th for a renovation and refresh. He plans to reopen in August. He’s excited to make it truly his own after taking it over seven years ago.

DiGrande has brought on AnV Architects, and they will be transforming the main dining room from its massive 120-seat capacity to 70, and also adding another private dining room. Another big change: the front dining room on Sacramento will become a bar and lounge. Since it’s a pre-1906 building, there will be a number of behind-the-scenes structural changes too.

They’re also going to take the opportunity to update the menu, focusing on their housemade pasta and pizza. DiGrande has such a dedicated team, with chefs Mauricio and Jose Martinez, who opened the restaurant in 1990, and their pasta-maker Eva has been making pasta with the company since the Blue Fox days—we’re talking more than 40 years ago! And Donaldo at the pizza oven? He’s been working it for 25 years! What a crew. The antipasti cart is also going to get dusted off and come back into service—it used to roam Palio’s dining room in the early years.

The private dining rooms will also get some new AV systems, which the business crowd will appreciate for their lunch and dinner presentations. The largest private dining room will also be getting a private bar. Cheers to all the changes after 30-plus years in business. 640 Sacramento St. at Montgomery, 415-395-9800.

Meanwhile, Mr. Busy, aka Pete Mrabe (of Pete’s on Green, Chubby Noodle, and Don Pistos) is going to be expanding his territory and opening a ~CHUBBY NOODLE~ location in Cabo San Lucas by the end of the year. He’s going to be opening in the Medano Beach area of Cabo, and as someone who frequents the area often, he’s looking forward to bringing Chubby’s fun flavas (love those Korean pork tacos so much) and party vibe to Cabo.


My kind of boat: the Salty Lady. Photo courtesy of Ted Wilson.

Many of us love our salmon, so let’s give thanks to the Golden Gate Salmon Association, which helps protect our beautiful Northern California rivers and fights to keep fresh water flowing from the mountains to the oceans—crucial for salmon migration. Coming up on Friday May 18th is the GGSA’s fundraiser event, San Francisco for Salmon 2018. There will be a dinner from WaterBar, Hook Fish Co., Stag Dining, 25 Lusk, Scoma’s, Fine & Rare, and Drakes Bay Oyster Co., plus wine from Seghesio and beer from Lost Coast Brewing. There’s also an auction, and you’ll hear from fisherman, restaurateurs, and advocates that are passionate about seafood sustainability as well. All proceeds benefit the GGSA.

Cocktail hour starts at 7:15pm, followed by dinner. Business casual attire. Tickets are at various prices. TwoXSea, 10 Fishermans Wharf on Pier 45.


The housemade sausages at Schmidt’s. Photo via Schmidt’s.

German beer and sausage lovers will mourn the upcoming closure of ~SCHMIDT’S~ in the Mission, which is serving its last dinner on Saturday May 26th and its last brunch on Sunday May 27th. Eater reports that after eight years in the location, co-owner Christiane Schmidt has decided to close after a difficult rent increase by her landlord (as if dealing with the difficult neighbor upstairs with a penchant for making angry signs wasn’t enough). At least you can visit her over at Walzwerk, while her business partner, David Pierce, is planning to revive the brand in some form, somewhere. 2400 Folsom St. at 20th St.