The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
February 19, 2019
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Sanuki udon from Udon Time (and tempura vegetables). All photos: Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Executive chef Steve Brown slicing up some meat magic.

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Niku’s caviar service.

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Kimchi tartare hiding under a cloud of beef tendon puffs and cured egg yolk.

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The extraordinary fat webbing of A5 beef.

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The simple and perfect presentation of off-menu A5 Takamori “drunken wagyu” New York strip.

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The tomahawk getting some thyme love on the binchotan charcoal grill.

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Sides at Niku include the can’t-miss nitro potatoes with crème fraîche.

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Chocolate-miso wagyu fat brownie.

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The Tradition cocktail (with citrus caviar).

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The view of the refrigerated windows of The Butcher Shop by Niku Steakhouse.

Kash Feng and Jackson Yu’s Omakase Restaurant Group (Omakase, Okane, Dumpling Time, Live Sushi Bar, Breakfast at Tiffany’s) has been bizzzzeeeee, and their unofficial takeover of Showplace Square is in full effect with the opening of their latest ventures: ~UDON TIME~, ~NIKU STEAKHOUSE~, and ~THE BUTCHER SHOP BY NIKU STEAKHOUSE~

First, let’s look at ~UDON TIME~. I stopped by for lunch yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed my bowl of Sanuki udon ($8), with their signature broth, green onion, wakame, and tempura flakes—I loved the ginger on top as well, and you can add an egg (do it). I wished the broth was a bit hotter, but I enjoyed its light and clean flavor (the bowl got a nice boost when I shook on some shichimi). The slippery and springy noodles were supple but not mushy—you’ll see the noodle-making machine as you walk in. The noodles are aged overnight for more flavor and a softer texture.

There are other udon options, from hot to cold, curry to vegetarian. I’m coming back for the Kamamata udon ($12), with Jidori egg, soy sauce, parmesan, and butter, oh yeah. The Niku udon ($14) features wagyu from their butcher shop next door, so that seems like a no-brainer as well.

Chef Edgar Agbayani trained at Sanuki Menki Noodle School in Kagawa, Japan, and learned all about udon noodles, the different dashis, condiments, and ingredients, and tasted udon all over the Sanuki prefecture (there are hundreds of shops).

There are a variety of tempura vegetables and proteins you can add on the side, like kabocha and shrimp and zucchini, or heartier bites like a curry potato patty—most pieces are $1.50 each or more. The fry on the shrimp was delicate and light, but I just wish I was getting it hot out of the fryer—the heat lamp situation needs some work. You’ll also see some onigiri.

The fast-casual format is a lot like Marugame Udon (if you have been): you get a tray, tell the staff which udon you want, pick out your tempura from the bar, pay up, and you can hit another counter for tempura dipping sauce and more of the toppings (tempura flakes, green onion, daikon, cilantro, ginger, and togarashi). You can also order beer, wine in a can, and sake. The price is right, and a bowl really hits the spot on these chilly days—I can see this place getting even better once they sort out the tempura counter. Open Mon-Sat 11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm. 55 Division St. at Rhode Island.

Steak lovers all over the city are talking about the newly open ~NIKU STEAKHOUSE~, and for good reason. It’s a modern steakhouse, with Japanese influences, some American DNA, and some French elegance as well. Executive chef Steve Brown was known for his CosechaSD Supper Club in San Diego, and anyone who has A5 tattooed on their forearm is obviously obsessed and someone you want preparing your steak.

If you can swing it, you’ll want a seat at the raised 18-seat chef’s counter, which encircles the binchotan charcoal grill, and is a great way to learn a lot about the prized beef they’re offering and preparing here. You also get a blast of beef fat and heat in your face throughout your meal, and it’s heady stuff. It’s also really fun—the counter is convivial, and the fun vibe keeps things from getting stuffy, which could easily happen with four ounces of A5 Satsuma New York strip going for $110. It’s not to say the other tables don’t have any fun—the music is bumpin’, the staff is attentive and engaging, and there’s a lot to watch. The sleek dining room—designed by Aya Jessani—features dark wood, a glass wall of wines, dark leather chairs, and ceramic earthenware from Sven in San Francisco and Humble in Los Angeles.

Appetizers include a Japanese A5 wagyu jerky flight (Ono, Takamori, Satsuma, $20), which would also make a great bar snack over whisky cocktails at the main bar. The kimchi beef tartare (made from Imperial wagyu, $26) was a definite standout, covered in puffed beef tendon and a shaving of cured egg yolk. And if you’re here to splash out, go for the Noble Russian osetra caviar ($65), served in a cloud of potato espuma and a ring of chive oil—chef Steve likes to call it French fries and ice cream, and it will make sense upon your first bite from the chilled caviar spoon.

So, the beef! They have painstakingly sourced top-notch beef from numerous sources, and you can enjoy both domestic and Japanese wagyu, from a $45 hanger steak to A5 Kobe New York strip for $160 (four ounces). And four ounces of the A5 is really all you need—it’s so rich, with powerful fat and a perfectly seared and crisp edge, that gets cut with a brushing of a light soy glaze that Steve developed, along with some wasabi you can dab on. They charmingly let you choose your steak knife, but you barely need more than your fork for the A5.

There are some secret off-menu cuts and selections, so inquire what chef may have “under the counter”—we got lucky with his prized Takamori “drunken wagyu,” which is fed the leftover mash from nearby Dassai sake brewery, and there’s off-menu tongue as well. Imperial wagyu tomahawks ($180) seemed to be the hot item the night we were there (getting a rigorous brushing from a bundle of thyme on the grill), and there’s a 40-day, dry-aged prime angus porterhouse ($110). There’s also seafood, pork, and plenty of appetizers.

DO NOT miss a side of the nitro potatoes ($13), the product of an involved process that has the Kennebec potatoes boiled, mashed, chilled (ice bath and in the refrigerator for 24 hours), frozen, nitro blasted, and fried, and then they get a little spritz of black vinegar. The crisp exterior against the creamy interior is potato perfection. And a side of the braised greens ($13) in veal glaze will remind you of smoky BBQ greens, but richer.

Dessert can be a lighter chazuke ice cream with matcha anglaise ($14), or a decadent chocolate miso brownie ($16) made with wagyu fat (and wagyu caramel on top). There are also some special wine selections, like Chateau d’Yquem (2005) poured from a Coravin, which is a busy device here. You’re in excellent hands with lead sommelier Brian Kulich, who is offering over 100 wines by the glass, from small-production to hard-to-find wines, and he’ll pair expertly with your meal.

The front bar is so eye-catching, with a wall of liquor and beautiful glassware (each cocktail has its own unique glass). Spend some time before dinner to enjoy the show from bar manager Julien Bertrand, who was the bar manager at Frida in Bordeaux, and has been in San Francisco since 2013, working at Tunnel Top and Bar Fluxus in San Francisco and Michel Bistro in Oakland. The cocktails are sophisticated, with complex layering of flavors and fresh ingredients.

Launching March 1st is a ten-course, seasonal tasting menu, featuring vegetables from Kicking Bull Farms (of course, right?) in Sonoma, which is when they’ll really be able to kick their Ferrari red, Hestan-outfitted kitchen into high gear. There’s also a private dining room for 14, and there will be the option to dine in the Butcher Shop by Niku Steakhouse next door. Niku Steakhouse is open Wed-Sun 5:30pm-10pm. 61 Division St. at Rhode Island.

Speaking of ~THE BUTCHER SHOP BY NIKU STEAKHOUSE~, it’s the domain of Niku’s in-house butcher, Guy Crims, who also oversees the restaurant’s nose-to-tail meat program, along with chef Steve. The duo will collaborate on The Butcher Shop’s daily sandwich program (launching soon), and Steve will be making his housemade sausages available at retail.

They have toured Japan extensively, both together and separately, fostering relationships with some of the country’s top farms, including Urban Farm in Yokohama, which was one of the first Japanese farms to bring wagyu to the U.S., and Ono Farms in the Hyogo prefecture, which is providing its wagyu as an exclusive to Niku and The Butcher Shop. The butcher shop is one of five certified Kobe beef retailers in the U.S., and the first in SF.

You’ll also find domestic meats, including USDA Prime beef from Nebraska (fresh and dry-aged); Heritage Berkshire Kurobuta pork from Iowa; USDA Choice Superior Farms lamb from California, and wagyu from Imperial Wagyu in Nebraska. It’s meant to be approachable, whether you’re picking up a traditional cut, like a porterhouse, to something more exclusive, or just some Kobe filet fat. Walking by on the street, you’ll see all the aging meats in see-through refrigerators, and there are some well-selected retail items inside for beef lovers. Look for upcoming “Butcher’s Counter” events with internationally acclaimed chefs and butchers later this year. Open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm to start. 57 Division St. at Rhode Island.

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The lineup of bagels from Daily Driver. Photo: Frankie Frankeny.

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Hadley Kreitz paddling butter. Photo: Frankie Frankeny.

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Baking bagels in the wood-fired oven. Photo: Frankie Frankeny.

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Pastrami on a caraway and sesame bagel with pickles. Photo: Frankie Frankeny.

We’re always on the hunt for good bagels in this city, but then what if I told you we’re about to hit a total jackpot with a bagelry, creamery, and coffee roaster, all in one spot? It’s true. Coming to Dogpatch in March (hopefully) will be ~DAILY DRIVER~, serving wood-fired bagels, housemade cheeses, butter, and Red Bay Coffee.

The project is from two couples: Tamara Hicks and David Jablons of Toluma Farms and Tomales Farmstead Creamery in West Marin (which they started 15 years ago), and Hadley and David Kreitz—Hadley has been working on the farm for five years, working as cheesemaker, herdswoman, and events coordinator, and has perfected the European-style cultured butter and cream cheese, using milk from Jersey cows from Marshall Home Ranch & Dairy. David Kreitz is an industrial designer who built the farm’s wood-fired oven and is managing the construction of Daily Driver, and developed the bagel recipe we’re going to be thanking him for soon enough.

The bagels will be hand-rolled, boiled, and wood-fired every morning, and they have a crunchy, crackly exterior (so satisfying to bite into) and soft interior, with a developed flavor. The bagels will come in classic flavors like poppy, sesame, everything, salt, garlic, onion, and plain.

The tangy cream cheese is also made in-house at Daily Driver, as well as the butter, ghee, and other fresh cheeses. You can add fish, herbs, and seasonal vegetables to your cream cheese to create a special spread of your liking (fun!), plus there will be seasonal compound butters, including a butter dusted with local seaweed. The butter is hand-paddled, and wait until you taste how creamy, sweet, dense, and rich it is—I was lucky to get a preview chunk of it, and it’s something special, what a mouthfeel. You can try quark, a German-style cheese similar to yogurt—you’ll be able to order it plain, or served with fresh fruit, honey, or granola on top. You’ll also be able to buy fresh buttermilk, a byproduct from making butter. Bring on the best pancakes at home.

There’s going to be a menu of bagel sandwiches from a B.E.C. to pastrami (enough to make me drive over in the morning and back again for lunch!), salads, soups, pretzels, bagel dogs (awesome), and a Maine lobster bagel roll. Martin Siggins, most recently the sous chef at Nico for four-plus years, will be running the kitchen. You can peep his menu here, which includes some of the brunchy weekend specials like Turkish eggs and biscuits made from their house buttermilk. Down the road, look for some dinnertime pop-ups in the summer.

Oakland’s Red Bay Coffee—from Keba and Rachel Konte—will be roasting a special coffee blend on-site that is only available at Daily Driver. Beer and wine will also be available for those dining in, featuring neighborhood breweries Triple Voodoo and Harmonic, and local wineries such as McEvoy and Miner Family Wines. 

This dream concept will be opening in a 5,000-square-foot industrial space in the American Industrial Center building—you’ll be able to sit on a mezzanine (130 seats!) and watch the bagels and cheese being made, butter being hand-paddled, and Red Bay Coffee being roasted. There will also be a retail area, where you can pick up a number of items, including plenty of cheeses.

Daily Driver will be open in March 6am-3pm daily, with an extended brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday. 2535 3rd St. at 22nd St.

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BSK’s impeccable waffles (at its original location). Yelp photo by Pei K.

Release the fried chicken and waffles! Tanya Holland must not be getting much sleep right now, since she just opened the ~BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN~ location in the Ferry Building, and her new Uptown Oakland location, both at once! BSK is now in the former Il Cane Rosso space, serving her famed buttermilk fried chicken and cornmeal waffles, along with smoked chicken and shrimp gumbo, buttermilk or bacon-scallion-cheddar biscuits, sandwiches, sides, and breakfast items too (peek at the menu here—breakfast is available until 11am). Soft opening hours are 8am to 2pm (closed Monday) until February 26th, when it will switch to Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat 8am-6pm, and Sun 11am-5pm. 1 Ferry Bldg., Ste. 41.

As for the Uptown location, Eater reports it’s opening on Wednesday February 20th in the former Picán and Ozumo location, which was divided into smaller restaurant spaces. After numerous construction delays, the new space will open with 85 seats and a large bar—yup, there’s full liquor. It’s just serving breakfast and lunch for now, with dinner coming in the spring. Hours for now are Tue-Sat 7am-2pm and Sun 8am-2pm. 2295 Broadway at 23rd St., Oakland.

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One of the charming corners at Cerf Club’s stylish event space. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The (rotating) menu at Verjus. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Last month, I was invited to check out a preview party of ~CERF CLUB~, the beautiful new event space from Stag Dining in Polk Gulch, and now they’re hosting Après, a weekly wine bar on Fridays. Come by for natural wines, sick bites from chefs Jordan Grosser and Ted Fleury (like crispy Brussels sprouts with country ham XO sauce, Scotch olives, and smoked local seafood chowder), low-ABV cocktails, hang out in their stylish space, and listen to some good music. It’s just what your Friday needed. Fridays 4pm-10pm. 925 O’Farrell St. at Polk.

Have you been wanting to check out ~VERJUS~, the chic, new French-inspired restaurant and wine bar from Lindsay and Michael Tusk? Of course you have. And now it just got easier to score a table at this no-reservations hotspot since they are now open for lunch, and staying open continuously into dinner. Come by Tue-Wed 11:30am-10pm and Thu-Fri 11:30am-12am, or Sat 5pm-late (kitchen closes at 10pm).

Chef-owners Carrie and Rupert Blease at ~LORD STANLEY~ have decided to make their Sunday Supper a permanent thing on last Sundays (four courses for $65), and starting this week, they’ll be offering a $45 special menu every Tuesday through Thursday. It’s a three-course menu, featuring some of their favorite standbys (this week, it’s salt cod beignets with kimchi dip; roasted suckling pig with grilled pineapple, ginger, scallion, and pork jus; and malted sourdough ice cream with apple caramel and sweet apple granola for dessert). 2065 Polk St. at Broadway.

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The distinctive custom leather banquettes at Belcampo. Photo via Belcampo’s Facebook page.

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Ta-da! MORE!jones with Juanita MORE! and her trusty team, chef Cory Armenta and Cole Church. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

Some changes are coming to various locations of organic meat company ~BELCAMPO~: the Russian Hill location is going to close (as well as their location in Palo Alto’s Town and Country Center), but on the flip side, they will be opening a flagship at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, and their first commissary kitchen in SoMa, which they will be using as a base to prepare and deliver food all over the city. The San Francisco location closes on March 2nd, and has stopped serving cooked food in the meantime. Stop by to get a goodie bag with ecommerce discounts, complimentary products, and gift cards for use at other Belcampo locations. 1998 Polk St. at Pacific, 415-660-5573.  

After numerous drag brunches and saving us with hangovah pizzas, Juanita MORE! and Cole Church are leaving ~JONES~ in Lower Nob Hill on February 28th, which means you have one last drag brunch you can attend on Sunday February 24th. It’s a tough space and was a lot of work (and werq), but now they’re going to be taking part in other opportunities (which they will now have more bandwidth to do). 620 Jones St. at Geary. [Via SFWeekly.]

A reader tipped me off to the unfortunate news that it looked like ~COLETTA GELATO~ had closed, and sure enough, when I emailed them for more info, their email said, “Sadly, our operations are closed until further notice.”

Best wishes to the ~HONG KONG LOUNGE II~ team, who got burnt out of their space after a terrifying gas main explosion out front. (It’s a miracle no one was hurt.) Fortunately, the city of San Francisco is providing some assistance through San Francisco’s Small Business Disaster Relief Fund. We’ll have to hear what’s next for the beloved business regarding relocation or rebuilding…

After almost 10 years in SF, brothers Austin and Tony Ferrari of ~HILLSIDE SUPPERCLUB~ and Provender Coffee are heading back to their hometown of Cincinnati. Both places will continue to stay open—Hillside’s chef and co-owner Jonathan Sutton will continue to run the restaurant. The brothers are going to be heading back and forth, but are just relocating their home base. They’ll be opening a new coffee shop and a restaurant back at home, and have also created a wine business (they partnered with Graham Tatomer on it), as well as a line of espresso: Ferrari Bros Espresso “Bro Spro,” roasted by their friends at Deeper Roots in Cincinnati. So, if you head to Cincinnati soon, you know who to visit!

February 5, 2019
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Ful (fava beans) with an egg and pita at Beit Rima. Yelp photo by Dan B..

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The exterior of The Pawn Shop. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The eclectic and communal interior of The Pawn Shop. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The montado de atún at The Pawn Shop. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Tequeños     at the new Mamo in Cow Hollow. Yelp photo courtesy of Mamo.

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The namesake breakfast little sandwich on a pan de sal roll. Yelp photo by Thomas K..

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The combo banh mi at B and B. Yelp photo by JM Y..

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Har gow that look like goldfish at Golden Saba Seafood. Yelp photo by Johnson H.

The former Burgermeister on Church is now home to ~BEIT RIMA~, a casual place for Arabic comfort food. The name means “Rima’s House,” an homage to owner Samir Mogannam’s mother and her wonderful cooking (she is originally from Jordan). His father is Paul Mogannam, founder of Burgermeister, who is retiring and passing the mantle to his son. The menu includes falafel or kebab-stuffed pita, shakshuka all day, hummus (including a version topped with spiced beef), fattoush salad, vegetables from Mariquita Farm for dipping, and more. A post on Eater reveals he has quite the cooking pedigree, working at Aziza, Tawla, and Dyafa. Open Mon-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm. 138 Church St. at Duboce. [Via Hoodline.]

I was happy to see Nick Balla’s ~SMOKEBREAD~ back in action as a kiosk in the Market on Market in the Twitter building. Yup, his tasty dips and spreads made from B-grade produce are back! Eater got some additional details: it’s a permanent kiosk, serving one item for $4, or three items for $10, choosing from smoked potato bread (made from ugly potatoes!), dips, vegetables to dip, and pickles. The selection will change based on what he’s sourcing from farmers markets, Good Eggs, Imperfect Produce, and other purveyors. It will also be “a launching pad for Balla’s wholesale and packaged business; he plans to expand production to accommodate white labeling for bigger companies and distribution to other markets.” Think: airports and other quick-serve spaces. We’ll be hearing and seeing more in coming months. Open Mon-Fri 11am-2pm. 1355 Market St. at 10th St.

The teams behind Monarch Management Group (Monarch, The Great Northern) and Bisou Group (Beso, ChouChou) have opened a quirky wine bar and restaurant on Mission at Sixth Street called ~THE PAWN SHOP~ in a space that was originally…a pawn shop. The exterior and front area look just like a vintage pawn shop (designed by Jesse “Roadkill” Wilson), complete with VHS tapes and a fast-talking “pawn master” who wants to make some deals. After some initial haggling, he’ll press some buttons and open a secret door built into a shelf, which opens onto a rather spacious bar and dining area with high-top communal tables and an eclectic tropical style. Service is friendly in spite of the bustle as servers navigate the room (it can get a little tight). The wine list is heavy on the Old World selections, with some California wines, and flights offered. There are also four low-ABV cocktails, but they could use some fine-tuning.

The mostly Spanish-inspired menu of tapas with a few Cuban dishes is extensive (perhaps a bit too much so), and the pricing is all over the map (the fried cauliflower with romesco was a great snacky dish, and just $10, while a minuscule escarole salad was $12, and mini lamb chop “lollipops”—with nothing listed about their sourcing—were a whopping $19 each). The montados (toasted baguette toast points loaded up with toppings) ended up being a favorite bite, like the tuna or the cojonudo with chorizo and quail egg, a nicely priced bite at $6 each. I also snuck one of my friend’s tostones ($8), with an avocado pistachio sauce that worked much better with the plantains than the lamb lollipops. There are also oysters, charcuterie and cheese, skewers, tapas (including a vegan section), flatbreads that are like an island of cheese (good for the end of the night but maybe not the beginning if you’re planning to dance at Monarch next door), and piping hot churros.

Some folks are decrying the insensitivity of opening a mock pawn shop in the middle of one of the city’s most downtrodden areas, but I almost take greater offense at the lack of prices on the online menu—maybe it’s just part of the pawn shop schtick. Open Mon-Sat 4pm-2am, happy hour 4pm-6pm and late 10pm-12am, Sat-Sun brunch 10am-3pm. 993 Mission St. at 6th St.

Now open in the Marina/Cow Hollow is ~MAMO~, a restaurant blending Colombian, Venezuelan, and Californian cuisines. The South American menu includes small plates, salads, and larger plates like pork shoulder guajillo with arepas, poached white fish, and even a vegan bowl, plus beer and wine. It’s a tiny spot, but looks like it will be a cozy neighborhood joint. Open Tue-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. 3659 Buchanan St. at Bay.

You love breakfast sandwiches? Yeah, me too. The one they’re serving at ~BREAKFAST LITTLE~ looks like a winner, along with their ham and cheese French toast, savory toasts, oatmeals, and breakfast burrito with tater tots inside. It’s a sister business to Piccolo Pete’s, so you’ll find coffee from Henry’s House of Coffee. It’s tiny, so plan on take-out. Open Mon-Fri 6am-6pm, Sat 7am-6pm, and Sun 8am-6pm. 3224 1/2 22nd St. at Bartlett.

There are some new banh mi spots that opened, starting with ~LE TRIO~ in the Outer Sunset, serving banh mi like slow-roasted pork with lemongrass (from 11:30am-3pm) in a stylin’ café space, along with scones, cakes, and coffee drinks from Temple Coffee and tea. Open Wed-Sun 8am-3pm. 2575 Judah St. at 30th Ave.

Another spot is ~B&B BANH MI & BOBA~ in the Inner Sunset, which reportedly has special bread made for them. I’ll be checking this one out soon (b&b special combo with house-roasted pork, fancy pork loaf, headcheese, pate, and b&b special sauce, you are mine), let me know if you’ve already been! Open Tue-Sun 11am-7pm, but it sounds like the banh mi can run out around 4pm, FYI. 1634 Irving St. at 17th Ave.

Now, let’s look at dumplings. There’s a new Shanghaiese noodle and dumpling spot in the Inner Richmond called ~ALLEY HOUSE~, and taking a quick glance at their album of photos on Yelp is enough to make me want to check it out stat. Bring on the saozi noodles. Open Tue-Sun 11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm (until 9:30pm Fri-Sat). 3751 Geary Blvd. at Arguello Blvd

Downtown workers will want to check out ~GOLDEN SABA SEAFOOD~, offering freshly made dim sum like har gow, steamed bao (including trendy colorful ones), xiao long bao, siu mai, and fun dumplings like the tom yum goong ones from Dumpling Time, plus some lunch specials and small plates. Open daily 11am-3pm. 646 Washington St. at Kearny.

You can pick up some quality vegetarian and meat handheld pies from ~PYE~, who you may know from various farmers markets and festivals, who are now serving from inside San Franpsycho in the Inner Sunset. Brothers Caleb and Cody use local and regional ingredients, organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, dairy, and grains, along with no added hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or harmful chemicals in their ingredients. Available Thu-Sun 10am-3pm. 1248 9th Ave. at Irving.

Meanwhile, a second location of the kosher ~FRENA BAKERY~ has opened in the Outer Richmond, serving everything from pizza bagels to sambusak, burekas, shakshuka, challah and other breads, halva, and doughnuts. I have never been particularly in love with the goods from their location on 6th Street, but some people seem to dig it, and I do appreciate their fluffy pita. Here’s a second location for you. Open Mon-Thu 8am-8pm, Fri 8am-3pm, Sun 9am-7pm. 5549 Geary Blvd. at 19th Ave.

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The ground floor of the building at 838 Grant. Photo with Google Maps.

Just some quick coming soon news for you: according to some agenda notes from the Planning Commission, it looks like the well-known downtown dim sum parlor, ~CITY VIEW~, is planning to open a location in the ground floor of the former and iconic Empress of China building. The six-story behemoth, famous for its banquets, opened in 1966 and sadly closed in 2014. I’m bummed this project doesn’t involve an upper-level floor (City View really deserves a view with that name, and The Empress had such an amazing view!). I’ll let you know when I hear back with any updates. 838 Grant St. at Clay, 415-434-1345.

~SEÑOR SISIG~ is going to be opening a brick and mortar in the former Blue Fig on Valencia, which includes a parklet and sunny back patio. Don’t worry, the five trucks will continue circulating (for now). Owner Evan Kidera is aiming for a May opening. 990 Valencia St. at 21st St. [Via Eater.]

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The classic exterior of Lucca Ravioli Company. Photo via Lucca’s Facebook page.

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The long bar at The Perennial. Photo courtesy of The Perennial.

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The dining room at The Perennial. Photo courtesy of The Perennial.

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I’m gonna miss you, beastmode double cheeseburger from The Board. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Just a couple weeks ago, I was driving by ~LUCCA RAVIOLI CO.~ late one night in the Mission, and there was a little voice in my head that quickly gave thanks that this iconic SF Italian-American deli was still with us, with its quirky hand-painted signs and jaunty tricolore awning and signage. Well, that little voice that was comforting me was wrong.

The sad news that this beloved deli and shop is closing on Saturday April 20th (the day before Easter Sunday) has been cascading and crashing throughout the city. When I moved back to California after living in Italy, Lucca was the only place I could find my Lavazza coffee for my Moka pot (and replacement gaskets), and they’d always slice my finocchiona and spicy coppa just-so, but would still show me my first slice for approval before tiling and layering the meats with care like the pros they are. I posted some more thoughts on tablehopper’s Facebook page… At least it’s not a case of a greedy landlord: it’s just that the owner (Michael Feno) is ready to retire and there aren’t any successors to take over the business.

It’s a huge loss to SF—that shop was one in a million. And those union guys who ran the counter, also one in a million. After 94 years, you tend to think something will be here forever, but sadly, that is not the case. Time for me to have a final photoshoot since the last one was for an article in the Chronicle back in 2007! At least we have a couple months to take a number, say our goodbyes, eat some final ravioli, and hope the guys offer me one last breadstick dipped in their pesto. I’ll also pick up a bottle something bitter so I can pour some out—here’s to 94 years, since 1925, what a feat. Grazie, Lucca! And if you have a cool $8.3M, you can buy Lucca and its neighboring buildings. Sigh. 1100 Valencia St. at 22nd St.

One of SF’s most eco-conscious restaurants, ~THE PERENNIAL~ is closing after service this Saturday February 9th. In the farewell note from owners Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint, they say, “So much has happened at The Perennial to give us hope and make us grateful to everyone who made this mission-driven restaurant a reality—and we have witnessed a real shift toward food and agriculture in the conversation around sustainability, which we are proud to have been part of. Meanwhile, during the same years we have run The Perennial, we were also building another labor of love: a non-profit sister organization we named The Perennial Farming Initiative, which is dedicated to the same mission as The Perennial. We have learned so much from toggling between the two projects, but as founders we have come to the conclusion that we can be more effective advocates for a renewable food system through PFI. As people, as parents, as partners, we recognize that it is time to close.” Best wishes to them, and thanks for everything they do to pioneer sustainability in food businesses and beyond. 59 9th St. at Mission.

Darn it, one of the dirtiest burgers in the City is leaving us: ~THE BOARD~ in SoMa has closed. Owner Adam Mesnick was having difficulties making things work with staffing while keeping costs affordable—it wasn’t for lack of trying. At least we can still get his wicked sandwiches at ~DELI BOARD~. 1077 Mission St. at 7th St.

Fans of ~DUMPLING KITCHEN~ in Parkside will be bummed to learn it has suddenly closed—the owners are retiring, and decided to close after eight years of making their tasty dumplings. 1935 Taraval St. at 29th Ave. [Via Eater.]

Another unexpected closure was ~COFFEE BAR~ in the Mission, which suddenly closed without any explanation. I checked in with original owners Robert Stang and Luigi Di Ruocco (Mr. Espresso) on the closure, who said, “We learned of the Bryant location’s closure along with the general public, closed doors with no explanation. We sold that location to a group of private investors, our agreement prohibits us from discussing them or the sale. We have inquired with them with no response.” We’ll have to see what happens next at the location. Coffee Bar’s other locations remain open and unaffected. 1890 Bryant St. at Florida.

Things also look a little up in the air at ~ALLEGRO ROMANO~ on Russian Hill. A tablehopper reader sent in a pic of a notice of suspension in the window, and you can’t make any reservations on OpenTable. I’ve reached out to owner Lorenzo Logoreci, and will let you know if I hear back. 1701 Jones St. at Broadway.

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The open kitchen and hearth at Angler. Photo courtesy of Angler.

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The new brunch burger at Kaiyo with a housemade Spam patty. Photo courtesy of Kaiyo.

Now open for lunch, you can come by ~ANGLER~ for their trademark Radicchio with Radicchio X.O. dish and more. Menu here (menu changes daily). Lunch served Thu-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm. 132 The Embarcadero at Mission, 415-872-9442.

Weekend brunch at the stylish ~KAIYO~ in Cow Hollow sounds like a winner to me, especially with the sunny front patio area. The newly launched brunch menu includes kakuni-braised pork belly hash with Peruvian potato hash, panca, shishito peppers, onion, sunny-side up egg, and uchucuta sauce; karaage chicken and waffles with a sesame and scallion waffle, miso maple butter, poached egg, and seasonal greens; or there’s also a Kaiyo burger. If you like something sweeter, there’s passionfruit-soaked French toast with macha crème Chantilly, fresh berries, mango syrup, and cinnamon. Don’t forget their bar, full of creative and well-executed cocktails. Served Sat-Sun 10:30am-3pm. 1838 Union St. at Octavia, 415-525-4804.

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Come in to North Light for a cocktail and dinner, and be surrounded by books and music. Photo: Savage Bureau.

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The front room (and books!) at North Light. Photo: Savage Bureau.

Looking for a place that welcomes bookworms and lovers of cocktails and espresso shakeratos and ricotta meatballs? There will be a light on for you at ~NORTH LIGHT~, an all-day café and bookstore that morphs into a bar in the late afternoon and evening. You can come by for breakfast (soft-scrambled eggs and papas bravas sound good?) and a Turkish coffee, or salads and toasts for lunch (including some day drinking options), and nighttime brings a few more heftier plates, along with boozier drinks from bar manager Den Stephens, but you’ll also find a kid’s menu if you have any little ones. Well-selected wines, also on the list. I’m happy that we have chef Ronnie New back in the Bay Area, and he’s running the kitchen here.

Owners Dan Stone and Lee Smith have some amazing people choosing the selection of books they sell (oh, like the favorite books of Patti Smith and Rebecca Solnit), and there are also records that will be for sale, and will also be playing. Back patio, check. Sounds just like my sort of place. Open Tue-Sun 7am-12am. 4915 Telegraph Ave. at 49th St., Oakland.

If you’re a fan of cider or just want to learn more, you can head to ~REDFIELD~, the East Bay’s first cider bar and bottle shop, which recently opened in Rockridge from wife-and-husband team Olivia Maki (Bi-Rite Market) and Mike Reis (Monk’s Kettle, Lagunitas Brewing Company). There are 16 beer and cider draft lines for by-the-glass bottle pours and tasting flights, plus 150 or so ciders. You can also get bottles and cans to go. You’ll also find wine and food, like sandwiches, salads, and small plates, influenced by the cuisine of great cider cultures. Open Sun-Thu 12pm-11pm and Fri-Sat 12pm-12am. 5815 College Ave. at Chabot, Oakland.

There’s a new sandwich and salad spot near UC campus with a focus on housemade, quality ingredients and affordable pricing called ~RED DOOR EATS~, take a look at the menu here, which includes romesco roast beef and crunchy bird turkey with layered chips (my kind of sandwich). Open Mon-Sat 11am-8pm. 2282 Fulton St. at Bancroft, 510-709-0009.   

January 22, 2019
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The stylish bar à vin at Verjus. Photo courtesy of Verjus.

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Some of the stunning pâtés en croûte at Verjus. Photo: Kelly Puleio.

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Boudin blanc à la mer. Photo: Kelly Puleio.

Now open in Jackson Square is ~VERJUS~ from Michael and Lindsay Tusk of Quince and Cotogna, and new managing partner Matt Cirne. It’s a French-inspired cave à manger (which means “eat in a cellar”), which includes a wine bar, wine shop, and conserva bar, with vintage housewares and more that you can purchase in a retail shop.

It’s the most casual of their ventures to date: no reservations, and you even order at a counter. It should feel like a pintxos bar of San Sebastián, or a cicchetteria in Venice, where you can drop in for a bite and glass or two, and maybe grab a bottle to bring home. The wine selection will highlight small-scale, independent, organic wines, natural wines, and wines with a strong sense of terroir, along with Champagne, wines from overlooked terroirs, and more.

The all-day (and daily changing) menu from chef Michael Tusk and chef de cuisine David Meyer (The French Laundry, The Progress, and In Situ) will lean on French charcuterie such as pâtés en croûte, rillettes, and terrines, along with boudin blanc or noir, duck confit, Dungeness carb tartine, and a daily omelette with seasonal produce from Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas. The selection of tinned fish and shellfish in the conserva bar will be available to eat with bread, lemon, olive oil, salsa verde, and pimentón.

The historic space dates back to the 1850s, when it was the Eclipse Champagne Building, and Verjus occupies two formerly separate and now connected spaces at 528 and 550 Washington Street, flanking Hotaling Place Alley. The stylish design is inspired by France in the 1950s-1960s, with mid-century modern Luigi Caccia Dominioni and Gino Sarfatti light fixtures, and Pierre Chapo vintage tables and chairs, all under a lacquered burgundy ceiling, and the music is a soundtrack of yé-yé pop, jazz, and more.

The bar à vin is open Mon-Thu 4:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 4:30pm-late (12am), while the shop (la cave) is open Mon-Thu 11:30am-7:30pm, and Fri-Sat 11am-7:30pm. Lunch is coming soon. 528 Washington St. at Hotaling.

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Winner winner chicken dinner. The spread at RT Rotisserie. Photo: Kassie Borreson.

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Vive La Tarte’s incredibly delicious “California” cheesecake. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Khao soi with chicken or tofu at the new Kamin at SFO from Kin Khao. Instagram photo by @kamin_SFO.

There was a rumor swirling around the Western Addition and Nopa that Rich Table’s ~RT ROTISSERIE~ was opening a second location in the former Delessio Market & Bakery space (next to Falletti Foods and Nopalito) and whaddya know, it’s true! Evan and Sarah Rich, along with business partner Jonny Gilbert, will be opening another RT Rotisserie at the corner of Broderick and Oak, which means the neighborhood will have access to their awesome rotisserie chicken, roasted cauliflower, sandwiches, salads, sides, and fab chicken soup!

It’s going to be a bit bigger than the original Hayes Valley location, clocking in at 2,000 square feet, compared to 1,200 square feet, and outdoor seating will be available. Timing is unconfirmed at the moment, but they’re targeting spring. They’ll be delivering via Caviar upon opening, so folks further west will have easy access to delivery. 306 Broderick St. at Oak.

A quick note: in the meantime, ~NOPALITO~ has been popping up in the Delessio space while they remodel and upgrade a bit for the next week or so.

A third location of ~VIVE LA TARTE~ opens this Saturday January 26th in Noe Valley in the former Bliss Bar space (they designed the space in collaboration with Kilomade Studios and Planart). The Belgian-inspired bakery and restaurant from Arnaud Goethals and Julie Vandersmeech will not only offer their fab baked goods (their croissants are very popular, and I’m obsessed with their cheesecake, lawdy), but they are also offering brunch, lunch, and dinner service, and understanding the needs of the neighborhood, they developed a dedicated kids’ menu as well.

Everything from kombucha cocktails to natural wine to espresso service from Sightglass will be on offer. Bonus: they’re partnering with Caviar for fast delivery. Flour will be milled in-house in a dedicated milling lab, and bread will be baked on-site, so the neighborhood will be smelling extra-good. Hours will be 7am-10pm daily. 4026 24th St. at Noe.

Big news over at SFO: if you’re flying international, you can visit the new The Manufactory Food Hall, with three restaurants by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of Tartine, Gabriela Cámara of Cala, and Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao.

You can view the initial menu here (scroll through to see it). Tartine is offering three sandwiches, as well as a bakery counter (yes, there are morning buns!) and Coffee Manufactory has a full coffee bar, grab-and-go coffee, espresso drinks, and whole beans.

Techamuanvivit is offering a fine-casual menu at Kamin by Kin Khao, with Kin Khao wings, a fried chicken sandwich, gluten-free fried chicken or a fried tofu box, and a couple noodle soups, all designed for portability. Cámara is pulling inspiration from her daytime Tacos Cala and is offering six kinds of tacos, from egg and potato to fish tacos. There is a full-service bar, grab-and-go options, and some retail too. International Terminal Boarding Area A near Gate A5 (post-security). Open 6am-12am daily, bar until 1am.

Coming late spring to the former Farina Pizzeria space on Valencia in the Mission will be ~FLOUR + WATER PIZZERIA~ from chef Thomas McNaughton. Stand by for more details soon. 700 Valencia St. at 18th St. [Via Eater.]

More pizza: I’ve been looking at the Detroit-style pizza testing happening at ~CELLARMAKER HOUSE OF PIZZA~, and they are now open. This is a second location for the SoMa brewery (they took over the former Old Bus Tavern brewpub in Bernal). They’ll be offering more experimental beers on a four-barrel system, along with some guest beers. Open Wed-Mon 5pm-10pm. 3193 Mission St. at Valencia.

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Sherry-braised pork shoulder “tortillas.” Photo: Daniel Azarkman.

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Summertime fig toast. Photo: Daniel Azarkman.

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A rendering of the upcoming El Lopo. Courtesy of El Lopo.

Coming to Polk Street in the former location of The Pour House (which just closed over the weekend) is ~EL LOPO~, a Spanish-inspired, food-forward wine bar (through a California lens). Owner Daniel Azarkman’s concept is inspired by pretending if California remained a Spanish colony, what would our food look like? So the wines will be focused on Spanish varieties grown in California, along with some Spanish vermouth (on tap), sherries, and wines, plus beers as well.

The snacks will have some Spanish ingredients and inspiration, like a tortilla, but will change with the seasons—and don’t expect anything “authentic.” In fact, what he’s calling a tortilla is meant to bridge the gap between what the term means in Spain and what it means in Mexico: at El Lopo, they look and eat like Mexican tacos, but the flavors are much more Mediterranean, and the tortilla itself is made from potato and egg. During a test run pop-up at Blur, Azarkman served one with sherry-braised pork shoulder, wilted chicories, harissa, and pomegranate seeds.

Some other past dishes included a Galician-inspired empanada of pork picadillo, yellow peaches, and sweet peppers, topped with romesco; fig and ham toast with mission figs, jamón serrano, and queso fresco on Jane fig and walnut bread; and roasted Mary’s chicken wings in a sauce of almond butter, saffron, and oloroso sherry.

He’s working with the Butcher’s Local Union 510 on making custom Spanish charcuterie—they’re starting with a hard chorizo. There will also be canned seafood (like mussels and sardines) that will be served lightly embellished (think soft-boiled egg, greens, and bread), and he’s looking at featuring West Coast seafood, like herring from Oregon.

Azarkman was most recently working with Off the Grid for six years, helping entrepreneurs launch their own food businesses that past three years, and was inspired to give it a go himself—he was also an intern for tablehopper some years ago, so it’s fun to see this happening.

For now, El Lopo is planning to open around Friday February 1st as a bar with a very limited menu (think room temp items like canned seafood, salads, and charcuterie), and once some permits come through, the full food menu will launch. The rustic space will have 48 seats, with a long bar, and cooking will happen right behind the bar (Azarkman brought on a kitchen manager who has cooked at Octavia, Iyasare, and Octavia).

Hours will be 4pm-12am, with the full menu running from 5pm-11pm when things are up and running. Follow along on Instagram for updates, and I’ll keep you posted on the full launch. 1327 Polk St. at Bush.

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Garlic sesame miso ramen from chef Dennis Lee. Photo courtesy of The Saratoga.

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Salt and vinegar onion rings with everything bagel ranch at City Beer Store. Instagram photo via @citybeerstore.

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Saison’s famed uni toast. Instagram photo via @saisonsf.

Whatcha doing Wednesday evening? Chef Dennis Lee of Namu and Namu Gaji is popping up at ~THE SARATOGA~ and kicking off a four-week series of ramen specials. This Wednesday the 23rd, chef Lee is debuting his garlic sesame miso ramen, an exclusive dish available for just one night (crispy delicata squash, roasted tomato, bean sprouts, shiitake, mizuna, sesame mayu, nori, and onsen egg, $16). Then, The Saratoga’s chef Francisco Baca will be serving a different ramen special of his own creation each subsequent Wednesday (through February 13th). There’s plenty of Japanese whiskey to go with your bowl. No tickets or anything necessary, the ramen will be served in addition to the regular menu.   

After the closure of City Counter, I’ve been wondering where chef Sean Thomas was going to reappear, and it ends up he’s now at the new location of ~CITY BEER STORE~ in SoMa, which has launched its full-service kitchen. Lunch and dinner are served (12pm-10pm daily), check out the menu here, with dishes like salt and vinegar onion rings with everything bagel ranch, cider-steamed mussels with Chinese sausage, and Nashville Hot mochiko chicken on an Acme roll with yuzu kosho tahini. Perfect food to pair with their selection of craft beer, wine, and cider on draft. 1148 Mission St. at 7th St.

If you’ve always wanted to try ~SAISON~’s famed uni toast, and have been curious to try the food since chef Laurent Gras (L20) joined the team, but can’t afford the $298 tasting menu, they have officially announced a fixed bar menu for $148 for five courses, which also includes Millbrook Farms venison, which Gras air dries for a week, tempers in wagyu fat, and grills over embers. It’s seasoned with emulsified housemade butter and pink peppercorn, and served over a sauce of huckleberries, lemongrass, and black pepper with a garnish of beef tendon cracker, flower pollen, and spices, and a grilled avocado. You can also add dishes and supplements.

A wine pairing is $98, while cocktails are $19, and there are other options, like beer to go with the uni, or a junmai sake to accompany the fish course of king salmon cured over sake lees. The bar seats six and you can reserve for one or two people. 178 Townsend St. at 3rd St.

~NICO~ has launched an à la carte menu in the dining room, although their tasting menu is an affordable $85 for six gorgeous courses if you have the time and money. And be sure to order a cocktail, they’re unique and some of the city’s most beautiful beverages. 710 Montgomery St. at Washington.

Folks who live near the new ~LE MARAIS BAKERY~ in Lower Nob Hill will be happy to know they are now offering full breakfast, lunch, and brunch. Come by from 9am-3pm for scrambled eggs with smoked trout, salads, sandwiches, croques, and more. They’re also launching delivery on Caviar very soon! 1138 Sutter St. at Larkin.

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Some of the many dishes at Tawla. Photo: Smeeta Mahanti.

I was so sorry to learn that after two years, the delicious and unique ~TAWLA~ on Valencia has closed. Like many unfortunate outcomes in life, the closure was due to numerous reasons; you can read owner Azhar Hashem’s piece on Medium about the closure. Thank you for all the beautiful meals.

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The new tables and booths at Soba Ichi in West Oakland. Instagram photo via @sobaichi_oakland.

I was noticing some new tables on ~SOBA ICHI~’s Instagram feed, and it ends up they have some new hours to go with them! Dinner hours have launched, with a new menu of small plates, but now weekday lunch is no longer.

The new hours are Wed-Thu 5pm-9pm, Fri 5pm-10pm, Sat 11am-2:30pm and 5pm-10pm, and Sun 11am-2:30pm and 5pm-9pm. Just don’t show up at the end of service and expect to find their prized noodles waiting for you—when they run out, that’s it! 2311A Magnolia Ave. at Grand, West Oakland.