April 18, 2006

April 18, 2006

There's so much going on this week, we're going to have to do this neighborhood by neighborhood. First, to Russian Hill we go. It ends up local favorite, ~FRASCATI~, has new owners since April 1: Jon and Rebecca Rader. Jon was the GM of Scala's Bistro at the historic Sir Francis Drake for five or so years (which included overseeing Caffe Espresso, banquets, and the Starlight Room, which means he was one busy mofo), and prior to that was the GM of Harry Denton's Starlight Room from '97-'01. The Raders are long-standing friends with Rich Wood, the former proprietor. So far, the neighborhood has been totally receptive, especially since the Raders plan to keep things on track with no drastic changes, including keeping chef Max DiMare at the stoves. 1901 Hyde St at Green St., 928-1406.

Over a few blocks, Scott Holley, owner of North Beach's Steps of Rome and Figaro, in addition to the G Bar (next door to the Laurel Inn), has bought ~YABBIE'S COASTAL KITCHEN~ on Polk St. The previous owner, Windee Smith, grew tired of the commute from the wine country (I don't blame her). Holley is keen to maintain the friendly, easygoing, and quaint Russian Hill ambiance (and good wine list) Yabbie's is known for. The chef, Megan Smith, will also remain. She has been there for a year and a half, and in fact is working on a few tasty new dishes for the menu, like a lobster fritter appetizer, and an entrée of salmon with crispy artichoke and potato with tarragon butter sauce. She has wanted to try some new dishes for a while, and with the new ownership, she has been given the clearance to do so. But regulars, fear not: they are keeping many of the classics firmly in place on the menu, including the clambake, half a Dungeness crab, the sesame-crusted tuna, the cioppino, and, of course, the Monday night fish 'n' chips. 2237 Polk St at Vallejo St., 415-474-4088.

The Western Addition is seriously on a tear: not only did ~NOPA~ open last week, and I’m hearing it’s getting high marks, (560 Divisadero St. at Hayes St., 415-864-8643), but a few doors down is ~ZIRYAB~, a Middle Eastern joint (at last—a different kind of wrap for the 'hood) from Sameer Nasser, who owns the Star-ell liquor store on Divis. Ziryab has a pretty extensive menu, serving kebabs, shwarma, falafel, salads, and there is even free-range chicken breast with sumac sauce. There's also a front patio that is recessed from the street, and hookahs (apple and strawberry). The only bummer: the hours are daily from 4pm-11pm, which means no lunch (yet)—but they plan on opening for lunch soon. 528 Divisadero between Hayes and Oak Streets, 415-522-0800. There is also a pizza joint that just opened, ~AMINA'S PIZZERIA~, right across from The Independent, which should make concertgoers happy. Granted, the unparalleled Little Star is right up the street, but sometimes you just need a slice of some thin-crust pizza, fast. 655 Divisadero St at Grove St., 415-441-4102.

Over on Fulton near Masonic in the old Storyville/1751 Social Club will be a tea café by day/performance space and restaurant by night called ~POLENG LOUNGE~. During the day, the café will serve bahn mi and desserts and snacks to accompany their tea program, which is designed to be approachable and will highlight floral and avored blends. During the evening, the the pan-Asian menu will feature Southeast Asian cuisine, with Philippine/Thai/Balinese/Vietnamese influences. The chef is Tim Luym, a former cook from Fifth Floor. He plans on integrating tea into a variety of the dishes, like Ceylon-encrusted duck breast, or chocolate cake with green tea anglaise. They will be putting in floor-to-ceiling glass windows to lighten the place up, they put in a water feature on either side of the fireplace, and sourced the exotic furnishings while on trips to Bali, Java, and Taiwan (which is where they went to source their oolong teas as well). The back room, called the Temple Room, will have a hand-carved statue of a deity from Java. They intend on being open in late May. 1751 Fulton St. at Masonic St.

And right around the corner, until Poleng Lounge opens, bahn mi fans will be happy with the ~SAIGON DELI-CAFÉ~ that recently opened on the corner of Masonic and Hayes. (They serve standard American deli sandwiches too.)

On Fillmore Street, the ~CREPEVINE~ is slated to open on Tuesday April 25. The affable owner, Maher Fakhouri, has made the neighbors happy by repainting the building in charcoal and greenish hues; in its previous incarnation as Leticia's, it was a bright orange. The interior underwent serious renovations, with all new equipment in the kitchen, and the formerly massive bar is now smaller and much less dominating. Expect a more familial and casual atmosphere, and its quick and efficient service will be perfect for the lunch crowd. This location will start serving breakfast at 7:30am, and will stay open until 10pm, even later on Fri-Sat. Since this Crepevine has a liquor license, you will be able to enjoy a Ramos Fizz over breakfast, fizzzzzzzzzz. This will be Fakhouri's seventh Crepevine, and he also owns Savor in Noe Valley. 2301 Fillmore St. at Clay St.

Speaking of Noe Valley, there are a few changes happening there too: the greasy spoon, ~HUNGRY JOE'S~, after holding it down for 35+ years will become a Middle Eastern place next month. The owner retired and left for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, ~YIANNI'S~ is being taken over by Joseph Manzare (Globe, Tres Agaves, Zuppa) and will reopen in a couple months or so as Joey & Eddy's Seafood. Patio hounds will be pleased to hear they plan on serving brunch on the weekends. 1708 Church St. at 29th St.

I had the honor of a sneak peek this weekend of the future home of ~PRANA RESTAURANT~, the Indian-fusion restaurant soon to open under Jamie Lauren, formerly the executive chef of Levende Lounge. Some dishes on the preview menu include spiced chickpea blini with mixed domestic and foreign caviars and horseradish-chive crème fraîche; house-made masoor dal ravioli with caramelized torpedo onion sauce and black truffle butter; and ras el hanout and almond-crusted black cod, with chana masala stew, Sungold tomato, and micro-greens salad.

The owner is Paul Hemming of the record store and label, Zen City Records. They're currently waiting on some permits, but the hoped-for opening date of the restaurant is July 1. The restaurant and lounge area are on the ground floor, and you'll enter on 540 Howard St. Some will recognize a few remaining elements from the space's former incarnation as Dr. Winkie's Mercury; in the lounge you'll find gorg mirrored panels with inset bubbles (tres glam), while the main dining room is definitely spacious: it even features a mezzanine.

The multi-level building (formerly the home of the legendary DV8 and the kooky Caribbean Zone, which used to house the Doobie Brother's tour plane, remember?) is slated to become quite the 22,000-foot playground/nightclub called ~TEMPLE~, which is opening before the restaurant does (for now, the opening date is May 27). It will have three levels, three dancefloors, six bars, and four VIP rooms. Who said mega clubs were over? Downstairs is the Destiny Lounge, all outfitted in white with padded walls (which doesn't mean it's cool for you to go crazy), a lighting installation that looks like a huge equalizer, and the room is lit with changing LED lights (a la Supperclub) that give the room differing hues, from pink to green to purple. There's also the main room with a dancefloor called the Catacombs, with a moodier and darker vibe. (No skeletons that I could see.) The DJ booth will have outlets where you can plug in and listen in to the DJ mixing live. Then upstairs on the fourth floor is a groovy little private playhouse/playpen/penthouse space that's built for pre-parties, after-parties, private parties, and banquets. You'll enter the club on the alley-side of the building, at 55 Natoma. Cocktails in both the club and the restaurant will focus on herbal elixirs and ingredients with holistic and healing properties. Here's my favorite detail: for those who remember the old DV8 (holla!), they are preserving the entrance into the private ladies lounge through a stall in the women's bathroom. So New York, 1977.

Okay, turn that house music down. ~L'OLIVIER~ just reopened on April 17 after doing some renovations. They have removed the wallpaper, replacing it with brighter painted walls, in addition to adding new carpet, and a stage for live jazz during the week. The original owners, the brothers Guy and Christian, sold the classic French restaurant to a pair of husband and wife teams (the Fudyms and the Rabins) not too long ago. While the new owners have no intent to remove the famous "Bouillabaisse Marseillaise" from the traditional French menu, they will be adding some new dishes in the coming months. 465 Davis Ct., 415-981-7824.

Outside of town, there are a couple big chef changes. First off, Aaron Zimmer, the sous chef from the well-regarded CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental Washington, D.C., has been appointed chef de cuisine at ~NAVIO AT THE RITZ-CARLTON HALF MOON BAY~. While at CityZen, Zimmer worked under the buzzed-about Eric Ziebold, a former chef de cuisine at French Laundry who was named by Food & Wine one of America's Best New Chefs in 2005. (Before CityZen, Zimmer was a sous chef at Navio for a year and a half.) Zimmer is replacing Peter Rudolph, who went to SF's Campton Place. Zimmer's wife, Jewel, is a pastry chef who used to be at Fifth Floor and most recently was the pastry chef at CityZen, is accompanying her husband westward—expect her to pop up somewhere in the Bay Area. Both Delfina and Campton Place are presently seeking pastry chefs, hmmmm...

Over in Sausalito, ~POGGIO~ has appointed Peter McNee to the position of executive chef. His track record includes Stars, Tra Vigne, Bacchus Restaurant in Sonoma County, and working closely with Chris Fernandez at Poggio in the position of sous chef, then chef de cuisine, and now executive chef.

A couple other mini-updates: I got a date for ~BEARD PAPA'S~ opening. May 12. We may need to make it National Cream Puff Day. Also, ~CANTEEN~ lovers take note: they are closed for renovations and a staff vaykay until April 21.