June 13, 2006

June 13, 2006

The Western Addition, oh, excuse me, NoPa neighborhood continues to show some life with the opening of ~POLENG LOUNGE~, which from initial reports is a pretty spiffy space, especially when you consider what was there prior. Way to go on the remodel of the 1751 Social Club, seriously. Word is that they’ll start serving food on Friday the 23rd. 1751 Fulton St. at Masonic St., 415-441-1751.

Big project coming up: I was talking to my pal, Roby (Robert to his clients) Polacek, the talented creative director at The Puccini Group and he filled me in on a local restaurant project he’s currently working on at the ~ARGENT HOTEL~ on Third St., which is being converted into a Westin/Starwood property (it will be known as the Westin San Francisco once the remodel is complete). The terrifyingly named restaurant, Jester’s, will be going through a major redesign, and yes, will earn a new name. (Whew.) The 180-seat restaurant will soon have a Venetian/Italian focus, with the goal of becoming a city destination that is not just for tourists, where locals can (and will want to) dine a couple nights a week (prices will fall at the mid-range), instead of the special occasion-type dining style you’d find at many hotel restaurants, like Scala’s or Ame, for example. They haven’t decided upon a chef—they’re currently seeking a local and/or up-and-coming chef with a following—but no mega chefs. So Mario, back off.

The lunch crowd will definitely dig the outdoor courtyard that’s being developed, and if everything goes according to plan, evening diners will be able to enjoy an outdoor fire pit on the terrace as well. The patio will feature a communal table for alfresco diners, plus living room-style outdoor furnishings that will feel comfortable and loungey. The interior of the dining room will feature two large glass dividers that are twelve feet tall, with paintings from old world masters printed on the glass and then lit on the edges (I’ve never seen that before), plus a huge reinterpretation of a classic Venetian chandelier. The room will be furnished in rich textures and colors, like mohair, leathers, and Venetian red. The lounge will be comprised of an enclosed round room (opposite the bar) with a domed ceiling, ottomans, and banquettes flanking walls that will be upholstered with a quilted pattern, potentially a silkscreen of a Venetian landscape.

As if this gorg lounge isn’t enough, Puccini Group will also be adding a ~SECOND BAR~ in the hotel, under the porte-cochère on Third St. The bar is street-level, but will have a tunnel-like entrance. This second bar’s look will be an evocative update of the San Franciscan Barbary Coast-era (think Big Four at the Huntington, but very now), with some Asian/opium den touches. Instead of going the antique-y route, everything will have more of a modern nod. The vibe will be on par with the Redwood Room and the bar at the St. Regis. There will be a private upper-level VIP room, with a “smell sculpture” of flowering vines that will appear to grow from the center of the room and into the ceiling. Hot. It’s all slated to open in fall of this year. I’ll let you know once some names and opening dates are decided upon.

The Puccini Group is also busy rolling out their ~NEW WINE BAR CONCEPT~, which launched in Chicago and will be opening at the St. Francis hotel in an existing space in the hotel lobby. It will be a space both for tasting and retail sales, with wine, chocolate, and cheese offered to accompany a variety of both Old and New World wines. The opening is slated for 2007. The Puccini Group designed Scala’s Bistro, Grand Café, Ponzu, and Harry Denton’s Starlight Room. They are currently doing a number of cool international projects, like a beach club in Cancún, and two restaurants in Prague at the InterContinental Prague hotel that overlooks the Vltava River.

I was wondering what was going into the soon-to-be-vacant ~STRAITS CAFÉ~ space on Geary since it’s closing in a month or so, and surprise, it’ll still be the same owners! They’re actually developing a Spanish tapas and wine bar restaurant/lounge concept. The culinary director of Straits and SINO, Barney Brown, (who was the opening chef of Betelnut) has extensive knowledge and to the neighborhood. No names or dates just yet. 3300 Geary Blvd. at Parker St.

Starting June 24, ~YABBIE’S COASTAL KITCHEN~ will be serving lunch on the weekends, from 11am-3:30pm. Lunch offerings will include seafood cocktails (like ceviche and shrimp cocktail), crab cakes, steamed mussels, salads, and some hearty sandwiches with Kennebec fries. Of course their signature seafood platters will be available—how lovely would some oysters on the half shell, ceviche of the day, chilled prawns and mussels, crab, and some littleneck clams taste on a Sunday? Yes, rather delicious. 2237 Polk St., 415-474-4088.

Poor ~INDIAN OVEN~. They had a fire in the middle of May, and have been closed cleaning the joint up and renovating it, giving it a fresh paint job and new floors. It should be open again this Friday, June 16. 237 Fillmore St., 415-626-1628.

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