September 26, 2006

September 26, 2006

Whoa, big changeup at ~JARDINIÈRE~: this is why I go out practically every night, because you never know what you just might stumble across! Oh, and it's fun to go out. Anyway, while swilling at CAV's first anniversary party, I found out acclaimed Executive Chef ~ROBBIE LEWIS~ has left Jardinière, after almost four years in the kitchen there. He has two kids (one is three and the other just eight months), and it seems daddy needed to be home more. I also hear the theater-crowd cycle can be a bit of a grind, but the chef taking on the job, Craig Patzer, is reportedly extremely skilled and fired up, and has been cooking at Jardinière off and on for about five years. I also found out Lewis has a place of his own in the works, which may be opening by next spring or so—but for now, the word is mum. Of course I'll fill you in, darlings.

A little history lesson for ya: Lewis met Traci Des Jardins in the early nineties while at the CCA, and she offered him a job cooking at Rubicon (she was the opening chef there). He started on the Jardinière opening team in 1997, and after subsequent stints opening at places like Boulevard, The Village Pub, and 42 Degrees, he returned to Jardinière as Executive Chef in 2002. Some of you will also remember in 2005 he cooked with Traci on Iron Chef America, and they beat Mario Batali in a Battle of Shrimp!

Did someone say Iron Chef? SF (and especially Robert Lauriston) will be thrilled with this news: ~CHRIS COSENTINO OF INCANTO~ will be competing in the fourth season of ~IRON CHEF AMERICA~! The shows will be recorded this October, and will air in February, 2007. Cosentino will be duking it out against returning Iron Chef Mario Batali (DUDE!) on the morning of October 6, the very first recording for the season. Judges will include Ted Allen ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy") (I really hope he says "fabulous!"), Cady Huffman (Tony Award-winning actress), and one of my personal faves, Jeffrey Steingarten (Vogue food writer and the author of "The Man Who Ate Everything").

Cosentino has wanted to go on Iron Chef since watching the show way back during the bad dubbing days, when he would watch it with fellow cooks, friends, and wifey at a joint in Japantown outfitted with widescreen TVs. Cosentino says, "I'm just gonna cook my ass off and have a good time! It's a ride that will last for one hour, and man, it's gonna be one hell of a ride." Joining Cosentino in the audience will be his wife, son, and Mark Pastore, the owner of Incanto, but I know all of SF will certainly be there in spirit.

Cosentino will also have two local cooks rocking it for him in the kitchen, but he wouldn't reveal who they are. (I actually know who one of them is, but I'm gonna keep my mouth shut.) Now we just have to wait until FEBRUARY to see the darned show! Oh, and one fun detail: while Mario will be hustling around in his orange Crocs, Cosentino's buds at Upper Playground in the Haight will be styling the team with these sweet 35th anniversary adidas kicks. Dang, I want a pair too!

Some changes to report at ~ANZU~, the restaurant in the Hotel Nikko: first, many know Anzu's dinner chef, Scott Drozd, left to cook at a recently opened Noe Valley neighborhood joint, Bistro 1689. And now, after six years, their famed sushi bar chef, Kazuhito Takahashi AKA Takahashi-san, has up and moved to Las Vegas to be with his family. He is intending to take at least six months off to relax (we'll see about that) and will most likely land at one of the million sushi bars over there. Takashashi-san's understudy will be overseeing the sushi bar, and they are underway in their search for a second sushi chef. The sushi bar is temporarily closed for now, but will be reopening shortly, offering more contemporary sushi, and some changes to the décor are happening as well. (You can still order sushi off the dinner menu, and the fish is still being flown in daily from the Japanese markets.) The Executive Chef of Anzu, Philippe Striffeler, is introducing some "freestyle Asian" dishes and specials to the formerly more traditional menu—supposedly the slow-cooked and tea-smoked duck (a whole half-duck) is succulent and sublime.

This is cool: the new-ish chef/owner of brunch steady ~ELLA'S~, Matt Skov, will be serving dinner as of Wednesday, October 4th. The affordable dinner options (under the supervision of Ella's new dinner chef, Bradley Sekulich, who has been a cook and sous at places around town like Absinthe, Boulevard, and Grand Cafe) will include shrimp bisque for $5, a hearty app of grilled lamb meatballs with mint pesto and red pepper aioli for $8, and some entrées like skirt steak with sausage gravy and pork two ways for only $16. You can check out the appetizing menu here. If you're wondering why those dinner items sound especially delicious, Skov did a stint (for six years) as the Executive Sous Chef to Todd Humphries and Laurent Manrique in the kitchen at Campton Place (lemme tell ya, this man can cook). Once I was dining at Campton Place for lunch with a girlfriend and he sent out a dessert with two round lumps of something chocolate to my dining partner because he wanted to pay homage to her boobs. Then again, she was his wife, so it was cool. 500 Presidio Ave. at California, 415-441-5669.

Time to report on some openings this week of cool places I've mentioned in tablehopper before (you can search the site if you want more of the original details): Joseph Manzare's Italian fish restaurant, ~PESCHERIA~ (formerly known as Joey & Eddy's Seafood) should be opening today. It will be open for dinner, Tue-Sat 5:30pm-9:30pm, with Robert Leva at the helm (formerly a sous at Redd, Auberge de Soleil, and Jardinière). As long as this gorg weather continues, you might like to know there's a nice patio in the back, FYI! 1708 Church St. at 29th St., 415-647-3200.

Then there's ~THE ALEMBIC~ on Upper Haight, a project from David McLean of Magnolia Pub and Brewery. If inspections go well this week, The Alembic should be open this Saturday, serving micro-distillery spirits and small plates of American food with some seasonal, local, and international flair from Chef Eddie Blyden, who has also been busy cooking down the street at Magnolia since June. Dinner nightly, 4pm-12am, with the bar open until 2am. Lunch Sat-Sun, starting at noon. 1725 Haight St. between Cole and Shrader Streets, 415-666-0822.

~LITTLE STAR'S~ second location in the Mission opened last Wednesday, Sep. 20. Yes, there is a hipster jukebox, just like the original, and the same happy hour slots (5pm-6:30pm and 10pm-11:30pm). Release the deep dish! Open Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm, closed Mon. 400 Valencia St. at 15th St., 415-551-7827.

And yes, the big one: Westfield Centre opens this Thursday, the 28th. There will be a second location of ~BEARD PAPA'S~ (perfect fuel before attacking Bloomies), and a second location of Charles Phan's ~OUT THE DOOR~, with ready-to-eat dishes plus take-home-and-cook kits as well (have you ever tried the delish daikon rice cakes? You should.). Being a sandwich queen myself, I can't wait for Tom Colicchio's ~'WICHCRAFT~.

And those who have been missing Straits on Geary Street can now dine on Chris Yeo's chili crab and rendang beef at ~STRAITS RESTAURANT~, just under the historic dome on the fourth floor. (There will also be a full bar that's open until 2am with a DJ on the weekends.) Open continuously from 11am-2am daily. 845 Market St., Suite 597, 415-668-1783.

~LARKCREEKSTEAK~ will definitely be another one to check out, with an intimate dining room featuring a peaked wood-beamed ceiling and high-backed suede booths, a 21-seat bar and lounge, a floor-to-ceiling glass-enclosed walk-in wine cellar, and ten ringside seats at the exhibition kitchen-counter, designed by Mark Stevens of Architect & Light. Chef Jeremy Bearman is offering a steakhouse menu with a twist, and some lighter options will be offered. Choose a Certified USDA Prime cut of beef, ranging from $19-35, and it will be grilled over fruitwood and charcoal embers, and then pair it with one of five sauces. 845 Market St., 4th Floor, Suite 402, 415-593-4100.

I reported a while back that Brandon Clements (of MECCA and Avenue G) was opening a space with the folks from Zebulon called Mercury, in the old Luau Bar & Grill space on Lombard. It's still called ~LUAU~, and will be open this Thu-Sat for drinks, and possibly even burgers next week. The space was repainted and cleaned up, but the big remodel is planned for mid-October, when it will close again, get new floors, a brick wall, and a whole new look. When it reopens in mid-November or so, it will be ~MERCURY~, serving Asian small plates, plus offering late night dining and brunch. Thanks to gal pal Restaurant Girl Speak's blog for the tip on the soft opening. 1434 Lombard St. at Van Ness Ave., 415-922-1434.

Opening up (optimistically) by mid-November will be an Asian-inspired and yet-unnamed ~RESTAURANT/LOUNGE/PUB IN THE FORMER YOSHIDA-YA SPACE~ in Cow Hollow. The project is from the chaps behind Vintage 415, Mamacita, Dylan Boutique, Dylan Shoes, and the newly opened bar in the former Cama space, Double Dutch, in the Mission (3192 16th St. at Guerrero St.). For this project, Nate Valentine, Demetrius Chapin-Rienzo, Lawrence Vavra, and Todd Palmerton are working with their Mamacita restaurant partners (Sam Josi, Stryker Scales, and Eric Passetti).

Mamacita's chef, Sam Josi, who previously worked as a sous at Slanted Door, will be crafting a menu of Asian street food with Vietnamese and Japanese dishes and influences. There will be a small sushi bar serving sashimi and nightly maki specials, but the overall emphasis will be on an eclectic round-up of flavorful Asian dishes that will span the five Chinese elements/phases (wood, fire, earth, metal, water). Some potential dishes in the works are Kobe beef tataki with fresh wasabi, shallot oil, quail egg and gyoza crisps; salt 'n' pepper day boat scallops with lemongrass curry cream and Hanoi crab-glass noodle salad; and crispy mung bean crepes with duck confit, red onions, daikon sprouts, and nuoc cham (a veggie variation will also be offered).

I checked out the space a week ago, and it will be really unique for SF: it's a bi-level space, designed to have a more casual izakaya (a Japanese pub that serves small plates) vibe downstairs, with bench seating, easy communal areas, and the sushi bar, while upstairs (keeping company with the kitchen) will have big booths and a more classic dining atmosphere. They are taking inspiration design-wise from some Tokyo restaurants, and there are some cool rock elements going in you'll have to see. 2909 Webster St. at Union St.

Cow Hollow residents may have noticed the quality of some ingredients just got a few notches better at the ~UNION STREET PANTRY~ (no, nothing has happened to the frozen yogurt). Eric Rud is the new owner, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, and he recently worked at the Four Seasons San Francisco and the Chez Maman located just next door to the market. For the deli, Rud is making fresh aioli, pesto, and pasta salads, and the sandwiches are made with bread from Bay Bread and with Boar's Head meats. 2217 Union St. at Fillmore St., 415-923-9771.