November 21, 2006

November 21, 2006

Over at the Westfield Centre, the Straits Group will be opening ~STRAITS UNDER THE DOME~ under the former Emporium dome. This open-air bar and lounge/restaurant will be a new hotspot for folks to meet up, maybe after a movie, where they can get a bite to eat or enjoy a drink at the intended 16-foot circular bar in the middle. The bar/lounge/restaurant should have about 75 seats, along with imported European furnishings; the space will be enclosed by planters to help delineate the space. Like the Straits Restaurant (just a crab's leg toss away), it will serve the same menu and will be open late (until 2am Thu-Sat). The plan is to open at some point in the first quarter of 2007.

Just downstairs, the slick Olle Lundberg-designed location of Charles Phan's ~OUT THE DOOR~ was slated to open today on the concourse level in the Westfield Centre, but it looks like it won’t happen until the beginning of December. Sit tight.

I was wondering why ~LA PARRILLA GRILL~ has had its windows all papered over for the past few weeks, and it seems they had to close to address some major plumbing issues. There are also some financial issues at hand, because things are currently at an impasse with the property owner about who should pay for the repairs. La Parrilla Grill hopes to have everything worked out and to reopen by December 1. When the restaurant reopens, the menu will include some new additions, mostly traditional Mexican dishes, like tamales and enchiladas, plus some chicken dishes (like what you'd find at their other more casual locations, on Columbus Ave. and 24th St.). 1760 Polk St., 415-359-1212.

Something is seriously in the mineral water over at A16: ~SHELLEY LINDGREN~ and her husband ~GREG~ (of Rye, Rosewood, and 15 Romolo) are expecting! Shelley is three months along, and she has a brand-new lady lump to show for it. And we also have Executive Chef ~NATE APPLEMAN~ and his wife Clarisse expecting a baby boy! (Clarisse is 18 weeks along.) They are going to be naming him Enzo—perhaps the A16/driving theme inspired them, because there is one Enzo out there who is certainly smiling from the big speedway in the sky. Congrats to you all, or as we say in the old country, tanti auguri!

Caught up with Gil Milan of ~FOGÓN~ in North Beach—he is ending dinner service at the restaurant in a couple days, and will be focusing more on his catering business, Sedona Grill Catering (and a potential restaurant in Panama City). Milan said a lunch concept may pop up in the space soon—his son is considering launching a taqueria-style daytime offering. (More on this later as details firm up—FYI, Milan was behind Mi Burrito in the Fillmore area—some of you may remember it fondly.) But in the meantime, are you trying to find an intimate spot for your company's holiday party? You can now rent the cozy space for private functions, with room for up to 30 seated guests. Milan is also considering getting rid of the famous Sicilian rotisserie (it was originally Gira Polli's), so if you've got a need for an amazing rotisserie, you know whom to call. (No, not me.) 659 Union St., 415-288-8658.

Ran into ~SEAN CROWLEY~, the former wine director at Aqua, at the fourth annual friends and family harvest dinner at Destino Sunday night (thanks for hosting, James, Steve, and Lisa!), and Crowley is happy to announce he is the key accounts specialist at the fabulous J Wine up in Healdsburg. I heart that place.

Meanwhile, the new (and fresh-faced) sommelier at Aqua is ~CHRIS WRIGHT~, who was formerly at the Village Pub in Woodside, Kingfish, and the recently updated El Paseo in Mill Valley. Aqua management is very impressed with his passion and dedication—you'll see him on the floor, starting next Monday.

In case you were wondering where ~MAURO CIRILLO~ is, the former lead sommelier at Aqua is now next door at Perbacco.

And in other news, ~CHRISTIE DUFAULT~, formerly a wine director at Gary Danko, became the sommelier at Quince at the beginning of the month.

One of the best bar maestros in town (and the inaugural contributor for "the wino" for tablehopper), ~DUGGAN MCDONNELL~, is now beefing up the beverage program over at O'Reilly's Holy Grail on Polk St. Things are just ramping up, so expect more of an evolving focus on cocktails in the coming months. McDonnell ultimately sees the bar at O'Reilly's as a perfect gathering place to enjoy a microbrew, some good whiskey, a quality glass of wine, and a gin cocktail or two (it already has a rockin' happy hour). While he's not going to transform the bar into full-on cocktail Mecca (see his previous work at frisson), he is integrating some fun period-specific dranks on the menu, "Saints and Sinners of the Barbary Coast," like the Barbary Coast Cocktail (Plymouth dry gin, orange bitters, Lustau Oloroso Sherry, Chartreuse Pastis) and the Damn Yankee (bacon-infused bourbon [yes, you read that correctly], sloe gin, Laird's Applejack Brandy). It's all a work in progress, so expect more tweaks and changes in the coming months. For more big news on Duggan, check out his other project, Cantina, in this week's lush.

Come December 1, the clogged phone lines at ~NOPA~ at 1:55pm will be no more: NOPA will begin accepting reservations a month in advance instead of the current call-the-day-of system. (They will be able to accommodate parties of up to eight guests.) But don't fret—tables will still be available for walk-in diners. 560 Divisadero St., 415-864-8643.

Fellow Western Addition/NOPA neighbors may have been wondering what the heck is moving into the space at the corner of ~1064 DIVISADERO~ at Turk (I sure was). Well, the owner doesn't want to talk about it just yet, but it looks like it will be some variation of a café concept (I know, yet another café for the neighborhood, but I guess there really isn't that much happening on that stretch of Divis). There will also be beer and wine served. And that's all for now, folks! It's not even close to being done, so expect an update sometime in 2007…

You downtown workers might want to check out the recently opened ~UNION SQUARE MARKET~ (it opened in a former art gallery space, just across from Kuleto's). It has a worldwide selection of quality wines (they reportedly have quite the cellar in the basement), plus there are some higher-end liquors (including single malt scotches) and beer, plus some cheeses, chocolate, and other sundries. It's the first liquor license granted to a business in the neighborhood in 15 years. The owner is Sam Sirhed, and the manager is Jack Mogannam; if that last name looks familiar, it's because his first cousin is Sam Mogannam of Bi-Rite, and Jack's other first cousin is Paul of Burgermeister. Open 10am-midnight Mon-Thu, 10am-1am Fri-Sat, and Sun 11am-11pm. 222 Powell St. at Geary St., 415-434-7222.

~MAGNOLIA PUB~ in the Haight is now serving a full menu all the way 'til midnight (11pm on Sundays). Between Magnolia, and its sister restaurant, ~THE ALEMBIC~, you can actually eat well (hello, local ingredients) at a late hour in the Haight. FYI, The Alembic is now open at noon on the weekend, offering lunch and an array of daytime dranks, like Bloody Marys and sparkling cocktails for those who need some hair of the dog. Ramos Gin Fizz, in the hizzy. Magnolia Pub, 1398 Haight St., 415-864-7468; Alembic Bar, 1725 Haight St., 415-666-0822.

I called ~BAR TARTINE~ not too long ago about a rumor I heard about lunch service starting up, but they said no, I was misinformed. Looks like things have changed: according to a Craigslist posting, lunch and weekend brunch start December 7. Duly noted. 561 Valencia St., 415-487-1600.

There was a big cooking event with KTSF this past weekend, the "2006 Cooking With Passion, Powered By Chefs Cooking Competition"—twelve amateur chefs were paired up with twelve pros (including Arnold Wong of EOS and Bacar, Bridget Batson of Hawthorne Lane, Scott Howard, Bruce Hill of Bix, So Ting Chu of Hong Kong Flower Lounge, and others). What's interesting is the amateurs trained with the chefs in advance of the event (up to a month)! Ends up ~BRIDGET BATSON~ and her amateur chef Jamie won the competition, congrats you two! And what's super-sweet is the winner donated all his prizes to Share Our Strength. Meow.

So I'm starting my own crusade for one of my fave chefs to get nominated for a 2007 James Beard Rising Star Chef award: ~RAVI KAPUR~ of Boulevard. (Especially since he's turning 30 next month, so this would be his last chance for that particular award.) For the first time, the James Beard Foundation is letting people suggest nominees online—feel free to nominate Ravi, and a bunch of other talented folks and fab places for various categories. Sign up and vote here.

Whew, are you full yet? I am, jeesh. I ate too much. Okay, well, sorry, get ready for your next course…