February 27, 2007

February 27, 2007

So just three days after getting home, I shook off my jet lag like a wet dog and scooted down to Carmel for the ~MASTERS OF FOOD AND WINE~, which felt like my preferred version of the Oscars©. The cooking demos with Rick Tramonto of TRU and Michael Mina were a blast—Mina recounted a hilarious story about Andre Agassi and steak (remind me to tell you over a drink sometime) while making a downright wicked butter poached lobster dish. I got a sneak peek of the kitchen before the grand finale dinner—Gary Danko was there, plus a slew of chefs who were ready and waiting to bang out the six-course feast for over 200 people (four were meat courses, I almost keeled over). Local winos like Emily Wines of Fifth Floor (love the new look, lady!), Paul Einbund of Coi, and Chris Wright of Aqua were on the floor keeping our glasses full (thanks gang!). The after party was the highlight: I can’t believe I got to shoot the breeze with Grant Achatz and a couple chaps from his kitchen (we were on the hunt for bourbon), David Kinch and Cal Stamenov from Marinus were having a good time, and there were some wickedly memorable wines being poured at a few scattered tables that night. But I didn’t get to bed until 4am, so please don’t ask me to remember what they were, ha ha. Now excuse me while re-hydrate for the next 48 hours… and here’s hoping I get to attend the next one in Mendoza! A girl can dream.

Lots of changes while I was gone, so let’s just dive in. I feel like I am giving birth here, help me breathe! Breathe!

At long last, the ~NORTH BEACH LOBSTER SHACK~ is open, the new SF location of the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City! Can’t wait to schlep my heinie in there for a lobster roll. East Coasties, you can get Ipswich clams! Shacktastic. 532 Green St. at Jasper Place, near Grant St., 415-829-3634.

And not too far away, ~AVENUE G~ has opened in the former La Felce space after a series of soft opening dinners and events. Expect dinner nightly, 6pm-11pm for now, with the intent of staying open later on the weekends, perhaps 1am—all will be revealed. 1570 Stockton at Union St., 415-989-0399.

How do you say degroovy? Japantown’s petite 27-year-old diner, Café Mum’s, is now ~MUM’S RESTAURANT AND BAR~ and has just finished undergoing a spiffy remodel from designer Anthony Laurino. Mum’s is in the Hotel Miyako, now named the Hotel Tomo. The family restaurant (dad runs it during the day, and one of his three daughters helms it at night) is a Japanese-influenced diner serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and is well known for its all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu dinners. The cheerful space seats 50 and has room for 12 at the counter; the look has 70’s styling, like bright poppy coloring, a mosaic pattern at the counter, and cork flooring, with some Japanese pop aesthetic working its way into the look as well (wait until you see the 20-inch portraits of all the family members that will be hung in a couple weeks). Mum’s is totally the word. 1800 Sutter St. at Buchanan St., 415-931-6986.

~DISTRICT WINE BAR~ in SOMA has opened. Based on some feedback I’ve been hearing, it’s spacious, swanky, and happy hour central. Since Daily Candy recently wrote it up, you know the place must now be swarming with chicks. No liquor, however, just good vino and beers and bites, yo. Oh, and sake and soju cocktails—personally, I’ll stick with the good wines. 216 Townsend St. at 3rd St., 415-896-2120. Hours Tue-Sun 4pm- 2am (1am on weekdays).

Another wine bar that should be opening up next week is ~ROUGE ET BLANC~, a joint venture from the Aqua folks and Viansa in the former Enoteca Viansa in Union Square, just down the street from Café de la Presse. Laurent Manrique has devised a casual food program for the space, with croque monsieurs and other simple fare served from 11am-4pm, and cold dishes like charcuterie, smoked fish, and cheese plates available from 4pm-10:30pm. 13-14 wines will be available by the glass, including some international choices, and of course you can expect to see Aqua’s Acvs label (love the chard). The concept is to be more of an easy location to stop by and hang out over a glass of wine, and less about wine education like other places around town. Wines will also be available for retail purchase. For now, the space is being repainted and some modern lighting is being put in, nothing major. Salud. 334 Grant Ave. at Bush St., 415-391-0207.

Also in the neighborhood, ~CORTEZ~ is temporarily closed while they upgrade some old plumbing. It’s a significant job that will require some excavation, so they expect to be closed for about a month or so, until late March. I spoke with the Bay Bread folks, and they said they are taking the opportunity to freshen up some elements like the paint and carpet, and Co-Executive Chefs Seth Bowden and Louis Maldonado also mentioned there will be some “spring cleaning” on the menu, with the removal of some signature dishes to make room for some new concoctions. The chefs also are talking about introducing a daily market prix-fixe menu, highlighting dishes that may have more of a rustic tone. While the chefs will be retained, they sadly will have to wait and see if some of their cooks can return since most have to find work elsewhere during the closure. The chefs helped their cooks line up some stages at various restaurants in the City as best they could, and personally are “looking forward to going out and meeting some of the farmers and purveyors that [we] have been dealing with but never met.” Here’s hoping for a speedy reopening since things were really on a roll over there. 550 Geary St. at Jones St., 415-292-6360.

I was not happy to be cruising up Market Street and see that ~YUM~ was closed and gone. There was an obscure note in the window about reappearing in another location. Based on their website, which mentions a “Grand Re-opening of our online gourmet foods store,” I wonder if it means they will be moving to strictly online? Once I hear back from the owners I will let you know.

A couple tablehopper readers were concerned and inquiring about ~SUSHI ZONE~ closing, when in fact it’s just that Sushi Zone is now closed on Mondays. You may return to your regularly scheduled programming.

~CHOUQUET’S~ has a new chef who recently started, Laurent Guillaume. Yes, he is French. 2500 Washington St. at Fillmore St., 415-359-0075.

After holding it down on the corner of 9th and Irving for a while, the Sunset’s arty ~CANVAS GALLERY~ will be closing soon. Taking its place will be ~PACIFIC CATCH~, a casual seafood restaurant that already has locations in the Marina and Corte Madera. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the burgeoning chain is known for an array of fresh seafood dishes made to order, like fish tacos, Hawaiian sandwiches, rice bowls, salads, and the like. Plans are to open in late summer, offering lunch and dinner daily, and to be open continuously throughout the day. With the full bar license, they also plan to stay open late on the weekends, and to maintain a funky and urban vibe. Also, they are looking for a VP of Operations if anyone is interested!

The fusiony ~MALACCA~ on 18th Street in the ‘Stro has closed and moved into the short-lived ~CRAVE~ space on Market Street. I heard the two menus are now combined? (Comfort fusion small plates? If I was a cop, I’d be forced to pull this one over.) As far as the old Malacca space, it seems the owner is keeping the building. No phone calls back, so no word what is potentially moving into the 18th Street space. And the Crave number is disconnected, so it’s all wacky. Malacca/former Crave, 2367 Market St. at Castro St., number disconnected.

Over in the Marina, the New City Lounge is now ~SWEET AROMA~, a casual and well-priced Vietnamese restaurant. The (very sweet) owner was originally with Cordon Bleu restaurant on California, so you will find the popular three-item combos on the menu (one of the tastier deals in town, seriously, and go for the grilled meats!), plus different kinds of pho, salads, and spring rolls. Hours: 11am-10:30pm Tue-Sun. 1779 Lombard St. at Laguna St., 415-563-1927.

Folks on Nob Hill are up in arms over the fate of the ~FRONT ROOM~ and the ~JOHN BARLEYCORN~. A new landlord, Luisa Hanson, purchased the building at 1500 California Street and is not renewing the leases for either business (she also owns Luisa’s on Union Street, Notte, and Delaney's Bar on Chestnut—based on some of the posts about the restaurant on yelp, people are ticked). The Front Room was originally opened by Sam Duvall in 1967, with several locations opened elsewhere in the City and the Bay Area. The current owner, Lori Laghaei, has endured some tough times the past five years, including the illness and eventual death of her husband (and former owner of the Front Room) at the age of 32 from brain cancer, and withstanding the financially troublesome times after 9/11. She is moving the business down the street into the now-closed ~FIERRO EN GUERRA~ space (it was a café), at 1550 California Street. She hopes to reopen April 1st (no joke) in time for the 40th anniversary of the restaurant since the lease ends in March. Owner Laghaei remarked, “It’s expensive to live in San Francisco, and here young people could get together for some pizza and beer and not spend a lot of money. It has always been a safe place, a fun place—we would only close two nights a year.” Here’s wishing them luck with their move—fortunately they are still in the neighborhood.

The ~JOHN BARLEYCORN~ was originally an annex of the Front Room (it was the aptly named The Back Room) and has been around for more than 35 years. This cozy little pub is chock-full of SF memorabilia, including pews from Old St. Mary’s, and is considered by many neighbors as their living room outside their home. The Barleycorn’s lease expires in June, so they launched a site that has a petition protesting the closure of both businesses; you can visit the site and sign the petition here. Best of luck to them; it’s hard on a neighborhood when a long-standing (and beloved) business closes.

Executive Chef David Cohen is no longer at ~SCALA’S BISTRO~. Which means the tally of Kimpton restaurants without executive chefs (and some are also without GMs) is growing: Grand Café, Fifth Floor, and now Scala’s. I’ll keep you posted as the positions get filled. There have been some murmurs of bigger names potentially coming into Fifth Floor, it could be exciting.

There is a new sous chef at Nob Hill’s ~RUE ST. JACQUES~, Cedric Lazarus, and supposedly he makes one heck of a choucroute (he hails from the Alsace/Lorraine region, hence the skills with the sauerkraut). This Wednesday, the restaurant will be hosting Choucroute Night, with choucroute loaded with sausage, pork shank, slab bacon, and other treats and a beer for $25. Perfect lousy weather for it. 1098 Jackson St. at Taylor St., 415-776-2002.

Major shakedown at ~BACAR~: sadly Arnold Alan Wong (who just sold his other restaurant, EOS) and Debbie Zachareas are no longer involved with the project after launching it six years ago. (The website is already stripped of any mention of the former partners.) Adam Timney, Chef de Cuisine, will be holding down the fort. Here are the letters I received from Debbie Zachareas and Arnold Eric Wong:

After six rewarding years as co-founder, General Partner, and Wine Director of Bacar Restaurant, I have departed as partner and manager of the restaurant. This shift enables me to focus my energy and expertise at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and our upcoming retail venture, the Oxbow Wine Merchant in Napa.

These are exciting times for both corporations. I wish bacar continued success as one of the great San Francisco restaurants. I look forward to working more closely with my partners at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in conceptualizing and growing our present and future wine retail, e-commerce and wine bar ventures.

Whilst there is some divergence of views vis a vis the way forward for bacar with the new management, I maintain faith in the abilities of the staff and personnel.

Sincerely,
Debbie


and

Dear Investor and Friends,

As co-founder, General Partner, and Executive Chef of Bacar restaurant since its inception, the new majority owner and I have decided to part ways.

In the past couple of weeks as the new majority owner has stepped in, I've had to struggle with the moral, ethical and professional dilemmas associated with Bacar's ongoing enterprise. I tried to come to a compromise that would uphold my personal and professional integrity while working with the new general partners. As difficult as it is, my decision is to separate from Bacar. I will continue to focus my energies on my bakery Raison d'etre, travel with my beautiful wife, and dedicate time toward future ventures.

In the last six years, talented and amazing people have come and gone, many still remain. I will be leaving behind a vision that was built upon strong relationships, commitments, http://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifsacrifice, and dedication from the staff and the many investors. I want to personally thank the staff, both front and back of the house, that have been so loyal and dedicated to my passion. I trust that they will succeed at Bacar and in their own future endeavors.

Sincerely,
Arnold Eric Wong


Okay, who the hell stole the ~MALTESE FALCON~ replica from John’s Grill? Come on now, people, put the bird back. Plus there are some vintage books missing as well, so if you meet someone who is showing off a signed copy of The Maltese Falcon, I’d arch my eyebrow and call the police: there’s a $25,000 reward. Serious fowl play. (Sorry, that one practically pecked me, I had to use it.)

I wanted to share my dismay in finding out ~SHARON TYLER HERBST~ passed away while I was gone. I can’t imagine my job without the Food Lover’s Companion. I hope she rests in peace, and I know there are many food writers who are grateful for all her hard work over the years.

After a successful Dine About Town month in January, ~SCOTT HOWARD RESTAURANT~ has launched a three-course prix-fixe menu option for $32 that is available nightly, in addition to the restaurant’s regular a la carte menu. The three-course menu selections will rotate regularly and will often feature signature dishes. 500 Jackson Street between Columbus and Montgomery, 415-956-7040.

~PICCINO~ has been getting all kinds of buzz for their perfect pizzas, and as of last Thursday, they have kicked off dinner service. From Thursday through Saturday the pint-sized pizzeria will be open from 7am straight through the day, with their last seating at 8:30pm. Dinner starts around 5pm, offering an expanded dinner menu that will include a variety of roasted meats, birds, and other savory options. Hours: 7am-3pm Mon-Wed, 7am-8:30pm Thu-Sat, 8am-1pm Sun. 801 22nd St., 415-824-4224.

Okay, I am tired—that baby was huge. Coming next week: news on Urban Steak & Bar and JoVino!

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