April 24, 2007

April 24, 2007

Okay, I have been too excited about this project for a couple months now, and I am finally able to talk about it. Excuse me while I unload a flurry of pixels about it! Joining the ranks of new wine bars around town will be a completely fresh concept for a wine bar and restaurant: ~SOUTH~ a modern food and wine bar with some serious and bona fide Aussie roots. The spiffy 50–60-seat space is slated to open in SoMa by August at 4th and Townsend, and will reflect the relaxed and fun Aussie lifestyle: think quality food and wine to share with friends in a sociable atmosphere—I am here to testify, it’s all I saw in Melbourne and Sydney! The chef/partner is Luke Mangan, a total superstar chef who is behind some honcho Sydney restaurants, such as the highly acclaimed Glass in the Hilton Sydney, Bistro Lulu, and Salt, and is opening another Salt in Tokyo. He also consults for Virgin—Richard Branson was impressed with his cooking and even had him cook on his private island, Necker Island. Mangan is crafting a contemporary and wine-friendly menu that will highlight Aussie and New Zealand gourmet products, like grass-fed sirloin, NZ lamb, and he is sourcing Antipodean seafood like barramundi, oysters, and Tasmanian ocean trout, while one of the desserts will include pavlova (natch). Working with Mangan will be Jennie Lorenzo, who was an executive sous at ame restaurant, and also worked at Fifth Floor with Laurent Gras, La Folie, and Blackbird in Chicago. The South wine list will emphasize boutique and family-owned wines from Australia and New Zealand, along with a sprinkling of wines from South Africa, and a few surprises too. South will be open for lunch (Mon–Fri 11am–3pm) and dinner (Sun–Thu 5pm–11pm, Fri–Sat until midnight) and brunch will launch soon thereafter. The stylish space will include light cork tile for the flooring, jarrah (an Australian wood) for the tables and bar, a communal table, an 18-seat bar with red and white tiles inspired from Maori carvings, and artwork from modern Aussie artists.

Mangan’s partners in the venture are Anna Weinberg, a Kiwi who opened Stella in New York and has worked front of house at Town Hall Restaurant as the special events manager and maitre d’, and opened ame restaurant as the dining room manager; and Liz O’Connell, an Aussie whose background includes upper management roles at Foster’s Wine Estates Americas, and the Americas’ headquarters of Southcorp Wines, Australia’s largest premium wine company. Both women’s families have wine backgrounds: Weinberg’s family are winegrowers for Villa Maria in the Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, and O’Connell’s family owns Mandalay Road, a boutique West Australian grower and maker of wine. Can’t wait to stick my fork in some grilled barramundi and have my glass full of some lovely Aussie vino—this project is gonna rock.

As someone who has lamented the City’s overall absence of non-taqueria places to go for authentic Mexican food (we should have tons of places!), I was pretty stoked to hear about the ~MEXICO DF~ project that will hopefully be open by the end of May in SoMa. Felipe Sandoval, owner of Maya, partnered up with Victor Hugo Juarez, who owns some taquerias (both are originally from Mexico City)—they brought on David Rosales as executive chef. He was formerly at Fonda in Albany, and most recently in Oregon. The concept is to serve Mexico City-style dishes with an organic focus, including bites like some house-made chicharron; ceviches and crudos; a selection of botanas (small plates that are traditionally served during the day) like guacamole with shrimp and bacon, queso fundido, sopes, and tamales; and four or five entrées like cabrito (roasted goat with nopal salad), and suckling pig carnitas sold by weight (I’ll take two pounds, thanks). Dessert may include some unique dishes, like goat's milk caramel flan and Chiapas chocolate cake with sweet corn ice cream, yum.

Since there is a full liquor license, in the evening the tables will become lowered (like the ones at Levende) and the space will transform into more of a lounge—plus a reduced menu will be served from 10pm until close. The space is the former LongLife Noodle Co., just above Shanghai 1930, and will have some big city ambiance, including banquettes, dark floors, a redwood communal table with room for 16–18, a DJ station, and a glam crystal chandelier (plus an innovative art program they asked me to keep as a surprise). There will be room for 45–50, and lunch and dinner will be served, with brunch down the line. There are plans of setting up a to-go program from 11:30am–2pm, with trios of traditional tacos and other dishes. Open Mon–Fri for lunch, and dinner nightly. 139 Steuart St. at Howard, 415-808-1048.

Some say there are locations that are cursed, but I say perhaps the right business has never been in there? What was formerly a Carl’s Jr., then the club VXN, and then the short-lived Byblos Bar and Grill in the historic corner building at Columbus and Broadway is now going to become ~CAMPO DEI FIORI~ by Memorial Day or so. The project comes from Enzo Pellico, who opened Steps of Rome and owned it (and the trattoria) for 13 years before selling to Scott Holley. In fact, Pellico grew up at the Campo dei Fiori in Rome, so it’s the second time he’s bringing a little Roma to SF. The past five years Pellico has been traveling all over, and found some inspiration in Italy for this new venture. He envisions Campo dei Fiori as a place for people to come by, catch up, laugh and joke (“ridere e scherzare,” as he told me), and eat some authentic and regional Italian enoteca-style dishes, like small plates of arancini (rice balls), fritto misto, and croquettes, plus pasta, salads, and panini. He has a cook from Rome who will be whipping things up in the kitchen. Campo will serve beer and wine, and will be open continuously from 8am–2am. 270 Columbus Ave. at Broadway.

Just around the corner, things are trucking along for ~ENRICO’S~, which is aiming for a June opening, permits pending. Reza Esmaili, who is known by many from Pesce and lives 127 steps from the entrance (not sure if he has OCD, ha ha), has been brought on as an opening consultant GM. He is overseeing staffing and the bar program, and also crafting a classic cocktail list. A few more details since my last update: the outdoor area is getting pretty swankified, with banquettes, ottomans, and a comfy vibe, and it ends up there were heated concrete floors inside that were in place but not working, and are now fully functional. There is also going to be an elevated stage for the piano, and live music seven nights a week. The American bistro menu is taking shape, and pizzas from the wood-burning oven are on the list. Enrico’s sadly had to close in its 49th year of business, but everyone is quite excited to see this landmark come back to life all shiny, renovated, refinished, and restored. Hubbah.

A while back I mentioned ~RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS~ was opening a second café in the new location of Flora Grubb Gardens in Bayview. It's now open as of last Friday! Take a peek at the pics; the whole setup is pretty sweet—flowers and succulents and Gibraltars! It’s a great excuse to try the new MUNI T-line and check out some lovely plants. The grand opening is May 12, and all are invited for a toast from 1pm–2pm that day. All weekend long there will be food, drinks, music, and Cyclecide’s awesome pedal-powered rides, too. 1634 Jerrold Ave. at Third, 415-626-7256.

Now open on one of the grittier blocks in the City is ~SPLIT PEA SEDUCTION~, a petite take-out spot for tasty and healthy bites made with quality ingredients and a slow food frame of mind. The project comes from Sarah Ellison-Pinkin and Christian Noto, who are behind Jersey Tomatoes, the catering outfit they are running in the back of the Split Pea space. Breakfast includes homemade muffins, scones, and open-faced breakfast crostatas, while lunch brings gourmet souphttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifs, salads (roasted chicken, dandelion greens, Asiago, and red wine vinaigrette, anyone?), and savory crostatas made with ingredients like cauliflower, carrot and cheddar; plus some combo lunches are offered, like soup and salad. They also serve Mr. Espresso drip coffee, and homemade cookies, cupcakes, and shortbreads for dessert. I noticed a bunch of homemade jams, like quince and pear. There is a small counter where you can stand and eat, and if you are looking to cater an office breakfast or lunch, they have a variety of options. Check out the rotating daily menu here (it's a pdf). Open Mon–Fri 7am–4pm, Sat 8am–3pm, closed Sun. 138 6th St. at Minna, 415-551-2223.

It’s official: the ~CANVAS GALLERY’S~ last day is April 29, when they will be going out with a bang and hosting a big party. For more on the new project going in, you can check the older tablehopper article

~TWO~ is launching their cool TWO-Go box-lunch program, beginning this Wednesday, April 25. You can order lunch “TWO-Go” on their website and pick it up in the drive-through courtyard 30 minutes later! Choose a freshly made sandwich on one of their house-made breads, a seasonal salad, and a sweet bite for dessert. A selection of interesting sodas and soft drinks are also available. The offerings will change from time to time depending on what’s in season, but the initial line-up includes rare roasted beef sirloin on crusty baguette with celery root tapenade and arugula, or grilled chicken salad on a potato roll with house-smoked bacon and avocado, or spicy salmon salad on green onion focaccia with sweet pea and mint puree. (I would be thrilled with one of each, thanks.) Box lunches are $12 each, plus beverage and sales tax. For more info, call 415-777-9779. 22 Hawthorne St. at Howard.

And now it’s time for a ~PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT~, courtesy of a tablehopper reader who unfortunately got her purse snatched off the back of her chair at Mamacita in the Marina a few weeks ago. She recounts, “A shady couple sat down at the table behind us, demonstrated totally questionable behavior (they asked the server where they could smoke in the restaurant!), ordered take-out, and left before it arrived. When I got up to leave, my purse was gone.” It seems a similar incident has happened at other locations in the Marina (including A16), and another purse snatching happened when I was dining at Pescheria about a month ago.

I was also just forwarded this email from someone over at Chaya: “Well, it appears that the purse snatcher is back in operation. She went into One Market last Saturday evening, didn't get anything, but did come to Chaya and got a purse from one of our guests. One of our managers led her into the dining room after the woman gave the name of a party she was looking for. We think she will stand at the front desk and listen for names of several parties, then ask if "such and such" has been seated and will be shown to the table. She is an African American woman, 5' 9" or 10", heavy set, braided hair, pleasant smile and nicely dressed. She goes for bags that are hung on the back of chairs and will even pretend to drop something on the floor, reach down, grab what she dropped and snatch the purse that may be resting on the floor as well.”

She seems to be going all over town, so ladies, keep your purse close by, and gents, watch your shoulderbags/murses/briefcases—the “loop it over the chair” maneuver isn’t proving to be the safest. Restaurant folks: please watch out for her and make sure your guests keep their bags attended to.

Did you guys catch ~IRON CHEF~ Sunday night, with Cosentino vs. Batali? It was so awesome watching Chris Cosentino of Incanto and his crew, Ravi Kapur of Boulevard and Jonnatan Leiva of Jack Falstaff, rock it so hard. I thought I was gonna have heart failure watching it—total stress. Bummer I was home sick and missed the viewing party/ruckus. Batali prevailed, but way to go, guys, for making it that far and doing such a killer job! And that close! Two points, criminy! And hey, nice presentation with the squab talon, caw!

More congrats to ~NATE APPLEMAN~ of A16 and his wife, Clarisse, who had their baby boy, Oliver, at 1:25am this Monday morning. Auguroni!!!

Let’s continue the congrats-fest to swell Tim Stookey of the Presidio Social Club who won the mixing competition at Le Colonial Restaurant on April 9. He will be representing Northern California in the ~UNITED STATES BARTENDERS' GUILD NATIONAL COMPETITION~ in a couple weeks in Chicago. Ten bartenders competed, creating drinks using either Midori melon liqueur or Zen, a tea liqueur. Judging was performed by notable mixologist and USBG member Marco Dionysios, chef Loretta Keller of Coco 500, Steven Oliver of Le Colonial, and Kim Beto, key accounts manager for Southern Wine and Spirits. MC and technical judging were done by David Nepove of the USBG. Participating bartenders were Jodi Brust, Victoria Moran/Monaghan's, Jon Santer/Bourbon & Branch, H. of Elixir, Ronaldo Colli/Lulu, Jackie Patterson/Le Colonial/Elixir, Zole Andahazy/Bernardus Lodge, Shane McKnight/Globe, Jonny Raglin/Absinthe, and Tim Stookey/Presido Social Club. 2nd and 3rd place went to Shane McKnight and Zole Andahazy, while Ronaldo Colli won the award for top technical performance. So what was Stookey’s winning drink?

The Manuel Especial:
1 ½ oz Skyy Citrus
1 ½ oz Pink Grapefruit Juice
3/8 oz Aperol
3/8 oz Zen Green Tea Liqueur
1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters

And lastly, please don’t forget this Thursday is ~DINING OUT FOR LIFE~. Please look at the event details here and consider eating at one of these restaurants for lunch and/or dinner that day!

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