June 26, 2007

June 26, 2007

Okay, coffee fanatics, this is major, as in majorly cool—and I finally get to write about it. After searching for over a year and looking at over 50 places, James Freeman of Blue Bottle is going to be opening ~BLUE BOTTLE CAFÉ~ right off the upcoming Mint Plaza and boy, is it going to be swell. The café is going into the 800-square-foot back space of the Provident Loan building; an interesting fact is the building is an exact blueprint from a Provident Loan Society building in New York. Heck, this historic building was even reportedly mentioned in a Dashiell Hammet book. The front of the SF building was built in the 1910s and will continue to house the higher-end pawn shop/collateral lender, San Francisco Provident Loan Association, off of Mission Street, while Blue Bottle will be moving into the back area which was added in the 1920s.

Imagine this: 18-foot ceilings with period detail, incredible light, and let’s talk about the café! Plan on full coffee service plus some special coffees that will be made from some very special machines (I’ll have to get back to you on that later—James Freeman couldn’t reveal more at this point). A couple granitas will be offered—one coffee (duh) and a seasonal one. Paul Einbund of Coi is helping with the wine list—there will be four to five glasses available ($5-$12), a beer, and knowing Paul, of course there will be a Madeira.

Some of Freeman’s pals from the Ferry Building will be helping out, including Soyoung Scanlan who will be helping with some imported cheeses plus some from Andante as well, and Ryan Farr, the chef de cuisine of Elizabeth Faulkner’s new project Orson is offering some advice on the edibles (there will be perfect poached eggs and toast in the am, and charcuterie in the pm). Chris Ray, the builder, did the Miette patisserie in the Ferry Building and the confiserie in Hayes Valley—Ray will be busy adding the entrance off of Jessie Street. There will be a few tables and a long bar, but what will really beckon is the sunny plaza seating outside. If things proceed well, Freeman is hoping for an opening by Halloween. Address (for now) is 66 Mint Street, until the upcoming entrance on Jessie St. is ready.

Speaking of coffee, seems like I need one because I had no idea the ~PHIL’Z~ location at 18th Street and Sanchez in the Castro had closed until I went to get an iced coffee this weekend, to no avail. According to the Phil’z website things went kaput in the business relationship, so that’s that. You can still get your Phil’z at the original location in the Mission at 3101 24th St. at Folsom, and the new SoMa location at 201 Berry St. at 4th St.

After snagging some serious stars (try three and a half) from the Chronicle while at PlumpJack Cafe, executive chef ~JAMES SYHABOUT~ is returning to Manresa, this time as the chef de cuisine (he previously worked under David Kinch for three years in the Manresa kitchen). Rick Riess, CEO of PlumpJack Group, had the following to say, "We are disappointed to see James go and appreciate his efforts and PlumpJack Cafe, but understand his desire to get involved with biodynamic farming and wish him all the best in his career and future endeavors." Syhabout’s last day will be July 14. I had two meals there and really enjoyed his flair—now it’s yet another reason to go hit the 408 and visit Manresa.

Up in Bernal, the former Aura location is reopening sometime in early to mid July (say, maybe July 10–17) as ~TINDERBOX RESTAURANT~, “an experimental American bistro with a foundation on sustainable food and wine.” The partners want to offer a youthful interpretation of American cuisine, offering a fresh and global take on Cali dining. The project comes from Ryan Russell, who founded Hot Rod Pantry, the in-house catering outfit for 111 Minna. Russell has brought on Blair Warsham, whose resume includes working as the executive sous chef at the General’s Daughter in Sonoma, two years under Daniel Humm at Campton Place, and some gigs in Europe (you can read his entire bio here)—he will be co-cheffing with Russell, and will be a partner in both the restaurant and Russell’s catering company, which will be utilizing Tinderbox’s kitchen.

The menu will feature some playful additions, like the Tinderbox Special, a nightly deluxe appetizer that is a tasting of three items presented in a steel box with porcelain inserts, and will run $11–$12. There will also be the “Keeping It Bernal” prix-fixe menu, with a starter, entrée, and your choice of dessert or a glass of wine that will run in the mid to high $20s. One potential sample menu that floated my way included a starter of crude hamachi with summer melon ribbon, steeped prosciutto and mint oil; banana-wrapped chicken on garlic-potato whip with crispy Kaffir lime leaves for the main; and basil pudding on basil seed syrup with honeycomb for dessert.

Coming on board is Omar White from Pizzaiolo, who will be the GM and overseeing the wine list; John Ragan, now the wine director at Eleven Madison Park in New York (we lost him from Campton Place, along with Daniel Humm) will be consulting on the list, along with Peter Eastlake of Vintage Berkeley (sounds like one hell of a list). Additional elements will include a strong music focus (the host and a partner, Miles Clark, is a sound engineer around town), rotating art by local artists, and they are trying to be as green as possible, using 100% recycled fabrics on the high-backed banquettes, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified hardwoods on the large L-shaped bar, cork wall paneling, and no VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints. Russell designed the 40-seat space, giving it a clean and modern style, with suede chairs, copper-topped tables, and there is also a private room with room for 8–10 people. It will be open for dinner, 5:30pm–10pm Tue–Sun (until 11pm Fri­–Sat), and serving wine and beer until midnight and a late dining offering; there are also plans for brunch soon. 803 Cortland Ave. at Ellsworth, 415-285-TBOX (8269).

Okay, this is going to bum some folks out, because this place cracks me up every time I’ve been there: the wacky and downright rowdy ~COUNTRY STATION SUSHI~ in the Mission is closing on June 30 after ten years in that location. The landlord is rebuilding and making some drastic structural changes, so they have to close. No more mariachi sushi. The landlord offered the owners the space to eventually have their business there again, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards at the moment. A few members of the staff can be found at Tamasei Sushi, including the owner and his wife, who opened the space about six months ago. Country Station: 2140 Mission St. at 17th, 415-861-0972. Tamasei: 3856 24th St. at Vicksburg, 415-282-7989.

~SAKE LAB~ on Broadway has been sold, and is morphing into Horizon, a bar/lounge/restaurant that will be launching in early September. The new owners are Duc Luu and Victoria La, who have brought on Ola Fendert of Oola to consult and help manage the business. More details will be forthcoming since they are still working out the concept, but gourmet burgers and a casual late-night vibe were a few things that were mentioned. Look for more details in the coming months. 498 Broadway at Kearny.

So I mentioned last week that ~CHRIS WRIGHT~ is no longer at Aqua—he is now at ~BONG SU~. Can’t wait to see what ends up getting paired with the delicious shrimp cupcakes, heh. Speaking of pairings, Bong Su has a pretty groovy private wine tasting opportunity that was previously only offered to those “in the know.” Bong Su’s beverage director, John McDaniel, hosts complimentary private tastings for guests with dinner reservations at the restaurant—simply arrange a tasting with McDaniel in Bong Su’s tasting room prior to your meal. Upon arrival, guests are shown into the wine room, which contains wines from around the world, including boutique selections from Croatia, Hungary, and the Napa Valley. McDaniel will offer a tasting of wines that pair with small bites from chef Tammy Huynh. It’s also a great time for guests to ask McDaniel about wines they might want to pair with their dinner later. Yes, it’s free. The tastings begin at 5:30pm and are for groups of up to eight people. 311 3rd St. at Folsom, 415-536-5800.

Seems the higher-end menu at ~LA TERRASSE~ just wasn’t what the public wanted (why am I not surprised?) so the menu has changed to a brasserie a la carte style. Items on the menu include moules frites with Pernod, steak frites with béarnaise, and some nightly rotating specials (Monday, cassoulet; Friday, bouillabaisse)—you can check out the entire menu on the website. Don’t forget there is also breakfast and lunch, and there are now heat lamps for the patio, bonus. 215 Lincoln Blvd., 415-922-DINE.

Out in Potrero Hill, the ~GARDEN OF TRANQUILITY~ has closed, and a sushi place is opening called Live Sushi Bar. It should be open either Sunday July 1, or Monday July 2. The owner has been managing over at Mikado, and the sushi chef is from Ebisu. Lunch is Mon–Sat 11am–3pm, and dinner nightly, opening at 5pm. 2001 17th St. at Vermont, 415-861-8610.

Meanwhile, just a hop and a skip away, ~GRAND PU BAH~ (which means “the great crazy crab”) has opened in the Potrero/Showplace Square for lunch and dinner. The menu is Thai and features some seafood specialties, the joint is open late, there is a full bar, and the look is pretty slick (you can take a peek at some photos on Yelp. Open for lunch Mon–Sat 11am–4pm, dinner Sun–Thu 4pm–12am, Fri–Sat 4pm–2am. 88 Division St. at Henry Adams, 415-255-8188.

~SUDACHI~ just opened last Thursday in the old Juni space, offering an array of sushi, sashimi, Asian tapas (like seared Hokkaido scallop with carrot mousse, apple-wood smoked bacon, shiitake mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, and shiso oil), and some specialty rolls from chef-owner Ming Hwang, and his sous chef, Liam Arroyo. You can read up on more deets from my original post back in May here. Dinner is served nightly from 5:30pm–10:30pm. A late-night menu and live entertainment (think jazz and blues) are happening from 10:30pm–1am. 1217 Sutter St. at Polk, 415-931-6951.

For those of you in the restaurant industry, there is a ~THIRD MEETING~ this Thursday, June 28, at Tres Agaves at 3pm. The agenda includes discussing the results of the recent restaurant poll, including tip credit issues, and hopefully agree upon specific action plans. 130 Townsend St. at 2nd.

One more tidbit: for those of you following the ~SF WEEKLY CCA STORY~, here’s a piece about the aftermath from the expose they did.

Lastly, I heard an update from a coordinator involved in saving the ~JOHN BARLEYCORN~: “We have secured a three-month extension of the lease, so the pub will be in business through September. We have a full slate of events planned for July and August to help publicize the situation... Our open letter/petition asking Luisa Hanson to renew the pub's lease has exceeded 3,000 signatures, and we have the backing of the district's business and neighborhood associations, as well as its politicians, so we are hopeful that we can change Ms. Hanson's mind.” For those interested in helping out, or with questions, there is a message line: 415-673-2919.

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