October 2, 2007

October 2, 2007

Here’s an update on some happenings at ~FIFTH FLOOR~: as many already know, the rumors were correct, Aqua’s executive chef Laurent Manrique is taking over the restaurant. As for who his mystery chef is, it’s Jenny Lorenzo, who was a cook under Laurent Gras for a couple years at Fifth Floor, and an opening sous at Ame—she was also in Japan for a couple years. Charlie Kleinman and Jake DesVoignes, who have been cooking at Fifth Floor for almost three years (mostly as sous chefs), were promoted and took over for Melissa Perello when she left early this year (according to the restaurant’s listing on OpenTable, it’s like Perello never left). Kleinman and DesVoignes originally planned to stay through the end of the year until the remodel starts in January and the Aqua-fication begins (with a reopening planned for February). But with Lorenzo getting placed in the kitchen earlier than expected, they decided to give their notice instead—their last day is October 31. Kleinman stated, “It was an amazing experience to cook in a Michelin-starred kitchen, we really enjoyed our time here.” The gents are embarking on a road trip around the U.S. and Canada for inspiration, and have a new project in the works—more on that soon. I will also update you on the concept changes planned for Fifth Floor once I hear more. 12 Fourth St. at Market, Palomar Hotel.

Here’s another little something I’ll be updating with more details as they develop, but for now, things are moving full-steam ahead with the new ~INTERCONTINENTAL SAN FRANCISCO~, slated to open in February 2008 in SoMa, at Howard and 5th. (Is Mint Plaza and the vicinity the new hot neighborhood? Discuss.) The 550-room hotel will be 32 stories and will have a grappa bar on the first floor (sounds like trouble to me)—the name is still TBD, but it will most likely include the hotel's address (888) in the name. A Cal-Italian restaurant is in development, and the chef hunt is on—it will also be located on the first floor, with a separate entrance from the hotel, and there’s some talk about the restaurant being open 24 hours. Imagine, something classier than the Lucky Penny for a 4am feast? Word.

In the “interesting sightings” file, famed Iron Chef ~MASAHARU MORIMOTO~ has been spotted over at Campton Place this past week—it’s interesting because the Taj Hotels group, which owns Campton, is behind his restaurant, Wasabi by Morimoto, in Mumbai. Hmmm.

So I mentioned I got to check out ~SENS~ on Thursday night for a test dinner (they just opened yesterday)—Michael Dotson’s Med-influenced menu is appetizing and has some unique dishes, like tender squid stuffed with spinach, bulgur wheat, pine nuts, and sultanas. Save room for Shuna Lydon’s desserts, especially the “warm & sumptuous” chocolate little number. Yeah, that mall is a nightmare to navigate, but seek and ye shall find. Sidebar: I really enjoyed Shuna’s recent post about opening day on her blog. Open for lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am–2:30pm and dinner Mon–Fri 5:30pm–10pm, Sat until 11pm. 4 Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level, 415-362-0645.

I have been supa-excited for ~SOUTH FOOD + WINE BAR~ to open, especially after my trip Down Under earlier this year. Well, good on ya mate, because they also started serving yesterday. The friends and family tasting I attended on Saturday was a total blast. So impressed with what they did to the formerly rinky-dink space—the set-up will create a sociable and fun vibe, and there are good design-y touches, including the custom Maori-inspired tile under the bar, and I couldn’t stop touching the jarrah wood countertop. The all-Aussie/New Zealand/Tasmania wine list offers plenty of exploration, and Luke Mangan’s menu is full of dishes that taste fresh, modern, and light, with unexpected zaps of flavor, like a salmon “sashimi” with curry oil. I especially loved the juicy quail, and yay, barramundi! Open for lunch Mon–Fri 11:30am–3pm, and dinner nightly: Sun–Mon 5:30pm–10pm, Tue–Sat 5:30pm–11pm. Look for brunch soon! 330 Townsend St. at 4th, #100, 415-976-5599.

After 20 years in business, the ~BALOMPIE~ empire is growing—unfortunately not in my neighborhood, but it might be a blessing to be sin pupusas in my immediate vicinity, otherwise it’s my waistline that will be growing. Anyway, I digress. A second location just opened in SOMA, with similar menu items as the home base in the Mission, but without table service—just order at the counter. 525 7th St. at Bryant, 415-558-9558. Open Mon–Fri 7am–3pm. Then a third location will be opening in four to six weeks in the former Libis Ng space at 3801 Mission at Richland.

Here’s the word on ~CRAIG’S PLACE~, the 49-seat restaurant slated to open October 9 in the former Platanos space in the Mission. The Dropalas brothers (Tim, Craig, and Tony) are launching a casual all-American comfort food joint, serving off the same menu all day. For brekkie there will be ten kinds of scrambles and omelettes, plus ever-popular breakfast burritos, while lunch will bring 15 kinds of specialty sandwiches, ten kinds of burgers, and salads. The meats will be organic, and fair trade and organic coffee and teas will be served. There will also be a strong to-go program. The look is modern and clean, with a new paint job, bar, and granite countertop in effect. Craig’s Place will be open daily 7am–9pm. 598 Guerrero St. at 18th, 415-355-9191.

Wanted to update you on ~PACIFIC CATCH~, opening in the former Canvas Gallery space in the Sunset. The restaurant should be open by the end of October or the first week in November, and the bar is going to be on pointe. How sharp? Well, Pacific Catch is working with local bar maestros Dominic Venegas, Todd Smith, and Carlos Ytturia (from Cantina, Bourbon & Branch, Rye, etc.) on the bar program. Yup, Attack of the Killer Cocktails in the Sunset! 1200 9th Ave. at Lincoln.

Little Sparrow flew away, and now ~CALIFORNIAN BAR AND RESTAURANT~ has opened in its place. Back in the day, this was the Vanessi’s space, and more recently, Watergate. The Frantin family (parents and son) are running the restaurant, and the chef is Gerard Save, who is from the south of France, but most recently was cooking at Morton’s, the Gold Spike, and the Bay City Bar and Grill. The somewhat old-school Euro-American menu is not one that makes me want to drop everything and head on over, but if I lived in the massive apartment building, I’m sure I’d be happy to be able to have a pork chop and a cocktail downstairs. The bar area is getting a couple TVs, and they are hosting a happy hour as well. 1177 California St. at Jones, 415-474-2000.

Handling the runoff from Osha Thai during the lunch rush is ~TA-RA~, a new Thai place sporting comparable prices and a sleek look—maybe it’s the effect from the former tenant, Vex clothing? (Note to self: don’t name a business Vex, or Hex.) Ta-ra is right across the street from 111 Minna. 123 2nd St. at Minna, 415-348-9977.

Saw this posting on Chowhound and can’t wait to visit: the ~FLYING PAN BISTRO~ has reopened, with house-made noodles now on the Northeastern Chinese menu. If you remember, this was the place originally opened by the owners of the cult-ish Jai Yun. 680 Clay St. at Kearny, 415-399-1938.

has made some changes since the relaunch/opening—the late hours are no longer (tough to maintain, those late hours), with the restaurant now closing at 11pm instead of 1am, Tue–Sun. Saturday and Sunday brunch hours remain the same (9:30am–2:30pm). The small plates format has also been shifted to offer regular entrée sizes, ranging from $8–$15, with dishes like Kwati with Lamb, a traditional dish from Kathmandu made with nine different bean sprouts cooked slowly with boneless lamb and thyme seeds; and Alu Tama, a vegetarian option comprised of curried potato, bamboo shoots, black eyes peas, tomato, and onion. 311 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-552-0903.

And now, Wharf Watch: ~DARREN’S CAFÉ~ has taken the place of Saigon Grill. Local workers, don’t lament—the owners are new, but a Vietnamese menu will still be offered, and American breakfast has been added. 2731 Taylor St. at Beach, 415-673-3345.

Since I used to throw a party called +Rehab+, I’m not too phased by a chocolate being called ~DROGA~. And drug it is, man, these rocky road little numbers are delish. (Munch munch. Please, hand, stop, get away from the box.) Michelle Bordin is making these rocky road chocolates with peanuts from a 25-year-old family recipe, and they rock. Curious? Swing by Biondivino, which carries Droga (does that make them a drug dealer?), on Wed, Oct. 17 for a little festa from 6pm–8pm; there will be a selection of Menabrea Italian beer, paired with both milk and dark Droga rocky road, which actually goes molto bene with beer due to the salty peanuts! Chocolate and beer, a new winning combo? 1415 Green St. at Polk, 415-673-2320.

Was I asleep? Stoned? Eating too many of those Droga chocolates? Whatever, I don’t know how I missed this, but there is a third ~SPICES!~ location that opened in the lower Fillmore! They also added Korean BBQ and sushi (hmmmkay?), so the concept isn’t exactly like the Richmond locations, but close enough! Maybe that’s what I need to kick this cold. 1325 Fillmore at Eddy, 415-409-2888.

This Sunday, the new show ~NEXT IRON CHEF~ kicks off, with local chefs Traci Des Jardins and Chris Cosentino competing against other chefs to be the Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef.” Yup, only SF has two contestants competing! Go 415. is going to be hosting “Next Iron Chef Sunday” parties each week and broadcasting the show to drum up support. There will be rotating drinks specials from Hangar One and $2 pints of Sphttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifeakeasy brew. Yes, people will be drinking in solidarity. The series starts this Sunday, October 7, at 9pm—doors open at 5pm. 3192 16th St. at Guerrero, 415-503-1670.

Meanwhile, in another ring, we have some top SF mixologists competing in the ~DAMRAK MIXOLOGY CHALLENGE~, trying to win one of three trips to the House of Bols Bartending Academy in Amsterdam (the House of Bowls Pot Smoking Academy is not quite official, yet). It all goes down at Rye, on Tue October 9. The contest starts at 7pm. 688 Geary St. at Leavenworth, 415-786-7803. (You North Bay-ers can watch at the West County Grill in Sebastopol on Monday, Oct 8, or in the East Bay at Scott's Seafood in Walnut Creek on Monday, Oct 15.)