October 23, 2007

October 23, 2007

The biggest news rippling through the restaurant community yesterday was who got their ~MICHELIN STARS~, how many, and who didn’t. I attended a press briefing yesterday morning that revealed the second year of local winners, and presented the second edition of the Michelin Red Guide 2008 San Francisco Bay Area and Wine Country (don’t forget Green Apple Books will give you 20% off for the next two weeks). I was very happy to see the new additions of Coi, Cortez, Ame, and One Market on the one-star list—good for them. I have heard some folks saying “Huh?” on One Market, but the meal I recently had there was reason enough for me—it was delicious, and elegant. Another interesting one is Fifth Floor, maintaining its one star. Chef Melissha Perello left Jan. 1, and the Guide even mentions her departure, but still commends the kitchen for its skills in her absence. Wow—go Charlie Kleinman and Jake DesVoignes, the chefs who have been holding it down since Perello’s departure (their last day is October 31). I wish Silks was included in the group with stars—Joel Huff rocks. And I really want Ron Siegel at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton to have two.

One odd omission: where is Chez Spencer in the book? And it’s French, mon dieu! And since inspectors started dining in the city last November, I don’t totally understand the absence of places like Presidio Social Club, which opened in the beginning of the year. Others missing include La Ciccia, the Alembic, the Front Porch, Da Flora, and some other small to mid-size spots, but then you have little joints like Pagolac and Pancho Villa in there, so it can’t be based on size alone.

I know, nothing is perfect, and everyone has his or her opinion. I do like the book’s listing of places that are a good value under $40 (the “Big Gourmand” listings), and under $25. The wine country listings are useful. All these things, and more, very well may be discussed during the Michelin and tablehopper panel discussion tomorrow evening at the Ferry Building. You’ll also be able to pick up copies of the book then (it’s not released until tomorrow).

Oh, and in the fastest posting ever category, The Restaurant at Meadowood, which scored two stars, posted an ad on Craigslist mere hours after the announcement looking for two line chefs, and it mentions their two stars. And quotes extensively from their Chronicle review. Well.

To the news! Executive chef Anna Bautista has left ~NUA~ in North Beach. Bautista says she was “happy with what they built and they had a great run,” but it seems there was a difference in opinion about vision for the restaurant. She also stated she was grateful and happy with the experience establishing herself there. We’ll see where she lands next—she said she has some temporary work lined up at the moment. No comment from owner David White. 550 Green St. at Jasper Place, 415-433-4000.

More in the female executive chef departures file: executive chef Christine Mullen has left ~CAV WINE BAR & KITCHEN~, after opening the restaurant back in September 2005. It is reportedly an amicable departure. Mullen is experiencing what many female chefs go through: she’s 37 and thinking about kids, and being swallowed up running a restaurant kitchen might not be the best fit for that eventual game plan. I’ll keep you posted—it’s sounding like she will be starting a catering outfit. Taking her place is Michael Lamina, who started as a sous chef at CAV in January. His background includes working as a sous at Grand Café, line cook at Farallon, and sous chef at Stage Left in New Brunswick, NJ. Mullen says, “I have a lot of faith in the kitchen crew” and “he [Lamina] has the energy, ambition, and talent to do it well.” 1666 Market St. at Gough, 415-437-1770.

~TROYA~ on Clement not only has a new chef, but the style will be shifting a bit as well. The restaurant originally opened with a chef from Turkey, but owner Berk Kinalilar wants to modernize the cuisine, adding a more contemporary and sophisticated approach, focused less on “old-fashioned food,” as he put it. The new chef is Randy Gannaway, 34, formerly a sous at Aziza, and he was also at girl & the fig and the Carneros Inn in Sonoma. Look for a new menu in the coming weeks, with Turkish cuisine as a base, but integrating Mediterranean influences. 349 Clement St. at 5th, 415-379-6000.

Hayes Valley is slated to have another sushi joint in the ‘hood, ~DOMO~, by late November—it’s moving into the Tinhorn Press/Gallery space. Domo (as in “thank you”) is going to be a casual neighborhood spot, with a menu of traditional sushi, and some “good surprises” too. Behind the venture are Luke and Kitty Sung of Isa in the Marina, and Luke’s high-school buddy, Ku Wa, will be the sushi chef. Wa was formerly at Osho in Millbrae, and was most recently in Hawaii, and downtown at Hana Zen. The place will have 20 seats, with room for eight at the bar. Look for lunch and dinner six or perhaps seven nights a week, and hours for now are 11am–11pm. 511 Laguna St. at Linden.

After The Blue Muse and Sage lost their lease after 25 years of business in Hayes Valley (Breezy’s and Hayes & Kebab took over the two spaces), owner Sidney Wong is reopening both businesses in the Performing Arts Garage on Grove. Well, kind of. ~THE BLUE MUSE~ is moving into what was a parking authority office (I remember trying to get a freaking parking permit from them some years ago) and should open in November. Look for an Asian fusion menu with French touches, with lunch and dinner offered, 50 seats, and a full bar. Hours will be 10:30am–10pm, and will stay open later to accommodate the post-performance crowd. 370 Grove St. at Gough.

A few doors down in the former Café Allegro space will be ~SAGE~, a casual spot offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with salads, sandwiches, coffee, and tea. Wong retained his old chefs from both places. It will also have about 50 seats, and is slated to open by the end of the year. I know, brave man, opening two restaurants at once? It’s enough to make anyone crazy. 340 Grove St. at Gough.

A block away, Eater SF reported that ~ZOYA~, the restaurant in the tower of the Days Inn, and the former home of Midori Mushi, is closing. Something called Double Dacker is moving in—all will be revealed. 465 Grove St. at Gough, 415-626-9692.

Over in North Beach, ~EGUNA BASQUE~ is reopening after being temporarily closed for the past few months. Chef-owner Jason Rucker is shifting the concept and menu to be more focused on lunch and dinner, with crepes, salads, and soups, and less about the previous “café” incarnation with pastries and sandwiches. WiFi will still be available. Look for the reopening on November 2. Hours will be 11am–11pm (days of closure are still TBD). 1657 Powell St. at Union, 415-362-2141.

Just around the corner, moving into the ~FOGON~ space will be a Thai restaurant. More on that soon. 659 Union St. at Powell.

In the “interesting” file, I had a reader inquire what was moving into the ~DALLA TORRE~ space, up near Julius’s Castle. A restaurant will not be happening—a couple bought the space and are converting the historic building into a private residence. For those who dig SF restaurant history like I do: back in the 1930s it was a place for cheap meals by candlelight (as a cost-cutting measure, not because it was romantic), and that’s how it earned its original name, “The Shadows.” There was a fire in the 1950s, and it was rebuilt, eventually morphing into Dalla Torre. Anyone know anything else about the history? 1349 Montgomery St. at Filbert.

A new Hawaiian joint is slated to open in the Buchanan Mall in Japantown in November, ~HONU’S ISLAND GRINDS & BAR~. It is reportedly going to serve “real Hawaiian food” with some healthy offerings like a poke bar, healthy salads, dishes made without trans fats, vegetarian entrées [read: sans SPAM], and yes, some pupu action. There will also be sweets from Yasukochi's Sweet Stop, plus espresso drinks, too. The restaurant is moving into the former Kansai Restaurant space, and comes from Edgar Dang, owner of the Aloha Warehouse, and Pat Fong. They are gunning for late-night hours, and live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. 1737 Buchanan St. at Sutter.

Bar-meisters Dominic Venegas and Carlos Yturria are taking over the bar program at ~BACAR~, which they incidentally helped establish in its earlier years. They are now referring to the downstairs area as "bacar below," offering classic cocktails from historic jazz clubs like The Stork Club and The Cotton Club to accompany music from local jazz artists who know how to rock it, like Dr. Bill Bell, Donald "Duck" Bailey, and Scott Amendola. There is no cover, and you can order the full menu downstairs. Carlos and Dominic will be behind the bar on Friday nights only, and start things off this Friday, October 26th, so swing on by. 448 Brannan St. at 4th, 415-904-4100.

For those of you wondering wassup with the ~ROOSEVELT TAMALE PARLOR~, they are hoping to pass inspections this week. Stand by.

A new addition to the healthy Mexican food scene in the Western Addition: not only is there Green Chile Kitchen and a second Papalote location, but there is now ~THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA~ on Divis. (Is the name a little redundant, like frozen ice?) Look for burritos and tacos with Niman Ranch meat, and healthier ingredients like whole-wheat tortillas. Oh, and not-as-healthy beer on tap. Open daily for lunch and dinner until 10pm. 292 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-255-8225.

Another Western Addition tidbit: ~ONE WORLD CAFÉ~ on McAllister and Baker had a slight refresh, and is now serving sandwiches made with organic ingredients, and there’s a petite grocery area too, with a small selection of pastas, olive oils, cheese, and the like. 1799 McAllister St. at Baker, 415-776-9358.

And now, your openings update!

In the impressive timing department, ~BIN 38~ is opening this Wednesday. I was looking at the menu, and it has some tasty sounding numbers, like a Bellwether Farms ricotta tart with warm chanterelle mushroom and radicchio salad ($10); a mussel and oyster pan roast, with coriander, beer broth, grilled bread, and aioli ($13); and grilled quail with fresh pork sausage, coarse polenta, and roasted persimmons ($15). In an interesting twist, the menu suggests both wine and beer pairings for each dish. Maybe I need to show up with my Upper Playground walrus mug. Oh, and hello éclairs on the menu. 3232 Scott St. at Chestnut.

This Saturday, the 27th, ~HORIZON~ will be open in North Beach, serving up those burgers everyone is so fired up about (you can choose from eight different kinds of meat, including tofu) plus some American-Med dishes as well. Open late, until 2am nightly. Sidebar: the prelim website looks like a movie screen to me, total letterbox action. Now starring! 498 Broadway St. at Kearny, 415-576-1118.

Also opening this Saturday to the public is ~MECCA SF~—it’s been closed since that bummer of a fire in June. I got to peek at executive chef Randy Lewis’s preliminary menu, and some of the dishes that jumped out were green tomatoes with burrata, country ham prosciutto, and corn bread croutons; Dungeness crab beignets with bread and butter pickle remoulade (I guess we have to wait a month for that one); crespelle with ricotta pudding, cauliflower, pine nuts, and sweet and sour golden raisins; and salt-crusted steak, with steak sauce-glazed cipollini onions. Uh, yum. There will also be a seven-course tasting menu.

Changes to the space include a 20-foot backlit alabaster wall when you enter, new red wine velvet curtains throughout, dramatic new chandeliers and artwork, a 15-foot wood and steel standing bar that expands the bar area and will shelter diners in the front of the restaurant from the bar scene, plus new upholstery and carpet in the lounge, a new sound system, and some other spatial changes, like new booths. The kitchen also got tricked out, with some Montague stoves (drool) and a wood fired grill.

Look for all kinds of events, like the reopening celebration with some passed apps and champers on Saturday starting at 5pm, and then opening again on Tuesday, with a reservation-only special party on Wednesday for Halloween (called Temple of Doom, $60, with heavy passed apps, a costume contest, DJ, and going until 1am). On Thursday, November 1, is the return of Ladies Night Out—no dinner will be served that night, just a bar menu and apps because you know it’s gonna be a rager. Friday means business as usual, with the famed happy hour that will continue nightly from 5pm–7pm (but oysters are now half-price), plus some special drinks, and infused cocktails for $6. Welcome back, MECCA. 2029 Market St. at Church, 415-621-7000.

The other project that has been keeping MECCA co-owner Steve Weber and executive chef Randy Lewis busy busy is the launch of ~BEST-O-BURGER~, their new burger spot opening by Christmas in Belden Alley (in the old Mrs. Field’s location). Look for handmade burgers of 100% Angus beef that are seared in cast-iron skillets, and then sandwiched in oven-fresh buns baked onsite daily. There will also be bags filled with half onion rings and half fries (called “Strings and Ring-O’s”) fried in rice oil, plus gelato from some Roman guy, and cookies and snacks from customer recipes. Hours will be daily 11am–9pm, and breakfast and late night hours may be coming too—just think, you’d be able to pull right up since the parking is kind of mellow around there late at night. There will be some stand-up counters, and they are hoping for a few tables outside. Two more locations are currently being considered around town, and Weber is launching a “Sunday School” fundraising program for kids, where little ones will learn how to make and serve burgers, with funds going to their school. 493 Pine St. at Belden.

In addition to MECCA’s Halloween party, some other goulish parties around town include:

~CANTINA~ will be awarding $500 to the best costume! They will also be opening the downstairs to the public for the first time. $10 admission at the door starting at 9pm. Someone is gonna be drunk, I have a feeling, and Shotzi will be the one to blame! 580 Sutter St. at Mason, 415-398-0195.

I also heard ~ELIXIR~ is doing something…

For those of your curious about ~DARK DINING SF~, they are hosting a dinner on Halloween. It’s $95, and you’ll get pre-dinner drinks, a three-course meal plus a cheese plate, paired wines, and after-dinner liqueur. They also got blindfolds, so the not-so-dark situation was rectified, and they reportedly worked out some kinks with the food too.

~MAVERICK~ is hosting their 2nd Annual Mystery Night on Halloween night, when chef Scott Youkilis and his kitchen staff will set out to deceive their diners and test their food knowledge. Guests are served three courses, each paired with a wine, and will make their best attempt to guess the ingredients and the wine grape varietal. Whoever has the most points will win a fab bottle of wine. 6pm–10pm, multiple seatings. 3316 17th St. at Mission, 415-863-3061.

There are also a couple harvest festivals going on around town: first is the ~FERRY BUILDING MARKETPLACE HARVEST FESTIVAL~ running Friday October 26–Sunday October 28, kicking off with a CCOF Organic Wine & Beer Tasting this Friday from 4pm–8pm, with more than 25 organic wineries and breweries represented. Tickets will be offered at the door, $25 for 10 tastes or $15 for 5 tastes, which includes a commemorative souvenir glass. The weekend brings honey tastings, cooking demos, olive oil tastings, and ends on Sunday with the Barnyard by the Bay, a hands-on farm animal corral for kids. For more information on the Harvest Festival visit www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com.

This Saturday, ~CHEESE PLUS~ is hosting their third annual fall harvest festival from 11am–6pm, with more than 20 local bay area artisan food vendors offering samples of their handmade foods throughout the day. Free. 2001 Polk St. at Pacific, 415-921-2001.