January 8, 2008

January 8, 2008

Been watch-dogging the restaurant project slated to moved into the InterContinental San Francisco for a while, and the word is finally out about ~LUCE~. This new restaurant will be opening when the hotel opens, most likely by the end of February. The executive chef is Dominique Crenn, who was recently at Abode in LA—she has one of those dreamy backgrounds you can only envy (raised in Versailles, numerous travels in Europe and Indonesia, she cooked in SF with Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz at Stars, as well as with other esteemed San Francisco establishments). Yes, she's excited to return to SF. Look for some Cali market-fresh cuisine with Italian inspiration, designed to be urban and sophisticated but inviting—there will also be a vegetable tasting menu. Menu prices will range from $9–$22 for apps, pastas from $14–$22, and mains from the high $20s to $30s. The name is inspired by Luce, the Super Tuscan wine that was the first wine ever produced in Montalcino by blending sangiovese and merlot grapes; it was a Napa-Tuscan collaboration between the Frescobaldi and Mondavi families that happened in 1995. Naturally, some fantastic selections from the Frescobaldi portfolio will be highlighted on the list—can you say winemaker dinners? Overseeing the wine fabulosities will be sommelier Helena Roy—she was most recently the wine director and bar manager of Ducca, and was previously the manager and wine director of Varietal Restaurant and Wine Bar in New York (she was also with a retail wine establishment in New York).

Luce's bar will be called Bar 888, with one of the largest grappa selections in the U.S., and even busting out some grappa-based cocktails. There will be 130 seats, with room for 12–14 at the bar, and private dining, too. Will keep you posted on the look, dishes on the menu, and more as things develop. 888 Howard St. at Fifth.

With the beginning of the New Year sadly comes some closures. ~TRADER VIC'S~ has served its last Mai Tai: it has closed its doors (but the Emeryville location remains open). Didn't get a call back about the what and why. 555 Golden Gate Ave. at Van Ness.

Another classic that just closed is the ~WASHINGTON SQUARE BAR AND GRILL~. It was a sudden closure, and one that has a lot of North Beach locals seriously bummed, and wondering. Herb Caen is shedding a tear. 1707 Powell St at Union.

I checked in again with the former chef of ~FRINGALE~, Thierry Clement, who told me Fringale's new chef, Tripp Mauldin, started yesterday. Clement will work with him until Saturday, when Mauldin will then hold down the fort. Mauldin's background includes the very tasty Angèle in Napa, Michael Mina, Aqua, and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton. As for Clement's new project, ~L'ARDOISE~, the latest is that Clement is hoping to open between mid-February and early March. Right now he's finalizing a designer who will renovate the former Los Flamingos space. More on this as things take shape. Fringale, 570 Fourth St. at Brannan, 415-543-0573; L'Ardoise, 151 Noe St. at Henry.

~GLOBE~ was slated to reopen this week after its small fire—didn't get a call back confirming the date, but the message on the voicemail says some time this week. 290 Pacific Ave. at Battery, 415-391-4132.

Neighborhood charmer ~METRO KATHMANDU~ is launching a happy hour every day from 5:30pm–6:30pm, with half-off on wine by the glass, beer, and soju cocktails (I will refrain from any comments). Another thing to make Sundays smoother, and easier on your wallet, is for the month of January, on Saturdays and Sundays, they are offering complimentary mimosas made with freshly squeezed OJ, 9:30am–2:30pm. 311 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-552-0903.

A few weeks back, I mentioned the new FourBarrellCoffee and Conduit projects, and solicited for names for what to call the micro-neighborhood that isn't really Hayes Valley, Civic Center, Upper Market, or the Mission (this is what happens in San Francisco, because we're so tiny). I got so many responses, you all should be hired for naming projects, I swear. But, it ends up there is already a name into use: ~THE HUB~. It borders Van Ness to the east, Buchanan to the west (the North of Market border), Dolores (the South of Market border), and then Page to the north, and 15th Street to the south. A reader explained, "This is the historical name for the neighborhood because the "F" used to turn around at Valencia and Market before the rail was extended to Castro. The neighbors are working to revitalize the neighborhood including reinstating the name 'The Hub.'" There was even a street festival celebration called "Welcome to the Hub" last year to begin to unite the neighbors. Go Hubsters.

But for fun I thought I'd include some of the other nominations, all directly quoted from readers below:

NoMi No(rthern) Mi(ssion), pronounced "noh-mee"
The Intermission
Inner Zeitgeist (One reader says, "It sounds like a philosophical dilemma more than a neighborhood. I like it.")
Maybe Castro Valley as a pun to the East Bayers?
NoMon North Mission, or am I still stuck in Jamaica?
Woodward slope or Woodward's Triangle
NoMiss (North Mission)
NoMis (North Mission)
Market Rise (brokers would love this one)
Haas Slope (Levi's original building)
Haas Hill
Missing Gardens
Greektown (obviously the church in the center but also references the frat boy invasion)
Inner Valencia
El Central
Le Coeur
The Gulch
Mint Slope
DuValMis (streets)
ValMis (streets)
Clinton Park (street)
The Pearl (street)
Armory Meadows
The Wedge=a neighbor to the Duboce Triangle, based on shape of course

Here's one more reader comment, "One (lame) district name I am promoting though is Midtown because SOMA just can't be that large! So Midtown per my definition is 5th to South Van Ness and Market to just about Townsend. Spread the word if you believe!" Okay then, there you have it.

Those of you in Cow Hollow will be happy to know the vino is back in ~JOVINO~. They were without an ABC license since June (someone decided to take their glass of Chard and salad outside, so they got popped and lost their license). But now the wine is back, and with the new license, they can serve both inside and outside, so cheers. 2184 Union St. at Fillmore, 415-563-1853.

I am sharing this letter from someone who works at Spruce, who wanted to alert industry readers to ~YET ANOTHER SCAM~ targeting restaurants: "An attempt was made by a scam artist...although we believe he's an addict. I was actually working on the phones and answered a call from a Dr. Sussman. He claimed to be a regular and a big fan of the restaurant. After buttering me up with a slew of compliments about our establishment, he then went on to tell me his son had locked his keys, phone, money and a lot of expensive equipment in his car. His son needed cab ride downtown to get a replacement key for his Mercedes. At first I was sympathetic, but then immediately suspicious when he asked for money. He said his son needed $50 to get downtown and then would return the money that evening. I asked why he wasn't calling any of his friends for help and he said the incident was so embarrassing he didn't feel comfortable asking anyone else. Right..."

"So, I had an envelope ready for his son, "David Sussman." He showed up about 45 minutes later. He looked completely strung out. White male, about 5'8", brown hair that looked greasy and matted, 5 o'clock shadow, bloodshot eyes. He walked into the restaurant and asked if there was something for him. I handed him the envelope and he walked out. My manager saw him get into a car parked just past our restaurant. She had seen him before and was afraid that I had given him money. But, his sob story on the phone had been too suspicious and I had written a note that said, "Happy Holidays. Good luck." That was the note I had put in the envelope."

"Anyway, I'm sure this man has pulled this before and I'm sure he's had some success. There are many good Samaritans among us who are less suspecting of others. Just thought I'd share to help get the word out."

One last thing: I don't have many details about this, but I heard there are some muggings happening in Cow Hollow and the Marina. A restaurant worker got knocked down and mugged at Green and Octavia last week—fortunately she's ok. The police want to encourage people to be vigilant, don't walk alone, and take cabs or get a ride when in doubt. I will let you know if I learn more details about this—sorry I don't have more at this time.