March 11, 2008

March 11, 2008

I followed up with ~DENNIS LEARY OF CANTEEN~ on my little teaser from a couple months back about the new project he has brewing. Brewing is about right: let's just say mornings and baked goods and take-out are involved. And it will be another tiny location, this time in the Financial District. He just signed the lease, so stand by for more details soon.

Thierry Clement, formerly the executive chef of Fringale, opened his own project ~L'ARDOISE~ last Thursday. It's a 38-seat bistro in the old Los Flamingos space, and designer-about-town Michael Brennan helped design it. The petite menu will have dishes rotating on and off the blackboard (that's what the name means), but for now, some dishes in the mix are seafood raviole, a few salads, charcuterie, barramundi, hanger steak and frites, and osso buco. Duck confit is coming, oui. Open Tue-Sun for dinner, 5:30pm–10pm. 151 Noe St. at Henry, 415-437-2600.

Just so you know, the other Frenchie restaurant, ~CHEZ PAPA RESTO~ will not be opening next Monday, the 17th, as originally hoped. Who knows when it will be ready to open—it's like making wine over there. 414 Jessie St. at 5th St., 415-546-4134.

There's been some chef turnover at ~SUPPERCLUB~—the new chef is Guus Wickenhagen, who was most recently the executive chef at Supperclub Amsterdam (since 2001). He arrived in San Francisco about a month ago and has taken over the chef reins in the past week or so. He's reportedly got quite the creative flair. 657 Harrison St. at 2nd St., 415-348-0900.

Then over at ~MECCA~, they have a new executive chef, Moises Sikaffy, plus a new general manager and wine director, Ginny E. Brown. Most recently, Sikaffy served as executive chef for Beach Chalet and Park Chalet Restaurants, but the Mediterranean chef's background also includes Arcadia, San Jose; One Market Restaurant; Moose's; Restaurant LULU; and Cantina Barbagianni in Florence. A variety of oysters will continue to be on offer, plus some light starters and salads, and most mains are around $25 (here's a link to his new menu here). 2029 Market St. at Church, 415-621-7000.

There is also a new chef at ~COTE SUD~, Pierre Smets, who has been working the past 10 years at Christophe restaurant in Marin. He has added a super-affordable early-bird menu, available every day from 5:30pm–7pm for $21, which features a choice from three different appetizers, main courses, and desserts; the selection will change every two weeks. Smets will also head the new catering department of Cote Sud. 4238 18th St. at Collingwood, 415-255-6565.

Ok, so let's do this. To the scandal! Last year I received a tip please request for a rather blush-inducing kind of "holiday" that's a little below-the-radar (actually, below the belt is more like it); the reader was wondering where to go for ~STEAK AND BJ DAY~. It makes me laugh to no end. Still. (I know, snicker snicker, this is all rather inappropriate, sorry if you are offended, but I never said this column was about being squeaky clean.) So the idea is that women get Valentine's Day, therefore the guys want to make March 14 all about them. Google away, you can read all about it.

I figured what the hell, let's do a giveaway! And no, I am not giving away an hour with someone named Krystal—you're on your own for that part. I am giving away a variety of prizes, however. First, for the ladies (or the lady in your life), I have three copies of the book The Meat Club Cookbook: For Gals Who Love Their Meat, which is chock-full of beefy/lambie/piggy recipes, plus tips on buying meat from the butcher, and other useful meaty info.

The grand-prize winner gets an $80 gift certificate to Bobo's on Lombard, where you can eat one of the finer examples of steak in the city: 100% USDA Prime dry-aged steak for four–six weeks, to be exact. (The certificate excludes alcoholic beverages and gratuity, but there is complimentary valet parking, woo hoo!) Bobo's is famous for their bone-in filet mignon—people even call to reserve this cut in advance. I have never been a big fan of the red-and-black circus-like décor, and if it's still there, don't let the namesake clown hanging above the door freak you out. But the steak (or as they call it, "The Steak") is truly transcendent here, and the house-made burrata is a tasty treat too. 1450 Lombard St. at Franklin, 415-441-8880.

So, how do you enter to win? Just forward this newsletter to one person (or more, thanks!) and cc luckyme [at] tablehopper [dot] com when you send it to your peeps—it's best if you explain why you're emailing it to them, and what tablehopper is. I promise I won't be collecting your friends' emails, those will stay private—I just need to keep track that you forwarded it to some folks. The deadline to enter is by 10am, this Wednesday, March 12. I will be randomly drawing the winners and will email you ASAP to let you know you've won. Good luck! And if you don't win a book, you have two weeks to get The Meat Club for 20% off from our buddies at Green Apple Books.

Just in case you want additional suggestions for where to score some steak around town, here are a few idears:

1-LarkCreekSteak—Fab beef, and don't let the mall location turn you off—the steak here is really, really good.

2-Harris' Restaurant is a classic. Think large booth, martini with a little extra chilling in a mini barrel, and a behemoth 21-day dry-aged steak. Yes, it's Midwestern, and corn-fed. And it's not cheap. Oh, and don't let the noir-sounding voice on the website video scare you like it did me when the page loads. (You can't turn it off. Like, annoying!)

3-Yum, the steak and frites at South Park Café totally rock me. Oh, and of course Delfina does a famed hangar steak and fries too.

4-The wandering gauchos at Espetus with their skewers of meat makes this Brazilian churrascaria an all-you-can-eat meat heaven for those with hefty, meat-lovin' appetites. You'll get a total meat medley, though, not just steak—from salty sirloin to pork to sausages.

5-Oh, and those craving some quality grass-fed options, there's the delicious Acme Chophouse, or you can go the South American route and hit up El Raigon for some Uruguayan beef and lusty Malbec. (Don't pass up the grilled sweetbreads either.)

Since we're on beef, I got a note from the folks at the new ~BURGER JOINT~ location on King Street that they had to close due to a problem with their exhaust system. They are resolving the issue and hope to reopen shortly. 242 King St. at 3rd St., 415-371-1600.

Last week I mentioned ~TATAKI SUSHI & SAKE BAR~, the new Japanese sushi place that opened on California at Divisadero. What I didn't know is the menu features 100% sustainable seafood. Cool. Will this be a trend in Japanese restaurants? It's the first time I've heard it. Stand by. Want to read more about how to order sustainable sushi? Here's a little something I found on Sprig, thanks Google. I also like to carry my handy Seafood Watch Pocket Guide in my purse—have you ever seen/used this guide? I recommend taking a peek and printing one off. 2815 California St. at Divisadero, 415-931-1182.

~BRICK~ has kicked off a happy hour, and how handy, it's every day! Chef Alex Marsh has put together a special happy hour bar menu, including country-fried maitake mushrooms, lamb sliders, and herbed fries. Hours are 5pm–6:30pm every day, and then there's a similar late–night menu on Thursdays from 10pm–midnight, and Fri–Sat 11pm-1am. Ryan Fitzgerald (Bourbon & Branch, Tres Agaves) has also designed a new bar menu so you have something to help you put the slaphappy in happy hour. You might notice the interior has been remodeled a bit—the bar got a facelift, and there's an exhibition chef's table. 1085 Sutter St. at Larkin, 415-441-4232.

After announcing the closure of the second location of the ~FRONT ROOM~, Eater picked up some investigative slack for me (thanks guys!) and found out "the reason behind the closure is actually an unlawful detainer for non-payment of rent." You can read more here. Will it reopen? Hmmmm.

One place that is opening is ~CANDYBAR~ from owners Derek Chan and Tan Truong, perhaps by this Saturday, March 15. Some inspections and subsequent construction held up the checkered flag last week; here's hoping we have clearance this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing the paper come off the large windows. You ready for a lot of details? Ok, let's rock. This dessert and wine bar/lounge will have a four-course tasting menu of gourmet desserts for $14 from pastry chef Jake Godby (Fifth Floor Restaurant, Tartare, Boulevard, Coi). He'll be on staff for six months or so; I hear he's opening an ice cream shop in the Mission—more details on that in the next 'hopper! There will be two lists of innovative and seasonal treats, like blood orange baked Alaska with candied fennel and honeycomb; chocolate brioche with balsamic caramel ice cream and spiced yogurt; or a Mission fig confit with fourme d'Ambert panna cotta and cinnamon toast. Yeah, yum. The à la carte lounge menu will feature simpler desserts, such as a bourbon Coke float or tin roof sundae (vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, frosted peanuts, and Maldon sea salt). All ice creams and sorbets will be made in house, and with organic ingredients.

There are also savory offerings for those who aren't sporting a sweet tooth, thanks to savory chef Jason Edwards (Coi, French Laundry, Hawthorne Lane, Enrico's), like fennel marmalade and sweet onion relish with toast; jumbo asparagus with curry remoulade; roasted Yukon gold potatoes with hazelnut romesco; plus some larger plates like pork and pistachio terrine, and braised lamb shanks with seasonal vegetables.

There are also wine pairings available for each dessert selection courtesy of Paul Einbund of Coi who consulted on the list, with a focus on dessert wines from around the world. There will also be some non-desserty vinos, micro-brewed beers, loose-leaf teas, and Blue Bottle Coffee. There are also specialty drinks, like the Apple Push (Pomeau du Normandie, Fee Bros. Peach Bitters, and dry vermouth) and the Dreamy Night (Toro Albala Pedro Ximenez sherry, Carnegie Porter, and vanilla ice cream). How's THAT for some non-spirits beverages?! Impressive. You'll be able to hang out in the 20-seat lounge area in the front (vintage board games are available) or take a seat in the 16-seat dining room toward the back. Look for wine and chocolate seminars and special wine salons on weekend afternoons. Hours are Tue–Thu 4pm–10pm, Fri–Sat 4pm–midnight, Sun 4pm–10pm. 1335 Fulton St. Ste 101 at Divisadero, 415-673-7078.

Some additional news from pastry land: the kiosk at ~ORSON~ in SoMa should be opening around the weekend or so, serving to-go bakery items starting at 7am in the morning. Breakfast of champions. I also hear the restaurant's pizza oven is up and running.

~EASTER~ is early this year (Sunday, March 23), and while our family will be busy preparing baby kid and probably some lasagne for dinner, I know a lot of folks are into going out for the Easter brunch thing. Here are a few ideas around town:

~FARMERBROWN~ is starting a gospel brunch on Sundays, kicking things off this Easter. They are working with a non-profit called Old Skool Café, teaching at-risk youth how to work in the restaurant industry as servers and cooks. 25 Mason St. at Turk/Market, 415-409-FARM.

~PALIO D'ASTI~ is hosting their first-ever Easter brunch from 12pm–3pm. You can check out their menu here. They are also doing their annual St. Joseph's Day Dinner the week before on March 15, a family-style feast; $50 per person, children under 10 pay their age. 640 Sacramento St. at Montgomery, 415-395-9800.

~VITRINE~ on the 4th floor at the St. Regis in SoMa is hosting an Easter brunch until 4pm. 125 Third St. at Mission, Level Four, 415-284-4049.

Don't forget ~ENRICO'S~ in North Beach recently launched their Sunday brunch, and ~BIN 38~ in the Marina just started brunch each Sunday from 10:30am–3pm; both places have heated patios! You can read Bin 38's PDF menu by clicking here.

Of course the ~RITZ-CARLTON SAN FRANCISCO~ does quite the spread. There's an Easter Bunny Tea in The Lobby Lounge with Binky the Bunny (not kidding) from 10am–11:30am, $75 per guest, inclusive of tax and gratuity. Then there's the Easter Buffet Brunch in The Terrace, with a jazz trio, 10:30am–4pm, $98 for adults, $49 for children five to 12, exclusive of tax and gratuity. From 5pm–9pm, Ron Siegel is featuring an à la carte menu or a five-course Easter tasting menu with dessert in the Dining Room. 600 Stockton St. at California, 415-296-7465.

For you folks down in the Peninsula, ~SOFITEL SAN FRANCISCO BAY~ has a buffet, and a special appearance by the Easter Bunny. Seatings are available at 10am or 12:30pm; $50 for adults, $25 for children five to 12 years old, and children under five are free. 223 Twin Dolphin Dr., Redwood City, 650-508-7126.

Now, from bunnies to booze. A belated congrats to bartender ~VICTORIA D'AMATO-MORAN~, who attended the "Battle of the Mixologists Competition" in Las Vegas last week. Bartenders of note were invited from all over the country; Victoria was the only female finalist and came in fifth place. (No one else from SF won.) Her drink was called "Sophia" and incorporated Don Julio and Aperol. Victoria works Sunday Brunch at Bar Johnny's on Polk Street and day shifts at Monaghan's in the Marina during the week.

Cocktailian-about-town Camper English had the scoop on his blog,, that Todd Smith is no longer going to be the manager at ~BOURBON & BRANCH~ (although he will continue to take charge of the Beverage Academy). Both Joel Baker and Yanni Kehagiaras, who have been at B&B the past year, will replace Smith. More news: B&B is also nearing completion on the new extension. It will be called Russell's Room, and is a luxurious private room, reminiscent of the old JJ Russell's "cigar shop" which stood in place of Bourbon & Branch during Prohibition. The room will have a plush loungey feel, with a full one-man bar and comfortable seating with some design twists. The room is quite intimate, and will hold no more than 40. And check this out: while removing a wall in Russell's Room, they found some amazing old treasures from the late 1920s, which they will be displaying in a glass case. It should be open in April...

Okay, some big changes here in 'hopper-land, which should make some of you "across the bridge" folks happy: I'm going to start mentioning new restaurant openings in the East and North Bay, along with new openings in the Peninsula, too. Gasp! I know! But I won't be reviewing places (sorry—this is what happens when it's just me, an army of one!), or chasing down news like I do here in SF, but if new restaurant news crosses my desk, I'll be happily mentioning it for y'all. Meow? Meow.

To kick things off, I had a nice time chatting with chef Russell Moore, who has been at Chez Panisse for 21 years, and the chef of the Café for 12 of 'em. I know, wow. He is opening his pet project in Oakland, ~CAMINO~, in a former furniture store, a brick building that will have room for about 80, with a bar area with space for around 25 or so. The name is not an homage to the tuff El Camino muscle car—it's actually an Italian word for fireplace, and this one will be the Mack of all fireplaces, a waist-high and mighty spacious number made of limestone. Moore loves the freedom of cooking in a fireplace—you can grill, do cazuelas, bean pots, spit roast… the options are endless. There will also be a wood oven for gratins, flatbreads, whole fish, sausages. Hungry yet? The seasonal menu will be well edited, with something like four–five starters, three–four mains, and just as many desserts; and you know all the purveyors and products will be stellar. Simple, honest, straightforward are the words Moore used to describe the food, and he said vegetarians will eat well here too. He is doing the project with his partner Allison Hopelain, who will be the GM—she formerly had an organic gardening company, and has recently been working at Zuni and Bar Tartine. Thad Vogler will be customizing some kitchen-driven cocktails—there will only be a few offered each day, but they'll be just right. Plus some house-made spirits will turn up, like nocino, and brandy infused with quince. Dinner only to start (Wed–Mon, closed Tuesday), with perhaps some brunch and lunch later on. The construction is almost done—they are targeting April for now. 3917 Grand Ave. at Boulevard Way (more commonly referred to being between Safeway and Ace Hardware), Oakland, 510-547-5035.

A tablehopper reader tipped me off to a new restaurant in San Carlos that just opened called ~THE REFUGE~. It seems gastro-pub madness has also hit the 650, but this joint has a wicked twist: the menu features five–six options of home-cured hot pastrami sandwiches, plus an extensive selection of charcuterie, house-ground American Kobe burgers, fresh sliced rib-eye cheesesteaks (everything is around $13 or so), plus some salads. There are reportedly 12–15 Belgian beers, many on tap, plus 20 or so mostly French wines on their menu (with a focus on biodynamic wines). Sounds killer. Chef-owner Matt Levin's background includes acting as chef de cuisine at Viognier and extensive cooking in France; his chef de cuisine, Michael Greuel, is also from Viognier. Tue–Sat 11:30am–2:30pm and 5:30pm–9pm, until 10pm or later Fri–Sat. 963 Laurel St. at Morse Blvd, San Carlos, 650-598-9813.

Oh, and I was interviewed by The Wave a couple weeks back about ~WHERE I LIKE TO EAT IN THE 650~ (remember, I grew up in San Mateo) and the 408, so here are some of my faves in the area that I mentioned.

I know a lot of folks are heading north to Healdsburg this weekend for Charlie Palmer's third annual ~CELEBRATION OF PIGS AND PINOT~ event at the Hotel Healdsburg, running Friday and Saturday (I'm actually going up there this Wednesday—look for a Healdsburg jetsetter piece soon!). Some local SF chefs will be joining chef Palmer and Michael Ellis of Dry Creek Kitchen, including the Boulevard crew (Nancy Oakes, Ravi Kapur), and Luke Mangan of South is in town, plus some talent from elsewhere, like David Burke, and Philippe Rispoli of France. And then there's the wine. Ahhh, yes. For tablehopper readers, they would like to offer a special rate of $100 for the Saturday seminars, lunch at Barndiva, and a signed cookbook from Chef Palmer of his latest book, Practical Guide to the New American Kitchen. The ticket is actually worth $150, and then there's the book too! Enjoy! Oink!

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