May 20, 2008

May 20, 2008

I've been tracking this one down for a while, and while details are still forthcoming, I know some culinary globetrotters will be happy to hear chef ~NORIYUKI SUGIE~, most recently of New York's Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental, is involved in a project in the Upper Haight. I know, the Haight, how unexpected. Nori Sugie is known and admired for his elegant and refined Franco/Euro-Japanese fusion style—he was mentor to Joel Huff of Silks, cooked at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, and was at Tetsuya in Sydney, where he won "Restaurant of the Year" twice. Even more interesting, this new project is going to be in the Spencer House, an eight-room Queen Anne-style Victorian B&B—somewhat mimicking the "ryokan" (auberge) concept you'd encounter in Japan. Initially it seems only hotel guests will be able to experience his omakase-style (chef's choice) dinners, and some private dinners might be in the works too. And there are discussions of a sashimi-tapas concept for another downstairs room in the hotel—all TBD for now while he works out details. Chef Sugie mentioned he's inspired to do a California-meets-Japanese style of cuisine here, full of fresh organic vegetables and flavors—he also said he loves bar food. Things are a few months off, I'll have more deets later, you can count on it. The Spencer House, 1080 Haight St. at Broderick.

In the meantime, folks in Los Angeles are going to continue enjoying Sugie's temporary guest chef stint (called CRUDOBAR) at BREADBAR in Century City, which was just extended for a couple more months. Examples of a few dishes he's doing: blue fin tuna tartar with pickled fennel, dry caper, and sushi rice puree, and black cod sliders with leafy mizuna, pickles, wasabi tartar sauce, and spicy chimichurri.

The rumor I heard earlier this month proved to be true: Ryan Scott, most recently of Myth Café and the current season of Top Chef, will be a chef and partner in the petite ~MISSION BEACH CAFÉ~, joining Bill Clarke and Alan Carter in the project. Hmmm, perhaps my article for San Francisco magazine on the up-and-coming North Mission neighborhood was prescient? Scott begins June 23rd—he'll be integrating his Cali-fresh style of cooking (read: no piccata), and will keep prices affordable for lunch and dinner. I'll have some menu details soon. 198 Guerrero St. at 14th St., 415-861-0198.

Since we're talkin' ~TOP CHEF~, you have until Tuesday, May 27th (until 12:01pm ET) to vote for your fan favorite! The chef who receives the most votes during the promotion period will be eligible to receive $10,000. Here's how you can vote: vote for free here. Limit 40 votes per person (20 vote limit per week) regardless of voting method between May 14, 2008 at 9pm ET and May 27, 2008 at 12:01pm ET.

Here's one big, fat, interesting and completely unconfirmed rumor, but I had to share it: ~GORDON RAMSAY~ may be looking into the Myth space. Fun one to think about, will let you know if it's even remotely real. I have also heard rumors involving a dining duo who are much closer to home, but that's all just talk too. Stand by for more transmissions!

Eater had the scoop on the closure of downtown's ~LES AMIS~, which I'm honestly surprised didn't happen months ago—total crickets in there. Shame, because the space was kind of cool. I'd heard some buzz a few months back about potential purchasers of the space, but nothing final to report at the moment. 568 Sacramento St. at Montgomery, 415-291-9145.

~TINDERBOX RESTAURANT~ in Bernal Heights has temporarily closed as of this last Saturday, May 17th. Owners Ryan Russell and Blair Warsham (aka "Food Freaks" as they say on their website) are back in the think tank (but don't put them in a box!), and plan to reopen the venue with a different concept later this summer. They are discussing hosting reservations-only dinner events several times a week, collaborating with musicians and artists (supperclub lite?), and want to expand the Tinderbox catering service. Look for more around August at the same address. 803 Cortland Ave. at Ellsworth, 415-285-8269.

Another rebel with a culinary cause: more details have emerged about "Dissident Chef" Russell Jackson's restaurant on Pier 5. The 2,100-square-foot bay-front space will open this winter as ~LAFITTE~. Architect Michael Guthrie (Myth, Bix, Tra Vigne, and Spoon) is designing the space, which includes an outdoor patio, and how's this for a feature: pleasure boats will eventually be able to pull up to Pier 5, where the restaurant is located.

It wouldn't be a week in San Francisco without some wine bar news. In an interesting twist, it looks like Luisa Hanson is expanding her ever-growing empire to the Mission: ~LA VINO TECA~ is opening in the former Caffe Bellissimo space next to Kiji. Yes, it's the same name as the place she just opened in Cow Hollow, in the former Skipjack Sushi space. 1007 Guerrero St. at 22nd St.

A few weeks ago I mentioned ~MAGNOLIA GASTROPUB & BREWERY’S~ upcoming changes... Please note due to some ever-present construction delays, Magnolia won't reopen until this Thursday at 5pm for dinner (not Wednesday as hoped). 1398 Haight St. at Masonic, 415-864-7468.

In mid-June, ~LEVEL III~ will be opening in Union Square's new 337-room JW Marriott San Francisco (formerly the Pan Pacific). It's a stylish freestanding restaurant and lounge on the third floor lobby level. The space will transform into more of a bar vibe in the evening, with a custom cocktail menu by H. Ehrmann of Elixir. There will be a variety of spaces to linger in, from the communal table to the bar, with both high and low seating options, either in the main restaurant or lounge. Executive chef Ben Mattman and chef Ryan Jette have put together a modern American menu, with bar bites like littleneck clams on the half shell with chorizo and breadcrumbs, saffron seafood chowder, and tempura asparagus. Larger dishes include a lobster club, American Kobe sliders, halibut tacos, and a three-course $45 menu devised for the pre-theater crowd, available from 5:30pm–10pm. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the menus at Level III will change throughout the day. JW Marriott, 500 Post St. at Mason, 415-771-8600.

And now, a few yogurt updates around town—they are like the new wine bars, I swear. According to a tablehopper reader sighting (thank you!), the ~SOGREEN~ yogurt shop window in Crocker Galleria is announcing its opening this Thursday, May 22nd. 50 Post St. at Montgomery, Space 10, Level One.

And then according to a post on Craigslist, ~YOGURT BAR~ on Union (2760 Octavia St., actually) is expanding to a new location mid-June 2008, at 680 Mission St. between 2nd and 3rd St.

More details on my mention last week concerning ~LA CORNETA TAQUERIA~ moving into the Pagoda Palace Theater on Washington Square (next to old Washbag space). I spoke with consultant Martin Kirkwood of Terra Nova Projects, and he filled me in that even though the planning commission meeting is slated for August, the soonest we'd even see anything would be 2010. Owner Joel Campos has had the space for four years, but due to the Telegraph Hill Dwellers' objections, the project continues to be stymied (he has submitted ten different designs and concepts for the building, and counting). And so the building remains unused. 1741 Powell St. at Union.

In case you like making reservations (I do), ~SERPENTINE~ in Dogpatch is now taking them. 2495 3rd St. at 22nd St., 415-252-2000.

Now that the fog has returned, it feels like the perfect time to partake in some meat. Wild boar carnitas, anyone? How about some yak Rossini, or rack of wapiti? The Big 4's annual ~WILD GAME WEEK~ is now being held twice a year: this new springtime session starts today, and will run until Friday the 24th of May. You can look at the menu here. The second Wild Game Week of 2008 will occur in early November. The Huntington Hotel, 1075 California St. at Taylor, 415-474-5400.

I imagine there will be quite the turnout for this event: ~MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM AND ALICE WATERS~ will be at an upcoming CitySpeaks, a forum to discuss "A Vision for Good, Sustainable, Fair Food" on Monday, June 2nd at 7pm (doors open at 6:30pm). Seating is limited, so respond quickly, by May 29th to 415-554-6279 or CitySpeaks [at] sfgov [dot] org. San Francisco Main Library, Koret Auditorium—enter at 30 Grove Street and proceed to the lower level.

Mark your calendar: ~MARIQUITA FARM NIGHT~ is Thursday, June 12th, at Piccino for a "guerilla vegetable delivery" from 5pm–7pm from a van stuffed to the max with generously packed $25 "mystery boxes." For details and to order, click here. 801 22nd St. at Tennessee, 415-824-4224.

Over in the East Bay, the BIG NEWS is that ~CAMINO~, Russell Moore's and Allison Hopelain's first solo restaurant, is officially open! I toured the space a month or so ago, and can't wait to see that huge fireplace in action, and the long redwood communal tables full of feasting guests. If you'd like a recap on the details, click here for my past mention back in March—just scroll down. Hours are Sun–Thu 5pm–10pm (closed Tuesdays!), and Fri–Sat 5pm–11pm. 3917 Grand Ave. at Boulevard Way (more commonly referred to being between Safeway and Ace Hardware), Oakland, 510-547-5035.

Later this fall, ~PICÁN RESTAURANT~ will be opening in Oakland's "Uptown" at Broadway and Grand. First-time restaurant owner and NOLA native Michael LeBlanc will present a "Taste of the South," featuring dishes that originated in African-American kitchens (think Southern, Cajun, Creole and Caribbean influences) plus beverages, music, and art unique to the African-American Southern heritage, with some California-casual style. LeBlanc says the food will be "down home traditional meets cosmopolitan sophistication." The restaurant will be on the ground floor of Signature Properties' Broadway Grand; LeBlanc expects to break ground this summer. LeBlanc was among the first Black students to graduate from Duke University and went on to become the first African-American corporate officer in the history of Polaroid; he also co-founded Brothers Brewing Company in Oakland, the first African-American brewing company in the country. Being a smart first-time restaurateur, LeBlanc has assembled a notable group of partners and advisors for this project. Picán will have 130 seats with an additional 44 outside, with an open kitchen, and a bar and lounge featuring the largest collection of handmade, single-batch bourbons west of the Mississippi (I am so there). 2295 Broadway at Grand, Oakland.

Up north, ~MURRAY CIRCLE~, the restaurant at Sausalito's about-to-open Cavallo Point Resort, had its soft opening last Monday. Executive chef Joseph Humphrey, the noted former chef of Meadowood Resort in St. Helena, has put together a small plates menu with seafood dishes like spot prawns with fava beans and little gem lettuces ($17); wild halibut grilled in fig leaves with sassafras, orange, and fennel "brandade" ($16); vegetables like baby artichokes served chilled ($15); wild morels with hand-cut pappardelle, favas, and duck prosciutto ($16/$25); meat dishes like quail with romesco, Swiss chard, dry-cured olives, and arugula ($18); and a bluefoot chicken with Savoy cabbage and mustard seed vinaigrette ($19). There is also a nightly five-course tasting menu for $95, and a vegetable tasting menu for $75. The wine list is a monster, representing one of America's largest wine cellars—when fully assembled by wine director Dan O'Brien, it will feature over 13,000 bottles and 2,000 labels. The 100-seat restaurant has lovely views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay, a brick fireplace, plus a terrace with room for 20. There is also an adjoining bar, Farley, named in honor of cartoonist Phil Frank that will also be serving additional dishes, from some crudos to olive oil-fried items (yup, olive-oil fried lamb meatballs), plus hearty wood-fired options, like a grass-fed burger, sand dabs, beef brisket, and a pork shoulder. Breakfast daily 7am–10am; lunch Mon–Fri 11:30am­–2pm; dinner Sun–Thu 5:30pm–10pm, Fri–Sat 5:30pm–11pm; brunch Sat–Sun 11am–2:30pm. Farley Bar is open Sun–Thu 11am–11pm, and Fri–Sat 11am–12am. 601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, Sausalito, 415-339-4750.

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