May 19, 2009

May 19, 2009

There have been countless rumors and rumblings over what is happening at ~AQUA~. Here's what we do know: chef de cuisine Ron Boyd is off to lead R&D for Beautifull!, the company focused on healthy meals for delivery or pick-up. Boyd's replacement is Jason Pringle, currently the executive sous at Epic. Pringle (30) was at Aqua for six years, and then went on to stage at Le Bernadin and Daniel in New York, helped open Zuppa and Maverick, and then Epic. He starts June 15th. Two new sous chefs have also been hired. There are some legal and ownership issues between the late founder Charles Condy's sons and their stepmother, Mary Condy, which I am sure has been fueling the cash flow rumors I've been hearing. Anyway, we'll see how it all shakes out in the coming months. 252 California St. at Battery, 415-956-9662.

I'm excited to check out ~54 MINT~, which just opened last night for dinner. To recap, this is the project from Alberto Avalle (an original founder of Il Buco in New York) and partners. The chef de cuisine is Giancarlo Bortolotti (most recently the chef-owner of Mangiafuoco), and Ehsan Ganji is the bakery/pastry chef. Bring on the homemade pastas and porchetta. There will be culinary products on offer (like their wonderful olive oil), cheeses, and more, plus wine for retail sale. I have a bunch more details in this past issue of tablehopper. Hours this week are Mon–Sat 5:30pm–10:30pm, and lunch will begin next week Mon–Fri 11:30pm–3:30pm, closed Sunday. Brunch will be added later. 16 Mint Plaza at Jessie, 415-543-5100.

Over in Larkspur, there's been a big change-up: chef Erica Holland-Toll has left the upcoming ~TAVERN AT LARK CREEK~ project, and chef Randy Lewis is taking the reins. Lewis was the chef at Mecca, then worked on the local Best-O-Burger with Steve Weber (Lewis remains a partner in the operation). He has most recently been back in his home state of Louisiana cooking with John Besh at La Provence near New Orleans. Lewis was also one of Food & Wine's "Best New Chefs" in 2001. He is currently working on developing the menu with nothing over $15. The restaurant is due to open in early June. 234 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415-924-7766.

~BAR CRUDO~ still isn't open—sometime this week is the plan. I'd just call before heading over. Hours will be 5pm–11pm nightly. 665 Divisadero St. at Grove, 415-409-0679.

As promised, here's more on what's going on at Levende Lounge: after five years of business, Levende will be closing and Chris Pastena and Bruce Hanson will be taking over the space and transforming it into ~CODA RESTAURANT & JAZZ CLUB~. (In case you didn't play piano when you were a kid, coda is a musical term meaning the place you return to.) According to the release, it will be "an evening destination showcasing jazz in all its forms, from The Jazz Mafia on Tuesdays to gospel brunch on Sundays." As for the food, look for a "fine dining menu of classic California fare in a mix and match, Ã la carte style" (kind of like Craft). There will be dishes like whole chicken and whole-roasted fish—easy items to share with friends. Co-owner Pastena mentioned he wants to bring back an intimate feeling, with good food and performances, all at a nice price. (Diners won't pay a cover for the entertainment, which should kick in around 9pm, and 10pm on the weekends.) A new sound system geared for live music will be going in, and there will be some tweaks to the dining room. CODA will be open six nights a week for dinner, cocktails, and music. The opening date is slated for August 1st. Levende Lounge will continue to operate until mid July. 1710 Mission St. at Duboce.

Meanwhile, Levende's operators, Ben Doren, Kiri Eschelle, and Dirk Kahl will continue to focus on Levende East in Oakland and are moving forward with the development of new projects in the East Bay, including breaking ground on their newest project I mentioned a few months ago: ~LIEGE~, a high-end spirits lounge in downtown Oakland. 481 Ninth St. at Washington, Oakland.


The Mission will have a 100% organic crêpe house opening later this summer called, appropriately enough, ~ORGANICA CRÊPE HOUSE~. The former liquor store will end up looking sharp, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Behind the project are Norman Zawaideh, who operates Cup-O-Java in the Outer Mission, and his cousin Nabeel Yousef consulted on the project—he's the owner of Goood Frikin Chicken and is the original founder of Truly Mediterranean. Once the planning and permit details wrap up, it'll be about three months out. 3465 19th St. at Lexington.

So, about that coffee house I was wondering about on 24th and Folsom: UrbanDaddy broke the news that it's called ~HAUS~. It's now open, serving Ritual Roasters espresso, plus drip coffee from De La Paz, and bites from Noe Valley Bakery. UD also reports there's a fireplace and a back patio that will be ready soon, plus some local art on the walls, too. Open Mon–Fri 6am–9pm and Sat–Sun 9am–9pm. 3082 24th St. at Folsom.

More UrbanDaddy-supplied news: after months of wondering which burger place was opening in the former Yum Yum House on Valencia, here's your answer: ~URBAN BURGER~. Here's a pic of the place. Reminds me a little of the other burger place on Valencia. The burgers will be made with Meyer Natural Angus, and there will also be some vegetarian options, plus salads and milkshakes made with Mitchell's ice cream. Soft opening tonight, and open officially tomorrow (Wednesday). Hours will be Mon–Wed 11am–11pm, Thu–Sat 11am–12am, and Sun 11am–9pm (hours subject to change, and perhaps run later!). 581 Valencia St. at 17th St., 415-551-2483.

Looks like Franck LeClerc's Claude Lane project that was supposed to be all about salumi and vino (~CINQUE~) will become an art gallery space instead. Leila Seppa, who currently runs operations for Gitane and Cafe Claude, will be moving over as director of the gallery in the next few months. LeClerc is still in the final planning stages, but plans to focus on interaction with the art community and the SF public, plus local non-bayside patioprofit art organizations. Sounds like it will be the perfect addition to the bohemian alley. 5 Claude Lane at Bush.

I love it when you get a press release with a very specific date about the launch of something, but no follow-up when it's actually not happening in time. For example: the launch of ~CARTE415~—it ends up the cart is JUST finished being fabricated in Canada (thanks for the update, SF Weekly). Enter the wonderful world of Twitter, ever useful for all kinds of updates. You can follow Carte415's future wheelies here.



Twitter is also how you can keep up with the ~SPENCER ON THE GO~ truck, which is supposed to park in front of Terroir this Thursday at 6pm. Check for Twitter confirmation on that, and future locations.

farmerbrown's ~LITTLE SKILLET~ is up and running—check their Twitter feed for menu updates. Mmmm, chicken and waffles. 360 Ritch at Brannan, 415-777-2777.

You can keep up with good restaurant deals and specials on Twitter, like ~FARALLON'S~ tweets of menu updates each week, and ~LUNA PARK~ has special passwords for treats like a free dessert and appetizer for home delivery.



Why isn't tablehopper on Twitter? Well, the person who has my tablehopper identity still hasn't released the darn thing to me. And I've already requested Twitter's help in contacting the person twice, to no avail. Soon, someday. Whatever, I'm busy as hell writing my book, yo.

Please note that ~A16~ closed for renovations yesterday (May 18th) and will remain closed through Monday May 25th. A16 will reopen Tuesday the 26th at 5pm.

I heard ~SUNFLOWER ON POTRERO HILL~ is targeting June 1st for their opening. A tablehopper reader reports this: "Inside still looks pretty much the same, but there is new signage, which is—strangely—the very same design as the old signage, but bearing the new name." Hours will be 11:30am–10:30pm. 288 Connecticut St. at 18th St.

The pig mania continues: EPIC Roasthouse is hosting ~HIGH ON THE HOG~ on Saturday June 27th on EPIC's bayside patio. There will be a slow-roasted whole fennel pig, plus three kinds of house-made pork sausages, pulled pork sandwiches, and more; a variety wineries on hand pouring their pinot noirs (Peay Vineyards, Red Car, Iron Horse Vineyards, Roessler Cellars, Hirsch Winery, Freeman Winery, Macphail Family Wines, DeLoach Vineyards, and Ceritas Wines); and music from Nell Robinson & Red Level. Jordan MacKay will be on hand signing copies of his book, Passion for Pinot: A Journey Through America's Pinot Noir Country. Here's a link to the flyer with more info. 1pm–4pm. $50 per person (food tasting only: $20; wine tasting only: $30). Note: a ten percent discount will be given to Slow Food members. 369 The Embarcadero, between Folsom and Harrison, 415-369-9955.


Feelin' cheesy? Saturday May 30th is ~TOUR DE FROMAGE~, a bicycle tour of local fromage specialists. The event will finish up with a cheese-sharing picnic at a nearby park. Don't forget to bring cash for cheesy purchases from our local vendors. Want more info? Email jgallin [at] sbcglobal.net. 11am–3pm. Meet at the Panhandle statue, Fell and Baker.

Please note the oyster event I mentioned last week was postponed until Sunday June 14th due to Bay to Breakers and Fort Mason Oyster Fest citywide mayhem. Here it is again: Sunday June 14th, ~JEANTY AT JACK'S~ will be celebrating its oyster house history with a special party, Consider The Oyster, featuring seven California oyster growers and 20 wines from 11 wineries, including Schramsberg, J, and Iron Horse. There will also be live music. The party is from noon–6pm, and is $60. 615 Sacramento St. at Montgomery, 415-693-0941.

Last week was full of Peninsula and South Bay news, so here's some East Bay juice for you:




Just this past Friday, ~THE GRAND TAVERN~ opened on Grand Avenue in Oakland, just a little over a block away from Camino. This cozy tavern opened in a turn-of-the century home, so there are two lounge rooms, a dining room, a fireplace, and a bar in another area, plus there's an outdoor patio. It's a mother and son business: mom is the chef, Kay Eskind, and her son is Temoor Noor, a former urban planner (this is his third restaurant opening). The affordable menu features comfort food with some international touches, like Cornish hen with ginger and onions ($16), and pan-grilled rib-eye steak ($18). There are a number of vegetarian starters, including a vegetarian chili ($6–$8). Cocktailians will be pleased to know this place means business (they have a Kold Draft machine, which means big ice), and are serving craft cocktails made with organic citrus and quality ingredients—some feature Small Hand Foods orgeat and syrups. Here are a few examples of the classic drinks on the list: an old fashioned, a Hemingway daiquiri, and the Trader Vic's mai tai (all $9). The beer list is also impressive, and includes Affligem Blonde and Unibroue Chambly Noire on draft. Hours are Sun–Thu 5pm–10pm or so, and Thu–Sat 5pm–12am. Weekend brunch will start in June, running from 9am–2pm. 3601 Grand Ave. at Mandana, Oakland, 510-444-4644.

According to this Craigslist ad, Charlie Hallowell of ~PIZZAIOLO~ is opening a new spot "just down the street from the Grand Lake Theatre." After some sleuthing, I heard it's going to be the Café DiBartolo Café space, but since I didn't get in touch with Hallowell by post-time, this remains unconfirmed. 3310 Grand Ave. at Elwood, Oakland.


I also heard Tanya Holland of ~BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN~ is looking at spaces on Grand Avenue, but nothing is final yet. She told me she'd let me know when the ink is dry.

Chris Pastena of CODA, the jazz supperclub opening in the Levende Lounge space, plus Lev Delany and Jesse Branstetter have an East Bay project in the works: ~CHOP BAR~ (slang for a local hangout). It will be opening in the former Mono space, a small 1,500-square-foot restaurant. It will be a tapas-style bar, and while the focus will not be on Spanish food, there will be small plates for people to share. It will be open all day serving light breakfast fare, and lunch will include tapas, sandwiches, salads, and soups. There will be a wine on tap system (a la TWO, Salt House, and Laiola), which means a less-expensive but still high-quality glass of wine for you. This and other features will be all sustainably and green-focused. Look for an opening at the end of summer. 247 4th St. at Jackson, Oakland.

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