June 29, 2010

June 29, 2010
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Prospect’s main dining room: booths and banquette seating. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The bar area (with unique light fixtures).

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Black cod with shiso shrimp fritter.

Last week I had a chance to attend a friends and family dinner at the brand-new ~PROSPECT~, the much-awaited project from the Boulevard team (Nancy Oakes, Pam Mazzola, and Kathy King) that opens tonight for dinner in The Infinity building in SoMa. The executive chef is Ravi Kapur, who has been the chef de cuisine at Boulevard, working with Oakes and Mazzola for the past eight years.

Walking into the spacious location, there’s a small lounge/waiting area to the left, and a square bar with seats all around (there are more seats along the window overlooking Folsom Street). Brooke Arthur’s cocktail menu includes 12 drinks, ranging from the lighter to the more spiritous (like The Stallion). The bar is made of a beautiful poured concrete with an antiquated copper finish from Concreteworks, who also did the opposing wall of ribbed concrete tiles that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen—you gotta touch it to believe it’s concrete and not wood. Lovely reclaimed wood floors as well (although the main dining room is carpeted, modulating the noise to a pleasant volume—people are going to love that they can hear their tablemates). There is some communal seating at a taller table, and then the 120-seat dining room extends beyond, with spacious six-person booths, a long banquette that faces the street, custom wrought-iron light fixtures from Augustine Martinez (Kathy King’s husband) of Jefferson Mack Metal, and a contemporary art program. The feeling is clean and modern and chic, while still maintaining warm tones. I liked the space in between the tables, which will make it good for business dining (although I imagine in time more tables will be added). There is also a large half-moon booth near the kitchen that is sure to become the most-requested power table, plus there’s a private dining room in the back of the restaurant. The floor-to-ceiling windows are huge, letting in a lot of light—the evening atmosphere gets cozier as the light dims outside. Brand + Allen Architects designed the space (they specialize in high-end retail clients, like Prada).

The menu is designed to be flexible—you could just stop by the bar for a drink and some smaller “for the table” dishes, like deviled eggs ($7) or the decadent pig trotters ($9) with a lobster salad. There are 10 starters to choose from that can be shared, like my personal fave so far, the black cod ($13) with a shiso-wrapped shrimp fritter, shiitakes, small bites of snap peas, and a snappy red curry. Mains range from $19 for whole wheat crêpes with ricotta, nettles, and roasted toybox mushrooms to $28 for the Wagyu beef with chard, mustard seed jus, smoked king trumpets, and creamed potatoes. They are all beautifully presented, featuring top-notch seasonal ingredients. (You can take a look at this Grub Street slideshow of the menu here.) Desserts from pastry chef Elise Fineberg clock in at $9 and under, or you can opt for to-be-shared items, like ice cream sandwiches, crimson popcorn, and s’mores. We requested but didn’t get a chance to look at wine director Amy Currens’s wine list (she was previously at Luce).

No tablecloths here—but you are going to note some rather large and dramatic plates as your dishes come out; the flatware and smoked glass water glasses feel modern and very choice. While I wouldn’t call the experience casual, it’s definitely meant to be easygoing—a bit like RN74 in its approachable but stylish vibe. Think business casual. Hours are Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm, bar 4pm-close.

The culinary interwebs (Eater, Thrillist, SFoodie, Inside Scoop, et al.) have been bubbling with news of this new SoMa joint that just opened yesterday, ~SPICE KIT~. As owners Wilfred Pacio and Fred Tang put it, their offering is “chef-driven Asian street food” (they are both alums of high-end kitchens, like Per Se, the Laundry, and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco).

The quick-service menu includes bánh mì (with an optional add-on of housemade pâté); ssäm (the classic Korean wrap) with rice paper, red leaf lettuce, cucumbers, seasoned rice, marinated bean sprouts, meat/tofu, kimchi, and their signature ssäm sauce; salads with your choice of meat or tofu; and steamed pork buns with pork belly (check out the entire menu here). Nothing is over $8. Hours are Mon-Fri 10:30am-8pm, and Sat 10:30am-3pm. 4505 Howard St. at 1st St., 415-882-4581.

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Photo from Skool.

~SKOOL RESTAURANT AND BAR~ is now open at the base of Potrero Hill. The project is from Andy Mirabell (Blowfish Sushi To Die For), with executive chef Toshihiro Nagano (Bushi Tei, Bushi Tei Bistro, Blowfish Sushi To Die For), and director of operations Olia Kedik (Blowfish Sushi To Die For). In a unique twist, they are starting with lunch, and adding dinner and brunch later this summer. Look for a fish-focused menu of international dishes with Japanese flair using seasonal, often locally sourced, sustainably raised, and organic ingredients. The lunch menu includes starters like hirame crudo (yukari-cured halibut, toy-box radish, and blackberry coulis) and Sun Smiling Valley Farm eryngii mushroom fries; main courses include a Washugyu sandwich (coffee-marinated Japanese Washu beef, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, caramelized onion, pepper cress, and creamy wasabi aioli, served open-faced on Napa bâtard sliced wheat) and spiced panko salmon. The Lunch Box feature ($11-$15) includes a choice of five different main courses accompanied by the soup of the day and either local mixed greens or French fries. Once the liquor license kicks in, there will be both cocktails and a local wine list with some international selections. Décor highlights include an exhibition kitchen, a communal table, custom-made chairs and refurbished resin-encased walnut tabletops made by a local designer, a polished concrete floor, counter seating, and a sunny, spacious off-street patio with room for 35 (45 inside). Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm.

A new and soon-to-open Ethiopian restaurant in SoMa has been getting all kinds of coverage in Eater, Grub Street, SFoodie, and Live SOMA (and I am sure I’m missing probably five more outlets). ~MOYA~ is aiming for a July 1st opening, serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Owner Fana Alemayehu has enjoyed cooking as a hobby, and after encouragement from her friends, is going to be sharing her home-cooked recipes and made-from-scratch dishes with us. She wants to use local and organic ingredients when possible, and will have beef and lamb dishes along with a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. (Check out the menu here.) Weekend brunch will feature both American and Ethiopian dishes, like fule (beans, onion, tomato, and jalapeño); kentha (cracked wheat with butter), and chechebsa (bread with butter and olive oil, plus egg, tomato, onion, and jalapeño). There will also be Ethiopian coffee service. 1044 Folsom St. at 6th St., 415-431-5544.

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Under construction image from Hog & Rocks.

If everything goes according to plan, the city’s first ham and oyster bar, ~HOG & ROCKS~ will be opening on Sunday July 4th. The project is from chef Scott Youkilis of Maverick, partner Dave Esler, and Eric Rubin of Tres Agaves Tequila, who helped to develop the overall concept. The menu will include a variety of oysters, artisanal ham (including country ham, Serrano, domestic, and Italian prosciutto), and hearty comfort fare from chef de cuisine Ray England. Other sample dishes include chicken wing confit with Youk’s Hot Sauce and buffalo wing garnish ($10); oysters in a blanket with herb salad ($11); and crab and artichoke on sourdough toast ($8).

The 86-seat bar is meant to feel casual and lively, with dark wood, concrete floors, and a “minimalist modern meets vintage” design. It’s designed to be a place where you just swing by (no reservations for parties fewer than six), and can get lit on classic cocktails by the pitcher (very curious—and very dangerous), wine (four on tap, more by the bottle), and beer (in cans, bottles, and on draught). In a nice move, for every Hurricane sold (the signature house drink made according to the original recipe from Pat O’Brien’s), $1 will be donated by the bar to the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund. Open daily; snacks and sips from the bar menu available daily beginning at 3pm; full menu from 5pm-1am.

The former Coco’s Bakery Café in the Outer Mission is going to be morphing into ~MELODY~, a project from Esam Jaber. Look for an all-day menu of Lebanese/Middle Eastern/French dishes that are authentic and homey. The space is relatively large—it features two garages with high ceilings. One of the garages will be converted into a 350-square-foot patio with tables and trees; there will be 55 seats total. Since Jaber is a musician, look for many of his friends coming by to play Arabic folk music daily. Looks like a September opening is the target. (They will be nearby neighbors to the upcoming ICHI moving into Yo’s Sushi Club.) 3401 Mission St. at Eugenia.

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Photo from L’Acajou.

Not like it’s going to diminish the lines at Ike’s (whose fate remains TBD)… I got this tip too late last week from a reader, but here you go: there’s a new deli in the Mish next door to the 500 Club called ~CLARE’S DELI~. The menu of sandwiches ranges from a meatball grinder to pastrami to a $3 bologna and cheese on white bread, served 11am-11pm daily. According to Urban Daddy, you can bring your food into the 500 Club, or TCB Courier will soon be able to deliver it to you if you live in the Mission. 3505 B 17th St. at Guerrero, 415-621-3505.

There’s also a new-ish café in SoMa called ~L’ACAJOU~ that has opened in the former MotoJava space. It’s serving De La Paz coffee and espresso drinks with fresh-baked pastries like blueberry muffins, banana walnut bread, berry apricot scones, and cheddar chipotle scones, plus lunchtime fare like a pulled Moroccan lamb sandwich, a Tuscan chicken panino, endive salad, chicken salad, and a grilled Mediterranean vegetable panino (plus cookies for your 3pm sweet tooth—even vegan ones). You can return for beer and wine in the afternoon (happy hour specials Mon-Fri from 3pm-6pm), and Saturday brunch means dishes like fried eggs or Belgian waffles. Mon-Fri 7am-6pm, Sat 9am-6pm. 498 9th St. at Bryant, 415-626-3683.

Just a few reports on temporary closures around town: ~COI~ is closed for summer vacation until July 6th. When it reopens, there will be a light remodel in the dining room, and a totally new menu.

Meanwhile, ~MASA’S~ will be closed from July 4th through the 19th. When they reopen on the 20th, there will be a new pastry chef, Maggie Leung, who was once at The Lark Creek Inn. The former pastry chef, John McKee, moved to Philadelphia to open up a bakery with his girlfriend.

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Claire Smith (Belvedere), Barbara Fairchild (Bon Appétit), and yours truly.

Last week I had the opportunity to meet Barbara Fairchild, the vibrant editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit magazine, who was in town for the Curators of Taste tour in partnership with Belvedere. We met briefly at Fleur de Lys, where she was going to be hosting an intimate invite-only dinner the following evening (the tour included Boston and Los Angeles). While tasting her new namesake cocktail by Belvedere master distiller Claire Smith, The Fairchild (which is now permanently on the Fleur de Lys cocktail menu), we got to talk a little bit about the event, and of course I had to ask her what are her favorite spots in Los Angeles right now. She’s a fan of The Bazaar by José Andrés, along with Hatfield’s (a San Francisco export, ahem), AMMO (a long-standing favorite of mine), Cecconi’s, Eva Restaurant, and Jar. A few other mentions: the Lazy Ox Canteen, BOA Steakhouse, and Rick Bayless’s Red O on Melrose. She also noted the upcoming September issue is the restaurant issue, so I’m looking forward to it.

Since Barbara is a fan of cocktails (obviously), she mentioned she likes the cocktails at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, and The Varnish. Meanwhile, Claire (who is the only female master distiller in the world, FYI), said the cocktails at The Varnish, The Bazaar, and The London are top of her list, as well as Providence. Cheers, ladies—thanks for adding to my LA hit list!

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Starting Tuesday July 6th, ~STARBELLY~ is launching Patio Picnic Tuesdays from 5pm-8pm. The patio was recently freshened up with heat lamps, plants, and a retractable, striped canopy, so now they want to show it off. Every Tuesday evening, you can swing by for a family-style urban picnic with dishes from chef Adam Timney, like fried chicken, grilled brats, ribs, sloppy Joes, sides and salads, pies, and cobbler. You can arrive anytime during the three-hour picnic dinner service and load up your plate (no seating times). Seats are $25 per person, and guests are welcome to second helpings. The special will run every Tuesday from 5pm-8pm through August 31st. Beverages available for purchase (not included in the picnic dinner price) are wine, sangria, lemonade, micheladas, and pitchers of beer. Reservations accepted, but not required, and walk-in parties are welcome. 3583 16th St. at Market, 415-252-7500.

Over in Hayes Valley, ~SAUCE~ has launched Dinner for 2uesdays. For $60, you get a dinner for two: a three-course meal with a bottle of wine. Tonight’s menu is Bacon Trifecta: cornmeal-crusted pork belly with whole-grain mustard dipping sauce, prosciutto-wrapped butter fish with herb risotto and peeled asparagus, and caramel peanut smash with fresh banana and crispy bacon sprinkles, plus a bottle of Rosenblum Cellars Fess Parker roussanne. The menu will rotate weekly. 131 Gough St. at Oak, 415-252-1423.

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The red table at Ame. Photo from Ame.

~AME~ restaurant at the St. Regis is kicking off another series of its Wednesday Evening Three-Course Prix-Fixe Menus. July 7th is the Bo Ssäm Dinner (back by popular demand); July 14th is the Sustainable Dinner (exploring farmed vs. wild seafood); July 21st is a Sherry Dinner; and July 28th is the Puerto Rico Dinner (chef Orlando Pagan and bar manager Rafael Jimenez Rivera share their Puerto Rican heritage). You can read the details about each menu here. $55 per person, which includes three courses with beverage pairings (excluding tax and gratuity).

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Photo from Nido website.

Just in case you’d like to taste chef Brandon Jew’s vittles (of the upcoming Bar Agricole, due to open on July 24th), he’ll be cooking at the third ~NIDO OVEN EVENT AT SCRIBE WINERY~ in Sonoma on Sunday July 11th. He’ll be using organic ingredients organic ingredients picked the morning of the event from from Free Spirit Farm in Winters. Beer from Linden Street Brewery will be served, as well as juice and snacks for the kids (who are invited to attend for free). Guests will also be invited to taste Scribe wine, explore the 100-year-old hacienda, and go on a hay bale tour of the grounds. (Dogs are also welcome.)

Looking for a new downtown spot for lunch? ~THERMIDOR~ should be starting lunch this Wednesday, serving salads and sandwiches to start ($8-$12). Lunch hours will be 11:30am-2pm.

Just in case you’re a little more motivated to get out of bed for a Kobe-style skirt steak and eggs instead of the usual chicken apple sausage scramble, head on over to ~NAMU~ in the Inner Richmond for the return of their weekend brunch. Other dishes on the menu include challah French toast, a breakfast burrito, a burger, and other items with their usual Korean-Japanese spin on things, like a sunnyside-up egg with kimchee fried rice and housemade pancetta. FYI, you can come check them out this Sunday July 4th for brunch—but they’ll be closed for dinner. Brunch is Sat-Sun 10am-3pm.

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Burrata and fava bean crostini.

Due to open next week (permits pending) is ~123 BOLINAS~ from Dominic Phillips and three partners. The former gallery has been transformed into a casual hangout featuring artisan wine, beer, and food. Wines are sustainably produced, from Anderson Valley to Paso Robles, along with a few international selections (there will be 6 on tap, 9 by the glass, 32 by the bottle), and 5 seasonal beers on tap (including Eel River Organic Amber), with 9 by the bottle (including Allagash White and Pranqster Belgian-style golden ale from Fort Bragg).

Vera Ciammetti is the consulting chef, who has put together a market-fresh and local menu of simple dishes like burrata with salt, pepper, fava bean and mint tapenade, and fresh fava beans; zucchini carpaccio with housemade vinegar, roasted pinenuts, and domestic Parmesan; baked mac and cheese; and some cheese and charcuterie boards. There is room for 45 guests total, including a bar and regular seating. Hours will be Wed-Thu 4pm-10pm, Fri 4pm-11pm, Sat 11am-11pm, and Sun 11am-9pm. 123 Bolinas Rd. at Park Rd., Fairfax.

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Photo from Osteria Coppa.

Now that a chef is confirmed, here’s some news for you San Mateo dwellers (my home town): partners Paul and Julie Shenkman, owners of Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, and Lewis Rossman, executive chef/partner at Sam’s Chowder House, are opening ~OSTERIA COPPA~ in downtown San Mateo. The kitchen will be led by executive chef Chanan Kamen, who has been at Quince for five years, and has worked in Italy for a year at seven different Michelin-starred restaurants in seven different regions of Italy. He will also be making salumi, along with housemade pasta (his specialty), and pizza—all the ingredients will have a strong farm-to-table focus. The 4,200-square-foot restaurant (formerly the Pomaroma Cafe) seats 145, which includes a 40-seat outdoor patio, and a full bar. Look for a late-August opening—follow their renovation and launch progress on Facebook. 139 South B St. at 2nd Ave., San Mateo.

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