December 28, 2010

December 28, 2010

After months of remodeling, Brenda Buenviaje is ready to unveil the expansion of her restaurant, ~BRENDA’S FRENCH SOUL FOOD~ on Polk. When? It might be tomorrow (Wednesday), or possibly this Thursday. The ex-laundromat next door was transformed into a new dining room (which brings the count from 28 seats to 38) and brand-new kitchen that is about four times larger. The menu will be expanding a bit over the next few weeks, with some new beignet flavors and new lunch items. Look for a secret recipe fried chicken (it’s time for BFC to compete with the KFC next door!), accompanied by their unparalleled cream biscuit, fries, and coleslaw. The popular shrimp and grits (a big bowl of cheddar grits topped with sautéed shrimp in a spicy tomato bacon gravy) will also be added to their permanent menu.

Since the new side is all done, guests will be served in it while they completely overhaul the “old” side, which will be complete in about a month, bringing it to 72 seats total. And as soon as the entire expansion is complete, Brenda’s should also have their beer/wine license, and will begin offering later hours and a dinner menu! A preliminary peek at the dinner menu reveals a variety of grilled or broiled oysters, Big Easy spicy wings, roasted quail, and smothered pork with beans and greens. Yup, lots of good stuff, Maynard.

And good news: they will open New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day! In keeping with Southern tradition, Brenda’s will be serving black-eyed peas and collard greens (for money and luck!).


The Broadway sign communal table at Vinyl.


The back wall; photo from Yelp’s Sarah R.

The Divisadero corridor is about to get even better: Mark Bright and Kris Esqueda (Saison, Markris Wine) are partnering with Nabiel Musleh (yes, that Nabiel) to open ~VINYL~ in the ~CAFE DIVIS~ space. They are working with the building owners (who operate Cafe Divis) on Vinyl, which will be a casual and comfortable wine bar that will get going around 5pm in the evening (although you’ll be able to order a glass of wine any time of day). Bright is deeply engaged with Saison, so it will mostly be Esqueda you’ll encounter on premise and behind the bar. They are going to be keeping a local focus, featuring domestic, urban wines (they have been touring the Bay Area lately for gems). The list will be compact to start, and will expand in time; wines by the glass will range from $8-$15, and will be served in Riedel glassware. There is discussion of a happy hour, and the plan is to serve until 11pm or so.

They are also going to be offering a dinner menu, with comfort food dishes like lasagna and some roasts, and some snacky items as well—this will grow since they’re just starting with a consultant, but are actively seeking a chef to lead the kitchen program. Some changes will also be made to the breakfast and lunch items in time.

As for the name, Nabiel is going to be bringing in a big part of his record collection, allowing both guests and staff to play music on a record player (kind of like a human-powered jukebox). There will also be a wall of circles, wrapped in vinyl. The communal table (made from an old exit sign for Broadway) is also gaining its own fan club. Look for an official launch the first week of January, perhaps midweek. 359 Divisadero St. at Oak, 415-621-4132.


Nightcap: a glass of Glühwein at Bar Agricole.

Rather than do a series of four different posts, here’s a little grab bag for ya:

Well, my fellow night owls, I am sorry to report the kitchen at ~BAR AGRICOLE~ is now closing at 11pm instead of 1am—it was just proving to be too costly to keep the staff working that late into the evening. Wah. (While it’s still holiday time, I highly recommend swinging by there for a glass of their wonderful Glühwein, a German mulled wine.)

I was happy to try some new items on the ~MISSION CHINESE FOOD~ menu Sunday night, like the amazing Westlake rice porridge ($9), a spin on Westlake beef soup, which is going to be the only thing I’ll want the next time I’m sick, hungover, cold, and/or all three. It’s a zingy, clean, and thinner-style porridge, with oxtail, Dungeness crab, and a soft-cooked egg—so wonderful for breakfast the next day. I also went nuts over the simply perfect Hainan chicken rice ($6)—such flavorful rice, mixed with chicken fat, roasted peanuts, cilantro, and the zing of Shaoxing wine (and you better like ginger). There’s also a decadent-sounding tea-smoked eel dish ($9) with ham hock and Chinese celery in rice noodle (could it be a cousin to the long-gone chinito?).

And for those of you who want to have a last taste of chef Nick Balla’s cooking at ~NOMBE~ before he moves on, he will be in the kitchen this week, through December 31st. Mission motzu, here I come.

And in the “d’oh” department, it looks like ~PLACE PIGALLE~ has had their liquor license suspended indefinitely. According to some folks in the neighborhood, this little movie shoot they hosted may have had something to do with it. 520 Hayes St. at Octavia, 415-552-2671. An update on this from GrubStreet: “A rep from contacted us to clarify that Place Pigalle owner Greg Noto hasn’t actually lost his liquor license (it appears good through May), but in fact lost the lease on the place, something that was apparently in the cards for months — and long before the July Kink shoot. Noto himself hasn’t been reachable for clarification, but the rep says that the shoot was closed to the public, done entirely with Noto’s permission, and did not lead to any disciplinary action. Look for Place Pigalle, then, to stay closed for the duration and for the space to turn over.”


Lounge at Amber India SF (photo from Amber India).

I was happy to read the news on Eater that Vijay Bist of (the very delicious) ~AMBER INDIA~ is going to be opening another location into the large, vacant space on Valencia Street next to Luna Park. The name will be Amber Dara (the word dara reportedly means “earth” in Sanskrit), and is targeting an opening in summer 2011. Highlights: an “ethnic Indian menu sourced locally as much as possible,” an affordable price point, a mezzanine level and a lounge, full liquor license, and supposedly the chef, N. Rao, is “something of a prodigy in India” (I’m guessing it’s this guy, the director of the Culinary Academy of India). Bring it on. 680 Valencia St. at 18th St.


Photo from Luna Park.

~LUNA PARK~ has a new chef at the helm, Ronnie New, who was previously at The Republic, and prior to that, Magnolia (he has also worked at Bar Crudo, Le Petit Robert, and Range). He will start making his mark on Luna Park’s menu by early February. 694 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-553-8584.


Shima Sushi interior (photo from website).

Over in Opera Plaza, a new sushi restaurant and brasserie, ~2G JAPANESE BRASSERIE~ is going to be taking the place of Shima Sushi, slated to close at the end of the month. 2G’s owner, Jason Tsuji, is bringing on a chef (and family friend) from Japan who has been cooking for 50 years (he started when he was 13). The menu is still in development, but look for some French-inspired dishes like tartare alongside more traditional sushi options. It didn’t sound like major interior changes are going to happen since the restaurant is due to open in February. The 13-seat sushi bar will remain, with two large dining areas and two private dining rooms, with 209 seats in all. 601 Van Ness Ave. at Golden Gate (Suite F in Opera Plaza), 415-292-9997.


Photo from Yelp.

A tablehopper reader writes in: “I passed by ~CAFÉ KATI~ on Tuesday and I believe there’s a ‘change of ownership’ sign on the storefront window.” Sure enough, an ABC permit mentions a new business, Roostertail Rotisserie from Gerardo Castillo. I didn’t hear back from Café Kati’s chef-owner, Kirk Webber, in time for today’s issue with details about the closure. But here’s wishing him all the best—he has been in the location since 1990. 1963 Sutter St. at Fillmore, 415-775-7313.

Another reader writes in: “Bouncing through the [Fillmore] neighborhood a few days ago, this is the last week for ~TANGO GELATO~.” I have memories of getting gelato there over the past decade, sorry to hear it has closed. 2015 Fillmore St. at Pine.


Absinthe. Image: ©

Ready for another preview taste of chef Justin Simoneaux’s upcoming cuisine for ~BOXING ROOM~? The restaurant isn’t opening until spring 2011, so the meal will be held in Absinthe Brasserie & Bar’s main dining room on January 10th, with reservations starting at 5:30pm. Celebrating his Louisiana heritage, Simoneaux’s three-course prix-fixe menu will pull inspiration from the traditional Cajun and Creole dishes of New Orleans and coastal Louisiana. Dishes include selections like seafood gumbo with housemade tasso; roasted golden trout with Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, and cipollini onions; Southern fried chicken with black-eyed peas, collard greens, and smoked ham hock; and for dessert, bananas Foster bread pudding or lemon ice box pie.

$35 (excludes beverages, tax, and gratuity). A portion of the proceeds will benefit For the Bayou, a non-profit organization fostering restoration, protection, and aid to the Louisiana coastal wetlands. For reservations, call Absinthe at 415-551-1590.