March 8, 2011

March 8, 2011
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The tiled floor sign near the kitchen.

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Tyler serving up some steak.

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The salon style of the back room.

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The book-page wallpaper and “book” shelves in the ladies’ room.

Over the weekend I was kindly invited to Tyler Florence’s 40th birthday party, which was one of many pre-opening parties sure to be held at his brand-new and soon-to-open ~EL PASEO~ in Mill Valley. (And yes, his business partner in the venture, Sammy Hagar, was present—and even brought out Tyler’s birthday cake.)

It will be an old American steakhouse, and the chef de cuisine is Preston Clark from New York, previously at Jean-Georges and JoJo. Some dishes featured at the party included decadent bone marrow topped with caramelized onions and a gratin-like topping, along with dishes like “angry lobster” that is pan-fried and dressed with a Calabrian chile- and garlic-infused olive oil, crab cakes, and the main event: thick-cut steak from grass-fed Holstein cows (instead of the usual Angus—Tyler likes the way the meat is marbled differently with fat). You’ll be able to get 38-day, dry-aged steak in a variety of cuts, from a porterhouse for two, three, or four, to New York strip, or a bone-in tomahawk ribeye, and there will also be bacon-wrapped filet.

The restaurant has a warm, bohemian atmosphere, from the more-masculine front room with leather booths with tufted backs, to a back room featuring eclectic artwork hung salon-style (Tyler worked closely with interior designer Lori Yeomans of USA Interior Design, who designs all his restaurants). The bar and lounge are in an adjoining cottage, with a curving zinc bar, brick walls, and café tables. The bathrooms were simply fantastic, with walls covered with pages of books, and “book” shelves (the ladies’ room had Peyton Place). All the rooms feature a lot of wood, brick, and a rustic, 1940s-Mission feeling. The outdoor patio areas (offering alfresco dining) are sure to be the coveted seats on warm Mill Valley nights—it feels very romantic and atmospheric.

Here’s a nice little piece about the history of this unique site, which was opened to the public in 1948 (others say 1947) by Edna Foster and Gus Costigan. The complex—an artist compound of sorts, with a restaurant, shops, artist studios, and apartments—was remodeled in the 1940s with many unique materials, including “old adobe bricks from Mexico, wooden beams from Fort Cronkhite, railroad ties and spikes from the Mountain Railroad, and hand-made tiles and wrought-iron fixtures from the Guatemalan exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island.”

The 140-seat restaurant will be open for dinner nightly, and the targeted opening date is Tuesday March 15th (TBD, of course). 17 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, 415-388-0741.

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Aziza’s meatball-and-grape skewers.

After months of hearing rumors of ~AZIZA~ looking to move its location to the downtown area, it’s actually happening. I heard it was going into the “cursed” Zinnia (and Scott Howard, and 500 Jackson) space, and since I was at Aziza on Sunday night celebrating a friend’s birthday, I asked owner Mourad Lahlou about the details at the end of our meal. I was informed there was still no deal after many months of negotiating and back and forth, but lo and behold, less than 15 hours later, the Scoop reports the deal had been signed Monday morning. Huh.

Since I still seem to be waiting for that phone call, here’s what the Scoop’s piece mentions: the food will continue to follow its current modern Moroccan path, and Olle Lundberg will design the space. The entrance is reportedly going to be moved to Montgomery Street (the new address will be 801 Montgomery Street), and it will have 95-105 seats, with plans for a private dining room in the big basement. As for the current Geary Street location, either Lahlou will leave the space, or—as I have hoped—he’ll keep it as a location to serve the more rustic and homey Moroccan fare his regulars have always enjoyed. Construction is supposed to start in 60 days, which should be about enough time for me to get interested in the project again.

I was happy to learn chef Ed Carew (formerly Café des Amis, Cottage Eatery) is heading east to be the executive chef at ~LE CAPRICE~ in New York. (The restaurant is in the Pierre Hotel on 5th Avenue, overlooking Central Park.) The Caprice Holdings restaurant group also has Le Caprice in London, The Ivy, Soho House, and many other properties around the world. Carew will be starting March 20th, and will be dining in London for two weeks doing the best kind of research there is. Best of luck and bon voyage, Ed.

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Photo from Facebook.

Quick update for you: ~TRES AGAVES~ has finished their zippy remodel, and will now be ~TRES~. The bar area is almost 50% bigger, along with an expanded tequila and cocktail list, and chef Kelvin Ott is adding dishes from other states in Mexico outside of Jalisco (which used to be the primary focus for the food).

There’s also a shift in ownership: two of the original partners in the operation—Eric Rubin and Barry Augus—have left in order to concentrate more fully on the Tres Agaves tequila line. Dave Stanton, who started the original Tres Agaves with Rubin and Augus, remains a managing partner. 130 Townsend St. at 3rd St., 415-227-0500.

Opening this Wednesday March 9th is ~SOURCE~, a vegetarian restaurant focused on international comfort food in the Design District. The partners in the project are also brothers: executive chef Mitchell Fox (who ironically got his start in their father’s butcher shop), and his brother, Andrew. The menu includes sandwiches, salads, vegetarian burgers, soups, dosas (almost all filled with non-traditional ingredients, like the Californian, which comes with avocado, tomato, black bean purée, baby spinach, and goat cheese), and a variety of entrées, like Jamaican jerk cluck (fake chicken) and vegetables with wild rice ($13.95), a variety of pasta dishes, and a vegetarian shepherd’s pie ($12.95). There will also be a variety of pizzas ($8.95-$13.95) from the gas-fired Mugnaini brick oven, featuring housemade mozzarella. All the desserts are vegan, and there is also an “elixir bar,” featuring fermented drinks, fruit juices, and non-alcoholic drinks designed to produce feelings of euphoria, calm, balance, and/or energy.

The interior has 50 seats, and check out these features: a DVD-generated changing color therapy system, a water wall installation, filtered and energized air, and the water will be triple filtered, ionized, and energized. There is also an outdoor and enclosed, heated patio with room for up to 30. The restaurant will be open daily for dinner; daily lunch starts Thursday, and weekend brunch will launch in two weeks. Good news for worker bees in the neighborhood: to-go service will be a specialty of the house. 11 Division St. at DeHaro, 415-864-9000.

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Umami burger; Flickr photo by Yogma.

While plans are progressing for our very own ~UMAMI BURGER~ (an import from Los Angeles), it ends up it won’t be going into the Noodle Theory space at 3242 Scott Street in the Marina as originally planned. I was asking for the address of the new location, and all I could be told is that they’re moving into a restaurant space on Union Street (the Umami folks couldn’t name the restaurant because it’s still open). Soooo, stand by!

I was sorry to learn on Haighteration that my favorite neighborhood shawarma spot (and one of my favorite falafel wraps), ~ALI BABA’S CAVE~ in the Lower Haight has a new owner, and has morphed into ~AL-FANOOSE~. The new name reportedly means “magic lantern” in Arabic, so I hope they keep some of that lavash magic alive. 531 Haight St. at Fillmore.

More ~HAIGHTERATION~ news: the blog is turning one on Tuesday March 15th, and has organized a neighborhood-wide event to celebrate. Haighteration asked every shop, restaurant, or bar in the Lower Haight to come up with some sort of discount or special offer, available for that one day only, when people mention Haighteration. Over 40 businesses have signed up so far, including Cafe Divis (buy one panino, get one free), Little Chihuahua (take 10% off your bill), and Ragazza (enjoy a free glass of prosecco with your meal). And you’ll also be able to get a sneak peek of Greenburger’s, when they open their doors from 4pm-6pm for a special open house for Haighteration readers. Even Three Twins is making a limited edition flavor of ice cream, using precious Pliny the Elder from Toronado! Check out the post for all the deal deets. Happy birfday!

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Photo of Saigon Sandwich’s window from The Tenderblog.

My tablehopper intern Daniel writes in: “~NGOC MAI~ (pretty good little Vietnamese place) and ~LAHORE KARAHI~ are both closed for most of March, as per the fliers on their doors. Not sure what the deal is with Ngoc Mai, as their windows are all boarded up, but I have seen work being done on Lahore Karahi. The workers say it’s strictly cosmetic.”

The Tenderblog chimes in with news of ~SAIGON SANDWICH~ also being temporarily closed for a remodel, and posting some photos of the windows, which conveniently supply some reopening dates: Lahore Karahi is due to reopen on March 25th, while Saigon Sandwich reopens on April 1st.

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Photo by Daniel Azarkman.

There’s a new café called ~CINQUE TERRE CAFE~ (or 5T as its logo proclaims) that opened on Van Ness last Monday February 28th. It’s run by some Italians, although they are using organic coffee from Equator Coffee. The menu includes salads and panini, plus plenty of European candy and chocolate bars. The eclectic style includes mismatched vintage chairs, bright colors, and fun signage. There’s plenty of comfy seating and free Wi-Fi, with plans to bring in beer and wine in the next few months. Open daily 6am-8pm. 1477 Van Ness Ave. at Pine, 415-674-7716.

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Yelp photo by Heather W.

Some buzz about troubles at Mission neighborhood fixture ~TI COUZ~: a reader writes, “I am a little sad to report that it sounds like Ti Couz (16th & Valencia) seems to be having hard times. I was there last night when the owner (seemingly plastered) was screaming at customers and telling them that they are the reason that the place is being sold after 19 years of business.” The reader also reports, “They downgraded their liquor license from hard alcohol to beer and wine, as well as now charging customers $1.50 for bread.”

Meanwhile, at the same time, Eater “got a note over the EaterWire bemoaning the loss of bloody Marys” and placed a call to the restaurant. It’s supposedly “all part of a master plan to ‘go back to their roots’ in Brittany” and it will “officially become a cider bar, serving beer, wine and hard cider only.” Eater also linked to an almost impossible-to-read post (you have to highlight it to see it) by owner Sylvie Le Mer last September, citing difficulties maintaining the locally owned business during such a challenging economy. Calls to the restaurant were unsuccessful; time will tell how this one shakes out. 3108 16th St. at Valencia, 415-252-7373.

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Interior of Lung Shan/Mission Chinese Food.

A couple new meaty options for you in the Mission: starting on Tuesday March 15th, ~MAVERICK~ will be preparing 17 Butter Burgers every Tuesday. What is this, you ask? Their new chef de cuisine, Matt Brimer, basically cures large dices of beef overnight with salt, pepper, and herbs, and then grinds the beef with butter and forms it into patties. The patty is cooked in a cast-iron pan, served on a housemade English muffin with a “martini” mayo, smoked Gouda, truffled cornichons, and comes with a side of steak fries, and will be paired with a full glass of red wine. As partner and executive chef Scott Youkilis said in an email to me, “This is one squirty, bad-ass burger.” And it costs (you guessed it): $17. 

Meanwhile, over on Mission Street, chef Danny Bowien of ~MISSION CHINESE FOOD~ has fired up Ryan Ostler’s former smoker, and is doing “Chinese” BBQ, which includes smoked beef brisket, pulled pork trotters, and Xi’an lamb cheeks, served with smoked cola-BBQ sauce, pickles, and white bread (yup, old school). Bowien is also doing some kung pao corned beef ($11), lord help us.

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One Market’s Weekly Beast.

There are plenty of chefs offering whole animal menus to choose from: ~NOPA~ is getting in a whole pig from Riverdog every other Tuesday, and is serving porchetta (replacing the famed pork chop that night), along with other dishes, like head cheese with smoked tenderloin; and chef Laurence Jossel also says, “every week always includes cracklings.” So tonight, March 8th, it’s on.

Chef Mark Dommen at ~ONE MARKET~ continues his Weekly Beast menus, serving a four-course menu for just $45 (plus $18 for wine pairings). Each Friday and Saturday night, he features a different local animal. Here’s the schedule of upcoming dinners: March 11th and 12th, veal from Carinalli Ranch; March 18th and 19th, goat from Rossotti Ranch; and March 25th and 26th, duck from Liberty Farms.

Next Friday March 18th, ~WHOLE BEAST SUPPER CLUB~ will be serving a five-course rabbit tasting dinner at La Victoria Bakery in the Mission. Dinner is BYOB. Seatings are at 6:15pm and 9pm; $60. Tickets, info, and menu here. 2937 24th St. at Alabama.

The big daddy of them all is ~INCANTO~’s eighth Annual Head to Tail Dinner, which will be Monday April 4th and Wednesday April 6th. For reservations, book online or call 415-641-4500.

And in case you want to learn how to do all this your own damned self, Ryan Farr of ~4505 MEATS~ just added some more whole animal butchery classes to their schedule!

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Juhu Beach Club’s Sloppy Lil’ P.

A couple tasty-sounding Indian pop-up events for you to consider: chef Preeti Mistry (yes, Preeti from Top Chef) is starting ~JUHU BEACH CLUB~, a lunch spot in SoMa inside the Garage Café across the street from Slim’s and Bar Agricole. Starting Tuesday March 15th, she will be serving a lunch of Indian street food, snacks, and homestyle cooking, grinding all of her own spice blends, and featuring housemade pickles, chutneys, and from-scratch samosas. Inspired by a recent trip to Mumbai, she’ll be offering the Sloppy Lil’ P, a twist on the Mumbai street food classic, the pav bhaji; along with the Holy Slow-Braised Cow, a smoky black cardamom, short-rib sandwich with cucumber raita; and Chowpatty Chicken, a green chile chicken curry sandwich with tangy cabbage slaw, all under $10. Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm. You can follow updates on Twitter. 320 11th St. at Folsom

And this Wednesday March 9th, Kasa returns to ~THE CORNER~, doing an All-Star Punjabi Night, featuring some of their all-time favorite dishes. There will be a vegetarian menu ($20) and a non-vegetarian menu ($25) available. You can read up on both of them here. 6pm-10pm. Reservations recommended; email here or leave a message at 415-690-8512. 2199 Mission St. at 18th St.

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Yelp photo of Outerlands bread by Anthony M.

A couple cool meals for you to consider: Leif Hedendal is hosting a spring equinox dinner at ~OUTERLANDS~ on Monday March 21st, with two seatings, at 6pm and 9pm. The extensive menu includes Henry’s olives and Massa almonds; Dave’s levain toasts with Bellwether sheep ricotta, black trumpets, wild herbs, and flowers; crispy artichoke with yuzu kosho and horseradish; soup of Knoll green garlic, English peas, stinging nettle, dulse, sencha, and matsutake dashi with Dave’s levain; purple asparagus, golden chanterelle, roasted broccoli, saffron-spring onion-brown butter sabayon, pistachio, and green strawberry; roasted maitake, gobo-Tokyo turnip-ginger nishime, Bordeaux spinach with hiziki and gomasio, kumquat, and mustard; Little City Gardens magic mesclun with icicle radishes, blood orange, and argan; Andante Creamery Tomme Dolce and Nocturne with baby beets and Barhi dates; rhubarb fennel galette with honey, lemon thyme, and crème fraîche. Wines available by the glass or bottle. $60 per person, cash only. RSVP here with your time preference and number of guests. 4001 Judah St. at 45th Ave.

~STAG DINING GROUP~ has another installment in their Clandestine Dinner Series coming up on March 12th and 13th. Chefs Ted Fleury and Jordan Grosser are putting together an early spring dinner, with a strong focus on sustainability, and biodynamic wines. Check out the menu and get tickets for March 12th here (7pm) and March 13th here (5pm). $105 per person, includes wine pairing by Two Mile Wines and a cocktail reception prior to the first course. (Chefs and cooks: you can get $80 tickets, a $25 discount—just email here for industry tickets.) The address will be in the Mission. You can watch a video of their last meal here.

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Photo from Charles Chocolates.

A reader who leads chocolate tours around the city alerted me to the unexpected closure of the ~CHARLES CHOCOLATES~ shop in the Westfield Centre, and a post on the company’s Facebook page told a bigger story: that the entire company was over. In an interview with CEO Chuck Siegel, Scoop reports his big plans for Westfield (a factory and retail shop) were ultimately the company’s demise. Best of luck to him—I know many people will miss his chocolates.

Meanwhile, a Peninsula reader forwarded me a newsletter announcing the closure of Menlo Park’s ~MARCHÉ~ after nine years of business (and the expiration of their lease). The restaurant will be hosting one last Nantucket Dinner, on Friday March 25th and Saturday March 26th. The farewell menu is $65 per person. 898 Santa Cruz Ave. at University, Menlo Park, 650-324-9092.

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