March 29, 2011

March 29, 2011
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The scene at the opening party. Photo from nojo.

Due to open this Wednesday March 30th is ~NOJO~, a California-Japanese restaurant by first-time owner Greg Dunmore, formerly the executive chef at Ame (he worked under Hiro Sone). The izakaya-inspired restaurant will also feature a number of yakitori dishes, like eight different kinds of chicken skewers ($3-$5.50), along with duck, and kushiyaki, including beef tongue and pork belly ($3.50-$4.50). Non-skewer dishes will reflect the seasons, with dishes like vegetable tempura ($8) and chawan mushi with Dungeness crab and green garlic ($12), along with trout tartare with chiles, daikon, and sesame crackers ($12). There are also four larger dishes, like white miso-glazed trout with soft leeks and black trumpet mushrooms ($16). Ingredients will have a strong local pedigree; you can check out the entire menu here.

True to izakaya/pub style, there are plenty of things to drink, from 9 kinds of beer (all local, so don’t look for any Hitachino) to artisanal sakes, plus 10 kinds of wine by the glass. The name means “farm,” but the look is sleek (although many elements were reclaimed, and the space features local art). In a unique twist, staff members will not only cook, but they will also alternate turns serving and greeting guests. No reservations except for parties of six or more. Open Sun-Mon, Wed-Thu 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm; closed Tue.

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Rice Paper Scissors founders Katie Kwan (left) and Valerie Luu (right); photo by Phil Carter.

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Bun Mee’s exterior. Photo by Daisy Chow.

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The ‘smokey eggplant’ banh mi sandwich at Bun Mee.

Last week I received a note from Valerie Luu of Little Knock that she and fellow Vietnamese street food vendor Katie Kwan of KitchenSidecar were partnering up for a second evening of ~RICE PAPER SCISSORS~, a pop-up Vietnamese café. Dinner is this Thursday March 31st from 6pm until their last dish is served.

They will be serving southern Vietnamese dishes, including handmade pâté and charcuterie banh mi, snail pho, duck confit green papaya salad, and imperial rolls. You’ll be able to get food to go or grab a seat at the mini tables they’ll be setting up. Where will this all go down? They’ll tweet the exact address (it’ll be in the Mission) on Thursday March 31st; follow @littleknock and @kitchensidecar for the deets. Don’t tweet? Non-Twitterers can sign up for the Rice Paper Scissors email list, and they’ll slip the address into your inbox.

And on Friday April 1st, Fillmore’s ~BUN MEE~ will have their grand opening (although they appear to be in soft opening mode now), offering banh mi-inspired sandwiches, as well as salads, rice bowls, salad and crispy rolls, and other sides. At a media preview last Saturday, editorial assistant Daisy got a sneak peek of the new restaurant and modern-Vietnamese menu. Bun Mee’s kitchen, to be led by Leo Pearl (Betelnut, Cafe Giovanni in New Orleans), showcased quite a few of their sandwiches, including the show-stopping ‘sloppy bun’ (red curry ground pork, house garlic aioli, shaved onion, Thai basil, jalapeños) served with a sunny-side up egg (add an organic, free-range egg to anything on the menu for $1.50—it’s an option you’ll want to use on several items). Other sandwiches to note were the ‘smokey eggplant’ with cauliflower relish and red curry aioli ($6.25), and the more traditional ‘Bun Mee combo’ ($5.95) with hand-carved house-roasted pork, pâté de campagne, Molinari mortadella, and garlic aioli. All sandwiches come with shaved onion, pickled carrot and daikon, jalapeños, and cilantro, and, since authentic bread was really important to owner Denise Tran, the bread is being made daily by a bakeshop in San Jose.

The gluten-intolerant diner can look beyond the sandwiches to the entrée salads and rice bowls, like the caramel citrus rice bowl with grilled chicken ($11.95), avocado slices, pickled green papaya, daikon sprouts, orange and grapefruit segments, served over garlic rice (made with chicken fat; that’s a good thing), and topped with crispy shallots, cilantro, and lime vinaigrette. For sides, the pineapple in the salad rolls (2 for $5.50) gave them a sweet twist while the sweet potato fries ($4.95) had good texture and flavor, punched up by red curry aioli dip.

Appropriately, the sweet of the evening also came in sandwich form: coconut cookie sandwiches made of thin, crisp chocolate wafers sandwiching coconut cream filling, edges rolled in toasted coconut—kinda like Oreos, but fresher, and coconut-flavored. While Bun Mee’s liquor license is pending, you can still enjoy beverages like their housemade Kaffir limeade or strawberry lychee agua fresca (though the drinks were quite sweet sans booze). Looks like this is going to be a good spot for a meal that’s as tasty as your favorite hole-in-the-wall banh mi shop, but better looking (check the zinc counters and vintage-mod look) and with fresh and modern twists at wallet-friendly prices. Daily 11am-10pm. 2015 Fillmore St. at Pine, 415-800-7696.

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Yelp photo from Eddie C.

Longtime Bayview restaurant ~THE OLD CLAM HOUSE~ has been bought by the group behind The Stinking Rose (who also own Calzone’s, Bobo’s, The Franciscan, and the upcoming Salito’s/old Margaritaville in Sausalito). The restaurant has been around since 1861, and when it became available, Jerry Dal Bozzo was interested in picking it up—the group’s director of marketing, Brandy Marts, reminded me he has an interest in historical properties: Dal Bozzo was the one to reopen the Cliff House in 1973. They are currently updating the space room by room, refreshing the paint, chairs, and other touches. They are also working to reopen the patio, which will be glassed-in.

I had a chance to catch up with chef Andrea Froncillo, who walked me through the menu changes. He’s taking a lot of the fried dishes off, and modernizing some of the preparations (for example, he’s simplifying the cioppino, with reportedly good feedback from some regulars). He also changed the clams from cherrystones to Manilas due to some availability issues, and added prime rib to the menu. You’ll also see more salads and some lighter lunch options for folks who work in the neighborhood. You can peek at the new menu here. And if you’re an Old Clam House regular and your favorite dish is off the menu, you can still request some of them, like Louie dressing for your shrimp. 299 Bayshore Blvd. at Oakdale, 415-826-4880.

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After some permitting issues and delays, ~RADISH~, the daytime restaurant opening across from the Lexington Club in the Mission, is currently targeting an opening date of Monday April 11th. I’ll have pics for you in my next issue, but in the meantime, I got a sneak peek at owner Emily Summers and chef Adam Horndeck’s menu. Breakfast will feature eggs Benedict, a vegetable omelet, and a croque-madame, along with migas (a scramble of egg, onion, bell pepper, tortilla strips, avocado, and pickled jalapeños), steak and eggs, and a Spanish-style tortilla de patatas. There will also be pancakes, French toast, and donuts.

There are nine different sandwich options for lunch, including a steak sandwich with caramelized onion and beech mushrooms, white cheddar, arugula, pesto, and lemon aioli, served on foccacia; and the Rad Burger, made with grass-fed beef. Vegetarians will be pleased to find half of the items on the sandwich menu can be theirs, from a vegetarian burger to a tofu sandwich. There are also healthy-sounding soups and salads, like curry lentil soup, and a root salad with roasted beets and potatoes, sheep feta, watermelon radishes, and clementine-chervil vinaigrette. Many items will be made in-house (breads, dressing), and they’re even roasting their own coffee; sourcing will be local and organic when possible. Hours will be 8am-10pm daily, and until 11pm on the weekend.

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Yelp photo from fancypants x.

The artisans of the ~331 CORTLAND MARKETPLACE~ culinary marketplace in Bernal Heights are throwing a party to celebrate their first anniversary, and the whole community is invited to share in the fun. At 6pm on Friday April 22nd, the vendors are starting off a two-day event with demonstrations, classes, and a raffle benefiting the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Community Center’s Senior and Student gardening program. New events will be announced on Twitter as they’re added.

The one-year mark comes with some changes too as both El Porteño Empanadas and ICHI Sushi are ready to move on from the small business incubator site. El Porteño will focus on expanding their market presence at the Ferry Building and in Whole Foods Markets, while ICHI is busy with their new sushi bar.

Within the space, Paulie’s Pickling and Bernal Cutlery will be expanding their kiosks. Bernal Cutlery plans to offer a larger inventory of knives, and Paulie’s Pickling will increase their sandwich offerings (they’ve already grown from 4 to 12 sandwiches, including “Bernalogna” and beef brisket) and will add new items, like cookies from Debbie Does Dinner and rugelach from Black Jet Bakery. By the way, you can also nab Paulie’s pickles at Whole Foods Market on Haight, Home Restaurant, Smoke BBQ, Lilah Belle’s, The Liberty Café, and a couple local bars (The Dogpatch Saloon, Marlena’s, Stray Bar, and Wild Side West).

Spice purveyor Tammy Tan of Spice Hound is expanding with classes, starting with an intro to sea salt class on Saturday April 9th at 2:30pm, featuring an overview of salt, sea salt and processed salt comparisons, and salt and food pairings. Email for more info. Plus they’re re-introducing their hot chai due to popular demand.

Meanwhile, 331 Cortland is seeking new prepared-foods vendors to join the marketplace. Send proposals to Debra Resnik, and include a menu and descriptions of how your business will use the kiosk, how your business will be staffed, and how your concept would complement the other vendors.

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A comp of the upcoming Burlingame facility.

After getting cut off from my Monday bagel delivery from Sour Flour (sob), things got desperate again on my own personal bagel front. So I was happy to learn about artisanal bagel maker Jay Glass coming to the Bay Area with his business ~SPOT BAGEL~. He knows a thing or two about bagels: when he had his bakery in Seattle, he made 30,000-plus bagels per day. But this isn’t a storefront—he’ll be selling his bagels through retailers like Bi-Rite Market, and Dolores Park Cafe and Duboce Park Cafe have also committed to using his bagels, along with pop-up Wise Sons Deli. The production bakery will be in Burlingame, and he has brought on Holly Pugliese as chef/baker (she taught baking for seven years at the California Culinary Academy, and was at Post Ranch Inn and Il Fornaio in Monterey).

Glass’s passion is to make bagels in a traditional way, using organic ingredients, and to create both savory and sweet flavor combinations (like orange-poppyseed, or Meyer lemon and sea salt). The seasonal and fresh ingredients he insists on using make all the difference. (Let’s just say I’m normally not a fan of cinnamon-raisin bagels, but a sample I tasted was delicious, and included plump sultanas.) He expects to begin construction in April and open for business by mid June. It also sounds like Seattle-ites who miss his bagels will be able to order them for shipping. You can keep track of progress on Spot’s Facebook page and on Twitter.

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Exterior photo from SFoodie/Luis Chong.

Not too long ago, I mentioned Glen Park’s Red and White wine bar was morphing into a collaborative project with Laurent Legendre of Le P’tit Laurent. SFoodie reports the new incarnation is now open: ~SEL ET VIN~, an oyster and wine bar. The piece mentions there are six kinds of West Coast oysters available ($12-$14 per half-dozen, $22-$27 per dozen), plus bistro-y appetizers like onion soup ($6.95) and a charcuterie plate ($15). Sounds like the wine list format is remaining the same, with choices ranging from $5-$15 per glass—don’t get too tanked while waiting for your table at Gialina. Hours (subject to change) are Tue-Thu and Sun 5:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-1am, closed Mon. 678 Chenery St. at Diamond, 415-333-2200.

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Yelp photo by Heather W.

Well, it appears to be the end of an era… After my report a few weeks back that ~TI COUZ~ appeared to be struggling, the Inside Scoop now adds that it’s potentially closing any day now (according to employees there). So many dinner dates and pichets of cider there when I first moved to San Francisco… 3108 16th St. at Valencia, 415-252-7373.

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Photo from Mezza Luna.

I have to do a shout out for my dad’s friends, who are hosting a benefit at their restaurant ~MEZZA LUNA~ for one of their employee’s daughters, Isabella Messina, who suffers from Omenn’s Syndrome. ~UNA SERENATA PER ISABELLA~ is Thursday March 31st, and will feature a family-style dinner, including antipasti like meatballs with polenta, affettati misti (cold cuts); pasta al forno (a wonderful baked pasta dish); fresh fish of the day and roasted New York medallions in a wild mushroom sauce; plus assorted pastries. There will also be a lot of quality vino, and music by international tenor Pasquale Esposito.

Loads of vendors are donating goods or their time, including chef Vincenzo Cucco (Divino Restaurant), Pacific Coast Meat, Exclusive Fresh Fish, ItalFoods Inc., Romeo Winery, Pan Exotic, Villa Italia Wines, Daylight Farms, Tosco Wines, Siena Imports, Bob Stewart, and Young’s Market. $75 per person (wine, dinner, and tax included). 6:30pm-9:30pm. 459 Prospect Way, Princeton by the Sea, 650-728-8108.

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Photo from Sol Food’s Facebook page.

I received an email from Sol Hernandez of San Rafael’s ~SOL FOOD~ about some unexpected and emergency sewer repairs (never fun) they had to do at the “big restaurant” at 901 Lincoln Avenue. After some snags with the permits from the building department, they are hoping to finally reopen for business this Thursday March 31st.

In the meantime, to accommodate their customers, they set up seating at Theresa and Johnny’s restaurant during the week from 5pm-10pm, just two doors down from their new “little location.” What new little location, you ask? Sol Food’s little location is moving to 811 4th Street into the old Royal Frankfurter, which is across the street and less than a block down from the current little location. It has a few seats inside, and they are working on getting outdoor seating. The new little place is open, and they plan on doing their last day of business at the old little place on Saturday April 30th.

Got all that? OK, good, because you’ll want to mark your calendar on Sunday May 1st for the grand opening party for La Bodega, the other business extension. The party will be from 10am-7pm, with an oyster bar by Hog Island, live music, and plenty of Sol food! 3rd St. between Tamalpais and Lincoln.

I heard from Luigi Ruocco of Mr. Espresso that Scott and Emily Goldenberg have taken over ~CAFFE 817~ in Oakland. Luigi says, “Caffe 817 has long been a favorite local breakfast and lunch destination for employees of Mr. Espresso, so needless to say, we’re thrilled to be working with them! And they have a great cooking background, both having just left long term stints as sous chefs at Zuni Cafe in SF to take over 817.” I didn’t hear back from them in time for this mention, so I guess folks in the neighborhood will need to check in to see what Scott and Emily’s changes and updates to the menu are. 817 Washington St. at 8th St., Oakland, 510-271-7965.