May 17, 2011

May 17, 2011
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Michelle Mah photo by Food Fashionista.

While at the Meals On Wheels Star Chefs event on Sunday, I had a chance to intercept chef Charles Phan, fresh off his James Beard induction into the lineup of Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. I asked him about his plans for chef Grace Nguyen’s replacement at Out the Door Bush, and he said they are going to just manage it internally, and promote from within as necessary.

The bigger news, however, is that he has brought on Michelle Mah to his team. Mah just started yesterday, and will be working to understand Phan’s systems and doing some menu development at the commissary. Phan is being tight-lipped about the upcoming Valencia Street restaurant, but he did mention there is a hearing on the 19th, so I expect to have more details after that. (One can make some guesses with these two pieces of news….) There was also a tweet mentioning Phan’s potential expansion to New York in 2012—hopefully more on that soon as well. 584 Valencia St. at 17th St.

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Photo by Brian Smeets for Grub Street.

The transformation from Bambuddha Lounge into the spiffy ~CHAMBERS EAT + DRINK~ is now complete: Sean and Isabel Manchester’s groovy new bar and restaurant opens tonight for business. Chef Trevor Ogden (Mission Beach Cafe) has crafted a menu that’s a bit gastro-pubby, with some California seasonality, and a bit of Asian flair in a few dishes. Dishes on the opening menu include 13 small bites, like artichoke hearts ($9) with baby beets, Meyer lemon, olive oil, garlic, mache, sunchokes; and braised pork croquettes ($13) with mustard emulsion, smoked grits, baby greens, apple jus. A few dishes that show more Asian inspiration include the P.B.L.T. ($10), crispy braised pork belly, baby romaine, and heirloom tomato, rice paper roll, house sambal, and Champagne aioli. Larger plates include suzuki bass ($25), beech mushrooms, baby bok choy, ramps, potato noodles, hot and sour consommé, pink peppercorn; and smoked beef short rib ($18)—there’s also a Prather Ranch burger on a challah bun with fries for $12. The full menu will be served until 11pm, with a smaller bar menu until 1am or 1:30am (TBD).

Cocktails were designed to be quickly executed and simple, like a Paloma, Martinez, and Blood and Sand, all for $10—there’s a list of 10 specialty cocktails in all. The space looks aaaamaaaaazing (Sean Manchester worked with Charles Doell of Mister Important Design); look at my last piece for descriptions of the décor, and Grub Street has this nice slideshow of the interior and the patio. And check out the vinyl count: 7,000 LPs are lining the shelves, and they’re collecting another 2,000 more. The music will be rock-influenced (like the look of the place), spanning classic to indie.

Please note that even though Chambers is open tonight and Wednesday, starting Thursday, it will actually be closed to the public for the kick-off of ArtPad, a three-day event at the hotel and restaurant. So your best bet is to visit starting next Tuesday May 24th, when they will be able to run their regular hours. Can’t wait. Let’s rock.

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Time to practice your Basque Xs, because Ryan Maxey and Ian Begg (Naked Lunch) are opening their San Sebastián-inspired restaurant, ~TXOKO~. To begin, here’s how you say it: like tchotchke, just add a little “T” to the word choke, tchoke-oh. Okay, now that you’ve got that down and are ready to start drinking some Txakoli, here’s what is on Begg’s sample menu: there will be a variety of small bites (pintxos) for $3-$7, like oysters, fava bean cuscurro (crostino), and a Roncal cheese croqueta; slightly larger small plates include crispy Chesapeake Bay soft shell crab ($12) with piquillo pepper purée, bacon, spring onions, herbs, crispy sweetbreads ($10), and grilled octopus ($8) with potato pearls, sea beans, ramps, and truffle foam. Bigger plates include oven-roasted suckling pig ($32) with spaetzle, Madeira, yam purée, and mustard greens, and rex sole a la plancha ($25), with summer squash and potatoes. There will also be a cheese selection, and dessert includes gâteau basque ($6) and foie gras ice cream ($8) from these foie-loving dudes.

They’re going to be open late (kitchen until 1:30am, bar until 2am), providing a place for their industry pals to dine and drink late. GM/owner Ryan Maxey (who was the sommelier at Café Majestic when he worked alongside Ian Begg) has dedicated 80% of the wine list to Iberian wines. The cocktail menu by bar manager Jason Brown (Kokkari, Michael Mina) includes a Picon Punch (Brinba Picon, grenadine, Torres brandy, soda water) and the Fatty Arbuckle, with bacon-infused Elijah Craig bourbon, verbena simple syrup, and tobacco tincture. (At first I was a little perturbed by a drink being named in honor of Fatty Arbuckle, but reading the lengthy history of his scandal was super fascinating, and made me change my mind.)

More on the history tip: the Enrico’s space has been transformed from a live music venue into more of a “Basque-style tavern with a modern twist.” Urban Chalet is behind the redesign, and local artist Jeremy Fish did the mural (along with their logo). They added a communal table, and there’s a spacious bar area, plus both indoor and outdoor seating (45 and 35, respectively). I’ll have more details and some pics in a couple weeks.

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The (almost complete) Ritual Proxy container. Photo by Eileen Hassi.

After Smitten, the next in line to open in the Hayes Valley Proxy series is ~RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS~ this Saturday May 21st. They will continue to offer their small lots of high-quality coffees that they source directly from coffee producers. Coffee will be brewed on the v60 bar, with three on offer at any given time. The espresso program will feature their seasonal blend as well as a single origin, which changes monthly. There will also be special treats from Sandbox Bakery and Black Jet Bakery, plus a really nice tea menu featuring Red Blossom teas. Hours will be 7am-7pm. (Please note this picture is not of the finished container.) 432 Octavia St., No. 1b, at Linden.

A tablehopper reader on their way to work in SoMa told me they spotted a sign stating “~TURTLE TOWER~ Coming Soon” on 6th Street. Further details can be found on LiveSOMA, with the owners writing in to say they are hoping for a June 1st opening. That is pho-king awesome. 501 6th St. at Bryant.

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The chairs at Mirtille (photo from Facebook).

Not too long ago, I mentioned a new café opening in the Civic Center/Tenderloin area: ~MIRTILLE~. Well, the 26-seat café with the blueberry-inspired palette (mirtille is French for blueberry) should be opening this Wednesday or Thursday from owners François and Isabelle Chevillotte. To recap, they will be serving healthy and flavorful food with local and seasonal ingredients, including fresh salads (there’s a salad bar), sandwiches on house-baked bread, and being French, some pastries and coffee will also be offered (they are using Mr. Espresso). See the full menu here. They are also planning for eventual outdoor seating. Hours will be 7am-7pm daily. 87 McAllister St. at Leavenworth, 415-252-7661.

Over at ~MISSION BEACH CAFE~, chef Ron Silverberg had to unfortunately attend to a family matter in Pennsylvania, and had to leave the restaurant. Owner Bill Clarke is welcoming back chef Thomas Martinez, who started this week and is working on creating his own menu with his team; Thomas left in 2009 to pursue farming up in the Healdsburg area with Timothy Holt (Weird Fish) at Roshambo Farms and some freelance chef gigs. One more thing to note: starting on Tuesday May 31st, MBC will be re-launching their annual “BBQ Tuesdays” menu. Stand by!

Based on this posting on Craigslist, it appears ~LUNA PARK~ is looking for a new executive chef; Ronnie New is leaving in two weeks, and will be working as a line cook at Contigo, and picking up shifts at Living Room Events/Kitchenette. 694 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-553-8584.

And over at ~NOMBE~, chef Vincent Schofield has departed, and owner Mari Takahashi is now serving as executive chef. She has brought on chef de cuisine Pierre Mangé (Zero Zero, SPQR, Contigo)—I mean, come on, with a last name like that, of course she had to hire him.

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Josey Baker and his bread at Mission Pie (picture from his blog).

Don’t be afraid. Really. You’re going to love this. Starting Wednesday May 25th, indie baker Josey Baker (you gotta love this town of baking Bakers) is going to be selling his fresh, warm, delicious bread in Bi-Rite Market every Wednesday and Thursday evening, starting at 5pm. The bread schedule for now will have his black pepper Parmesan and seed feast breads on Wednesdays, and walnut levain and whole wheat levain on Thursdays. He’s going to have SF bike messenger company TCB Courier pedal the bread over from Mission Pie (where Josey is baking it) hot out of the oven to Bi-Rite. Pedal fast, boys! On a blog post, he also alludes to “special treats in store for those who buy these first Bi-Rite breads… you’ll be able to take the bread bag from Bi-Rite and bring it to Mission Pie, where I will trade you for secret treats.” Hmmm. Secret treats. Sounds intriguing.

And up in Bernal, Bernalwood alerts us the latest tenant to join the 331 Cortland marketplace is ~ANDA PIROSHKI~, from Muscovite Anna Tvelova. She’ll be selling homestyle and baked piroshki, in flavors like beef, rice, and cheese; cheesy potato and onions; creamy mushrooms and rice; and apple, cranberries, and almonds. Her launch is also May 25th, an auspicious day for bread products in this town. SFoodie mentions soups like borscht and “rassolnik, made with pickles from 331 Cortland neighbor Paulie’s.” 331 Cortland Ave. at Bennington.

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Yelp photo by Phillip W.

Last week, I mentioned ~OYAJI~ is now serving lunch Wed-Sun, and a star tablehopper reader snagged a lunch menu for me. Items basically include all the things I want to eat all the time: ramen ($8.50); oyako-don ($7), chicken and egg over rice; katsu curry ($7), deep-fried pork cutlet with Japanese curry over rice; and their evil kani cream korrokke ($8), crab and béchamel croquettes. Other choices include tempura, chicken karaage, and more—all come with miso soup and salad, and nothing is over $9.

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Exterior photo by Craig Lee.

Starting Sunday June 5th, ~BAKER & BANKER~ in Pacific Heights will be serving brunch from 10am-2:30pm. Brunch items include Lucky Dog Farm brisket hash, poached farm eggs, romesco sauce, pickled ramps; French toast bread pudding, maple and bourbon glazed bananas, whipped crème fraîche, and pecan praline; and eggs in purgatory, with spicy tomato sauce, mascarpone-brown butter polenta, and housemade Italian sausage. Some baked treats from their bakery include pineapple fritters with mango-Champagne sauce and sticky buns. Reservations accepted. (I am always a fan of brunch reservations.)

Eater caught wind that ~CHEZ SPENCER~ has started serving Sunday brunch, with items like omelet aux fines herbes; poached eggs and steamed asparagus in truffle emulsion; wild mushroom tartine and poached egg; and smoked duck breast à la Lyonnaise with poached egg and lardons. Since they have a full bar, you’ll be able to enjoy cocktails like a classic Corpse Reviver. And it’s one hell of a pretty location. Sundays 11am-4:30pm.

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Interior photo from UrbanDaddy.

James Syhabout (Commis) has opened ~HAWKER FARE~, his casual and affordable 49-seat Asian place in Oakland. On the menu: rice bowls, a whole bunch of them, plus some snacks like green papaya salad and beef salad. Some dishes include a spin on kao mun gai ($9), a classic dish of poached chicken with mung bean sauce, but their version has the tender chicken cooked sous vide. There’s also a 24-hour pork belly over rice, and issan sausage, a spicy pork meatball sausage. You can add a fried farm egg on top of any of the dishes.

Chef de cuisine Justin Yu has worked at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, so he’s no stranger to sriracha. For this week only, they are just starting with lunch (11am-6pm), and next week will be Mon-Wed 11am-6pm, Thu-Fri 11am-9:30pm, and Sat 5pm-9:30pm. Hopefully their beer and wine license will be in effect by the time dinner starts next week. Enjoy the hip-hop and kung fu art. Closed Sun. 2300 Webster St. at 23rd St., Oakland, 510-832-8896.

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Photo from Manresa website.

Two weeks of construction and many changes later, and ~MANRESA~ in Los Gatos is scheduled to complete its remodel on Wednesday May 18th. The renovations include lots of new things: a new look, new dining areas, a new wine cellar, and a new bar and lounge space with a new cocktail program to match.

Chef-proprietor David Kinch worked with Sterry Architecture and Sunnyhills Studio to update the restaurant’s 1940s ranch-style building with a more contemporary (yet still sophisticated) look. The color palette reflects the natural surroundings of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the ocean with earthy tones and cream and maple accents. Guests will enter under a handmade glass chandelier by Berkeley artist Erik Powell and Los Angeles-based Cleveland Art as they head toward the new bar and lounge at the back of the building. The lounge features a backlit bar with alabaster mother-of-pearl backing, and custom seating encompassing the restaurant’s art-inspired curved wall and mosaic fireplace. It’ll be a nice setting to order from the special bar menu and from the new artisan cocktail program from wine director Jeff Bareilles, who will offer classic and contemporary cocktails using ingredients from Love Apple Farm. The bar seats 10.

On one side of the bar, the existing dining area has been completely refreshed, and on the other side, a new dining area seats up to 30, including a cream and ebony banquette lining the back wall. The adjacent private dining room seats up to 10. Plus there are four sure-to-be-coveted outdoor seats, and what was formerly the entrance will now be a walk-in wine cellar. Dinner starts 5:30pm Wed-Sat, 5pm Sun. 320 Village Ln., Los Gatos, 408-354-4330.

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