June 21, 2011

June 21, 2011

Lounge area photo by Angie Silvy.


Bluestem dining room; photo by Angie Silvy.

Opening this Thursday June 23rd is the splashy new ~BLUESTEM BRASSERIE~ on Yerba Buena Lane from Adam and Stacy Jed. At a tablehopper cocktail preview a couple weeks ago, we got a sneak peek of the Lundberg Design-designed, light-filled, two-level space. It was designed to be flexible for a variety of occasions, whether you are dropping by the spacious lounge with friends or trying to snag one of the 17 armchair barstools at the glimmering bar by Concreteworks. You’ll be equally comfy having lunch with the boss, dinner with a large group in the semi-private upstairs dining room, or after-work drinks on the upstairs terrace (which is both shielded and heated—go SF).

Executive chef Sean Canavan has put together an all-day brasserie menu. Items on a preliminary menu include a variety of housemade charcuterie (rustic country pâté with pistachios, truffled chicken liver mousse, rabbit rillettes) and appetizers like a watermelon salad with mint, feta, borage blossoms, and Arbequina olives; berbere-spiced goat sausages with roasted eggplant and mint yogurt; and spinach and sheep’s milk ricotta ravioli with pine nuts, summer squash, and Parmesan broth.

A highlight of the menu is the grass-fed beef sourced from ranchers and farmers in California, Oregon, and Uruguay—cuts may include rib-eye, New York strip, skirt steak, grilled short ribs, and Wagyu bavette (flank), and a variety of side sauces, such as mint-oregano chimichurri and zinfandel-shallot marmalade. Of course there will be a burger as well—and you know they’ve been perfecting that bad boy. Other meaty picks include acorn-fed pork, slow-cooked goat with guajillo and ancho chile and Anson Mills hominy, while one of the seafood selections includes crispy steelhead trout with melted early girl tomatoes, artichokes, and tarragon pistou. Sides include corn and fava succotash, and Anson Mills cheddar grits. There will also be plats du jour, like beef short rib pot roast and mashed potatoes on Mondays, and coq au vin with buttered egg noodles on Tuesdays. The dessert menu is from consulting pastry chef James Ormsby, who will be offering “reinvented classics that play on American nostalgia,” like vanilla ice cream profiteroles with rhubarb compote, a chocolate and coconut layer cake, and a black n tan, with malted milk and chocolate panna cotta with malt meringue chocolate bark.

There will be a variety of cocktails, ranging from the spiritous to the refreshing; we enjoyed tasting them at our tablehopper naming party and preview (kindly note the cleverly named “Violet Femmes” was the winning cocktail name from our party)! No contender, there. The California-centric wine program will include 12 wines on tap, supplemented with some French bottlings. The 190-seat restaurant (yup, she’s a big girl) will be open continuously from 11am-11pm.


Cupola Pizzeria interior photo by John Benson.

Now open in the former Zazil space on the fourth floor of the Westfield Centre is ~CUPOLA PIZZERIA~ from the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, with chef Christian Hermsdorf, previously at Bar Bambino. The primary draw for downtown shoppers (and worker bees) will be the Neapolitan-style pizzas coming out of the handcrafted Stefano Ferrara pizza oven imported from Naples. Pizzas include a primavera with artichokes, asparagus, pea tendrils, mascarpone, and Parmesan; and an arrabiata with pancetta, chile peppers, San Marzano tomatoes, and oregano.

There is also a menu of items made with local and sustainable ingredients, like pulled-to-order mozzarella, suckling pig porchetta, sheep’s milk ricotta ravioli in a chopped watercress butter, and panini like eggplant Parmesan and another one made with spicy coppa. Yeah, you better walk there and back so you don’t get fat.

Cass Calder Smith Architecture is behind the design for the 94-seat restaurant, with a flashy interior of black, white, and red. Now open daily for lunch and dinner, 11:30am-9:30pm.


Wing Wings. Yelp photo by Genevieve Y.

And in case you’ve been sleeping under a rock, or tablehopper is your sole contact with the outside world, Christian Ciscle (previously of Little Skillet) has opened his solo project, ~WING WINGS~ in the Lower Haight in the former Roland’s Bagels space. On the menu: a variety of saucy wings—eight sauces in all—like buffalo and jerk and spicy Korean (they are using free-range chicken from Pitman Family Farms). You can order 5 ($6), 10 ($10), or 25 ($23) in all, and you can get extra toppings, like chiles, or bacon, or even chicharrones. And there are biscuits. And chicken salad on a biscuit. And fries. And side salads, like macaroni and coleslaw. It’s tiny, so you might have to carry out your bucket o’ wings—and keep your greasy fingers crossed for delivery in a few months. Hours are Sun-Mon and Wed-Thu 11am-12am, Fri-Sat 11am-2am, and closed Tue. 422 Haight St. at Webster, 415-834-5001.

A star tablehopper reader tipped me off over a month ago that the former owner of El Paseo in Marin was taking over the ~LE CLUB~ space on Nob Hill. Alas, tracking down and getting a reply from the mysterious Seigo Takei proved to be very challenging. And fruitless. But now the Inside Scoop confirms the rumor, reporting that Seigo Takei and his wife, Keiko Takahashi, will be opening a restaurant “serving their signature Japanese and French-influenced kaiseki menu.” They are targeting late summer, and the current name is Keiko à Nob Hill, but that is subject to change. They reportedly have quite the wine cellar, a legacy from their time at El Paseo. Let’s hope they hire a publicist, otherwise getting more information from these two is gonna feel like a search for the holy grail (and alas, not as entertaining as the Monty Python version). 1250 Jones St. at Clay.


Photo of Timothy Holt/Weird Fish by Sheila Menezes.

After some ownership changes, adjustments, repainting, hiring, and a temporary closure, ~WEIRD FISH~ is opening once again tonight for dinner. I received a note and a call from owner Timothy Holt, who said he has brought on chef Gavin Braid (Georges, Monk’s Kettle, Wayfare Tavern). The reopening menu will feature some of the Weird Fish classic seafood dishes, along with their vegan trademarks like the Buffalo Girls, but Holt said the menu will be evolving in time. There will be pasta, fish, and vegetable specials added, and he mentioned a crab roll is coming back (served on a roll made by the bakery next door). He wants to keep the menu as local and sustainable as possible, which will ultimately limit many of the seafood options for the restaurant.

More than anything, he’s fired up with his current life as a farmer at Roshambo up in Healdsburg. He’s raising pigs, chickens, goats, turkeys, and more, and hopes to provide the restaurant with most if not all of its produce—seasonality in full effect, yo. There might even be a CSA running out of Weird Fish at some point, along with canned jams and other items made by his girlfriend. Yup, they’re getting all Little House on the Prairie on us.

Look for some new local wines on tap, and since chef Braid is big on beer after working at Monk’s Kettle, there will be a “chef’s choice” selection of beers on the menu as well. You’ll also notice a new wall piece of old boxes with found objects by Romanowski, a local artist/DJ. Dinner will be Mon-Sat 5:30pm-11pm, with lunch starting in a couple weeks, and then weekend brunch will kick in. Follow the restaurant on Facebook for updates.


Tonkotsu ramen with pork belly.

Over at ~NOMBE~, executive chef Mari Takahashi and chef de cuisine Pierre Mange have been busy expanding their ramen portion of the menu, aka the “it girl” on SF menus of late. You can choose from three different broths: tonkotsu, a rich pork bone-based white broth; black tan tan-men, a black sesame-based spicy soup; and miso. All broths are $8, and garnished with bean sprouts, scallions, onsen tamago, and seaweed; the tonkotsu is additionally flavored with kombu and ginger. Diners can also add on pork belly, chicken kara age, and kae-dama (another portion of noodle) at an additional cost.

Also new on the menu: a seven-course seasonal kaiseki menu, which will have a strong emphasis on the presentation of the dishes. The kaiseki menu will be a chef’s choice daily menu of the following: sakizuke (amuse-bouche), mukouzuke (sashimi), yakizakana (grilled fish), tomezakana (salad), shiizakana/agemono (grilled meat, or fried item), shokuji (rice, miso soup, pickles), and mizu-gashi (fresh, locally grown, seasonal fruit). The menu is quite a steal at $29.95 per person; you can say “kanpai!” with a sake pairing, available by sommelier Gil Payne.

Both of these new menu options start Wednesday June 22nd, with the kaiseki menu available Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights only.


El Buen Comer’s enchiladas verdes con pollo.

Here’s a flavor-tastic and new Sunday supper for you: El Buen Comer, one of La Cocina’s entrepreneurs, is serving homemade, from-scratch Mexican dishes at ~HEART~ every Sunday evening. Chef Isabel Caudillo is cooking up real guisados (stews) and comida corridas (typical plates and meals) from her hometown of Mexico City, with dishes like slow-simmered, chipotle meatballs to chile rellenos to the occasional chicharrones en salsa verde. Every Sunday, 5pm-10pm.

Starting Sunday July 10th, ~BEAST AND THE HARE~ will be serving Sunday brunch. On the preliminary menu: eggs Benedict/Florentine with smoked pork belly or slow-cooked chard; a soft scramble with artichokes, heirloom tomatoes, and farm-style cheese; duck hash with poached eggs and tomato crème fraîche; Anna Belle’s pancake French toast, stone fruit compote, and honey-Jack Daniel’s whipped cream; and a Monte Cristo of bresaola, fromage blanc, and stone fruit compote (all $12). Hours will be 10am-3pm.


Photo from Venga Empanadas.

According to a tweet, it looks like ~VENGA EMPANADAS~ is planning to softly open its tiny empanada shop this Friday. You can drool over the menu here, which includes a nice array of vegetarian empanadas, like a five pepper-manchego version I can’t wait to sink my choppers into. Follow Venga on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news. Hours will be daily 7:30am-10pm. 443 Valencia St. at 15th St., 415-552-5895.

Over at 331 Cortland, ~BIG DIPPER BABY FOOD~ is the latest addition to the Bernal Heights marketplace. Owner Claire Hoyt makes organic baby food made fresh from local ingredients. Recent menus posted on Facebook offer purées ($7 per pound) like roasted garnet yams, braised carrots and baked Fuji apples, and chicken with parsnips and green beans, plus toddler meals of noodle kugel or chicken with spring vegetables with a side of sweet potatoes. 11am-6pm daily except Sun ‘til 5pm, and closed Thu. Delivery available Sundays starting June 26th. 331 Cortland Ave. at Bennington.

As I mentioned last month, ~DOSA ON VALENCIA~ is closing for a week to update their space and prepare the bar for their upcoming liquor license. They will be closed from Wed June 22nd-Thu June 30th, and plan to reopen on Fri July 1st.

One door closes, another one opens: ~MISSION CHINESE FOOD~ is slated to reopen this week, on Friday June 24th.

And ~CAFÉ SOPHIE~ is scheduled to open this Saturday; read more details in this past tablehopper article. Hours will be 7am-9pm. 3463 16th St. at Sanchez.

Ever-trusty tablehopper informant Jason B. writes in with these tidbits: in the Financial District, it appears ~TON YONG THAI CAFÉ~ has closed, but there’s a new-looking ~GREAT SAIGON~ that has opened a few doors down, 915 Kearny St. at Jackson, 415-772-9882.

He also mentions ~PREET’S~, a small pizza place on Market, has become ~VEGAN PLAZA~. He says, “They have a spot in Berkeley and I thought it was exceptional. Whole wheat crust, vegan cheese, awesome.” 995 Market St. at 6th St.

Jason also mentions there’s a mini build-your-own Belgian waffle space that has opened near the BART entrance in the Westfield. SFoodie has filed an initial taste test of ~BLOEM ‘N SUGAR~. 865 Market St. at Fifth St. in the Westfield San Francisco Centre, 415-615-0064.

Lastly, Jason mentions half of the Martha & Bros. locations in the city have changed to ~CUMAICA COFFEE~, whose website states they have four SF locations, and a roastery in South City.


The Folsom Street side of the dining room at Prospect; photo by Mariko Reed.

Over at ~PROSPECT~, you’ll find a new dessert menu in place from pastry chef Sarah Wade. This Philly-raised pastry chef worked under the mentorship of Christine Law at Postrio, as well as two years as a sous pastry chef in Nancy Oakes’ kitchen at Boulevard before moving back to the East Coast to be closer to her family. After some East Coast gigs, she returned to the West Coast, and has been working at Prospect since May 2011. Her seasonally driven menu will emphasize simple and wholesome desserts, like mascarpone cheesecake with vanilla-roasted strawberries, warm huckleberry-blueberry pie, a chocolate almond tart, and a Prospect sundae with butterscotch ice cream, bourbon caramel, poached apricots, pecan brittle, and whipped cream. Don’t fear, the ice cream sandwiches and caramel popcorn remain on the menu.


Strawberries, yogurt sablé, and granola; photo by Justin Lewis.

by Daisy Chow, tablehopper editorial assistant.

Tell Tale Preserve Company and tea-purveyor Naivetea have teamed up to create ~KETTLE WHISTLE~, a new spin on the afternoon tea service: it’s like William Werner’s dashing culinary creations are having elegant rendezvous with a well-curated collection of oolong teas in a series of chic pop-up locations. The first Kettle Whistle event takes places this Saturday June 25th in The Burritt Room, with seatings at 1pm and 3:30pm, and will consist of three flights of Werner’s pastry creations, both savory and sweet, carefully paired with a selection Naivetea’s oolong teas, both hot and iced.

I was fortunate to experience some of these pairings at a preview for Kettle Whistle at Big Daddy’s Antiques (a striking backdrop for the tasting), where Naivetea’s gracious founders Lawrence Lai and Ann Lee were on hand to talk about their unique, ultra-premium Taiwanese teas. Werner’s pastry creations were as pleasing to the eyes as they were to the tongue, and I found that the savory and sweet bites were paired in a beguiling and nuanced way with the high-end oolong teas.

For example, iced lychee and iced passion fruit teas were paired with salmon rillettes on seaweed brioche, a pairing in which the fruity and floral teas balanced the briny bite nicely. In a pairing of strong flavors with strong, Naivetea’s more-fermented Dong Ding (an award-winning variety) and Formosa teas, which had a smoky-roasty quality, were poured hot and sipped alongside the tangy punch of preserves like passion fruit-olive oil curd and strawberry jam, served with clotted cream on the cutest mini crumpets and petit scones. As for sweet bites, these were matched to delicately green, lightly grassy hot oolongs that cleansed the palate between rich, sweet desserts like rhubarb-olive oil layer cake and chocolate fondant topped with a shiny half-sphere of raspberry purée. We left the preview with a little gift to take home, so I bet you’ll leave with the same on Saturday.

Don’t expect a stodgy English tea, but do expect to make reservations for this first official Kettle Whistle event via email or phone (415-643-4894). Prix-fixe menu, $55 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. 417 Stockton St. at Bush.


I heard about a butcher shop opening in the Dogpatch months ago, but the [fill in the blank] building owner wasn’t very forthcoming with contact info for me. Sure enough, a good friend ends up passing along info to me about ~OLIVIER’S BUTCHERY~, a traditional French butcher who is now open, and offering high-quality cuts in both French and American styles. Olivier reportedly hand picks the animals to make sure they are healthy and raised humanely; you can buy cuts or whole animals, and he can do custom cuts for you. He will also offer sausages made from his family’s recipes.

SFoodie shares further details: owner Olivier Cordier is from Burgundy, and his family ran a boucherie. Here’s more: “He’ll be running the shop with his wife, Hang Nguyen, and will offer French cuts of grass-fed beef, veal, lamb, pork, and poultry; house-made sausages; and custom-cut orders. All the meat is sourced from farms that practice sustainable methods.” Sounds fabulous. Bring on the bavette! You can pick up your order at the warehouse Thu-Fri 12pm-6pm, Sat 10am-3pm, and Sun 9:30am-1pm. 1074 Illinois St. at 22nd St., 415-558-9887.

According to Berkeleyside, cook Aaron Rocchino from Chez Panisse and his wife Monica are opening ~LOCAL BUTCHER SHOP~ in the Gourmet Ghetto. The article has a bunch of details about this sustainably minded shop, check it out.


Image from Silver.Spoon.

A couple non-restaurant dining options for y’all: this Thursday June 23rd and Friday June 24th, ~SILVER.SPOON~ (from Copenhagen) is partnering again with ~GRAFFEATS~ for Summer School, offering a five-course dinner that will take place in an unexpected location: a high school library. There will also be cocktails from a barman who works at Ruby, one of Copenhagen’s speakeasies, along with musical pairings, and some other surprises. Not sure what you’ll have to do to land into detention. 6:30pm. Location disclosed to ticket holders. $65 (corkage fee included), and tickets can be purchased here.

And Saturday June 25th (at 7pm) and Sunday June 26th (at 5pm), ~STAG DINING GROUP~ is putting together The Summer Solstice Intervention Dinner, a bright summer menu that is designed to help us cope with our usual foggy summer woes. Although this week is a delightful exception. Anyway. No matter. Chefs Ted Fleury and Jordan Grosser are putting together a delicious multi-course menu, along with hosting a cocktail reception by The Cocktail Lab. Read more about the menu and details here. Location: a historical site near Alamo Square. $80 per person, BYOB.


One of my favorite Joyce Goldstein books.

There are all kinds of author events coming up in the Bay Area. And you should come, because authors are cool. Next Tuesday June 28th, Joyce Goldstein will be at ~COOKS’ BOOK CLUB OF FOURTH STREET~ (a collaboration with Books Inc.). She will discuss her numerous (fabulous) books, and will then guide the audience through a tasting of her favorite pantry items: olive oil, honey, cheese, and more at The Pasta Shop and at Café Rouge, which will offer Mediterranean menu items based on Joyce’s recipes. No charge except for purchases. 6pm-8pm. Upcoming authors include Marissa Guggiana, author of PRIMAL CUTS: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers on Tuesday July 26th; and on Tuesday August 23rd is Romney Steele, with her new book, Plum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories from the Orchard. 1760 4th St. at Delaware, Berkeley.

At ~OMNIVORE BOOKS~ in San Francisco, mark your calendar on July 19th to listen to the ever-engaging Cecilia Chiang in conversation with co-author Lisa Weiss, who will be discussing The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco; and on Thursday July 21st is Hank Shaw, with Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. There are many more upcoming events (including a November event with Jacques Pépin!), check it all out on Omnivore’s events page.

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