August 30, 2011

August 30, 2011
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View into the dining room from the café. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Market vegetables and Green Goddess dip. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The café at Park Tavern. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The spiffy bar. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I had a chance to swing by the gleaming new ~PARK TAVERN~ on Washington Square Park before skipping town, and folks, it looks fantastic. Partners Anna Weinberg and chef Jennifer Puccio of Marlowe are bringing a Cali-French bistro vibe to North Beach, with a touch of swank brasserie and Bay Area rusticity. The former Moose’s (and Joey & Eddie’s) space now has chunky overhead wood beams (reclaimed from an Oregon barn, natch), penny tile floors, leather banquettes in brown-olive (black in the café), wood tables (I dig the round tables, always a nice feature for groups), subway tile on the walls and some fabulous wallpaper at the entrance, and tones of Prussian blue throughout. It looks crisp, a touch masculine, and very smart (the team worked with designer Kendra Nicholas). Some crafty touches include the huge chandelier-wheel in the dining room (it was actually used to cast wheels), the host stand that is a vintage icebox, and the open kitchen is a looker. Those who remember Moose’s fondly will find some thoughtful touches, like Mary Etta Moose’s table.

The dining room seats 65, with room for 40 in the bar area, while the more casual café area that flanks the sidewalk has room for 37. (Later on there will also be a private room, the Eden Room, on the mezzanine.) The marble bar has cushy stools with high wood backs, and a communal style bar table with seating on both sides. Meanwhile, the no-reservations café area in the front has warm terracotta tile floors, and lots of light: the doors even slide open to the outdoor sidewalk seating, which will be fabulous on sunny afternoons. Another bonus: valet parking for lunch and dinner (making it even more perfect for business lunches).

As for Puccio’s menu (note it’s subject to change!), it follows the Marlowe sensibility, but is definitely expanded. Smaller bites include a Raw section with yellowtail jack “Niçoise” ($9) and market vegetables with Green Goddess dip ($7), while the Fried section has Marlowe’s famed Brussels sprout chips ($6) and a chicken-fried green tomato with rémoulade ($7). The Smoked section has about five items, like fish dip, crackers, and PT hot sauce ($10). Moving into the appetizers, there are a variety of about five delicious-sounding salads, including one of wild arugula, mushroom conserva, porcini, and charred onion vinaigrette ($10). The entrées range from $13 (the Marlowe burger is on there, don’t you worry) to $28 for a New York steak with Mangalitsa butter, French fries, and red wine jus. There is also a mussels dish ($18) with fennel sausage and leeks, and lamb chops and merguez sausage ($26). A variety of sides from the wood oven will round things out, from potatoes to polenta.

Wine director Casey Doolin (nabbed from Blue Ribbon in New York) has put together a list with extensive by-the-glass choices, spanning Slovenia to the Sierra Foothills. Cocktails include many classics, plus some newer ones under “Parks and Recreational Drinking,” like the Washington Square, with Hangar One vodka, Aperol, clementine, and grapefruit. The whole shebang opens on Thursday September 1st, dinner 5:30pm-11pm to start (Tue-Sat). Congrats, ladies.

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The Chubby Noodle fried chicken (and charred corn polenta). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Yellowfin tuna tartare with garlic chips. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I had a chance to do a preview tasting of dishes from the upcoming ~CHUBBY NOODLE~ by owner Pete Mrabe of Don Pisto’s fame—and let’s just say, “Lucky me!” To recap, Chubby Noodle is going to be pop-up dinner service inside the bar Amante Tue-Sat from 6pm-10pm, available to stay or take out.

The menu will be divided up in three sections: Hot, Cold, and Fried Chicken. You’ll be able to get oysters on the half shell (they’re always such beauties at Don Pisto’s, so I expect the same here), silky yellowfin tuna tartare with macadamia and sweet onion that you scoop up with puffy, fried garlic chips, and there will be two kinds of ramen: pork and mushroom ramen for $9, with slow-roasted pork, fresh shiitakes, poached egg, and scallions, and a seafood ramen for $11—we tried one with wild gulf prawns, garlic, charred scallions, and butter corn. The ramen was delicious—it had springy noodles, Pete makes a rich stock, and is using quality ingredients (like Snake River pork and sustainable seafood).

And just wait until you try the fried chicken, mother of G-O-D. It’s crazy-juicy (he uses Mary’s chicken), with a crisp and flavorful exterior that just shatters. My dining partner and I both kind of freaked out over the chicken—it’s really out of hand. You’ll be able to get 10 pieces for $24 (with 3 sides) and a 20-piece bucket for $44 with 5 sides—it’s all wings, drums, and thighs, plus two side sauces (chile sauce and soy dipping sauce). Sides will include items like kimchee coleslaw, steamed white rice, and wait until you try the charred (and peppery) corn polenta. There will also be a couple sandwiches (one will be with the fried chicken, oh you betcha), and possibly some dumplings as well. The launch is looking like September 9th—follow Chubby Noodle on Twitter for updates about when you’ll be able to attack a bucket o’ that chicken. 570 Green St. at Stockton.

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Treats: coming very soon to this shiny, new case. Photo by Daniel Azarkman.

By Daniel Azarkman

A few months ago, Grub Street caught word that a bakery was in store for the shuttered Bistro Clovis space near Zuni Café. After further investigation, we learned that pastry chef Chona Piumarta was behind the project. While we were waiting for a call back from her, Eater operatives swung by to check things out and did some online sleuthing (read the article here), but we were lucky to have Chona saving some details just for tablehopper.

Officially opening this Friday September 2nd, the space will be the first retail store for ~THE PASTRY CUPBOARD~, whose products are already on shelves at Rainbow Grocery and Marina Supermarket, among others. The new kitchen will let Chona offer quite a bit more variety, as well as tap back into the kinds of complex plated desserts she did at The Slanted Door and LarkCreekSteak (desserts which the tablehopper was a big fan of). There may even be some dessert wines later on if the post-opera crowds show enough interest.

To start, though, The Pastry Cupboard’s hours will be 7am-6pm, so for now you’ll have to make do with boxed sweets like the blueberry buttermilk mini pie or the cocoa nib, a dark chocolate-pistachio-shortbread bar that Chona created for her husband. For breakfast and lunch, quick savory options will include daily focaccia specials, salads, and a line of housemade spreads. 1596 Market St. at Franklin, 415-864-2755.

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The Rebel Within, the money shot; photo by William Werner.

Fans of pastry chef William Werner’s Rebel Within and other creative treats through his ~TELL TALE PRESERVE COMPANY~ will be sorry to learn he is ending the business. The reason behind the sudden end? In an email I received, Werner states, “Over the past year my team and I have tried to come to terms with our partner/investor Whisk Group in our search and execution of a storefront. The partnership has proved quite challenging, and despite making every effort possible to keep the business alive, we found our growth stunted. Our fair offer to buy Whisk out with new investors was ultimately declined, and we have been left with no choice but to end our engagement.” (In the funny timing department, SFoodie ran this article about the whereabouts of Whisk Group just last week.)

For parties interested in investment, consulting, or to contact Werner, you can reach him through his new site, Outfit Generic. For now, he’s going to enjoy some time off, and we’ll have to see what’s next. Best to you, William and team. Hurry back.

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Photo provided by The Melt.

By Daniel Azarkman.

Starting today, you can take even shorter lunch breaks if you’re downtown and in the mood for grilled cheese and soup. ~THE MELT~ is opening the first of an anticipated 500 (yeah, you read that correctly) fast-casual locations that let you order through a mobile app and skip the line when you pick up your food. From Jonathan Kaplan, the entrepreneur behind the Flip video camera, the new chain is offering five cheese-and-bread permutations and five soups, with the menu changing once per season. Kaplan brings in his technology background with a uniquely designed sandwich press that gets your “melt” done in under a minute, allegedly with an ideal balance of toasted outside and gooey inside. Beyond the first store on New Montgomery, three more Bay Area locations are planned to open before the end of the year (1 Embarcadero Center, 345 Spear Street Suite 125, and Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto); their next market has yet to be announced. Hours are Mon-Fri 10:30am-9pm, and Sat 11am-6pm. 115 New Montgomery St. at Minna, 415-691-6536.

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Patio table; photo from Ragazza.

Woot woot, looks like chef-owner Sharon Ardiana will be able to open the back patio at ~RAGAZZA~ by mid-September or thereabouts (they are aiming for their one-year anniversary the 22nd). Yup, garden dining, and just in time for Indian summer! There will be 10 seats to start, and the hours are the same as the restaurant (open at 5pm) although they have to be done with outside service by 10pm (10:30pm Fri-Sat). Gotta be good neighbors and all. Follow Ragazza on Twitter for the actual launch date.

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The construction site. (Photos provided by The Surf Spot.)

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The surf shack/hut on the right will be the dining room, with the new kitchen adjacent to it (on the left).

Back in spring 2009, Inside Scoop broke the news about a new project in Pacifica, ~THE SURF SPOT~, that was going to open in a new building (adjacent to the nursery) in the Sea Bowl parking lot. After following up here and there over the past couple years with partner (and surfer) Derek Burns, I was happy to learn the construction is finally underway. (You can read allllll about the process of opening a restaurant on the coast in this article by Burns in the Pacifica Patch.)

The restaurant is going to be a cool one, featuring a menu divided up in three sections. First is “Surf Spots,” featuring ethnic cuisine from surf spots around the world, like meat pies from Australia, some Hawaiian dishes from an underground oven, and did you know France has waves? Oui. The “Locals” section will feature local ingredients cooked by live fire, from meats on the rotisserie and grill to individual pizzas from the wood-burning oven (plus sandwiches). The “Market” section will be seasonally driven, with more polished dishes, like seafood from local fishermen and produce from farmers in the area.

Since it’s right by the beach, there will be fire pits, live music (on an outdoor stage), volleyball courts, and it’ll be okay for people to show up with sandy feet. Burns said the vibe will be surf-themed and beachy (and groovy and casual), but not kitschy. There will also be palm and banana trees outside adding to a tropical atmosphere.

The 80-seat interior will feature lots of wood, earthy elements, a coastal vibe, with local art and photographs. Since it’s just a 20-minute drive from the city, it will also be a quick jaunt for San Franciscans who want to get out of the city and be outside (and a cool venue for a party!). There will be a wraparound deck that is shielded, covered, and heated, and parties will be able to book an outdoor space with room for 10-12 (and their very own fire pit). Inside there will be a bar with room for 12 made from old growth redwood, plus there will be a couple private rooms. There will be full liquor, but not a late-night bar scene—it’s more about the fire pits. A peek at the preliminary cocktail list included an Aviation, Moscow Mule, Sazerac, and other classics, plus some punches, like a Planter’s Punch and Fish House Punch.

Partners in the project are David Szeto and Tait Cowan. They are hoping to open by the end of the year, follow The Surf Spot on Twitter and Facebook for updates. 4627 Hwy. 1, between Fassler and Crespi, Pacifica.