January 17, 2012

January 17, 2012

Photo from Souvla.

I love how I was complaining in my annual rant, the bore, just a few weeks ago about the lack of a decent souvlaki place in this town. Well, well, well, what have we here? A new concept called ~SOUVLA~ from Charles Bililies, which is going to make its debut in San Francisco! The “souvla” is literally the rotisserie rod/roasting spit—and will be playing a major part in this modern take on a souvlaki/gyro joint. Bililies explains Souvla is going to have a Bay Area approach to ingredients, and mark the end of “the mystery cone meat and out-of-season tomatoes—the gyro hasn’t changed in America since the 1970s!”

For about $9, you’ll be able to have pieces of spit-roasted “lamb porchetta”—which is lamb loin wrapped in lamb belly—plus spiced yogurt, salad, Greek cheese, and a variety of sauces to choose from, all tucked into a pita. There will also be some other larger cuts of meat available, from goat to chicken to pork—just depends what’s on the spit that day (larger entrées are also possible). There will be a vegetarian option with roasted vegetables as well. Sides will include a few dishes like roasted potatoes and a dessert or two.

The restaurant will be fast casual (you order at the counter and take a seat or get it to go), but there will also be some tap-based beers and wines (Greek and domestic) that you can have by the glass or carafe. Bililies explains it’s going to be a bit like a Greek taqueria, serving lunch, dinner, and late into the night. And no white walls and blue accents here—Souvla is going to be a modern adaptation of a Greek concept, not a direct facsimile of something you’d find in Crete.

Bililies, a Greek American, has quite the impressive background: an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales, a bachelor’s degree in hospitality administration from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, then culinary assistant at The French Laundry, followed by a position as manager of Bouchon. He then moved to the Michael Mina Group, working for Michael Mina restaurant and eventually as operations manager for RN74.

Now, here’s the catch: Souvla is still seeking investors and a first location. The concept is intended to be scalable, with locations throughout the Bay Area (I’m sure we’d all like that). Interested in getting on board? Check out the site for more information, and I’ll of course keep you posted on how this is taking shape! Color me excited.


Rainbow salad at Burma Superstar. Photo from Facebook.

According to some exciting liquor license application activity, ~BURMA SUPERSTAR~ reveals plans to open a location in the Mission in the former Bodhi (very close to Zeitgeist). Stand by for updates on timing and more. 211 Valencia St. at Duboce.

Over in North Beach, Gianni.TV confirms ~GEPPETTO~ is opening later this week, possibly tomorrow. To review, a couple weeks ago I mentioned this new salumeria in North Beach is from the owner of Trattoria Pinocchio (which is just next door). Details via Gianni are good: a Sicilian focus with dishes like marinated octopus, scungilli (conch), and other prepared dishes, plus imported salumi, cheeses, and other products. He also mentions the GM and man behind the counter, “Steve” Leone, spent 17 years at Molinari. 658 Vallejo St. at Columbus, 415-291-8811.


The exterior. Photo by Paul Dyer Photography.


The back counter. Photo by Paul Dyer Photography.

After an original post on Chowhound followed by many delays (including a shattered gelato case that had to be re-shipped from Italy), the ~ICE CREAM BAR~ is finally due to open in Cole Valley on Saturday January 21st. Owner Juliet Pries says the mostly organic menu will focus on sweets at first and savory items will follow after they open. There will be a dozen ice cream flavors such as roasted pineapple.

If the thought of eating ice cream in this weather gives you the chills, not to worry. The Ice Cream Bar is seeking a beer and wine license to warm you up with a little alcoholic refreshment such as raspberry lambic floats, prosecco sorbet floats, and caramel ice cream floats with lager. As reported in Eater, Pries brought on Russell Davis of Rickhouse to help develop the drinks. Bartenders will be behind the soda fountain creating daily specials and custom drinks from more than 75 herbs, spices, and tinctures. In addition to traditional milkshakes and malts, Ice Cream Bar will serve an old-fashioned drink made with cream, flavoring, ice, and a whole raw egg—but no ice cream!

Pries (who received her first ice cream maker at age six) studied pastry at the California Culinary Academy. So expect to see candies, cookies for ice cream sandwiches, and ice cream cake by the slice. Her savory menu will include items such as grass-fed hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches made with local cheeses. Take a look at Ice Cream Bar’s beautifully remodeled interior—it’s like stepping back into the 1930s (Eater has some fun details about the history of the bar). Open daily 12pm-10pm. 815 Cole St. at Frederick, 415-742-4932.


Canteen’s interior. Photo courtesy Charles de Lisle Workshop.

The next time you walk into Dennis Leary’s ~CANTEEN~ on Sutter, you’re going to do a double-take. Designer Charles de Lisle of Charles de Lisle Workshop has given it an extensive remodel, which includes a lot of floor-to-ceiling plywood. He explains, “We started with the idea of sheathing the room in plywood, to make the character of the space still feel humble, but add some depth and pattern to bring it to an even more intimate and cozy level.” Noting the apple-green counter was gone, he wrote to me, “Dennis was looking three-five years down the road and felt that, just like the style of the ever-changing menu, the interior should have a bit of flexibility to it.” You’ll notice a big “carnival light box” over the counter, with a bright red, powder-coated, perforated steel trough—and now a matching maroon counter. The tables were refitted with cherry red, high-gloss laminate and thick metal banding, plus plywood wine racks were installed, and instead of the bolted-down diner stools at the counter, you’ll now find simple workroom stools from Grainger Industrial Supply. Looks like the kind of place where I’d like to go to work on some of Leary’s eggs Benedict and Parker House rolls.

~DUMPLINGS & BUNS~ in Pacific Heights has expanded its menu with a new section of entrées, soups, and combination plates, like 24-hour Kwan pork sliders, Pau Pau Lee’s tomato beef plate, teriyaki beef skewers with rice, and spicy and sweet “XO” dragon wings made with Cognac, plus three kinds of soup (wonton, Burmese-style chicken noodle, and egg drop), salad wraps, and more. Don’t forget some dessert dumplings to go. Open Tue-Sun 11am-8pm. 2411 California St. at Fillmore, 415-292-6209.

In the Sunset, Eater mentions there’s a new café called ~DRIP COFFEE BAR~ across the street from Sunrise Deli. The house coffee and espresso is from Sightglass, and there are some items to eat, plus free Wi-Fi. 1916 Irving St. at 21st Ave.

LiveSOMA reports a third location of ~PALIO CAFFÈ~ will be opening today. There are panini, soups, and more. Hours are Mon-Fri 5:30am-6:30pm. 163 2nd St. at Natoma.

It’s that time of the year, when ~POGGIO~’s bollito misto is back! Offered Mon-Wed in the evenings, the bollito carello (cart) will wheel up, serving slowly simmered meats such as housemade cotechino sausage, beef tongue, brisket, veal breast, and oxtail, all carved tableside. $19 (dinner only) and available until spring.


Rice Broker’s panko-breaded chicken. Yelp photo by Genevieve Y.

Spork may have closed last month, but after a couple tweets I learned ~RICE BROKER~ has opened in its place. It’s a temporary concept from Neil Jorgensen that’s built around rice bowls topped with combinations like panko-breaded chicken breast, shaved Brussels sprouts, and Korean-style barbecue sauce (check out the menu here). You can follow updates on Twitter. Open Wed-Sun for dinner; cash only. 1058 Valencia St. at 21st St.

Tipster Jason B. let me know downtown’s Crêpe o Chocolat has closed, and ~BIO~ has opened in its place. Nope, no more crêpes, although there is housemade yogurt in the mornings and sandwiches for lunch on the menu. 75 O’Farrell St. at Stockton, 415-362-0255.

Weird, after closing in August, it looks like ~JASMINE TEA HOUSE~ in Bernal is reopening—according to ABC files, there is some new activity with the permit (the licensee and officers are new, so maybe there are new owners). A couple Yelpers report it’s reopening. 3253 Mission St. at 29th St.

More Chinese restaurant mysteries: a tablehopper reader wrote in, asking what was going on with ~BIG LANTERN~ in the Mission after espying a sign in the window that said “closed for remodeling.” A Yelper has this to add: “Closed for remodeling until January 27th they told me when I called on January 15th.” 3170 16th St. at Albion, 415-863-8100.

The Richmond notices ~YET WAH~ has gone from closed to remodeling, based on a sign in their window. 2140 Clement St. at 22nd Ave.

And in SoMa, you’ll be able to make kinky jokes about your coffee grind since ~WICKED GROUNDS~ has reopened, according to a post on LiveSOMA. 289 8th St. at Tehama, 415-503-0405.


Photo from Txoko.

Looks like Charles Phan has already reopened ~THE MOSS ROOM~ for lunch, according to Scoop. It’s open from 11am-3pm, and you can look at Slanted Door chef de cuisine Justine Kelly and Phan’s new menu here, featuring salads, imperial rolls, and some larger dishes like fried chicken with sriracha butter and a burger on focaccia. Expect more changes and news in coming weeks.

Scoop also brings word of changes to the menu at ~TXOKO~. Chef Ian Begg’s new menu has shifted to more of a traditional appetizer/entrée format, although you can still order his small bites/pintxos at the bar. I really enjoy Begg’s refined food and flavors but had some issues with the original format, so I never reviewed Txoko for tablehopper. Am happy to see the menu additions and changes—I think it’s going to help fill that big space up more (and diners’ bellies). Can’t wait to try the wood oven-roasted chicken.


View into the dining room from the café. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

After a tip-off from this job listing on Craigslist, I learned ~PARK TAVERN~ will be launching brunch soon. Owner Anna Weinberg confirms brunch will served on Saturdays and Sundays, with savory dishes like wood-fired eggs. Weinberg and chef-owner Jenn Puccio just finished a whirlwind brunch trip of New York for inspiration, hitting something like four brunches a day—go ladies! Look for a soft launch the last weekend of February (the 25th-26th). I’ll have a menu for you soon.

And Mission Loc@l resports ~MR. POLLO~ is now open for lunch. Yeah, Manny’s amazing arepas can be yours during the day! Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm. 2823 Mission St. at 24th St., 415-374-5546.


Spuntini, Bar Bambino-style. Photo from Facebook.

Food and bikes? Of course I’m all over it. On Friday January 27th, Bespoke bicycles (who make custom bikes by hand) and Vélo Classic Tours are hosting A Night of Cycling/A Taste of Italy with food and wine provided by Bar Bambino. Swing by from 6pm-9pm at Bespoke’s sleek new showroom in Pacific Heights. It’s free, all you need to do is RSVP by Monday January 23rd to attend. 2843 Clay St. at Scott.


Take meatless Mondays a step further to Tuesdays with either of these vegetarian/vegan-focused events. The ~MUSEUM OF THE AFRICAN DIASPORA~ invites you to a book party to celebrate Bryant Terry’s new book, The Inspired Vegan. You’ll be celebrating the author’s birthday too! Enjoy entertainment from The Marcus Shelby Trio, Renee Wilson, and DJs Max Champ and Ellen Choy, and food and drinks by Roger Feely and Soul Cocina, featuring recipes from The Inspired Vegan, and SLO Down Wines. Tuesday January 24th, 7:30pm-9pm. $15, or $30 with signed copy of the book. Tickets online. 685 Mission St. at 3rd St.

And for another inspired vegetarian event, food tour startup ~DISHCRAWL~ is hosting a tour they’re calling Vegetarian for Carnivores in the Mission. On January 31st, 7pm-9pm, explore four Mission restaurants famous for vegetarian offerings (not all restaurants are vegetarian). Restaurant locations are secret until 48 hours before the event, but you can get hints on Twitter. $39; only 9 spots left.


Photo of Caña from Facebook.

~CAÑA~ in Oakland, a Cuban-Cali café to the right of the Grand Lake Theater, has now opened the Parlor side to their business, a full-service restaurant. You can check out the Parlor menu here, with dishes like plantain-crusted fish and asopao (Cuban risotto with braised ham hock, chorizo picante, green peas, and carrot), and there are also rum and agricole cocktails, plus an in-house cane press and boutique Spanish wines. Dinner 5pm-9:30pm. 530-2 Lake Park Ave. at Grand, Oakland, 510-832-1515.

Folks wondering where the Oakland location of ~UMAMI BURGER~ is opening can now look forward to it opening at 2100 Franklin St., just around the corner from the Paramount. Scoop reveals the location will have about 100 seats. The rep for Umami Burger says timing for the opening of this location has not been determined yet, but it will be before the end of the year. 2100 Franklin St. at 21st St., Oakland.

A post on Chowhound mentions ~BABETTE CAFE~ has moved into the Remedy space at the Berkeley Art Museum, serving breakfast, housemade pastries, lunch items, Ritual Coffee, and snacks. Open Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. 2625 Durant Ave. at Bowditch, Berkeley, 510-717-8984.


Manresa interior photo by Michael David Rose.

~MANRESA~ in Los Gatos has announced Bobi Adle as the new GM—diners who frequent Frances will recognize him (he has been there since the opening).

Grub Street reveals chef Max DiMare has left ~WOOD TAVERN~ for a gig in Los Angeles. Owner Rich Wood has promoted Yang Ping to chef de cuisine—she has been working with DiMare the past four years and since the beginning of the restaurant.


Terrapin Crossroads; photo from Terrapin Crossroads website.

Lots going on north of the city: first, after 40 years when it first opened, the new location of the historic ~SWEETWATER MUSIC HALL~ is opening Friday January 27th, thanks to investors that include Bob Weir, famously of the Grateful Dead. It’s a state-of-the-art nightclub and café opening in the first floor of the 107-year-old Masonic Lodge No. 356 in Mill Valley; after an extensive renovation, it now has a cutting-edge Meyer Sound system and streaming video technology to broadcast live events. There’s a full-service restaurant led by Gordon Drysdale (Pizza Antica, Café des Amis). Diners will order at a counter and will be served by staff, but subsequent orders can be placed tableside. Look for breakfast, lunch, patio dining, and musical Sunday brunches in the spring. 19 Corte Madera Ave. at Lovell, Mill Valley, 415-388-3850.

One more project from our dear Deadheads: bassist Phil Lesh is behind ~TERRAPIN CROSSROADS~, a restaurant and concert space opening in February in San Rafael in the former Seafood Peddler location. The Bay Citizen reports it will “double as performance space featuring music, poetry and lectures covering everything from ‘cosmology to history to environmental issues to building team spirit.’” Dood. Entertainment is due to begin in March. For many more details, check out this piece in the San Anselmo-Fairfax Patch. 100 Yacht Club Dr. at Francisco, San Rafael.

Eater notes ~BLUE BARN GOURMET~ is going to open a location in Corte Madera in the now-closed Bryan’s Market in Town Center Corte Madera. There will reportedly be around 30 seats and room for 10 at the bar, where there will be wines and beers on tap. Partners Sam Josi, Nate Valentine, and Stryker Scales plan to open in October. (And for those wondering about the upcoming Polk Street location, timing is still TBD.)