July 24, 2012

July 24, 2012
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The bar area. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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Line drawing of Shiva, and two communal or group tables. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

A report from Dana Massey-Todd: As previously mentioned on tablehopper, the large vacant space at 680 Valencia has become ~AMBER DHARA~, from Vijay Bist of Amber India. They are now open for dinner, and brunch on weekends is coming soon.

I had the chance to stop by and chat with Mr. Bist and his staff this week. There is a lot to take in here. First of all, the space is truly enormous. It seats 175 people, with room for an additional 50 boozehounds at the bar and lounge. An upstairs area will be available for private parties or, on busy nights, regular folks. All of the design was done in-house by Mr. Bist and his team. The décor is sleek and, by necessity, on a large scale. The bar is long, the ceilings are high, and the lighting is modern. There are two huge, colorful line drawings on the walls, by a Mumbai artist who prefers to remain anonymous (how mysterious!). The Hindu god Shiva graces one wall, and on the opposite wall is the goddess Lakshmi. Over the bar hangs a large television that will show Bollywood films, classic Indian Westerns, and other gems from Indian cinema. Both the bar and the dining room should be excellent for larger groups, as there is plenty of room for everyone, and the space has been designed to accommodate large parties without too much fuss.

The innovative menu, by chef Arindam Bahel from Mumbai, offers a variety of small plates, entrées, and items from the tandoor oven. Most items are priced at a friendly 20 bucks or less. You can take a peek at the menu here. How about that wild boar from the tandoor or perhaps the spiced pork belly on paratha? I’m so there. There are also some modern Indian dishes, like deconstructed butter chicken. They will soon be open for a buffet brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, with a fresh juice bar, a clay oven station, and a variety of street foods.

In the drinking department, there is a full bar, and I was lucky enough to sit down with bar manager Nirupana Srivastava and learn about how she has designed the drink menu, which you can check out for yourself here. The signature cocktails are all based around the Ayurvedic tradition, which is an ancient approach to holistic health that utilizes the herbs, spices, and other botanicals available in India to keep the body healthy. That’s right, the lemongrass and peppercorns actually make your Blessed Monk healthful. Or, at least, you can say they do and justify another round like it ain’t no thang. In addition to the signature cocktails, there are drinks based on American drinking traditions, a Latin section with margaritas and mojitos, and a pretty solid selection of beers by the bottle and on tap. There is also an extensive list of wines by the glass, which are international, and a reserve bottle list with all California options. You can check out both lists here.

From 5pm-7pm every day is happy hour, which will include drink and food specials, but also an option for those of you looking to unwind without the alcohol: teatime! A traditional Indian tea service of loose-leaf Darjeeling will be available with snacks from 5pm-7pm every day. Tea will also be available on the regular menu as well, but the full afternoon tea service will only be available at happy hour. Hours are dinner Sun-Thu 5pm-11pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-11:30pm, brunch will be Sat-Sun 11:30am-3pm.

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The high ceilings and glassware wall. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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The towering beer cellar. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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A view of the main dining room. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

A report from Dana Massey-Todd: It seems the fancification of beer has come to stay, and I’ve got no complaints if beautiful places to drink it keep popping up. This time, from co-owners and cellarmaster Christian Albertson and chef Adam Dulye of ~MONK’S KETTLE~ comes ~THE ABBOT’S CELLAR~, where beer will be treated with the same reverence as wine. Seriously, their glassware selection is no joke and ensures that the right beer goes in the right glass for optimal flavor and aroma.

In addition to a wall of glasses, the back of the space features a tower—or aboveground cellar—of stone that keeps the beers stored at the perfect temperature. Yep, it’s a beer cellar, and it looks like it’s straight out of Middle Earth. There will be 20 rotating beers on tap and at least 100 bottled options (Albertson curates the selection with co-beer director and cicerone Mike Reis). There will also be a nightly prix-fixe menu with beer pairings, and daily selections of “beer by the glass” from 750ml beer bottles, so sippers can try those suds without springing for the whole bottle. Beer as wine all the way! As for wine, consultant Alex Finberg has 20 wines by the glass available.

The menu will change daily, so come prepared to try something new every time! Some examples of dishes that might appear are beef bone marrow with house pastrami, spicy greens, pickled mustard seeds, and rye; braised goat ragù with gnocchi and pecorino; and ricotta agnolotti with peas, pea tendrils, and smoked lemon butter. All dishes will be crafted to pair well with their beers, and those seeking a true pairing experience can go the prix-fixe route.

The space, as many have noted, is big. Really big. 3,000-square-feet big. The building is built out from a 100-year-old garage (it’s the same building as Craftsman and Wolves) with 24-foot ceilings. The whole space has been updated by Lundberg Design with rustic wood paneling, stone, steel, and skylights, and can seat up to 100 beer lovers. The tables were designed and built by Tyler S. Bradford (a tablehopper reader, woohoo!) from reclaimed wood. Bradford built a magetized cubbyholes into the tabletops that can hold leatherbound menus. It’s a unique storage solution, and the sleek ingenuity of it highlights how much close attention has been paid to details. Speaking of neat details, be sure to check out the bathroom sink, which was custom-poured by Concreteworks to look like a beer bottle.

The bar is long and faces the open kitchen and taps. In front is a communal table, and toward the back is an area that can be made into a semi-private space for groups up to 20. Reservations can be made via the website. The opening date is Wednesday July 25th. Hours will be Sun-Thu 5pm-11pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-12am. 742 Valencia St. at 18th St.

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Rendering and current retail shop photo courtesy of Chez Nico.

There are some exciting details about a new restaurant in an executive summary from a conditional use permit hearing to convert a retail space in Laurel Heights to a restaurant. It looks like ~CHEZ NICO~ (the name is subject to change) will be opening on Sacramento Street where the Blu clothing store is. Since the space is going to require a conversion from retail to a restaurant, it’s a big buildout; anticipated timing is early 2013. The restaurant operators are Nicolas and Andrea Delaroque; French-born Nicolas has worked at Manresa, Atelier Crenn, and Coi, in addition to some time at the more casual Le Garage in Sausalito and L’Appart in San Anselmo.

The cuisine at Chez Nico will be contemporary Cal-French, featuring local, seasonal, and foraged ingredients and modern cooking techniques. The restaurant will have 40 to 46 seats and a private dining area. The couple additionally plans to apply for a beer and wine license, and have a small rooftop garden. Dinner only to start, Tue-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm. Stand by for more details as things progress. 3228 Sacramento St. at Lyon.

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Image via SFist; original photo by Eric Risberg/AP.

After all the hullabaloo that ~PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB~ found a loophole to keep serving foie gras (the restaurant is on federal land, so they were exempt from following state law) … but not so fast. It ends up PSC’s landlords, the Presidio Trust, weren’t happy with the foie-serving fracas, so PSC has taken foie off their menu and issued this statement: “Presidio Social Club respects and empathizes with the Presidio Trust and their position on the California state ban of the sale of foie gras. As a result, Presidio Social Club will not have foie gras on the restaurant’s menu nor will it be promoted.”

At least we had enough time for SFist to come up with this funny meme.

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The San Francisco Cooking School space, under construction. Photo courtesy San Francisco Cooking School.

The San Francisco Cooking School has announced plans to open January 2013, and they are currently accepting applications for full- and part-time students. In the meantime, they will be hosting a variety of events, demonstrations, and classes for the recreational public, most of which sound pretty freakin’ cool. At the helm are Jodi Liano and Catherine Pantsios, both formerly of Tante Marie’s Cooking School. The deans of the school are Daniel Patterson (The Daniel Patterson Group), Bill Corbett (The Absinthe Group), and Craig Stoll (Delfina, Pizzeria Delfina, Locanda), and advisers include Stuart Brioza (State Bird Provisions), Ryan Farr (4505 Meats), Belinda Leong (b. patisserie), Mourad Lahlou (Aziza), Melissa Perello (Frances), and Staffan Terje (Perbacco, barbacco). Yeah, not too shabby.

The school will enroll only 14 students at a time, in 6- or 10-month programs. In fall 2013 they will be rolling out (ha!) a pastry program as well. For more information or to apply, head on over to the website. The school is located in the former home of Naan ‘N’ Curry and Speedo 690 at 690 Van Ness Ave. at Turk.

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Ramen at Men Oh. Yelp photo by Olivier D.

Now open on Geary is ~MEN OH TOKUSHIMA RAMEN~, part of a Japanese ramen chain known for housemade noodles and extra-rich Tokushima-style, tonkotsu-shoyu broth. Lunch Tue-Fri 11:30am-2pm and dinner Tue-Fri 5:30pm-10pm; Sat 12pm-10pm; and Sun 12pm-9pm. 5120 Geary Blvd. at 15th Ave., 415-386-8802.

More Geary action: the Genki Ramen and Genki Crepes family now has ~CAMP BBQ~ to add to its clan. The Inner Richmond spot has opened in the former Brothers II space; Scoop shares that Japanese-style barbecue is the main highlight, with grill-it-yourself meats. Hours Sun-Mon, Wed-Thu 5pm-11:30pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-1am. 4014 Geary Blvd. at 4th Ave., 415-387-1378.

Some liquor licence activity shows ~THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA~ is opening a third location on Valencia Street in the Urbun Burger space. Eater gets in touch with owner Andrew Johnstone, who mentions a targeted November opening. 581 Valencia St. at 17th St.

And tipster Jason B. mentions ~ROCK NATION CAFE~ has opened in the former Buon Giorno space near Mighty in the Design District. Open daily 8:30am-4:30pm. 550 15th St. at Utah, 415-504-0282.

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Alison Okabayashi’s housemade Oreos. Photo from Facebook.

The Inner Richmond is about to get another bakery, this time in the form of ~PRETTY PLEASE BAKESHOP~ on 3rd Avenue. The shop is a brick-and-mortar location for pastry chef Alison Okabayashi’s pastries and special event cakes. She previously did special orders exclusively through Two for Two Cakes, but the new venture will feature not only big special event cakes, but also smaller ones for birthdays and other celebrations. There will also be small pastry items like cookies, cupcakes, and her signature retro-style desserts, like cream puffs, Rice Krispies treats, housemade Oreos and Twinkies, and snowballs. She will not be serving coffee because she shares a building with a coffee shop where you can go fetch a cup before heading over to sample the goodies. Opening is tentatively set for the first week of August. 291 3rd Ave. at Clement, 415-347-3733.

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The happy chickens at Soul Food Farm. Photo from Facebook.

This is some very sad news: ~SOUL FOOD FARM~, home of some of the best chickens (and eggs) around, has announced their plans to close. This is particularly devastating news after Alexis and Eric Koefoed worked so hard to come back from a fire in 2009, but they have cited other reasons for the closure, including the almost impossible cost of farming in an ethical way. In a letter to CSA subscribers, Alexis talks about how difficult it has been to face the rising cost of feed and other expenses, and how passing those costs onto consumers puts their product farther out of the reach of all but the wealthiest shoppers. Rather than go this route, they have decided to close.

If they are not forced to sell the farm, they may come back in the future, but whether or not that will be possible is unclear at this time. Their Facebook page will remain online, as a forum for fans and friends to share photographs and memories. Our thoughts go out to Alexis, Eric, and their family, and we wish them all the very best for the future.

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

According to Eater, ~SURIYA THAI~ has closed its second location in SoMa (the number is disconnected). Based on a website redirect, another Thai restaurant may be taking its place. For now, no pumpkin curry for you. 1532 Howard St. at 11th St.

And a tweet announces this is ~RICE BROKER~’s last week in the Spork building on Valencia. The last dinner service is Sunday July 29th. 1058 Valencia St. at 21st St.

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The new owner of Palio D’Asti, Martino DiGrande. Photo courtesy of Palio.

There are some new hires at the Daniel Patterson Group (DPG)—the press release mentions the hiring of Brick Loomis and Peter Birmingham, who will serve as DPG’s service director and wine director, respectively, and Andrew Miller, who is the new chef de cuisine at ~COI~. Miller has spent five years with the Michael Mina Restaurant Group, working as executive sous chef at the San Francisco flagship and eventually as corporate troubleshooter. Service director Brick Loomis was previously wine director at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, and wine director Peter Birmingham is another L.A. import: he was GM for Hatfield’s (the Hatfields were previously here in SF) and a semi-finalist in 2010 and 2011 for the James Beard Award in Outstanding Wine Service. He worked with Patterson previously as the general manager and sommelier at Elisabeth Daniel.

Meanwhile, more press release news: chef-owner Dan Scherotter of ~PALIO D’ASTI~ in the FiDi is leaving the restaurant to pursue a new career in education, teaching ProStart at John O’Connell High School in the Mission and coordinating hospitality, culinary, and tourism studies districtwide for the San Francisco Unified School District. Taking over the restaurant is Martino DiGrande, who has been running the front of house at Palio for the past six years (he is also responsible for modernizing the restaurant’s cocktail program and really building up the popular happy hour). Brothers Jose Alberto Martinez and Mauricio Martinez (who were part of Palio’s opening team in the early 1990s under Craig Stoll after working at Stars and Antica Trattoria, respectively) will be running the kitchen in their new capacity as joint chefs de cuisine. Scherotter’s last day is Tuesday July 31st.

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Michael Mina’s hors d’oeuvres. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Looking for a place to masquerade (or maybe fly your true colors?) as a One Percenter? Dust off your AmEx Black Card and head to one of these extravagant dinners to celebrate decadence in all its tasty forms.

If you can get a crew of 8 to 12 flush folks together, ~FLOUR + WATER~ will arrange a customized tasting menu for your group in their new upstairs space, the Test Kitchen. Either chef Thomas McNaughton or flour + water’s chef de cuisine, Ryan Pollnow, will prepare an eight-course tasting menu tableside and serve it with commentary. Cost per person is $195, and wine pairings are available in two tiers: $80 or $120 per person. More information can be found here.

If eight courses aren’t nearly enough to satisfy your craving for decadence, put on your fat pants and head over to ~MICHAEL MINA~. They are now serving a 20-course tasting menu for up to six patrons every evening during dinner service, quite appropriately called “The Gamut.” The menu will change to reflect the seasons but will include many of the restaurant’s signature dishes. Currently, diners can look forward to the trademark ahi tuna tartare, lobster pot pie with summer squash and blossoms, and Schmitz Ranch lamb loin, among many, many other plates. The cost for the tasting menu is $245 per person, and wine pairings are an additional $150. Reservations are mandatory and can be made by calling the restaurant at 415-397-9222.

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The Parallel 37 dining room. Photo by Cesar Rubio.

Now you can start and end your Sundays in style. Actually, you probably already do. But here are some more stylish options for you, anyway. ~PARALLEL 37~ in the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco is now serving brunch on Sundays. There will be a variety of traditional brunch favorites available à la carte, or you can go the prix-fixe route. For $48 per person, excluding tax and gratuity, you get a boozy brunch beverage, a basket of pastries, and a three-course meal. For a peek at both options, look here. That is a reason to get out of bed, indeed! Brunch is served every Sunday 11:30am-2:30pm.

And the new Sunday options don’t stop there. ~PROSPECT~ has started serving a Sunday Supper Series featuring three courses of simple classics. The menu will shift with the seasons, and the price may, too. For now, it is $28 for a three-course supper that includes white corn soup with bacon and chanterelles, seared petrale sole, and cherries jubilee. Dinner is served 5:30pm-10pm.

If you don’t get enough excitement on Sunday, ~BAR TARTINE~ has you covered. They will now be open regularly on Mondays for dinner, but not with the usual menu. Instead, they are starting the Curiosities Series on Monday evenings, which will feature different guest chefs exploring adventurous culinary avenues, in collaboration with chef Nick Balla. No word yet on upcoming guests, but check the website and Twitter account for updates and menus.

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Camino in the evening. Photo from Facebook.

This sounds like a tasty and interesting one-two punch: ~THE COMMONWEALTH CLUB~ will be hosting a panel discussion called “A Taste of Place” on Monday July 30th, followed by a dinner at ~CAMINO~ on Wednesday August 1st.

The panel on Monday will feature East Bay chefs Daniel Patterson (Coi, Plum, Haven), James Syhabout (Commis, Hawker Fare), Tanya Holland (Brown Sugar Kitchen), and Russell Moore (Camino). What is a “Taste of Place,” you ask? This local panel will be discussing the various factors that make the Bay Area generally, and the East Bay specifically, such a wonderful place to cook, eat, and grow food. Then, two days later, you can actually consume and enjoy the subject matter at Camino, with all the panelists in attendance. Tickets for the dinner are $110 ($100 for Commonwealth Club members), including wine, tax, gratuity, and admission to the panel discussion on Monday. If you only want to attend the panel (and you’ll have to be a professor on a diet to justify that one), those tickets are $22, $12 for members, and only $7 for ID-toting students. The discussion will be Monday July 30th at 6:30pm at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. at 1st St., Lafayette. Dinner at Camino will be Wednesday August 1st at 6:30pm, 3217 Grand Ave. at Santa Clara, Oakland, 510-547-5035.

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Café V; photo via Yelp.

The ABC is showing a new beer and wine permit for ~CAFÉ V~ on San Pablo in Berkeley. Word is they are serving Vietnamese-inspired cuisine, with a happy hour (5:30pm-8pm) and three beers on tap, but details are scarce. Seems like they are in soft opening mode. Stay tuned! Tue-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, Fri 5:30pm-11pm, Sat 5:30pm-11:30pm. 2056 San Pablo Ave. at Addison, Berkeley, 510-548-2222.

A tablehopper tipster alerted me that ~COCINA POBLANA~ in Emeryville has closed. A sign posted in window says, “Coming soon: Los Moles.” 1320 65th St. at Hollis, Emeryville.

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