October 23, 2012

October 23, 2012
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Photo from A16.

I’ve had this news under my hat for months, but now it’s official: ~A16 ROCKRIDGE~ will be opening in early 2013 in John Hurley’s now-former Hudson restaurant space. The executive chef is Rocky Maselli, a Bay Area native but he has been in Oregon the past 15 years, and was the chef-owner of Osteria Sfizo. He also packs a recent pizzaiolo certification by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN). Maselli’s roots are Pugliese, so look for some southern Italian favorites on the menu (I hope there will be some orecchiette and rapini).

A new feature is the full liquor license, so there will be a cocktail menu of Italian aperitivi, amari, and digestivi specially brought from Italy (including rucolino, a wild arugula amaro from Ischia). Of course Shelley Lindgren will be putting together the Southern Italian-inspired wine program, as well as collaborating on the cocktail program.

Cass Calder Smith of CCS Architecture will be in charge of the renovation—there will be an open kitchen with counter seating, plus bar seating and a private dining room. Look for more details in coming months. 5356 College Ave. at Hudson, Rockridge.

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Rajat Parr. Photo courtesy of Mina Group.

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The logo for The Company.

Was very pleased with the news that Rajat Parr (wine director of the Mina Group) is partnering with a lifelong friend (and chef) from India on a new project, ~THE COMPANY BAR & KITCHEN~. The 5,200-square-foot restaurant will be opening in the former 1930 Shanghai space on Steuart Street; AK Design Network from Los Angeles (Katsuya Hollywood, select Viceroy Hotel Group properties, and The Fat Cow by Gordon Ramsay) is behind the buildout.

When it opens in summer 2013, you can expect a high-energy bar and 130-seat restaurant, with a focus on East Indies-inspired cocktails (say hello to gin and whiskey), Indian small plates (which will be shareable), and, of course, a killer wine list and craft beers. Interesting fact: before becoming the wine expert he is, Parr graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York—which is where he met and became close friends with the future executive chef of The Company (the chef’s identity is currently under wraps). Another factoid: the restaurant takes its name from the nickname for The East India Trading Company. I look forward to seeing this project take shape. 133 Steuart St. at Mission.

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The bar. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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The water wall, with cliff divers. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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That tableside guacamole, with tortillas and salsa. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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There’s that guacamole cart. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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The pork belly and scallop taco. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

A report by Dana Massey-Todd. Here’s some downtown news for ya: ~ROSA MEXICANO~ opened today in a spot on Mission at Embarcadero. The chain made a big splash when it first opened in New York in 1984, and now has locations all over the country, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Atlanta. Of course, a lot has been made of the fact that opening a high-end, authentic Mexican restaurant in California is a whole different ball game than opening one in New York. Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly went so far as to call the whole Los Angeles project “an insult to L.A.,” so that should give you a hint as to the sort of criticism they’ve fielded here on the Best Coast. After all, what Californian in their right mind would take Mexican food advice from a New Yorker? That’s like me telling a Philly native they’ve got their cheesesteak all wrong.

That said, though, the team behind Rosa Mexicano is definitely making an effort to take notes from San Francisco, not the other way around. Management is working hard to demonstrate their commitment to seasonal and local ingredients. Their location around the corner from the Ferry Building helps; executive chef David Suarez says he visits the farmers’ markets every week for inspiration and products. On my recent press tour, I was told many times that if I wanted to know the provenance of any ingredient, all I had to do was ask. Further, according to Suarez, about 35 percent of the opening menu is unique to the San Francisco location, and their hope is that this location will serve as an incubator for their other locations, thereby informing their style as they expand. Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto, New York), who is also a Chez Panisse alum and luminary of California cooking, is at the helm as “Culinary Advisor”, too, and his influence should further this goal.

This isn’t a taqueria-style spot, but rather a full-service, sit-down restaurant with a full bar. The dining room seats 170 people, and 60 more can fit at the bar. On nice days, there are an additional 60 seats outside. Large groups will be right at home here. The decor is certainly tasteful and festive, if a little generic. There are playful touches, like the flashes of neon pink throughout the space, which is the restaurant’s signature color, and one whole wall is a fountain with sculptures designed to mimic the cliff divers of Acapulco. Roof tiles from Mexico were used to build the coat closet, and a vibrant mosaic fronts the bar, which along with string lights give off a festive vibe. The bar is big and has a television for sporting events; there’s also a lounge area if you’d rather avoid the screen.

The food I tried was pretty good, and the tequila selection is well curated. There is a broad range of taco offerings, from a seasonal vegetarian option that currently features mint-cashew spread with roasted mushrooms and sliced figs, to a pork belly and scallop take on surf and turf. The guacamole is, indeed, prepared tableside, which would be unbearably gimmicky if it wasn’t so damn delicious. Each order includes plenty of ripe avocado, onion, cilantro, tomato and jalepeño mixed in a pig-snouted molcajete.

Rosa Mexicano has a lot to live up to here in San Francisco, but they seem to be approaching it with the right balance of humility and confidence. And points for the oh-so-adorable pink tortilla warmers. They’re open for dinner now, Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. As of Monday October 29th, they’ll be open for lunch and happy hour, too. Lunch is daily 11:30am-2:30pm, and happy hour is Mon-Fri 4pm-7pm. Note that they will be closed Sunday October 28th. 30 Mission St. at Steuart, 415-874-4300.

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Chicken with explosive chili pepper at Z & Y. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Oooooh, this is exciting: according to some posts on Yelp (via a tip on Chowhound), the new ~CHILI HOUSE~ in the Inner Richmond is a sister restaurant to Chinatown’s excellent Z & Y, one of my favorites. Sure enough, chef Han is listed on the website, and the menu is the same. Houston, we have liftoff. And score, for the month of October, mention code 6688 for 10 percent off your first visit. Open daily 11am-10pm. 726 Clement St. at 8th Ave., 415-387-2658.

After mentioning on tablehopper last month that ~EJI’S~ was coming to ~331 CORTLAND MARKETPLACE~, I’m happy to report it’s now open (vegans will be happy too). Be sure to try Eji’s signature dish, misir wot, a plate of spicy red lentils with injera and sautéed greens. Open Fri-Wed 11am-6pm.

North Beach is getting its own ~OFF THE GRID~. As of Wednesday October 24th, food trucks will be parked at the Joe DiMaggio Playground every Wednesday evening from 5pm-9pm. For updates on which trucks will be in attendance, check out their Facebook page. Lombard between Mason and Powell, no phone.

More Off the Grid news: Hayeswire reports that Off the Grid will also be discontinuing their Proxy Project location in Hayes Valley. Seems the departure was planned and amicable, but a bummer for folks in the neighborhood. Octavia and Hayes.

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The bar seating. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

After just a month of leading the helm at ~MAU~ on Valencia Street, the partners and chef Sante Salvoni have parted ways. Salvoni’s last shift was on Friday—the restaurant is currently closed while they regroup. Salvoni said the partners (Hung Dang of Tin Vietnamese in SoMa, and husband-wife team Annie Abbott and Luke Wendler) are now basically thinking of opening a second location of Tin, which features more classic, straight-ahead Vietnamese dishes (the name will potentially remain MAU, however). Salvoni was surprised by the sudden decision and is going to take some time off to regroup and plan his next move—I know I am not alone in hoping he stays in the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, I received a press release from the ~CORINTHIAN YACHT CLUB~ in Tiburon announcing that chef George Morrone (Aqua, Fifth Floor, and Redwood Park, and Boca in Novato) will be acting as executive consulting chef for the club. Working with him is Joe Gentempo, previously chef de cuisine at Hog & Rocks. The space also hosts private events, so expect some quality catering for upcoming America’s Cup events.

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The entry to Ana Mandara. Photo from Facebook.

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The sign in the window of Ti Piacerá.

After 12-plus years in business, ~ANA MANDARA~ in Ghirardelli Square is closing at the end of dinner service this Friday October 26th. In a note from chef Khai Duong, he says, “We will miss stepping into Ana Mandara each day and are grateful to the guests, staff, and vendors we have built relationships with over these years.” 891 Beach St. at Hyde, 415-771-6800.

A tablehopper reader wrote in to say: “Just heard that the entire kitchen staff of ~TI PIACERÁ~ walked out at this Polk Street eatery last Thursday evening!” While this remains unconfirmed, another reader who lives in the neighborhood sent me the accompanying pic in the window on Monday morning. Sounds like some changes are afoot; will let you know when I learn more. 1507 Polk St. at California, 415-771-9946.

Also heard from Preeti Mistry that she has gone separate ways with her business partner and will no longer be opening ~JUHU BEACH CLUB~ at 2146 Mission Street. She is currently scouting new locations in SF, and also Oakland—stand by for news of a new location! And it’s hopefully soon—I want another one of her tasty vada pav.

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Exterior photo by Blair Sneddon Photography.

As previously reported on tablehopper, the space at 5800 Third Street that many hoped would be a new SF outpost of Tanya Holland’s ~BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN~ didn’t pan out. But we have word now from the 5800 Third blog that the space has been scooped up by Ali Azad, of the ~MAX’S CAFÉ~ franchise. The new place will be called ~CORNER CAFÉ~, and word is they’ll serve lunch and dinner, plus breakfast on weekends, with main dishes at just less than $10. They’ll be adding weekday breakfast as soon as things get going too. There will also be a bar with sports on the television, as well as room for families. Details are still pretty scarce, but the spot is supposed to open in early November, so hopefully there will be more info and a menu soon. 5800 3rd St. at Carroll, no phone yet.

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The fried egg sandwich at Market & Rye. Photo from Facebook.

There’s a new spot in town to get your brunch on: ~MARKET & RYE~ on De Haro Street in Potrero Hill is now open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, from 8am-3pm. There will be seasonal brunch staples, some sandwiches, and an array of griddled and fried goodies; take a peek at chef Ryan Scott’s full menu here. 300 De Haro St. at 16th St., 415-252-7455 .

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The coffee setup and espresso machine. Photo from Facebook.

News just came today that ~BARTAVELLE COFFEE & WINE BAR~ opened this morning over in Berkeley. As previously reported, they’re moving into the space formerly occupied by Café Fanny. The project comes from Suzanne Drexhage of Kermit Lynch (and a former Chez Panisse server), so look for collaboration from other Chez alums. For now, they’re open softly, with Sightglass Coffee, beer, and wine available. They’ve got a limited menu of crostini with Acme bread (their neighbor), and some Starter Bakery pastries. Next week, when they open grandly, there will be a more extensive menu, but what exactly it will be like is still a bit of a surprise.

For now, they’re open Tue-Sun 7am-6pm and closed Mondays. But call ahead if you’re going on a Sunday, as they may end up deciding to open a little late or close a little early, depending on how busy they get. 1603 San Pablo Ave. at Cedar, Berkeley, 510-524-2473.

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The fall book release season is in full swing, and that means there are a bunch of opportunities for you to catch the authors in action (yes, my in-box is currently being pummeled with press releases). Here’s a roundup of some cool options for ya.

This Thursday October 25th, check out two books at once at the SFMOMA. Todd Selby will be there to promote his new book, Edible Selby, along with James and Caitlin Freeman of Blue Bottle, who will be there with their new book, The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee. The evening will begin at 5pm with book signings, then from 6pm-7pm catch the three authors in conversation. At 7pm, they’ll move on to a reception at the SFMOMA’s rooftop Blue Bottle Coffee Bar. The event is free with museum admission, and the books will be available for purchase. (Hey, if you’re an SFMOMA member, you get a 10 percent discount too!) For details, check out the event’s Facebook page. 151 Mission St. at Minna, 415-357-4000.

Then, on Friday October 26th, head over to ~MIJITA~ in the Ferry Building, where Bruce Aidells will be promoting his new cookbook, Great Meat Cookbook, in conjunction with Omnivore Books. He’ll be preparing a three-course, family-style supper for your enjoyment at 6pm, and the cost of the dinner includes a signed copy of the book. Dinner is $85, including tax and gratuity, and reservations can be made by email. 1 Ferry Building at Embarcadero, 415-399-0814.

Sunday October 28th brings us a lunchtime event from Book Passage with chef Matthew Accarrino and wine director Shelley Lindgren of SPQR. The pair will be at ~A16~ promoting their new book, SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine. The lunch begins at 12:30pm and features four courses from Accarrino, plus wine pairings selected by Lindgren. The cost per person is $115, including a signed copy of the book, four courses, wine, tax, and gratuity. Reservations can be made here.

On Sunday November 4th, catch Diane Kochilas at the Annunciation Cathedral, where she’ll be signing copies of her new book, The Country Cooking of Greece. Books will be available for purchase at the event, which begins at 12:30pm, and is free. 245 Valencia St. at 14th St.

Then, on Monday November 5th, she’ll be in San Mateo at Draeger’s Cooking School to demonstrate her techniques. The class begins at 6:30pm and costs $55. Tickets can be purchased here. 222 East 4th Ave. at South B, San Mateo, 650-685-3704.

Lastly, be sure to check out ~OMNIVORE BOOKS~ for a full list of upcoming events—they’re always hosting lots of fab authors coming through town!

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Look at all those pretty cheeses. Photo courtesy San Francisco Cheese School.

The ~SAN FRANCISCO CHEESE SCHOOL~ is hosting a fun “meet the cheesemaker” event on Thursday October 25th, from 7pm-9pm. The event is their annual fundraiser for the California Artisan Cheese Guild, and lots of cheese luminaries will be on hand. Cheesemakers from Bellwether Farms, Cypress Grove, and Bleating Heart will be at the event. Laura Werlin will be in attendance with two varieties of mac and cheese from her new book, Mac & Cheese Please!: 50 Super Cheesy Recipes, and there will be fondue and wine too. The cost is $35, and you can get the full details and tickets here. The Cheese School, 2155 Powell St. at Francisco, 415-346-7530.

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Cesar Chuc. Photo courtesy Mission Mission.

Despite the elating Giants news this week, it has been shadowed by a very upsetting loss within the San Francisco food community.

Last week, as many have heard, there was a large brawl at 16th Street and Valencia. Caesar Chuc, a cook at Serpentine in Dogpatch, was taken to the hospital after the fight, which co-workers suspect may have resulted from an attempted robbery. Tragically, after some time on life support, Chuc passed away at SF General. Very little is known about the particulars of this incident at this time; anyone with any details about the incident can and should call the SFPD tip line at 415-575-4444.

Chuc was working at Serpentine as a cook to support his wife and four children in Mexico. He was known at the restaurant as a supportive gentleman and rather legendary cook. Mission Mission has some words from Eric Ehler, his co-worker a Serpentine, including this: “Caesar was a family member to everyone who worked at Serpentine, and a friend to dozens of other cooks and restaurant workers in the City. Serpentine ran, because of Caesar.”

There isn’t very much to say in the face of such a devastating loss, but our thoughts are with his family and friends through this unspeakably difficult time.