December 21, 2012

December 21, 2012
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The front bar area. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The counter dining area. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Pottery by Jessica Niello. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Remember me? The sign from the OPENrestaurant series. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Now due to open on Friday January 4th is ~RAMEN SHOP~, the new spot opening on College Avenue in the former Tachibana Sushi Bar space in Rockridge. As previously mentioned on tablehopper, the project is from Sam White (previously maître d’ at Chez Panisse and a founder of OPENrestaurant), with partners Jerry Jaksich (he lived in Japan for six years, working in ramen and yakitori places, in addition to some higher-end Michelin-rated spots) and Rayneil De Guzman (who worked at Chez for nine years, and also at Café Rouge).

Their spin on ramen is going to be very ingredient-based, using seasonal produce and top-notch products like Llano Seco pork (there’s a rotisserie in the kitchen, where they will be spit-roasting the pork instead of braising it for the chashu). The menu will feature three kinds of broths (light: shoyu, medium: miso, and heavy: tonkotsu), plus a vegetarian version. Noodles will be housemade with a machine brought over from Japan, the first of its kind west of the Mississippi! Right now they are still fine-tuning the noodles, trying different flours (like from Community Grains, Central Milling in Utah, and Riverdog Farm), and finding the right balance of the wheat’s flavor.

Some ramen toppings being tasted and tried right now are a variety of mushrooms (chanterelles, porcini, and morels), sautéed nettles from the wok (they have a double wok station in the kitchen) with tonkotsu broth, and crab miso with puntarelle. Yup, seasonality in effect. There will also be appetizers, like fish tartare or fried smelts, and salads, like chicory-persimmon.

The front of the 50-seat space is dominated by a bar area, which is where Christa Manolo (previously Beretta) will be holding court with her cocktails (look for some special offerings from St. George Sprits, and the team ponied up for a Kold-Draft machine for quality ice). The bar is made from raw steel with nosing made from beautiful redwood. There will also be excellent wine selections (cohort Jonathan Waters from Chez Panisse will be helping with the list) and beers (Magnolia, Mr. Tam pale ale, Calicraft, and Dying Vines). Need a pick-me-up? Coffee and espresso will be provided by Four Barrel Coffee. There’s green penny tile on the backsplash and elsewhere throughout the space, and some custom metalwork shelves by architect Wiley Price (he also did Fatted Calf and Prizefighter). There won’t be any seats at the bar—it’s meant to be more of a drink-and-wait area.

The actual dining counter is a bit further back under the large painting of a smelt by Jessica Niello (she also made the beautiful ceramic ramen bowls). The 16-seat counter is long and looks right into the kitchen (cooks will be able to serve guests directly). It’s made from old-growth Douglas fir and was a 1890s factory floor in Portland—above is a curving, eye-catching shape made of layered lath and plaster. There are also some tables, plus a semi-private back area that has a table with room for 8-10 that can be partially obscured by a curtain. More design details are being added by Kelly Ishikawa from The Perish Trust, and the lighting is by Kevin Randolph. I liked the unique pattern of the soundboard on the ceiling above the bar area, which will help counteract the noise that’s sure to be bouncing off the epoxy concrete floor.

It’s an exciting neighborhood to be in: A16 is opening their new location just blocks away, along with James Syhabout’s Box and Bells—and many will already know the location since Zachary’s is literally just across the street. The best part will be the late hours, open until midnight!

Congrats to the team on their new clubhouse—it’s a beauty. So many people contributed to make this project what it is—it’s very much a shining example our Northern California/bohemian/creative way of doing things. Yup, it takes a village. Since the opening date could move based on inspections, call first or keep track on Twitter. There is also likely to be some soft opening activity. 5812 College Ave. at Oak Grove, 510-788-6370.

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Fior d’Italia exterior; photo from Facebook.

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From the Night Market: Juhu Beach Club’s super-fantastic vada pav. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Great news for the many fans of ~FIOR D’ITALIA~: after closing in May, the restaurant is reopening on Sunday December 23rd under new ownership. Executive chef Gianni Audieri, who has been the chef for the last 30 years, has purchased the restaurant with his wife Trudy (they will be its fourth owners since 1886). There are a few changes: the menu is a bit simplified from the previous list of more than 90 items, but some new dishes will be added; and the restaurant will also have a fresh look.

While some of the waiters will return, there will also be some new faces, like hostess Grace Roberts, coming over from the recently closed Caesar’s Restaurant (along with some kitchen staff). Auguri! 2237 Mason St. at Chestnut, 415-986-1886.

And hopping across the bridge: congrats to chef Preeti Mistry, who has found a new home for her ~JUHU BEACH CLUB~ project, which was previously going to be located in the Mission, but has relocated. The new spot will be the former SR24 in Oakland—and since it’s such a great (and new) spot, there isn’t a lot of construction to be done. Which is lucky for all of us because she is shooting for an opening in March 2013. She’s excited to be in the neighborhood. Congrats! 5179 Telegraph Ave. at 51st St., Oakland.

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The Schulzies space, as construction wraps up. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

As reported in tablehopper last year, Hayes Valley is getting an adorable bread pudding shop. It’s called ~SCHULZIES~, and after lots of delays, it’s set to open this week. Final inspections are Friday (that’s today!), and then they’ll be able to throw open their doors and start scooping.

Owner Sarah Schulz, a San Francisco native, has had a Schulzies location open in Venice Beach for a while now. There are 108 different flavors, though not all will be available at the same time (obviously), and most are served cold, though some of the savory ones are heated. There will also be Equator coffee and espresso, and catering. The tiny, cute spot will seat a handful of people inside, plus some outdoor seating. No word yet on the exact hours or a phone number—we’ll keep you posted. 364 Hayes St. at Gough.