February 19, 2013

February 19, 2013
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The famed fried chicken at Chubby Noodle. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Pete Mrabe (Don Pisto’s, Chubby Noodle) continues to be one of the busier restaurateurs I know. A while back I mentioned that he’s going to be opening a deli and grocery in North Beach at 728 Vallejo. He has finally decided on the name, which will be ~CENTRAL STATION~, inspired by the police station next door. He will initially be making and selling pasta for wholesale accounts, and then selling pasta to the public, in addition to five kinds of hot sandwiches in about a month or so (rumor has it that he’s going to be using the superlative pastrami made by Peter Temkin at Machine Deli). I’ll keep you posted as the project ramps up—he expects it to be fully stocked and running with the full program within a couple of months. 728 Vallejo St. at Stockton.

Mrabe is also ready to talk about his other project that I’ve had to keep under my hat for a while: As noted elsewhere, he has had plans to do something at ~GATIP CLASSIC THAI~ in the Marina. Yup, he’s branching out of North Beach. It’s going to be another location of his popular ~CHUBBY NOODLE~, serving his delicious fried chicken, tuna poke, grits, ramen, and other dishes. He is almost done with making mostly cosmetic changes, like adding a marble bar, putting in wood tables, and giving the place a refreshed look—there are 49 seats in all. There is an open kitchen, which will have a bar counter, though there will only be beer and wine; he is currently applying for a beer and wine license since the previous tenants weren’t cooperating with a transfer. Look for an opening in April. 2205 Lombard St. at Steiner.

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Rendering of the S+R Lounge playroom. Courtesy of Hotel Zetta.

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Rendering of the S+R Lounge. Courtesy of Hotel Zetta.

Business partners Anna Weinberg and chef Jennifer Puccio of Marlowe and Park Tavern will be opening ~THE CAVALIER~ and ~S+R LOUNGE~ in the Viceroy Hotel Group’s new downtown property, Hotel Zetta (formerly the Milano). Inside Scoop mentions The Cavalier is moving into the space that has been a series of Thai restaurants for some time, but was previously Michel Richard’s SF Bistro M—its next iteration will be a London-inspired brasserie, designed by Ken Fulk. There will be 80 seats, leather banquettes, an all-day menu, and a spacious bar. The opening is looking like August.

Opening sooner (March 15th) will be S+R (Salvage + Rescue) Lounge, a “modern tech-sexy” lobby bar with a salvaged and rescued look that Fulk will not be designing (including interactive wall art inspired by the game Plinko, quirky sculptures, and a backlit bottle wall). There’s also an adjoining playroom in case your tech office didn’t supply enough entertainment during the day, with a pool table, shuffleboard, retro games, and more. The menu will include classic American party food favorites (think pigs in a blanket, fondue, French onion dip). Cocktails will definitely give a nod to the tech industry, with names like the Bubble, the 404, and the Angel. 55 5th St. at Mission.

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

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

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Guac Sev Puri. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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Inspiration for Namaste India Market. Yup, those are some big carrots (at the market in Mumbai). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

A report by Dana Massey-Todd. As we’ve mentioned earlier, local food truck purveyors of Indian street food (with a twist) ~CURRY UP NOW~ is opening a new brick-and-mortar location on Wednesday February 20th.

The latest outpost is on the increasingly Indian food-centric Valencia corridor. It’s 2,100 square feet and seats 70 in the former Pizzeria space, which has been decked out with industrially inspired décor. Owners Akash and Rana Kapoor kept a lot of the original fixtures, including a huge brick oven in which they’ll be baking their naan and roasting many of their coming brunch choices. There are pops of color among reclaimed wood and stainless steel, including a cool tabletop that comes from the side of an Indian cargo truck and upholstered wingback chairs that are waaaay more comfortable than you’d expect from a place where you order at the counter.

The bright chalkboard menu on the wall walks you through the many Indian-with-a-twist options, and there’s plenty of seating for large groups and smaller parties. There is also a private room that groups of up to 20 can reserve, but note that no other reservations will be taken. There are plans for sidewalk seating soon, though not quite yet.

On the menu, you’ll find many of the classics from the food truck menu, like deconstructed samosas, sexy fries, naughty naan, and the tikka masala burrito. It’s very easy on the wallet, as almost all of the dishes are $10 or less, and there are vegan and gluten-free menus for those with dietary restrictions. Weekend brunch will be added in two weeks, which will be served all day and will highlight different choices from various regions of India, with dishes like dosa, chana bhatura, and pav bhaji.

A beer and wine license is in the works, but for now you’ll find self-serve drinks like housemade lassis and ginger mint lemonade. The menu is available for dine-in or takeout, and catering will also be offered. Look out for delivery in the coming months too. Curry Up Now will be open Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-9pm. 659 Valencia St. at 18th St., 650-477-1001.

Also joining the Indian food explosion in the Mission is the new ~NAMASTE INDIA MARKET~, which, according to Scoop, will be coming to an old CalTrans lot under the freeway on Valencia. For anyone who has been to a market in India, they are definitely something to see (check out the carrots at the right!) We’ll have to see how this one pans out.

The market will be an open-air collection of as many as 40 vendors, offering food, cooking demonstrations, crafts, and music. The first market kicked off this last weekend, and while the next one hasn’t been scheduled yet, the plan is for it to be a biweekly affair. The next one will be posted on the Namaste website when it’s a go (and on Twitter). 160 Valencia St. at Duboce.

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Top Bar at Sightglass. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Want to geek out on coffee? (Don’t make me revoke your San Franciscan card.) The latest addition at ~SIGHTGLASS COFFEE~, called Top Bar, will be your new caffeinated playground. Head to the mezzanine upstairs and you’ll find a microbar in the back, where you can grab a seat and let the geekery begin. The offerings are different from the main bar downstairs: a variety of brewing methods (like V60 and Aeropress) and single-origin espresso are all available.

The focus will change each month, with opportunities to taste limited microlots. Barista Tayler Mehit (who is at Top Bar on the weekends) walked me through the menu. This month, you can try Sidama Boltuma from Ethiopia as a single-origin espresso—which makes up 30 percent of the Owl’s Howl blend (if you drink Sightglass’s espresso regularly, you’ll note how it makes the spicy backbone of Owl’s Howl). I was also able to taste my first Aeropress coffee—Finca la Planada from Colombia—which I was calling the tropical smoothie, and the deep Victor Mendez ML from Ecuador as V60. You can taste individual coffees for $4, or do one of the pairings (two for $7).

Questions are encouraged, from brewing technique to the effects of climate change on coffee. I was really into being able to sit and taste the different coffees through comparison—it’s much easier to train your palate to note what makes them unique. Check it out daily from 10am-4pm. 270 7th St. at Folsom, 415-861-1313.

Oh, and it’s worth noting Sightglass’s new project in the Mission is at least three months out, FYI! 3000 20th St. at Florida.

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Exterior of the Dancing Pig (photo by Seemless via Castro Biscuit).

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The cheeseburger at Garaje. Yelp photo by Mr. D.F.

After a tip-off this morning from Castro Biscuit, I followed up with the owner of ~POESIA~, Francesco d’Ippolito, about the rumor that he’s opening a second Italian concept in the now-closed Dancing Pigs space on Castro. He confirmed the rumor is true—he plans to open a casual and affordable spot; he mentioned Roman pizza and offering a special “menu dello chef,” with two or three dishes for less than $15. The chef is Roberto Lamantia, who was born in Rome but has Sicilian parents, so you can bet he has a pocketful of recipes. (He has been living in San Francisco for the past 25 years or so, and is the mastermind behind the cannoli at Poesia.) Stand by for more details about the name, concept, and more in the coming weeks since this is all in a very nascent stage. 544 Castro St. at 19th St.

(Related: Also on Castro Biscuit: a piece about ~CAFÉ FLORE~ and how its food program is potentially in jeopardy.)

After license activity many months ago, ~GARAJE~ has finally opened in the former Bill’s Kitchen space, according to SFist. The details: There’s an eclectic and affordable menu, ranging from a cheeseburger (on an Acme bun) to fish tacos to some bocadillos (sandwiches), plus St. Louis ribs finished on the grill and a Chinese chicken salad. Eight beers on tap; cash only. Mon-Sat 11am-close. 475 3rd St. at Stillman (near Bryant), 415-664-0838.

Here’s one I have added to my “check it out” list (thanks Chowhound): ~HOUSE OF PANCAKE~ in the Outer Sunset, which serves a variety of pancakes (think savory Chinese pancakes), plus hand-pulled soup noodles and dumplings. 937 Taraval St. at 19th Ave., 415-681-8388.

Looks like ~WISE SONS DELI~ has a new place to spread its wings and bake all its breads and other baked goods. Inside Scoop says Wise Sons will be taking over La Grotta in the Mission Market, and since they’ll be able to bake off-site, they may be able to add dinner service and extended hours to the mothership (they currently need time to bake everything in their teeny-tiny kitchen, hence the early closing hours). 2590 Mission St. at 22nd St.

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Just a few of the gorgeous Rancho Gordo bean varieties. Photo from Facebook.

It was reported in Scoop and in a press release shortly thereafter: ~RANCHO GORDO~ is opening a proper shop in the Ferry Building, after years of hawking its new-world products at the farmers’ market. Rancho Gordo will be taking over the space currently occupied by Scharffen Berger, with an opening set for this summer. Founder Steve Sando says that the move will give him the opportunity to offer some additional products without the California-grown restriction of the market, so look out for additional bean varieties grown in Mexico, as well as clay cooking pots, tortillas made from heirloom corn, and chiles. Hell to the yes! One Ferry Building at Embarcadero.

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Pickled vegetables at Bar Tartine. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

At ~BAR TARTINE~, co-horts Vinny Eng and Kim Watson-Jew had their last night at the restaurant on Friday (sniff, sniff), and their replacements have been named: Mary Christie (previously State Bird Provisions) is the new beverage director and manager, and Molly Fritz (Quince, Benu, Sons & Daughters) is the new GM.

Across the bay at ~POGGIO~, the replacement for chef Peter McNee will be senior sous chef Benjamin Balesteri. He was previously chef de partie at Tra Vigne in St. Helena, spent a year working in two restaurants in Tuscany, and was opening sous at Lincoln Ristorante under acclaimed chef Jonathan Benno.

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A festa-ready table at A16. Photo from Facebook.

The fabulous Festa Della Donna is returning to ~A16~ on Friday March 8th. The annual celebration in support of International Women’s Day is not only a heartfelt and delicious event, it’s also a benefit for La Cocina. This year, catch guest chef Maria Helm Sinskey, plus three of Italy’s finest female winemakers, Elena Pantaleoni from La Stoppa, Arianna Occhipinti from Occhipinti, and Francesca Padovani from Campi di Fonterenza. Lisa Gottreich of Bohemian Creamery will also be in attendance. The menu will feature dishes from Sinskey and A16’s Christopher Thompson, in addition to the regular menu. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant. Round up some of your dearest lady friends and book a table for this always-memorable dinner!

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Jing Tea varieties. Photo courtesy Mandarin Oriental.

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The teatime tower of power at Crown & Crumpet. Photo from Facebook.

Warm up with some tea at these fabulous tea spots around town. First up is the Jing Tea Seminar and Tasting at the ~BRASSERIE S&P~ in the Mandarin Hotel. On Saturday March 2nd, catch a lesson and tasting that covers many varieties of tea and how to prepare them all perfectly. Felicity from Jing (who is coming all the way from London for this event!) will also be pouring tea tastes alongside pastries prepared in-house. There are two seminars, one from 10:30am-12pm and another from 2:30pm-4pm. The price is $15 per person, which includes a take-home gift. You can RSVP by email or by calling 415-986-2020.

There’s a new spot to get your frilly high tea on too. ~CROWN & CRUMPET~ has big plans for a full-scale tea salon in Union Square someday, but for now it’s opened a smaller outpost near Japantown. You’ll find tea, crumpets (obviously), tea sandwiches, and other delightful tea accoutrements. The spot opens officially on Friday March 1st, and the hours will be Mon-Sat 10am-7pm and Sun 11am-6pm. 1746 Post St. at Webster in the New People Building, 415-771-4252.

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Grand Café. Photo from website.

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Photo from American Bao Bar.

For those of you looking for some Frenchie food cred, check out this month’s misfit menu at ~GRAND CAFÉ~. The misfit menu is all about highlighting overlooked or just plain weird ingredients, and February is all about snails and frogs, with choices like wine-braised escargot ($14) and frog legs Provençal ($14). The menu is available in addition to the regular dinner menu Thursday February 21st through Sunday February 24th, and reservations can be made by calling the restaurant.

Popping up over the next couple months in the Mission is American Bao Bar from chef Blair Warsham. Expect chicken-red curry-coconut soup dumplings, cumin lamb belly bao, kimchi tempura, Malyasian bouillabaisse, deep chocolate panna cotta with miso caramel, and more. You can check it out on Mondays at ~NOMBE~ starting February 25th through the end of March and some Tuesdays at ~SOUTHPAW BBQ~, including February 26th, March 19th, and March 26th. All events begin at 6pm and end when they sell out.

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A brunch set at Ken Ken Ramen. Photo courtesy Ken Ken.

If you’re looking for a break from the usual egg- and bacon-heavy brunch options around town, head over to ~KEN KEN RAMEN~. On Sundays, it will be serving Japanese-style brunch “sets,” which include a changing main dish and sides. Some of the options will include items like tamagoyaki (rolled omelet) and tsukemono pickles, alongside fish or vegetable mains. Take a look at the menu here. There will also be some spiked boba drinks (from the Boba Guys), with tapioca balls in various cocktails, like the Spiked Jasmine with Nigori Sake, jasmine milk tea, and boba. The cocktails are in the $8-$9 range, and brunch sets cost $13. Sundays 11am-4pm. 3378 18th St. at Mission, 415-967-2636.

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31st Union interior. Photo via Facebook.

Down in Belmont, ~OFF THE GRID~ is launching a new market on Monday February 25th. The trucks will roll up to the Caltrain parking lot every Monday from 5pm-9pm and will feature eight rotating trucks, so you can meet all your street food needs. At the first event, check out Del Popolo, Hapa SF, and Sam’s Chowder, to name a few. The Caltrain parking lot, El Camino Real at Ralston, Belmont.

In San Mateo, ~31ST UNION~ is now open for lunch Wed-Fri 11:30am-2pm. There will be lots of locally sourced menu options, like salads, small plates, and snacks, including fish and chips, pork belly tacos, and a rotating braised meat sandwich. 5 South Ellsworth Ave. at Baldwin, San Mateo, 650-458-0049.