February 26, 2013

February 26, 2013

The lounge at Betelnut. Photo © Brooke Gray Photography via Facebook.

Over the weekend, chef Alex Ong of ~BETELNUT~ announced over Facebook that he was closing the iconic restaurant after dinner service on Sunday March 3rd and reopening it as ~HUTONG~ around March 11th or so. (A friend let me know “hutong” means “alley” in Chinese, and that many restaurants in China are in back alleys.)

While people immediately started decrying the end of the green beans and Cecilia Chiang’s minced chicken lettuce cups (I squawked over the end of the cha ca la vong and beggar’s chicken), at least guests will still be able request the beggar’s chicken with 24 hours’ notice. (Ong will be creating a “Happy Meal” section on the menu, featuring a rotating selection of two of the classic Betelnut dishes on there—he understands how sentimental these favorite dishes can be for regulars.)

I have been a big fan of chef Ong’s flavor-forward cuisine, but can understand how he’d like to not be shackled by a menu of 18-year-old dishes that he inherited when he started in 2001. He was recently traveling extensively throughout Asia (killing me daily on Facebook with his pics of delicious dishes), so we can look forward to seeing what inspired him with Hutong’s new small plates concept. Dishes will cost $7-$15 and will range in provenance from the back alleys of Beijing to Malaysia to Vietnam. Cocktails will also be getting a do-over.

The space will be going through a light renovation: They are hiring a street artist to do some treatments to the walls, which will be covered with newspaper ads, posters, and more for that back-alley feel. (If you want the vintage posters with the Betelnut girls, they will be sold on eBay—I just might need to bid on one!) The kitchen will also be getting some new equipment, like a modified pizza oven that will be used for flatbreads and a custom Argentine asado grill that will be installed in March.

One more thing to note: Lunch will be discontinued from Mon-Thu and will just be served Fri-Sat. If it ends up there’s a demand for it to come back early in the week, the team will consider it. Best wishes to chef Ong in this new chapter, I’m excited to taste what he’s been working on for so long.


The bar at 20 Spot. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.


The front lounge area. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.


The exterior of 20 Spot. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.


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


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

A report by Dana Massey-Todd. As previously reported in tablehopper, there’s a new project opening in the former Force of Habit record shop in the Mission. ~20 SPOT~ is a project from business partners Bodhi Freedom (who owns Bacchus Wine Bar in Nob Hill) and Peter Goggin. The pair is hoping to open their new place in March, though there are still final inspections to get through.

I had a chance to check out the space and chat with the partners about their plans. Architect Wylie Price, who also worked on Trick Dog, Fatted Calf, and Presidio Social Club, designed the space, which seats 38. It feels spare but warm, and the seating areas are divided into intimate corners. Much of the furniture comes from owner Freedom’s personal collection of vintage postwar-era (he hates the word midcentury) pieces. The result is that each little area feels like your most stylish friend’s living room, with leather couches, cool lighting, and fashionable lounge chairs.

Sebastian Parker, a furniture designer who also worked with Bar Agricole, is the builder on the project and is responsible for the long bar, which is built from salvaged eucalyptus from Marshall in West Marin; the light color and hard finish keep it on the right side of reclaimed ubiquity. Behind the bar is a pretty ingenious set of boxes for wine storage, each mounted onto metal brackets that have been painted different bright colors. At the base, brackets hold stemware, while bottles of wine are stored in the boxes above. The setup was inspired by this image from season three of Mad Men, which gives a good idea of the aesthetic of the place: stylish, sleek, and functional.

Both Goggin and Freedom love the neighborhood they’ve landed in and kind of geek out when they talk about the history of the location (apparently, the building survived the 1906 earthquake). The space used to be Force of Habit record store, and Goggin actually lived in the apartment above for a while. As a nod to that past, they’ve installed a record player and wired it into a stereo system, so all of the music played will be from vinyl. They also went out of their way to keep some of the original components of the space, like the exposed brick on one side of the dining room, which had to be sandblasted and scrubbed in order to stay. They are also going to feature a rotating art show in the restaurant, preferably with local artists. The opening show will feature Elaine Penwell, whose meticulous, detailed cut-paper pieces are stunning and warrant a visit on their own.

The kitchen is helmed by Anthony Paone, previously of Sea Salt in Berkeley. The focus of the menu will be on American heritage foods (Paone has made a mission of “reclaiming catsup” from its mass-produced reputation), mostly in the form of snacks and smaller bites, rather than large entreés. Everything will be made in-house, including an impressive lineup of condiments and preserves. Look for oysters with accompaniments, seasonal salads, and a changing meat sandwich, plus a good variety of domestic cheeses. Prices are in the $8-$18 range, and you can check out a sample of the menu here.

As for libations, there will be three beers and three wines on tap, with an additional 25 wines by the glass and about 100 on the bottle list (remember, Freedom owns a wine bar). There will also be about six beers availble by the bottle. The wine list will offer something for everyone, from leaner old-world styles to fuller-bodied California pours, with a focus on unusual, unadulterated flavors. For beer, the starting lineup will include Heroine IPA from Petaluma’s 101 North, California Common Lager from Linden Street, and Mt. Tam Pale Ale from Marin Brewing.

They’re not certain on an opening date yet, but the space is ready and they’re just waiting on final inspections; sometime in March is likely. The hours will be Sun-Mon and Wed 5pm-12am and Thu-Sat 5pm-1am, with the possibility of weekend brunch in the coming months. 3565 20th St. at Lexington, no phone yet.


RJ’s Sports Bar; photo via City-Data.com.


The chef’s counter at AQ. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Liquor license activity revealed Dennis Leary (Canteen, Sentinel, Golden West, House of Shields) is taking over TenderNob spot RJ’s Sports Bar with Eric Passetti, the bar manager at House of Shields. Scoop learns they will be following a similar path as they did at HoS: create a good-looking space that serves uncomplicated drinks. The designers are Jack Dakin and Slivia Zofio of New York, and it looks like we’re getting a break from our speakeasy design rut. 701 Geary St. at Leavenworth.

A second Leary project in the works (because the man simply isn’t busy enough) is ~CAFE TERMINUS~, which Scoop says is opening in the Financial District. Look for takeout sandwiches and a nighttime scene (pending the acquisition of a full liquor license). The two-level space has a mezzanine and 1,000 square feet. This project, like the RJ’s location, is four to six months out. 10 California St. at Drumm.

Congrats, gents: ~AQ~’s Matt Semmelhack and Mark Liberman are going to be opening a restaurant in the Twitter building on Market (you can view a rendering video and more of the Market Square building), which Scoop says will be “a street-level, all-day brasserie and bar named ~BON MARCHÉ~.” There will be 7,300 square feet, 125 seats, a raw bar, a full bar, and AQ’s beverage director Kristen Capella is gunning to create the country’s largest sparkling wine collection (I can cosign that goal). The project will be at least 18-24 months out, so we’ll follow up on this one in-depth later. For now, the team is focused on opening their other project, TBD (yup, that’s it’s name). 1355 Market St. at 10th St.


The Art Deco exterior of the new Bi-Rite Market on Divisadero. Photo: © tablehopper.com.


Counter action. Photo: © tablehopper.com.


The future home of La Urbana. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Yesterday I swung by the about-to-open ~BI-RITE MARKET~ on Divisadero for a preview tour of the space. After a lot of construction and delays, the market will be opening on Wednesday March 13th. Most of the offerings will be similar to the 18th Street location: an awesome butcher counter, a deli, the rad selection of wines, the beautiful produce, the grab-and-go meals…. and the Creamery! Some new features are an expanded fish case, some different prepared foods (Morgan Maki will be running the show), and cut-to-order cheese (I know, there’s a joke there, ha-ha).

The 3,000-square-foot shopping area is a bit wider, but is mostly the same square footage as the original location. The ceilings are an airy 20 feet tall, with skylights. The biggest changes are behind the scenes: Co-owner Sam Mogannam (the other partner is Calvin Tsay) showed me the temperature-controlled butcher room that adjoins the refrigerated meat room, the streamlined delivery area, and more. Mogannam says, “Everything we have learned, we have applied. We will work even better. I’m so excited—as I look at the space, it really is a dream.” There will also be an herb garden on the roof, beehives, and more.

The team has done an amazing job uncovering and restoring the building’s Art Deco façade, from removing all the paint off the indigo terra-cotta tiles to the transom windows they put back in. Look for the Bi-Rite sign (including some old-school signs an artist is just finishing that say “meat” and the like) and an awning to get installed in the next week. There are two entrances of accordion-esque doors that can swing wide open, all the easier to welcome the neighborhood in. Hours will be 9am-9pm daily to start. (For more pics, check out this in-depth preview on Haigheration.) 550 Divisadero St. at Hayes.

Just a block away, SFist announces a taker for the former Plant It Earth space at the corner of Divisadero and Grove: Planning Department activity reveals that a place potentially called ~LA URBANA~ is moving in, which is a new “Latin-themed restaurant and mezcaleria … that will feature around 130 seats, two bars, and a private dining/mezcal tasting room.” Stand by for more as this project makes its way through planning approvals, liquor license acquisition, and other hurdles that are the opposite of being expedient. 661 Divisadero St. at Grove.


Aaron London in the garden at Ubuntu. Photo from Ubuntu’s restaurant blog.


Cupcakes galore by Heartbaker. Photo from Facebook.

Seems the former chef of Ubuntu, Aaron London, will not be opening his upcoming restaurant project in Hayes Valley after all. SF Mag’s Carolyn Alburger announces it will be in the Mission instead and that he hopes to open by the summer. Some details: the dining room will seat 30 (including a chef counter with room for 8), and guests will be able to view the kitchen through a wall of glass (similar to Saratoga’s Plumed Horse, I imagine). The location is under wraps for now; stand by for more (the plot thickens—so do sauces).

The Richmond blog mentioned a new project opening in the original Chapeau! space on Clement: ~HEARTBAKER~. Pastry chef Sybil Johnson (Aqua, Kokkari) will be offering a range of breakfast items (scones, muffins), cookies and cupcakes, bomboloni, and a commenter mentions beer and wine and small plates. Some may recognize her from previous Underground Market events. Look for a March opening. 1408 Clement St. at 15th Ave.

Related: the Richmond blog also mentions ~CHAPEAU!~ restaurant at 126 Clement is going to expanding into the space next door; the target is October.


The dining room at Bix. Photo courtesy of Bix.

According to an ad on Craigslist, I noticed ~BIX~ is looking for a new executive chef. Chef Erik Lowe has been there for almost the past four years, and executive chef and co-owner Bruce Hill mentions Lowe will stay on to train the new chef before moving on to his next thing, which is TBD. Stand by for news about the new hire, and thanks for all the great burgers and more, Erik!

Hot off the presses: ~RN74~ has a new executive chef and partner, Adam Sobel. He was most recently executive chef at Bourbon Steak in Washington, D.C., and was executive chef of RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas by Rick Moonen and chef de cuisine at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas. Look for a menu “that reflects clean, fresh, and pure dishes”—he begins April 1st. As for former executive chef Jason Berthold, he is reportedly moving on to pursue a new Bay Area restaurant project set to open this fall.

After mentioning ~BOUCHE~ was looking for yet another chef, it seems owner Guillaume Issaverdens has found him. The new chef is Jerome Albaric. He was most recently executive chef at Plouf, and prior to that, he was exec sous chef at Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak. Jerome is originally from the south of France, and his cooking style at Bouche is classic French. He plans to keep the menu changing at Bouche (about once a week, he’ll be adding new dishes). You can take a look at his current menu here. 603 Bush St. at Stockton, 415-956-0396.


The pho ga at Turtle Tower. Photo: © tablehopper.com.


A hoagie from 1058 Hoagie. Photo by Rose Garrett via Facebook.

Some news bits for you: According to a Facebook post, beloved ~TURTLE TOWER~ is leaving its Tenderloin location after 13 years on Wednesday February 27th at 7:30pm. It will be moving up the street to a new location at 645 Larkin. Keep track of the progress on Turtle Tower’s Facebook page (and I’ll keep you posted, naturally)—the reopening is planned for April. You can get your pho ga fix at the other locations in SoMa, Outer Richmond, and at SF State University. 631 Larkin St. at Willow, 415-409-3333.

SF Station’s Yum blog mentions ~WARAKU~ has opened in the formerly vacant Bushi-Tei location. Since it’s the year of ramen, you’ll be finding multiple kinds on the menu—the menu will reportedly expand further once the beer and wine license kicks in. The owners are also behind Shabuway (which started in San Mateo and is now here in SF). Open for lunch Tue-Fri 11:30am-2pm and Sat-Sun 11:30am-3pm, and for dinner Tue-Sat 5:30pm-10pm and Sun 5:30pm-9pm. 1638 Post St. at Laguna, 415-292-3388.

Yes! Starting this Saturday March 2nd, ~1058 HOAGIE~ will be open on Saturdays from 11am-3pm, plus the hours are expanding during the week from 11am-4pm. Also: stand by for meats and cheeses by the pound, coming very soon. 180 7th St. at Howard, 415-552-8984.

And a tipster sends along a pic from the window of ~MAESTRO~, the spot that opened in the former Stars and Trader Vic’s, announcing that it has closed. 555 Golden Gate Ave. at Van Ness.


The bar at Claudine. Photo by Bruce Damonte.


Chicken potpie with green chile sauce; Yelp photo from Keilin H.

As of Monday February 25th (that’s yesterday), ~CLAUDINE~ is offering some different choices on both its food and wine lists. The focus has shifted to more of a wine bar style, with more wines on tap and by the glass. Wine director Sarah Knoefler intends to keep the list approachable, and eventually she hopes to have all of the wines available by the glass. There will also be some more casual options on the menu, like charcuterie, housemade pâtés, and moules marinières. The restaurant has also added a weekday happy hour, from 4pm-6pm Mon-Fri, with all wines on tap available for $1 an ounce. Eater has more details, plus all the new lunch, dinner, and happy hour menus. 8 Claude Ln. at Sutter, 415-362-1988.

Over near the Castro, ~CHILE PIES (SWEET & SAVORY)~ will be expanding its offerings to include more of the options from the mothership, Green Chile Kitchen, in addition to its current sweet and savory pies. As of Thursday February 28th, “Green Chile Kitchen-ette” choices will be on offer, including green chile chicken enchiladas, burritos with green or red chile, and tacos. The new dishes will be available Thu-Sun from 12pm-9pm, with plans to add them to the menu seven days a week. 314 Church St. at 15th St. 415-431-9411.


BALTE (that’s a BLT with avocado and egg) sandwiches from the Galley. Photo from Facebook.

Join ~THE GALLEY~ in celebrating its second anniversary cooking out of the kitchen at Clooney’s Pub in the Mission. The party will include lots of signature dishes, like French onion sandwiches and pickled pepper eggs, plus dishes from guests like Rocky’s Frybread. The party is from 6pm-10pm, with a pickled pepper egg-eating contest at 7pm (oof). Admission is free, with food and drinks available for purchase. 1401 Valencia St. at 25th St.

Catch a bunch of upcoming happy hour pop-ups at ~BLUXOME STREET WINERY~. The Dine-in-the-Drive series is every Friday in March from 5pm-8pm, providing you some tasty vittles to go with Bluxome’s wines. On Friday March 1st is the Kasa Indian Food Truck, followed by Little Green Cyclo on March 8th, Fins on the Hoof serving poutine on March 15th, and the Wexler’s Back truck on March 22nd slinging Scotch eggs. 53 Bluxome St. at 4th St. 415-543-5353.


Making cheese. Photo courtesy the Milk Maid.


Fresh pasta from Flour + Water. Photo from Facebook.

Learn how to chop food, not your fingers (ow), with John Lee’s Basic Knife Skills Class at ~18 REASONS~ on Sunday March 10th from 3pm-5pm. Tickets are $25 for 18 Reasons members and $35 for the general public. 3674 18th St. at Dolores, 415-568-2710.

On Wednesday March 20th, join ~LA COCINA~ for Azalina of Azalina’s Malaysian and Binita of Bini’s Kitchen for Backpacking Through Southern Asia, where you’ll learn all the techniques and spices that give Malaysian and Nepalese cuisine its awesome flavors. The class is 6:30pm-9pm, and tickets are $80 per person or $150 for a pair, and include dinner and drinks.

CUESA has a bunch of classes coming up at the ~FERRY BUILDING~. On Thursday March 7th, catch Latin Cheeses with the Milk Maid from 5:30pm-7:30pm. The class costs $49 and includes a take-home cheesemaking kit with recipes.

Then, on Saturday March 9th from 2pm-4pm, join Nicole Kramer of Urban Kitchen SF for an Introduction to Backyard Chickens. You’ll learn all about keeping chickens in an urban environment and head home with tips on how to raise your own. Tickets are $48, and those interested can also take an optional follow-up tour of Kramer’s farm in Oakland on Sunday March 10th from 11am-1pm.

Get even more cheese cred on Thursday April 25th with Aged and Fresh Chèvre with the Milk Maid. The class runs from 5:30pm-7:30pm and tickets are $51. Ticket price includes a handmade cheese, recipes, and lots of good knowledge on creating your own goat cheeses at home.

Learn how to make some mighty fine pastas at ~FLOUR + WATER~ with its two-part pasta series. The series begins with Pasta Class I, on either Tuesday March 5th or Tuesday March 19th at 6:30pm, which is all about perfecting flat pastas and using the hand-crank machine. The class follows up with Pasta Class II, on either Tuesday March 12th or Tuesday March 26th at 6:30pm, which focuses on stuffed pastas (mmmm). Tickets to the earlier series can be purchased here and the later series here. Each class costs $200 (no, it’s not cheap) but includes all instruction, a sit-down dinner with wine pairings, fresh pasta to take home, and a recipe book (please note the price does not include tax).


Some of the bright colors at Juhu Beach Club. Photo: © tablehopper.com.


Baja fish taco from Cholita Linda. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Great news: ~JUHU BEACH CLUB~ has been cleared for takeoff and will be opening on Friday March 1st at 5:30pm. The license went through, so beer and wine will be poured! Look for six to eight different beers on tap, with a few imports from India. There will aso be wine on tap and nonalcoholic picks like a sweet or salty (go salty!) mango lassi, nimbu pani lemonade, and hot chai, along with specialty bottled Indian sodas like Thums Up (Ed. note: I heart ESL) and Limca. 5179 Telegraph Ave. at Claremont, with the entrance on 51st St., Oakland. 510-652-7350.

Just down the street, work is under way on the brick-and-mortar location for ~CHOLITA LINDA~, which is taking over three adjacent spaces on Telegraph, including S&S Seafood. East Bay Express has a bunch of details, including a summertime opening and 45 seats. Owners Murat Sozeri and Vanessa Chavez are reportedly going to offer an “eclectic Latin” menu, with “street foods and home-style comfort dishes inspired by her [Chavez’s] travels and her own diverse family background, which includes a Peruvian mother and Cuban-Mexican father.” But yes, the delicious Baja-style fish tacos will also be on the menu, plus hot pressed sandwiches, rotisserie chicken (Peruvian pollo a la brasa), and more. 4923-27 Telegraph Ave. at 49th St., Oakland.

But there’s also trouble in Temescal: This report on Chowhound (attributed to founder Nathan Kurz) mentions that ~SCREAM SORBET~ is suffering from financial woes, and it looks like it will have to close unless someone is able to step in and make some changes. Required repairs to the space, along with unpaid bills, seem to be the biggest problems. Best wishes to all involved. Superman, where are you? 5030 Telegraph Ave. at 51st St., Oakland.


The dining room at the Olema. Photo courtesy UrbanDaddy.

As previously reported on tablehopper, Margaret Grade and Daniel DeLong of ~MANKA’S~ (music alert) purchased the former Olema Inn last year, with plans to reopen the former roadhouse in their own style. Well, they’ve renamed it simply ~THE OLEMA~ and opened their doors on Thursday February 21st, with a new menu and a new paint job. The 1876 roadhouse has been “roughed up,” according to DeLong, who says the pair was initially worried the grand old Victorian house would feel “too pretty.” Rather than formalize it, they’ve tried to make it feel more like a joint on the road where you’d stop after a day at the beach or a long hike. The exterior has been repainted a deep gray, and UrbanDaddy has a slide show with the new interior.

The menu was kept pretty simple, with a focus on, as DeLong says, “things I’d like to eat.” Everything is available à la carte, and designed for sharing. They’ve got a “bouillabaisse” made with fresh garden vegetables instead of fish, a “faux gras” duck liver mousse with Pt. Reyes plum preserves, and—in keeping with the tradition of oysters on the menu—there are oyster shooters with a jelly of oyster juice, for maximum oyster flavor. The prices are approachable, with appetizers around $10-$12 and entrées at the $20 mark. Most of the wines are from Marin County, with a few farther-flung choices here and there. Eventually, they hope to add a spit to the fireplace for roasting meats and an herb garden to the large field that surrounds the main house. For now, they’re open for dinner Thu-Sun at 5:30pm, with plans to expand the hours once they get going. 10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Olema, 415-663-9559.