June 4, 2013

June 4, 2013
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Starter of buttermilk fried chicken. Photo: Nick Vasilopoulos.

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The front bar area. Photo: Nick Vasilopoulos.

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The dining room. Photo: Nick Vasilopoulos.

I was bummed to miss the preview luncheon for the brand-new ~MASON PACIFIC~, which just opened in the former Lalola space that borders Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and Chinatown. As previously mentioned on tablehopper, the project is from Jay Thomson and Shannon McTiernan Thomson, and executive chef Sean McTiernan (Rose Pistola, Delfina, and some time in Europe at Taillevent, Le Bellecour, and La Table de Robuchon in Paris).

The seasonally driven menu has a Cal-French bistro vibe, a bit like Frances, with a number of different starters and a few entrée choices. Starters include brandade, beef tartare, and crispy feta with spring peas and fava beans; mains include poached chicken salad ($16) and New York strip ($28) with pickled mushroom, lemon-ponzu, and lacinato kale purée. You can check out the menu here; be sure to peek at the second page for the wines by the glass.

I’m particularly excited to cruise through sommelier Eric Railsback’s wine list—anyone who puts Billecart-Salmon brut rosé by the glass ($22) is a friend of mine (he was previously at RN74, plus the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, and Gordon Ramsay and Mozza in Los Angeles). There are also aged wines from Thomson’s personal collection, and a carafe program with wines made specifically by Copain.

It’s a petite restaurant, with two dining areas. It has a chic but approachable look, with room for 24 at the tufted leather banquettes and tables topped with paper and white tablecloths in the back dining room, while the counter-height tables made from reclaimed barn wood (next to the large windows, complete with a view of the cable cars) in the front room are a bit more casual. There’s also a marble bar, which will be good for solo diners. I know it’s early, but I have to say: I have a good feeling about this place. (And it’s not just because there’s fried chicken on the menu, and you know what I’m going to pair with it.) Hours are Tue-Sun 5:30pm-11pm; breakfast, coffee, and lunch service will be added later.

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A punchbowl at MKT. Photo courtesy MKT.

As previously mentioned on tablehopper, there’s a new bar and restaurant at the Four Seasons, called ~MKT RESTAURANT - BAR~. After a revamp by New York-based design firm AvroKO (the first since the bar opened in 2001), the space now has dark oak floors, hunter green and black leather accents, and recycled newsprint wallpaper. The bar area seats 83 and flows into the dining room, which seats 74. There are also three different private dining rooms to accommodate different-sized groups. The menu has been adjusted to be more fun and playful, and the bar program has been updated to reflect San Francisco’s quality cocktail culture.

The focus will be on high-quality, hyper-local cocktails (all of the ingredients for the signature cocktails were sourced from within 100 miles of San Francisco), plus small plates and steaks. The place is intended for groups, with punch served in vintage bowl sets and small plates for sharing. Check out the Back to the Bank Exchange, with Encanto pisco, pineapple juice, gum syrup, lime, and Hum liqueur served with a pineapple garnish. You’ll find updated classics, too, like the Sazerac or the Joe Collins, check out the full list here.

On the small plates menu by executive chef Mark Richardson and restaurant chef Chris Aguirre, there are dishes like soft scrambled egg topped with Fort Bragg uni, or handmade pastas like duck confit agnolotti with braised pistachios and pickled leeks. Steaks include Five Dot Ranch’s 10-ounce prime bone-in NY strip and Brandt Farms’ 16-ounce rib-eye. They’ve also got two versions of their burger: the classic with sirloin, cheddar, and fries, or the duck fat burger with American Kobe and, duh, duck fat. The menu will be available both in the dining room and at the bar. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily 6:30am-12am. Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, Fifth Floor, 757 Market St. at Grant, 415-633-3838.

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The plywood front at Chez Spencer. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

Very late on Friday night, a tablehopper follower on Twitter let me know ~CHEZ SPENCER~ was on fire. Ugh. ABC7 reports it was a two-alarm fire, causing “nearly $1.2 million in damage”—such a bummer, that beautiful restaurant. We will stand by for updates from owner Laurent Katgely on reconstruction and a reopening. 82 14th St. at Folsom, 415-864-2191.

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

Fans of the best pho ga in town (#9 all the way!) will be happy to know ~TURTLE TOWER~ has reopened on Larkin Street in its new location, and right on schedule. The new space is a bit bigger (70 seats instead of 46, with 40 more in 6 months), and only a few tweaks have been made to the menu (they added bánh mì and took out the grilled fish filet). One thing that hasn’t changed: the joint is still cash only. Open Fri-Wed 8am-5pm for now (closed Thu), which is usually the window for when you need to fix that hangover of yours. 645 Larkin St. at O’Farrell, 415-409-3333.

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The bar at Saison. Photo: Bonjwing Lee.

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Umami burger; Flickr photo by Yogma.

If you want to step your toes into ~SAISON~ without ponying up for the full tasting menu (for $298), you can experience the more approachable Salon menu instead. The à la carte menu features dishes like Monterey Bay abalone, stew of rice and abalone liver, coastal greens, and artichoke ($20), and wood pigeon roasted over cherrywood embers, cherry leaf, dried cherry, and cherry blossom ($38). The menu changes daily, and you also have access to sommelier Mark Bright’s 5,000-bottle wine list, plus the new cocktails served in handblown Japanese glassware. Since there’s only room for 14, reservations are highly recommended.

Manny Gimenez Torres, of Roxy’s and formerly of Mr. Pollo, has opened a new location in the Mission. This time around, it’s ~THE PALACE~, in the former (and cultish) Palace Family Steakhouse. The new place will be protein-focused, with steak as the star. There’s a five-course tasting menu for $50, with meat, seafood, and vegetables, all served “three ways” per plate. There is also an à la carte menu, with different cuts of steak and sides ranging from standard creamed spinach and baked potatoes to plantains and yucca. You’ll also find rotisserie chicken, oysters on the half-shell, and pork chops. Takeout orders are encouraged, and, until the place has a liquor license, BYO is encouraged. The Palace is open Wed-Sun 6pm-10pm for dinner, with a late-night menu available 10pm-12am. 3047 Mission St. at Cesar Chavez, 415-666-5218.

Looks like ~UMAMI BURGER~ is going to have a second SF location: it will be opening in the former Burger Joint space in SoMa at the end of the year and will have a bar as well (via Scoop). 242 King St. at 3rd St.

My Russian Hill P.I., Michele Mandell, let me know ~ANDY’S CHINESE CUISINE~, a favorite of many for delivery (well, except me), has closed. Scoop adds that former workers at Andy’s will be opening another restaurant in its place. The Inner Sunset location remains open. 2401 Polk St. at Union.

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The Sicilian-style pies at Palio Pronto. Photo courtesy Palio Pronto.

Here are some words that are great together: pizza and bargain. The team behind ~PALIO D’ASTI~ has opened a new takeout window in the Financial District, serving their Sicilian-style pizza by the slice. It’s called ~PALIO PRONTO~ and the rotating menu keeps all the slices and some seasonal salads at a low $5, plus you can get cannoli and tiramisu for $3.

On Wednesday June 12th from 4pm-7pm, they’re throwing a happy hour pizza party to celebrate the opening. The first 120 people to RSVP by email get a ticket; it’s $10 at the door for a drink ticket and unlimited pizza bites in lots of flavors. As for the Pronto, when the weather is nice, there’s outdoor seating, and you can check out their website for the day’s selections. Cash only, serving Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm. 635 Commercial St. at Montgomery, 415-395-9800.

The newest location of the Green Chile Kitchen empire is the kitchenette at ~CHILE PIES (SWEET & SAVORY)~ in the Castro. They’ve been serving menu items from Green Chile Kitchen on a pop-up basis since March. To thank customers for all their support, they’ll be offering different items at half-price each week of June. This week is all about nachos (hell yeah), the 9th-15th it’s the taco plate, the 16th-22nd the flat enchilada, and, last but not least, from 23rd-30th it’s all about half-price burritos. 314 Church St. at 15th St., 415-431-9411.

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The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck in Los Angeles. Photo from Facebook.

If Cher could approve of an ice cream truck, it would be this one: Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff of New York’s ~BIG GAY ICE CREAM~ will be in town this week. They’ve spent the last few days in Los Angeles and are headed northward to scoop (well, soft-serve) their delicious frozen treats at Cultivate—the big, free, all-day festival in Golden Gate Park on Saturday June 8th. They’ll also be doing some demonstrations and serving some nondairy, Mexican-inspired goods at the festival. If you can’t make Cultivate, you can still catch them on Friday evening, time and place to be decided. Follow their Twitter feed for the specifics. They’ll also be at ~HUMPHRY SLOCOMBE~ on Sunday June 9th, and an appearance is also slated for Jake Godby’s Truck Stop Cafe that evening (6pm-9pm).

Here’s another way to expand your Financial District lunch options. Check out ~EAT CLUB~, a new food truck that offers food from a variety of different restaurants you can’t get delivery from, including Yummy Yummy, Nopalito, and Bar Tartine. Each day, check out the mobile app for food selections, then order and pay with your phone and pick up your lunch at one of the truck stops downtown. Whether you eat it at your desk or not is up to you.

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Chef Alvin Leung’s beer-steamed Hervey Bay scallop with crispy seaweed, pumpkin purée, and vegemite butter. Photo courtesy of Bo Innovation.

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Ben Kinmont and chef Fabien Vallos during On Becoming Something Else. Photo by Bruno Serralongue via San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The Demon Chef is back in town! Michelin two-star chef Alvin Leung of Bo Innovation (Hong Kong) is visting SF to collaborate with chef Adam Mali (~BRASSERIE S&P~) at the Mandarin Oriental on Saturday June 15th. The “East Meets West” dinner features five courses with cocktail and wine pairings. You’ll get to experience Leung’s molecular xiao long bao (so amazing) and Mali’s duck breast with morels and bing cherries; take a look at the menu here. 6:30pm cocktail reception, 7:30pm dinner. $250 per guest or $2,000 per table of 10 guests (plus tax and gratuity). Reserve by calling Joycelyn Postrado: 415-986-9605. 222 Sansome St. at Pine.

Here’s some pretty cool high-concept dining: For the month of June, a slew of San Francisco’s finest chefs will be working with artist Ben Kinmont on an art and food project called On Becoming Something Else. The project, which got its start in Paris in 2009 and is now happening locally through SFMOMA, starts with seven paragraphs written by Kinmont about the departure of artists from their art. A different Bay Area chef will create a dish inspired by each paragraph, which will be available on their menus for the entire month of June. There’s lots more information on the project here.

Then, on Tuesday June 18th, all the chefs will come together at ~BAR TARTINE~ for a dinner with all seven courses. The chef lineup is pretty awesome too: Nicolaus Balla and Courtney Burns (Bar Tartine), Jessica Boncutter (Bar Jules), Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions), Russell Moore (Camino), Leif Hedendal (Dinner Discussions), Brett Cooper (Outerlands), and Evan and Sarah Rich (Rich Table). Yeah, pretty much a local dream team. The finale dinner costs $110 per person, including the seven courses and two publications crafted for the event by Kinmont. Tax, tip, and beverages are not included; reservations can be made by calling Bar Tartine at 415-487-1600.

On Sunday June 9th, ~M.Y. CHINA~ is hosting a benefit dinner for the James Beard Foundation called Friends of James Beard: Celebrating the Family Table. Chef Charlie Trotter will be the special guest for the evening, along with Yigit Pura (Tout Sweet), Michael Rotondo (Parallel 37), and Tony Wu (the head noodle-puller at M.Y. China). The focus will be celebrating and acknowledging the family component of dining, as generations learn from one another and sit down to eat together. Enjoy four courses, each paired with wines from Michael Mondavi Family Estate, plus dessert. A cocktail reception beings at 6pm, followed by a family-style dinner at 7pm, and tickets are $200 for the general public and $175 for James Beard Foundation members. Proceeds benefit the James Beard Foundation and the Martin Yan Scholarship Fund.

To enter to win a pair of tickets to this fabulous event (value $400), all you need to do is forward today’s tablehopper newsletter to one friend (but even more would be so very fabulous), and add a note to your friend(s) about the James Beard Foundation dinner, M.Y. China, or why you read tablehopper, or all of the above! Be sure to Cc: or Bcc: me at luckyme@tablehopper.com so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. The deadline to enter is Thursday June 6th at 11:59pm. We’ll notify the winner on Friday and get your tickets to you! Good luck!

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The baguettes from Fournée. Photo from website.

As mentioned on tablehopper last summer, Berkeley is getting a new bakery in the former Bread Garden space, called ~FOURNÉE~. It opens today, and comes from owner and baker Frank Sally, who teaches at the San Francisco Baking Institute and formerly worked as pastry chef at Meadowood in Napa. He plans to offer classically French baked goods, including a variety of seasonally driven pastries (think tarts, scones, cookies, and, of course, croissants), pizza by the slice or the whole pie, special occasion cakes, and about seven different breads, including walnut, seeded, and a Provençal with herbs and olives. And obviously a baguette. Oui! For now, everything will be takeout, but they may add some seating later. The plan is to add coffee soon, though they’ll see how things go in the first few weeks before adding that in. Hours are Tue-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat 8am-7pm, Sun 8am-3pm, closed Mon. 2912 Domingo Ave. at Ashby, 510-549-9434.

The folks behind Stella Nonna Catering (Tim Carlon and Sarah Nasgovitz) have now opened ~STELLA NONNA RESTAURANT AND BAR~ on San Pablo, with a menu of American classic comfort food with some regional influences. Dishes include pork carnitas with mac ‘n’ cheese, fried chicken with greens and beans, and housemade pappardelle; check out the menu here. There are also some kid-friendly picks and housemade desserts by Mitchell Hughes (formerly of Spun Sugar). There’s room for 50 guests (features include polished concrete floors, teak tables), plus a full bar and an outdoor patio. Sounds like a nice addition to the neighborhood. Open Wed-Mon 5:30pm-10pm. Lunch and brunch will be added soon. 1407 San Pablo Ave. at Camelia, Berkeley, 510-524-3400.

Now open in the former A.G. Ferrari on Solano is the third location of ~TROY GREEK CUISINE~, although the initial posts about it on Chowhound aren’t exactly positive. It just opened, so let’s see if time helps improve things. 1843 Solano Ave. at Colusa.

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The patio at Forge. Photo courtesy Forge.

~FORGE~, Jack London Square’s temple to all things pizza, has added weekend brunch to their program. The brunch menu is available Sat-Sun 11am-3pm and includes seasonal egg scrambles, huevos rancheros, and of course any one of their pizzas (definitely add an egg—you know you want to). They’ve also got brunch-friendly bevvies, like variations on the Bloody Mary or the High Tide, with gin, tangerine, lime, and mint. And of course, they’ve got a great patio, so you can escape the San Francisco fog this summer and get some real sunshine. 66 Franklin St. at 1st St., Oakland, 510-268-3200.

A little birdie told me that SF’s ~SMITTEN ICE CREAM~ is going to be opening a location in Rockridge! I’ll have more details in coming weeks on where and whether the Smitten ladies will for sure be bringing their liquid nitrogen-made ice cream across the bay—it’s all unconfirmed for now since the rep for Smitten has to remain close-lipped. Stand by!

Now open in Oakland’s Dimond District is ~HIVE CAFE~, serving Highwire Coffee and Tea, treats from Starter Bakery, sandwiches, and more (via East Bay Dish). Open Mon-Sat 7am-7pm, Sun 7am-6pm. 2139 MacArthur Blvd. at Lyman.

Also nearby: East Bay Dish mentions the opening of ~CAFE 3016~, serving Wrecking Ball coffee, baked goods (from IndieCakes and Muffin Revolution), plus goods from Authentic Bagel Company and tofu from Hodo Soy Beanery will be in the house. Look for sandwiches and salads made with organic ingredients as well. Open Mon-Fri 7am-4pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm. 3016 MacArthur Blvd. at Maple, Oakland.

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