September 3, 2013

September 3, 2013

The bar at Taps. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©


Dining room and slab wood communal table/back bar. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©


Seating at the open kitchen. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©

Russian Hill and Nob Hill residents have been wondering for a while what was opening in the former Pasha space (and short-lived Cossu) on Broadway. The owner is Giovanni Toracca, a name many North Beach longtimers know well. He’s opening ~TAPS~, a 170-seat restaurant that will have chef Michael Lamina at the helm (he was at Leopold’s the past two years, and was previously at Cav, where I totally dug his charcuterie). Lamina tells me the menu will be gastropubby by nature, with an extensive selection of elevated bar food, like terrines and five kinds of pâté (there are also plans for an in-house salumi program; stand by). There will be a wood grill, and a rotisserie with different meats on it each day (lamb, pig, chicken). The menu will have plenty of apps for large parties to share, and main dishes will be offered à la carte with sides listed separately, like a duck breast, chicken, steak off the grill, and, of course, a burger.

Jesse Ostroski (previously Bigfoot Lodge) is running the bar program, which will feature 28 beers on draft, and will highlight many local craft beers (Lagunitas, Pine Street, Magnolia), plus two ciders and a range of choices by the bottle, including Belgians, sours, and some of the Mikkeller beers. There are also eight wines on tap. Cocktails will feature six classics to start, and fresh juices and seasonal ingredients will be a focus (look for more drinks to be added later on).

The front room features a long 35-seat bar as well as a stand-up table made from a wooden slab, which creates a border between the bar and dining area. In addition to several high seating areas, including two counters along the front windows, there’s a communal table, and an open kitchen with more counter seating, plus a chef’s table for 10 in its own alcove. There’s also a back room with a separate bar that will open a month later as a quieter raw bar space. The look is simple and rustic—and a little industrial—with banquettes in leather and warm-toned fabric upholstery. All of the wood in the bar comes from Toracca’s collection, and some has been burnt a bit to add more texture. The tap system behind the bar was made by a friend of Toracca’s out of cast-iron pipe, and definitely fits in with the industrial aesthetic. The space dates back to 1971, and Toracca sunk more than $2 million in the extensive buildout and reconditioning of the space (including some serious plumbing and new flooring). The prep kitchen is massive, and there’s room for 100 kegs in the refrigerator.

They need to make it through some inspections and should be open in October. Once we have a menu, hours, and an opening date in sight, we’ll let you know. Dinner will be up first, then brunch and lunch added later on. 1516 Broadway at Polk.


MKT’s fantastic steak tartare. Photo: ©


MKT’s fried green tomatoes and smoked tomato rémoulade. Photo: ©


Hello, my fellow singles who love food and wine. Did you catch the news last week? It’s time for round two of the tablehopper singles events! This time it’s for the gents, specifically gay men who are in the age range of 35-55 (whether you choose to color a little outside those age parameters is up to you). The event is going to be on Thursday September 12th at 7pm at the recently remodeled ~MKT RESTAURANT—BAR~ at the Four Seasons (oooh, swanky!) in their clubby Private Den (and since we’re on the fifth floor, it has some great views—and I’m not just talking about the hot crowd).

We have room for 40 (fabulous, hello!) gay men (tickets are selling fast!), and you will have an opportunity to meet everyone at this sit-down event, which is a bit like a mash-up of speed dating and a wine tasting and a partay. You’ll have fun tablehopping—the last one we held was a blast.

Thanks to Graton, CA-based Purple Wine Company, we are going to be enjoying five wines from their portfolio (and learning about each of them from Executive Vice President Lisa Ehrlich). There will also be a beguiling welcome cocktail, courtesy of Charbay, plus one of their dessert elixirs at the end, and it wouldn’t be a tablehopper event without some bubbly in there too. Pop!

Executive chef Mark Richardson and restaurant chef Chris Aguirre are going to be preparing a variety of delicious bites, so you will have plenty to taste throughout the evening. Here’s the evening’s menu (warning, you are about to get hungry): during the welcome reception, there will be a Charbay cocktail with hand-passed appetizers like seasonal soup shots, gougères, and a Margherita pizza. During the tablehop event, you will have sparkling wine with MKT’s fantastic uni and soft-scrambled egg; 2011 Four Vines Naked Chardonnay and heirloom tomatoes with burrata; the 2011 BEX Nahe Riesling with fried green tomatoes; the newly released 2011 Alto Cinco Old-Vines Spanish garnacha with MKT’s superlative steak tartare (it’s really really good); the 2010 Maverick Amador County zinfandel with the MKT duck fat burger (uh-huh); the 2010 Avalon Napa Valley merlot with the BBQ prime beef short rib and Brentwood corn; oh yes, and Charbay’s lush Pomegranate Dessert Wine with the rhubarb, raspberry, and cardamom cheesecake. Hubba! (If you have some dietary restrictions, please let us know in advance—there is also a vegetarian option available.)

You can get your tickets here (tickets are $95). PLEASE NOTE: There are no ticket refunds if you can’t make it to the event (unless we can fill your place, but there are no guarantees about being able to do so). This event is 21 and over only, please. The event will run from 7pm-9:45pm or so.

Once you buy your ticket, we are going to request that you email us a headshot/snapshot of you—we’ll need them post-event when we do our matchmaking, so please start thinking about which image you want to send us.

We really look forward to seeing you there!

This is the second in a series of tablehopper singles events. Look for more in the coming months, for different age groups and sexual orientations, so if you don’t fit the parameters of this one, please sit tight!


The exterior of Palmer’s Tavern. Photo: ©


The dining room; Yelp photo by Liz C.

Hallelujah, I finally don’t have to answer any more emails asking me, “When is ~PALMER’S TAVERN~ going to open?” The GM I left my card with didn’t follow up with information, and owners Albert and Klaus Rainer (Leopold’s) were very good at never returning calls or emails (yeah, I just love wasting my time visiting and calling places repeatedly, let me tell you). So, it’s open (thanks for finding it out, Eater). The old-school, retro look is full of rich wood, with booths and barstools upholstered in dark red, old photos and ephemera on the walls, and white-jacketed bartenders shaking up drinks at the long mahogany bar (which inspired the name of the space’s previous incarnation: Long Bar).

The chef is Raymond Tamayo, who is reportedly serving dishes like chilled corn soup, fried squash blossoms, steak tartare, cornmeal-crusted hen, prime rib, and a burger (initial reports on Yelp are a bit rough, so you may want to give the kitchen some time to ramp up). Cocktails ring in for less than $10, from classics to new concoctions like a Fillmore Fizz. Hours are Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. No reservations. 2298 Fillmore St. at Clay


The slip of a space that was Sam Wo. Photo from Sam Wo’s website.

Over a year ago, we reported on the closure of ~SAM WO~. The Chinatown institution had been around for more than 100 years, and was famed for its colorful clientele and staff, including Edsel Ford Fong, the world’s rudest waiter. The restaurant was shut down back in April 2012 by the Health Department over concerns about the building’s construction. Apparently, almost every component of the restaurant needed updating, from the electrical to the plumbing to the kitchen itself, which would cost an estimated $300K to bring up to code. After new lease negotiations with the landlord failed (the family was hoping for a reasonable new lease, but it didn’t happen), Sam Wo won’t be reopening in the historic location.

The Facebook group Save Sam Wo! has lots of information on the closure, including a statement from Julie Ho, the owners’ daughter. This video is worth a watch, too: it talks about the closure, and the community response to the the end of an era. The family is currently seeking a new space for the restaurant, and the building is on the market. Such an unfortunate ending for one of Chinatown’s most well-known (and quirky) places. 813 Washington St. at Grant.


The former La Urbana exterior. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©


The dining room, facing the bar. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©


The back bar area, with a live tree. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©


The crab and rib-eye “Tierra y Mar.” Photo by Eric Wolfinger.

A report by Dana Massey-Todd. Back in July, we did a hardhat preview of ~LA URBANA~, the modern cantina and mezcaleria on Divisadero. The new spot officially opens on Wednesday September 4th, after several nights of test runs and friends and family dinners. I had a chance to check it out on Friday night, mezcal and all.

The project comes from local Eduardo Rallo and his business partner Juan Garduño, an architect and restaurateur from Mexico. Garduño’s architecture firm designed the space as a modern take on the classic cantina. There were tons of design details in the previous piece, and those elements have definitely come together. The space is large and airy, with large windows looking out onto the busy intersection, skylights, and a high ceiling with exposed beams (which unfortunately makes it quite loud, be warned). The zinc bar accommodates 20, and behind it you’ll find old furniture from Puebla, Oaxaca, and Toluca, all lit up and arranged as an eclectic shelving unit. The overall effect is effective, if very much on the reclaimed trend.

There is a lounge area for 10 adjacent to the bar, and a back bar wrapped around a tree (a nice nod to the previous tenants, Plant It Earth). The lounge area is covered in colorful tiles from Mérida, which feature prominently and give the space some pop. The dining room seats 60, and a walled-off glass room is for private groups, though it is very visible from the dining room (no throwing stones in there!).

As for the food, executive chef Ben Klein and chef de cuisine Julio Aguilera are serving modern takes on traditional Mexican fare. The menu is organized into categories, with smaller dishes and snacks populating the left side of the menu, and entrée-size dishes and sides on the right. On the snack side, instead of chips and salsa, you’ll find their chicharrón de arroz with guacamole, made with rice flour but with the texture of the porky bites. A favorite at our table was the egg with chorizo, a runny yolk with crispy cooked chorizo, potato purée, and lime crema that combines textures quite well. The “Tierra y Mar” is a take on surf and turf, with crab and rib-eye with pineapple purée that balances the two proteins without overwhelming the crab. A red snapper dish came with a savory huitlacoche sauce and nicely caramelized cauliflower, and it was good to taste a vegetable accompaniment that wasn’t an afterthought but stood up on its own. Take a look at the opening menu here.

The bar’s focus is on mezcal, and is headed up by Lucas Ranzuglia. They’ve got a margarita, of course, with a bacon salt rim, and a mezcal-based martini called the Acapulco-Manila, with Agave de Cortés mezcal and sake (yeah, it packs a wallop). Take a look at the drink list here. For wines, they are offering some Mexican pours, plus other options from the Spanish-speaking world, including Argentina and Spain, and a selection of cavas and beer. Those looking to explore mezcal will find a broad selection, many from small-batch and hard-to-find producers.

La Urbana is officially opening tomorrow, Wednesday September 4th, and serving dinner nightly from 5pm-1am (although right now they are softly open, with a limited menu). In the coming months, the garage next door will become a mercado where you can order casual street food during the day, and drinks and bar bites at night. 661 Divisadero St. at Grove, 415-440-4500.


Chef Jan Birnbaum. Photo via EPIC’s Facebook page.

Last week I heard through the grapevine that chef Jan Birnbaum was leaving ~EPIC ROASTHOUSE~. By the time the PR team decided to confirm my fact checking, it was past my column post time, so here we are. Sadly, Birnbaum is in fact leaving after his six years at the restaurant for some much-needed rest and a travel break. While he is no longer handling day-to-day kitchen operations, he remains a partner; chef de cuisine Eric Hollis is running day-to-day operations at the restaurant in the interim. Take good care of yourself, Jan.

Meanwhile, over in the Presidio, chef-partner Joseph Humphrey has left ~DIXIE~, bringing part of his kitchen crew with him. Scoop notes managing partner Dean Tinney has brought on Erik Hopfinger as a consulting/interim chef, who is going to make the menu more casual.


Chef Guddu’s trademark tandoori fish (when at Lahore Karahi). Photo: ©

I was happy to learn via Zagat that the kind (and talented) chef Guddu—previously running the tasty Pakistani show at ~LAHORE KARAHI~ in the Tenderloin—is going to be opening his own place in the Outer Sunset. Yes, we get to have his cooking again! Chef Zulfiqar “Guddu” Haider will be opening ~GUDDU DE KARAHI~, and he just tweeted a pic of his in-progress menu. His dedicated fans will be happy to see his trademark tandoori fish right at the top, along with curries, biryanis, kebabs (with halal meat), and more.

Stand by for news about the opening soon—it should open the second or third week of September. I had a quick chat with Guddu, who said, “I miss you guys too much!” Yeah, someone is fired up to see you again (and trust, the feeling is mutual). Hours will be Wed-Sun 5pm-10:30pm. 1501 Noriega St. at 22nd Ave., 415-759-9088.


The interior of inoVino. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©


Chicken grilling at Underground Market. Photo courtesy ForageSF.


The bright exterior at Jake’s Place. Photo from Facebook.

It’s wine o’clock! As intended, ~INOVINO~ is opening in Cole Valley on Friday September 6th, starting at 5pm! You can come by for the soft opening the night before, also at 5pm—hat tip to Cole Valley blog for the heads-up. For a recap of Claudio Villani’s pet project, you can read all about it on tablehopper here. 108 Carl St. at Cole.

Rice ball emporium ~ONIGILLY~ is opening their second brick-and-mortar location downtown today, September 3rd. As previously reported on tablehopper, the new location is an “Express,” serving to-go items only. The menu is the same as their previous location, with rice balls, rice bowls, and a variety of fillings to satisfy carnivores and vegetarians alike. Hours are Mon-Sat 10am-6pm and Sun 11:30am-3pm. Embarcadero Center Four at Sacramento, 415-671-4706.

Berkeley’s ~CHOCOLATIER BLUE~ is moving west, with their first San Francisco shop due to open in the Phelan Building on Market Street on Thursday September 5th. Chocolate flavors will change seasonally; right now look for options like mango mint and cherry tarragon (chocolatier Chris Blue uses Domori chocolate from Italy). There will also be fruit jellies, marshmallows, turtles and candy bars, and hot chocolate kits. They’ll be open daily from 10am-7pm. 760 Market St. at O’Farrell.

On Sunday September 8th, head to ~ALL GOOD PIZZA~ in Bayview for the Bayview Mercantile pop-up event. The market includes lots of Bayview-made products, including pizza, of course, plus goods from Batter Bakery, Bueno Eats, and Gratta Wines. You’ll also find wares from local craftspeople and artists, and live music by Erin Brazil and the Brazillionaires. The events runs from 11am-4pm, and is free. 1605 Jerrold Ave at Newhall, 415-846-6960.

Looks like we missed this one when it opened on an odd stretch of Bayshore three weeks ago, but here it is! ~JAKE’S PLACE~ serves breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri 7am-2:30pm. Look for breakfast sandwiches and housemade muffins at breakfast, and sandwiches, salads, and meal plates with roasted chicken and sides at lunch; take a peek at the menu here. They are hoping to add dinner in the fall, with whole chickens and sides available to go in the evenings. They’re currently “softly” open, and the hours are a little flexible, so it’s good to call ahead. 293 Bayshore Blvd. at Oakdale, 415-550-2492.

The popular Underground Market has a new outdoor iteration: ~BATCH MADE MARKET~ is happening Sunday September 8th from 10am-8pm. The new market is not only outdoors but also includes fun activities and a bunch of workshops, including a pizza sauce workshop with Pizza Hacker and a bread class with Josey Baker (even if spaces aren’t available, you can still watch). Tickets are $5 at the door, and food and beer will be available for purchase. 55 Duboce St. at Woodward.

Those ever-vigilant Chowhounders have caught a rebranding on Geary: the former Shandong Noodle House is now ~XI’AN GOURMET~. According to Geezericious, the chef is from Xi’an, and he does a mean lamb rou jia mo, or cumin lamb sandwich. The menu still includes Shandong dishes and the usual Chinese takeout suspects; Xi’an specials are listed under “House Special” and “Hand Pulled Noodles” on the menu. 3741 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave., 451-668-5888.

Another hat tip to Chowhound: Andy’s Chinese on Polk is now ~CHOPSTICK HOUSE~. No word yet on the food; hopefully it’s better than the name. 2401 Polk St. at Union, 415-922-5526.

And in the unfortunate news department, it looks like ~BURMA SUPERSTAR~ has been linked to an outbreak of E. coli. Nine people with the infection dined there on August 16th or 17th, it appears. The Department of Public Health believes the incident is isolated, but the restaurant has voluntarily closed for a few days. This is the first such issue in 17 years of business, according to the owner, Desmond Tan. For more information, here’s a statement on the Facebook page from Tan and a public health official. 309 Clement St. at 4th Ave., 415-387-2147.


The rachetta pizza at A16 Rockridge. Photo: ©

~A16 ROCKRIDGE~ is beginning Sunday brunch service on September 8th. From 11am-2pm, look for Southern Italian-inspired brunch dishes, including sfogliatelle (can’t wait to try this, it’s the pastry I miss most in Italy), zeppole donuts with strawberry jam, a changing frittata of the day, and fried ceci beans and potatoes with slow-cooked egg. There will also be options from the pizza oven, including their rachetta, all with the option of adding an egg. Of course espresso beverages will be available, along with boozy selections including a Bloody Mary, amari, and aperitivi. From 2pm-5pm on Sundays, the bar will remain open for drinks and bites until dinner service too.

Starting Saturday September 7th, ~CHAMBERS~ will begin offering a Saturday “recovery brunch” from 10:30am-2:30pm. Bottomless mimosas are $12 with the purchase of any entrée, and dishes like “hangover hash” will populate the menu (entrée prices range from $10-15). You’ll also find more classic brunch dishes, like egg plates and a burger. 601 Eddy St. at Taylor, 415-829-2316.


The ~CHEESE SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO~ is getting a new home this fall: they’re moving from their Powell Street location to Folsom in the Mission. As of October 1st, all their classes will be at the new space, where they’ll have more space, an outdoor courtyard, and a wood-fired pizza oven (getting fired up in November). Look out for new classes and more special events once they’re settled in their new digs. 2124 Folsom St. at 17th St., 415-346-7530.

On Wednesday September 18th, catch the fine folks of Fatted Calf at the ~SAN FRANCISCO COOKING SCHOOL~ for a signing of their new book, In The Charcuterie: The Fatted Calf’s Guide to Sausage, Salumi, Pâtés, Roasts, Confits, and Other Meaty Goods, Ten Speed Press. (I just got a preview copy of the book, and let me tell you, it’s awesome—it covers everything from making sausage to porchetta to their fabulous meat loaf, plus accoutrements like mostarda and pickles.) The evening includes a demonstration of their duck liver pâte, wine from Matthiasson, and lots of passed charcuterie. The event runs from 7pm-9pm and tickets are $20. 690 Van Ness Ave. at Turk, 415-346-2665.

(You can also catch The Fatted Calf crew at ~OMNIVORE BOOKS~ on Saturday September 21st from 3pm-4pm for a free reading.)


Football fans and hot dogs at Elixir in 2012. Photo by Jonathan Fong via Facebook.

The national tour of Asian food festival ~LUCKY RICE~ hits San Francisco on Friday September 6th, at the ~FERRY BUILDING~. The event features local chefs serving a variety of Asian dishes, including folks like the amazing Azalina’s, Cassava, Chubby Noodle, ICHI Sushi, and Juhu Beach Club. There are also cocktails from local bar mavens, including H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir and Martin Cate and Steven Liles of Smuggler’s Cove. For a full lineup of the bars and restaurants and a menu of their offerings, head here. The event runs from 8pm-10pm and general admission tickets are $88 (so lucky), and include all food and drink.

To celebrate the beginning of football season, ~ELIXIR~ will be throwing a party with Adam Mesnick of Deli Board on Sunday September 8th, the first Sunday NFL game of the season. Starting at 1pm, Mesnick will be slinging hot dogs and chili—free with the purchase of a cocktail or Newcastle, and how handy, all Newcastles will be $1 off. There will also be drink specials on Tanqueray, Bulleit, Dickel, and Zacapa, so even if you don’t like football you’ll be in good hands. 3200 16th St. at Guerrero, 415-552-1633.


The dining room at Saison. Photo: © Bonjwing Photography.

Chef Joshua Skenes of ~SAISON~ is hosting a week of dinners with guest chefs at the restaurant in early October, from Tuesday October 8th-Saturday October 12th. Each evening will feature a 12-course tasting menu, with courses alternating between the guest chef and Skenes. Here’s the lineup:

  • Tuesday October 8th: Laurent Gras (formerly of Fifth Floor and Chicago’s L20)
  • Wednesday October 9th: Gabriel Kreuther (of New York’s the Modern)
  • Thursday October 10th: Matthew Lightner (of New York’s Atera)
  • Friday October 11th: Guenter Seeger (of Seeger’s in Atlanta)
  • Saturday October 12th: John Shields (formerly of Town House in Virginia)

Each of the dinners costs $500 per person, not including beverages and tip, and reservations can be made by calling the restaurant. There are only 30 seats available each evening, so call soon if you are feeling flush and fired up (hello, Laurent Gras is coming!). A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the San Francisco Food Bank.

Liquor license activity pointed to the opening of ~RANGOON SUPER STARS~ in Berkeley, a Burmese restaurant from chef U Win Aye (Scoop pointed out the name is an amalgam of the chef’s previous locations: Burma Superstar and Rangoon Ruby in Palo Alto). Many know the location as the former Casa de Eva, Zax Tavern, Maritime East, and Locanda da Eva.

The restaurant website promises a “unique twist on Chinese, Indian, and Thai foods,” and the menu includes appetizers like palata (hand-tossed, multilayered bread served with coconut chicken curry) and handmade tofu made from yellow bean powder, served with soy chile sauce. There are classics like a tea leaf salad, a number of noodles and curry dishes, and a variety of vegan options, like a samosa soup and salad (it’s a pretty extensive menu). Hours are daily 11am-2:30pm (lunch) and 5pm-10pm (dinner). The opening is Thursday September 5th at 5pm. 2826 Telegraph Ave. at Oregon, Berkeley, 510-647-9744.