November 19, 2013

November 19, 2013
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The former Bechelli’s location. Photo courtesy of Alvin Garcia.

No, the tablehopper is not opening a restaurant (although I do love the name). Alvin Garcia, whom many of you may know from his years as the opening GM for Delarosa, Lolinda, and El Techo de Lolinda, is now opening his own place in the Marina, ~HOPPER’S PLACE~, in the former Bechelli’s. He is partnering up with Tom Patella, who has been with the California Wine Merchant for the past six years (Garcia has lived in the neighborhood for five). They are going to be opening an American bistro and are currently interviewing chefs; the food will be served family style, with lots of shared plates. The wine list is going to be primarily focused on California wines, and the beer list will be mostly craft-based, with two taps and lots of bottles.

The space will seat 49, and there will be a large library-style bar and sidewalk seating for 16. The Art Deco exterior is going to lend some cues to the interior design—designer Gordana Jordanovska is behind the new look for the space. They just started demolition and are gunning for a February opening. I’ll keep you posted on details in the coming months. 2346 Chestnut St. at Divisadero.

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The exterior of Seven Hills. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

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Anthony Paone has made his new home at the Kenwood Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Max Schacher.

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Michael and Jacky Recchiuti with Santé Salvoni. Photo from Facebook.

I heard through the Russian Hill grapevine that chef and part-owner Alexander Alioto has left ~SEVEN HILLS~, and the rumor I heard is that he is taking over a Thai place in the neighborhood (this part is very TBD). While Alioto confirmed his departure from Seven Hills, that was all he could share at this time. Meanwhile, owner (and brother-in-law) Alexis Solomou has bought Alioto out and brought on a new executive chef, Anthony Florian, whose résumé includes Quince, Cotogna, Bar Bambino, Servino, Santi, and, most recently, Pizzalina. Solomou tells me pasta is his thing, and Florian will continue to build upon Seven Hills’ reputation for pasta. The new menu is already up and is in a similar format. And yes, the raviolo is still on there, although it will probably be revised a bit. Florian’s sous chef is Daniel Maragoudakis, who has been at Cotogna for two years, and they reportedly work really well together. Am looking forward to seeing how the new crew develops the menu. 1550 Hyde St. at Pacific, 415-775-1550.

As mentioned in tablehopper last Friday, chef Anthony Paone of ~20 SPOT~ has moved up to the 707, where’s he’s taken the helm at Kenwood Restaurant. In his place at 20 Spot is Caleb Jones, who worked at Claudine previously. Scoop notes that he’ll be moving the menu toward medium-size plates, while still keeping the menu small and focused. 3565 20th St. at Lexington, 415-624-3140.

There’s also some news that we heard from the Recchiutis: ~CHOCOLATE LAB~ in Dogpatch has signed on chef Santé Salvoni as chef de cuisine. With him will come some new changes, including a larger savory section of the menu, with more full-size entrées and more attention on non-dessert items. Look for the new dishes in the next month or so, and also note that the hours have changed to Tue-Fri 12pm-10pm, Sat 11am-10pm, and Sun 11am-4pm.

We received word and it was reported in Scoop that ~RADIUS~ has a new executive chef: Jason Wittek, who previously spent five years at Spruce, followed by time at Piccino. His new menu is already active; take a peek here.

Over in Oakland, Scoop reports that chef Tracey Belock has filled the head chef space left by Huw Thorton at ~TRIBUNE TAVERN~. Belock previously worked at Oakland’s Disco Volante, and at Farallon and Quince before that.

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Libby Jane. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

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The exterior of Libby Jane. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

A report by Dana Eastland. We broke the story back in May that Brenda Buenviaje and her wife and business partner Libby Truesdell of Brenda’s French Soul Food are opening a new café just down the street. Well, ~LIBBY JANE CAFÉ~ is getting ready to open on Friday November 29th and here’s a first peek at it.

The space is tiny and is mostly intended as a takeout spot. You’ll be able to order coffee (including their fabulous chicory coffee), sweet tea, and other beverages, plus pastries (oh, hello fabulous biscuit, don’t mind if I do). You’ll also find retail items, like Brenda’s pickled okra and watermelon, gumbo by the quart, and jarred sauces and jams. The space offers limited seating for eight or so people, but there won’t be table service—it’s definitely a grab-and-go scenario. And anyone who’s ever waited in the line for a table on weekends knows that a cup of coffee and a biscuit while you wait is pretty much manna from heaven. Doors open on Friday November 29th, which, yes, is Black Friday morning, so you’ll be able to fuel up if you’re a shopper, or wind down from the holiday if you’re not. Hours will be Mon-Fri 7am-3pm, Sat-Sun 8am-3pm. 644 Polk St. at Eddy.

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The ultimate teacup, designed for Samovar Tea. Photo courtesy of Atelier Dion.

I had a chance to catch up with Jesse Jacobs, the founder behind the three popular Samovar Tea Lounges in San Francisco, which he started 13 years ago. He said that while coffee is experiencing rapid third-wave growth in San Francisco, tea hasn’t hit a third wave here, until now. Starting in January 2014, Jacobs will be opening the first ~SAMOVAR TEA~ at 411 Valencia, which will be a different experience from his lounges. Instead of serving a pot, you’ll be able to just get a cuppa here, for about $3-$5, and the experience is designed for the tea drinker on the go versus one who wants to linger over a pot. Check out the custom ceramic teacup they designed with Atelier Dion—they have been working on it for close to a year. It’s meant to highlight the experience of drinking tea, from how you hold it to how you can admire its color, and with a very wabi-sabi aesthetic. The texture totally makes me want to hold it—now. Jacobs also mentioned they will be brewing tea in a new way (to be revealed!).

The tea selection will be limited to six (Jacobs said there are usually too many choices out there, leading to stress and confusion—I agree and love this perspective!), but of course sourced from the small family farms that Samovar is known to procure from, so you will get the best green tea, and jasmine, and pu-erh. Tea is a daily ritual for many, and Jacobs wants to make it more accessible, but still very artisanal and authentic. For example, they will be making a chai tea with freshly ground masala, whole milk, real cane sugar, and cooking it in a traditional urn. (I can’t wait.) The food offering will be limited, but look for some of the very best scones from a local baker, which will (almost) be baked to order, plus some snacks.

The space is going to have a contemporary Japanese aesthetic, with limited seating. Anthony Fish of Arcanum (Roka Akor) is behind the design, and local artist Jesse Schlesinger (Bar Tartine) will be contributing to the install. Look for a minimalist style with natural materials, like local wood and stone, and water. There will be future locations in the city, but this will be the first. I will let you know when the opening is in sight. 411 Valencia St. at 15th St.

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Savory pies from Marla Bakery. Photo from Facebook.

While Amy Brown and Joe Wolf of Marla Bakery wait on completion of their new location in the Outer Richmond, we already mentioned they’ll be at home in the Mission as the ~MARLA BAKERY KITCHEN COMMUNAL~. The takeout window is opening on Wednesday November 20th (that’s tomorrow), with breakfast pastries, a bagel with herbed farmer cheese, and the “lunch box of the day,” with a savory pie and dessert. For a full look at the menu, head here.

A Spoonful of Sugar is also joining the party, with brioche doughnuts and cupcakes (like pistachio saffron with rosewater buttercream) on offer. Wholesome Bakery will offer ice-cream sandwiches, cookie sandwiches, and donuts, and Wrecking Ball Coffee will be there pouring coffee and espresso drinks. Hours are Mon-Fri 9am-4pm. 613 York St. at 18th St.

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The exterior of Swatdee Thai Cuisine. Yelp photo by Melly C.

After announcing the unfortunate and upcoming closure of ~SWATDEE THAI CUISINE~ in Noe Valley, I was able to get owner James Sawatdee to pause for a quick conversation about it (he’s a busy guy!). People, I have to tell you, he is such an inspiration. James came to the U.S. in 1972, after studying to be an engineer in Thailand. In the U.S., he said he started as a dishwasher but worked his way up to becoming a restaurant owner. He has owned Swatdee Thai for 26 years and built up a very loyal clientele. After 41 years of hard work in the restaurant industry with very little time off, he’s looking forward to spending some time back in Thailand and visiting with family. Yeah, that’s some well-earned and long-overdue R&R. Best wishes to you and your family, James! You will be missed. Enjoy your retirement.

James said the restaurant is closing on November 30th, and will then be remodeled for about six weeks or so. Taking Swatdee’s place will be an Indian restaurant (the owners are also behind Little Delhi in the Tenderloin). Indrajit Ghosh, one of the owners, reports that the new location will be very similar to Little Delhi, but will feature a menu inspired by different regional dishes of India. Many of their staples will be on the menu, as well. The name will be new, but it’s still under wraps, so we can’t tell you quite yet. 4166 24th St. at Diamond, 415-824-8070.

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A box of Socola Chocolates, coming to a SoMa storefront soon! Photo from Facebook.

Coming this December are two new places for frozen treats: ~OVER THE MOON~, with ice cream and cookies from pastry chef Gillian Helquist (formerly of Oliveto, Quince, and Seghesio Family Vineyards), will have two locations, one on Chestnut in the Marina and the other at the Embarcadero Four Center, both in former Yogorino spaces. Look for cookies using old family recipes, ice cream, and, of course, ice cream sandwiches. 2144 Chestnut St. at Steiner and Four Embarcadero Center at Justin Herman Plaza.

~SOCOLA CHOCOLATES~ just inked a brick-and-mortar location in SoMa, where they’ll be selling their delicious and unusual creations. Look for an opening in January and a Kickstarter campaign even sooner. To celebrate, all chocolates are 20 percent off from now until Sunday November 24th; just use code HOORAY20. 535 Folsom St. at Essex.

TenderLife reports that ~SAN FRANCISCO BEST BURRITOS~ has closed. If you’re gonna say you’re the best…. Anyway. It looks like it will be replaced by ~DE AFGHANAN KABOB HOUSE~, which used to be around the corner in the current Aicha space. 1035 Geary St. at Polk.

We got an email about this just after deadline last week, but it looks like there’s a new lunch and snack place in Mid-Market called ~3 POTATO 4~. They’re serving baked (organic) potato fries with a wide selection of dipping sauces, plus soup, chili, and coffee; take a look at the space-themed menu right here. 1051 Market St. at 6th St., 702-500-2468.

~KAKA UDON~ is looking to expand, according to this liquor license application. Yes, it’s no. 2. (Sorry, ha-ha, how can we resist?) We have confirmation that the new location (going in the former Louie’s California Chinese) is currently being renovated and will also feature hand-pulled noodles. 646 Washington St. at Columbus.

A tipster wrote in to let us know that there’s a new location of Japantown’s ~CREPE CONE BY SOPHIE~ in the Design District. Early Yelps report options similar to those at the original location: sweet and savory crêpes and gelato. 684 King St. at Division, 415-795-1331.

It looks like ~TOASTIES~ in West Portal has closed and will be reopening as a burrito place, reportedly from the same owner. Tipster Jason B. has confirmed it will be called ~BURRITO LOCO~ (ooooh, honey, those burritos be crazy!). 850 Ulloa St. at West Portal, 415-665-4677.

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Red Cross volunteers in the Philippines. Photo by Jarkko Mikkonen/Finnish Red Cross via Facebook.

On Saturday November 23rd from 11am-2pm, 10 percent of all sales at ~WING WINGS~ will be donated to typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines. They’re also open to folks selling shirts and baked goods out front to help with donations, so get in touch if you want to help out!

To support the efforts for typhoon relief in the Philippines, the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco has pledged to match all donations made to the Red Cross—dollar for dollar up to a total of $5,000—until December 15th. All you have to do is donate here and then email your donation confirmation or a copy of your receipt.

They’re also hosting a Typhoon Relief Happy Hour on Thursday November 21st at ~BRASSERIE S&P~, with food inspired by the Philippines and drink specials from 4pm-7pm. All menu items are $8, and half of the proceeds will be donated to relief efforts; take a look at the menu here.

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Pumpkin pie from Shorty Goldstein’s. Photo from Facebook.

This year is a special year for a lot of reasons, but top among them is the fact that Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah are the same day, Thursday November 28th (Hanukkah officially begins Wednesday the 27th at sundown). To celebrate this most auspicious occasion, ~SHORTY GOLDSTEIN’S~ will be serving some “Thanksgivukah” specials on November 25th-27th, like turkey-matzo ball soup, schmaltz-poached turkey with pumpkin latkes, and sufganiyot jelly doughnuts (okay, no mash-up there, but they are always a special treat). Do note they’ll be closed on Thanksgiving day, but open 10am-3pm on Friday November 29th (useful info for all the Black Friday shoppers who will be hitting Union Square). 126 Sutter St. at Montgomery, 415-986-2676.

~WEXLER’S~ is also getting in on the holiday action with a special four-course Hanukkah menu on Friday November 29th and Saturday November 30th. Dinner starts with roasted duck matzo ball soup, and includes latkes and brisket braised in mead. It’s all served family style with potato kugel and roasted carrots; here’s the full menu. You’ll also find Hanukkah-inspired cocktails, and, of course, jelly doughnuts for dessert. Dinner costs $55 per person and reservations can be made by calling the restaurant at 415-983-0102.

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The chicken karaage sandwich from Tak’s Place. Photo courtesy Tak’s Place.

The fabulous Tak Matsuba, formerly the owner of Bushi-Tei in Japantown, has a new pop-up called ~TAK’S PLACE~. He’s slinging karaage fried chicken sandwiches every Monday at Lightning Tavern, starting at 5pm. These sandwiches are real beauties, as they’re served on custom buns with lotus chips. WANT. 1875 Union St. at Laguna, 415-704-1875.

~MAVERICK~ had to close last month after a fire, but while they work on reopening, you’ll be able to get their weekend brunch at ~HI LO~. The pop-up will run from 10am-2pm on select weekends: November 23rd-24th, December 7th-8th, and 14th-15th. On the menu, look for the classic fried chicken, egg dishes, and brunch cocktails. Make a reservation here.

On Tuesday December 10th, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook of Los Angeles’ Animal will be joining Kim Alter at ~PLUM~. The chefs will be collaborating on a special eight-course dinner, with optional beverage pairings also available. The dinner costs $95 per person, not including pairings, and reservations can be made here or by calling Plum at 510-444-7586.

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Michael Anthony, the executive chef at Gramercy Tavern in New York and author of the new book The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook, is going to be in town in December. First, catch him at the Blue Bottle Café in Oakland on Sunday December 1st from 11am-1pm. He’ll be signing books, and you’ll also find pastries from the book for sale. The event is free; books, pastries, and coffee will be available for purchase.

On Monday December 2nd, he’ll be at ~QUINCE~ along with Danny Meyer for a special dinner hosted by chef Michael Tusk. The evening is part of the Quince 10-year anniversary celebration, and includes six courses and a signed copy of the book for $280 per person. Wine pairings are available for an additional $145, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation. Reservations can be made here or by calling the restaurant at 415-775-8500.

Don’t forget that Noma chef René Redzepi will be in town promoting his new book, A Work in Progress: Journals, Recipes, and Snapshots, at the Castro Theatre. The event is tonight and online ticket sales have ended but you can buy them at the door! It’s $30 general admission and $65 with a signed copy of the book (it retails for $60). Doors 6pm, event at 7pm.

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A rendering of the interior of Pathos. From Facebook.

~PATHOS~, a new Greek restaurant from chef-owner Nick Eftimiou, is getting ready to open in Berkeley on Tuesday November 26th (we mentioned this one more than a year ago). You’ll find modern Greek cuisine, ranging from flatbreads and roasts cooked in the wood-burning oven to traditional avgolemono soup. The focus will be on family recipes and regional cooking, including a traditional version of the gyro, with braised lamb shoulder and housemade pita; check out the full menu here. There is also a full bar that will include many Greek and some domestic wines, along with a selection of ouzo. The plan is to keep the bar open late on Fridays and Saturdays, serving bar snacks and mezzes to hungry night owls. To start, though, they’ll just be open for dinner Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm. In two weeks, lunch will be added, followed by late-night hours. 2430 Shattuck Ave. at Channing, 510-981-8339.

We heard from the folks at ~MATEVEZA~ that they’re opening another location in Oakland’s Uptown District. The new space is 2,300 square feet, and there will be 15 beers on tap, most of them brewed on-site. Food will be Argentine, with empanadas from El Porteño and other local producers, and bottles and growlers will be available as well. Liquor license activity also suggests that they’re looking to move into the former Et Al space on Polk; we’ll let you know when we hear more. 1701 Telegraph Ave. at 17th St., Oakland.

And in the “why, bureaucracy, WHY!?!?” department comes this story: beloved, tiny Albany restaurant ~JODIE’S~ is in danger of being closed down by the county health department because the old building is in need of updating. The family-owned business needs an additional sink for hand washing and changes to the ventilation system. Berkeleyside Nosh has the full story, including information on the family’s attempts to get the repairs done. Right now, they’re selling T-shirts and accepting monetary donations in an attempt to raise the money for either a renovation or a relocation. Please do help if you can, don’t let a hand washing sink shut down a beloved institution! We gotta keep things funky, people. 902 Masonic Ave. at Solano, 510-526-1109.

Coming soon to the former Filippo’s space in Berkeley is ~CUGINI MANZONE~. License activity and subsequent follow-up by Berkeleyside Nosh reveal that the project is from Giuseppe Manzone and his brother and sister-in-law, and they’ll be cooking pizzas in a 3,000-pound wood-burning oven from Italy. The plan is to open in January 2014. 2930 College Ave. at Russell.