July 1, 2014

July 1, 2014

Mushroom and tofu ramen at The Ramen Bar. Photo: James Carriere.


The front terrace and entrance to The Ramen Bar. Photo: Drew Altizer.


A look into Pabu’s main bar area. Photo: Bruk Studios.


The dramatic bar and lounge at Pabu. Photo: Bruk Studios.


The sushi bar and main dining room at Pabu. Photo: Bruk Studios.


The irresistible Happy Spoon. Photo: Kevin J. McCullough.

Two big openings are happening simultaneously at 101 California Street: ~PABU~ and ~THE RAMEN BAR~ from Ken Tominaga (of Hana in Rohnert Park) and Michael Mina. Let’s start with The Ramen Bar first, the more casual of the two, which just opened yesterday (Monday June 30th).

Tominaga’s ramen is inspired by Tokyo-style ramen, which features a lighter broth, and a lot of attention will be paid to each of the top-notch ingredients, from the proteins to the fresh vegetables (I’m looking forward to finally having a soy-cured egg that isn’t cold). There are four kinds on the opening menu: Tokyo roast chicken ($12) with soy-cured egg, bamboo, spinach, and yuzu kosho; braised pork belly ($12) with wakame, soy-cured egg, and wilted spinach; shrimp and crab dumpling ($16) in a ginger clam broth, with sweet corn and mizuna; and mushroom and tofu ($11) with miso, mizuna, hon-shimeji mushrooms, sweet corn, and nori. Gluten-free noodles are available as well.

There is also a variety of salads and donburi available, plus Hong Kong milk tea, boba tea, LAMILL Coffee drinks, and more. You can dine in (there are 46 seats in the dining room, with a mix of counter seats and regular tables, and 44 seats on the terrace with umbrellas), or order ahead online and get it for takeout (there’s also an app for iPhone and Android, just search “Ramen Bar SF”). The design by Bishop Pass took the element of water as its inspiration, as well as integrating elements of a Japanese fishing village (rope and sails, check).

There was already a line out the door on opening day, so expect to be waiting with fellow ramen obsessives during these opening weeks. Fortunately it’s open Mon-Fri 8am-9pm, with food service starting at 11am. 101 California at Davis, 415-684-1570.

Okay, so now it’s time to shift our attention to the big one: ~PABU~, opening for dinner this evening. Upon walking in, you’ll notice the bar area to your right, with a notably elevated ceiling, and softly glowing lanterns above with cranes on them (the room has an airy feel, and if you’d guess that air was the element Bishop Pass was working with here, you’d be correct). There are tall windows, and comfortable booths along the back wall upholstered in a burnt orange, sure to get filled up during happy hour (Mon-Fri 3pm-6pm). Mina Group head bartender Carlo Splendorini and lead bartender Nick Jones are at the helm, creating house-carbonated beverages, fizzes, highballs, and more, with some Japanese ingredients making appearances. Look for fresh herbs and fruits embedded in the ice (you can look at the cocktails and more here). There’s also a Japanese whisky ceremony available if you want to celebrate a good day on the stock market.

To the left is the warm-feeling dining room that’s full of wood (including oak-paneled floors), with a loooong sushi counter (22 seats!), seating in the center of the room, and some booths enclosed with wood slats along the side with sea foam-green seats that create an even more intimate experience. There are also some beautiful private dining rooms, and I loved the Japanese landscapes and cherry blossoms painted on the concrete walls. There’s also an indoor garden dining room in a light-filled atrium.

Tominaga’s menu features both izakaya dishes and sushi, ranging from cold to hot small plates (there’s a wonderful ankimo dish, and don’t miss the happy spoon with uni, ikura, tobiko, ponzu, and crème fraîche), robatayaki (eight kinds), shabu-shabu, and some larger plates, including tempura, seafood, and A4 and A5 Japanese wagyu—look for a contemporary approach to this dishes, and they’re designed to share.

But anyone who loves sushi is going to want to beeline for the spectacular nigiri menu, and particularly Ken’s Nigiri Tasting Menu, which brings eight courses of beautiful Edo-style nigiri served two pieces at a time. The quality of the seafood is spectacular, from kohada to shima aji to a maguro pairing that will make you look at the fish in a different light. The sushi bar is at the hands of Yoji Harada, who started his culinary career at 18 in Japan, and he eventually came to the U.S. Ken got him to come to Hana from Gonpachi in Torrance, and then recruited him for Pabu Baltimore, which recently closed. All I can say is lucky us that we now have Yoji at Pabu SF, because the omakase experience I had at a test dinner was fantastic.

The other component to the omakase menu you don’t want to miss is the sake pairing from sake master Stuart Morris. You’ll learn more about sake in one meal than you probably have in a year, and the range of flavor profiles is very exciting. Even if you don’t opt for a sake pairing, you’ll still get steered to some excellent selections, and some are very rare.

Dinner Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm, with weekday lunch service (11am-2pm) beginning on Monday July 28th. 101 California at Davis, 415-668-7228.


Interior photo by Michael David Rose Photography, courtesy of Urban Daddy.


The hot fried wild snapper. Photo courtesy of Chubby Noodle.

After blowing things up for their grand opening this past weekend, ~CHUBBY NOODLE MARINA~ is now open for regular business. Chef-owner Pete Mrabe keeps fine-tuning and tweaking the 12-item menu, which has a few dishes in each section (noodles, seafood, meat, and dim sum). The dim sum picks include chicken buns and pork and shrimp shu mai, and the seafood section features hot fried wild snapper (with arbol chile, garlic, ginger, and onion). You can order the chicken noodle soup, which is more like a ramen with fried chicken, and I kind of can’t wait to try the hickory-smoked bacon jook with a fried egg.

The former Gatip Thai has been remodeled by Bon Vivants Design+Build—it’s a 49-seater, with high-top communal tables (which you can also reserve for large groups) that are right next to the open kitchen, a stand-up bar, and wood booths with bench-style seating.

Co-owner Nick Floulis (Pushback Wines) is behind the wine and beer list, and clever wine-based cocktails (which we mentioned in our previous piece), plus there’s sake on tap, one of the first places in the U.S. to offer it.

Open 5pm-12:30am nightly, but they are pondering closing on Mondays (just double-check their hours on their website before you head over or give ‘em a call). 2205 Lombard St. at Steiner, 415-655-3335.


The interior at COCO500. Photo from Facebook.

Here’s some big news on the San Francisco restaurant scene: chef Loretta Keller has sold her beloved ~COCO500~ to partners Anna Weinberg, James Nicholas, and Jennifer Puccio of Marlowe, The Cavalier, and Park Tavern. The corner space, which housed Keller’s Bizou before Coco500, will become the new location of ~MARLOWE~, whose current building is slated to be torn down. The shuffle is good news for everyone, with Keller looking to spend more time in Los Angeles with family and at her newest project at the Exploratorium.

The new space will essentially double Marlowe’s size, from 40 to 80 seats. They also plan to offer a few additional menu options, including Keller’s famous fried green beans as an homage to the location’s history. And in the most excellent developments department, they’ve also scored a full liquor license, and plan to add a bar menu and late-night hours. They are also plotting an outdoor patio, as well as a walk-up window to sell the famous Marlowe burger.

Coco500’s last day is Wednesday July 9th, and Marlowe will open in the space in October. Marlowe will remain open until further notice (h/t to Scoop).


Hideki (on the right) getting his swerve on. Yelp photo by Chris E.

Some big changes at Outer Richmond’s izakaya mainstay, ~OYAJI~, namely that chef-owner and top dog boozer Hideki Makiyama has sold the restaurant after something like 11 years of holding it down and is said to be returning to Japan. He is reportedly going to try to open something in Japan, but it sounds like he could potentially open a smaller place here (with no sushi) if that plan doesn’t work out. His last day was Sunday June 15th.

The new owner, Masa Kumagai, worked for Hideki around eight years ago. Right now the restaurant is closed for a couple of weeks while the license transfers and inspections are under way. There is an interim team in place until the new owner returns from Osaka in the end of July (and it sounds like there won’t be any beer or sake to drink until Masa gets back because the ABC needs his fingerprints). They will be changing the menu since many of the dishes were from Hideki’s special recipes; expect it to include more nigiri and maki.

Hideki, thanks for always bringing the party, and I know some of us (but I’d wager probably not all of us) will miss your boob and testicle jokes.


The dining room at 1760. Photo by Daniel Morris Photography.

A few chef changes around town: first up, chef Adam Tortosa has left ~1760~ after nine months on Russian Hill—there is no word yet of his replacement (via Eater).

Fans of Ricky Yap’s sushi at ~AKIKO’S RESTAURANT~ will be sorry to hear he has moved on, “citing differences with ownership.” Stand by for what’s next from this talented chef. (Via Inside Scoop.) 431 Bush St. at Claude, 415-397-3218.

Over in the Mission, ~TRICK DOG~ has a new chef, Michael Logan (previously at The Battery) who is taking over for Chester Watson. Logan will be adding new dishes, but don’t worry, favorites like the Trick Dog burger, thrice-cooked fries, and kale salad will stay put. Look for some chefs to be making some pop-up appearances during the menu transition as well. Also moving on is the Zodiac menu: the new cocktail menu is launching next week. 3010 20th St. at Florida, 415-471-2999.

~BOURBON STEAK~ in The Westin St. Francis has a new executive chef, Pajo Bruich, who will continue with a modern American steakhouse style. His background includes executive chef of Enotria and Lounge ON20, both in Sacramento.


The behemoth double corned beef on rye from Rye Project. Photo courtesy Adam Mesnick.

Back in May we reported that Adam Mesnick of Deli Board and 1058 Hoagie was going to be closing ~1058 HOAGIE~ after two years and switching it to a new concept, ~RYE PROJECT~. We hope you got your last hoagie fix over the last couple months, because 1058 Hoagie is now closed as of June 27th. We have a bunch of details in our previous piece about what’s coming, but to recap, it will be a Jewish-style deli (he’s calling it a “Newish Deli,” ha!), featuring ingredients sourced from around the country (including rye bread from Detroit and bagels from New York that are parbaked, shipped, and then finished here, and of course, his favorite, Cleveland brown mustard), plus matzo ball soup, and more. UPDATE: WE JUST FOUND OUT RYE PROJECT IS OPENING ON MONDAY JULY 7TH, AND THE MENU IS LIVE! Hours will be Mon-Fri 11am-4pm. 180 7th St. at Natoma, 415-552-8984.

We already noted that ~THE LIBERTY CAFÉ~ had a new owner (Vega Freeman-Brady of Vega, you can read a note from her about the changes on Bernalwood) and was going to be focused on beer, brunch (daily), and burgers, and now we have the name: ~BERNAL STAR~. You can look at the menu here; initial reports on Yelp are a bit rough, but their website says they’re using 100 percent organic eggs, meats, and produce, so there’s that. Also: guest chefs, movies on the patio, half-off wine on Tuesdays, and a burger and beer happy hour offer (just $15) daily 4pm-6pm. Hours: Sun-Mon 9am-3pm, Tue-Fri 10am-10pm, and Sat 9am-10pm. 410 Cortland Ave. at Bennington, 415-695-8777.


A pair of tacos from Street Taco. Yelp photo by Eva H.

We’ve been trying to get some intel on this place for a while now, and it looks like Hoodline caught the opening of ~STREET TACO~ from owner Victor Juarez. He also owns Chilango, Casa Mexicana, and Azteca, and it looks like the new spot is offering classic choices like tacos, burritos, nachos, and quesadillas (you can peek at a menu here, and based on initial photos, they’re pretty hefty looking tacos). They’ve got a few less common meat offerings, too, like campechano (chorizo and beef), nopales, and alambres. 1607 Haight St. at Clayton, 415- 525-4435.


The Big 4’s grand dining room. Photo courtesy of The Scarlet Huntington.

The newly reopened ~BIG 4~ is now open for lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm. The lunch menu highlights classic dishes, including deviled eggs ($7), chicken liver mousse ($7), a burger ($14), and Cobb salad ($10/18). Check out the whole menu here and start plotting your next business lunch, you tycoon.

Outer Sunset’s ~OUTERLANDS~ is now open on Mondays after closing to remodel and expand. They’ve already added dinner service, so Monday hours are now 8am-10am for café service, lunch 10am-3pm, bar bites and cocktails 3pm-5:30pm, and dinner 5:30pm-10pm.


The communal table, overhead branch, and window-counter seating at Namu Gaji. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

~NAMU GAJI~ is now offering free snacks with every drink ordered during happy hour, Tue-Fri 5pm-6:30pm. Each day, you’ll have a choice of three different dishes like spiced beef jerky, duck pâté, or kimchi arancini to accompany any beverage from their list. Their regular happy hour menu and dinner menu will also be available.

Remember that ridiculous glove law, and the petition the hopper asked you to sign back in February? Well, good news, friends! Sometimes grassroots campaigns really do work, and this one did. The part of the law that stipulated all cooks and bartenders wear gloves was repealed last week, just before the July 1st effective date. Good job, everyone who worked to get this law repealed!


Fireworks on the Fourth of July. Flickr photo by DVIDSHUB.

The Fourth of July is this Friday (meaning a nice long weekend, woohoo!), and it’s a great excuse to enjoy some American foodstuffs and plenty of grilled meats. Here are some places to enjoy yourself, as well as some excellent spots to pick up all the supplies you’ll need for your own feast.

~BAR AGRICOLE~ is having their 36th Annual July Fourth Cookout party from 4:30pm to 8:30pm (we’re not sure how they got to 36 years, since they opened in 2010, but okay). There will be all-you-can-eat oysters and grilled sausages, plus your first American beer is included (and of course you can buy more). Ten percent of all proceeds are going to save the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, which hit another legal roadblock this week. Tickets are $50 in advance or $55 at the door.

San Francisco has a pretty serious lineup of cool butcher shops, so don’t miss a chance to grill some of their fine meats at your party. First up, despite their French roots, is ~OLIVIER’S BUTCHERY~, where you’ll find a full selection of specials for the holiday, including Louisiana hot links, cheese-stuffed burger patties, chicken wings, and baby back ribs. Here are all the choices; consider ordering ahead for large quantities. 1074 Illinois St. at 22nd St., 415-558-9887.

It wouldn’t be the Fourth without hot dogs, and local butcher shop ~4505 MEATS~ makes some of the best in town. They also butcher sustainable whole animals in-house and offer a huge variety of cuts, as well as housemade sausages. Plus, they’ll be open on the Fourth from 11am-5pm. Call ahead for large or special orders, and check out this informative (and funny) tutorial with owner Ryan Farr on The Bold Italic. 1909 Mission St. at 15th St., 415-255-3094.

~BELCAMPO MEAT CO.~ is raising all their own animals on their ranch in Yreka, then butchering and selling them at shops here in the Bay Area. If you’re headed out of town, they’ve also got locations in Larkspur at the Marin Country Mart, and in Palo Alto, in addition to their newly opened Polk Street location. Starting today, July 1st, they’re offering 20 percent off all ground beef, and also have a great selection of pastured meat, including ribs, sausages, and wings. San Francisco: 1998 Polk St. at Pacific, 415-660-5573; Larkspur: 2405 Larkspur Landing Circle #4 and Lincoln Village, 415-448-5810; Palo Alto: 855 El Camino Real Suite 161 at Alma, 650-561-3492.


On Monday July 14th, learn all about banh mi from author Andrea Nguyen, who recently released her book, The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches. She’ll be celebrating the book’s launch at ~OMNIVORE BOOKS~ from 6:30pm-9:30pm. The free event will include a banh mi bar, cocktails, and party favors from Red Boat fish sauce and Ten Speed Press, plus Nguyen will be on hand, signing books and talking about her recipes.

On Sunday July 27th, head to Devil’s Gulch Ranch with CUESA, Allstar Organics, and chef Thomas McNaughton for a farm tour and luncheon. Mark Pasternak, who runs the beautiful Devil’s Gulch, will discuss the mutually beneficial relationship between farmers and restaurants in the Bay Area with McNaughton, while touring his property where animals including rabbits, pigs, and quail are raised. Then, at Allstar Organics, farmers Janet Brown and Marty Jacobson will talk about their land, where they specialize in heirloom vegetables and herbs.

The event begins at 8:40am at the Ferry Building, and buses return from Marin at 5:30pm. Tickets are $60 per person and include farm tours, transportation from the Ferry Building, and catered lunch. And speaking of Devil’s Gulch, they are eligible for a Kiva Loan with endorsement from the Agricultural Institute of Marin. It will allow them to grow the farm, and loan amounts start as low as $5! And you get paid back. Check it out, people.


The exterior of the former Café Aquarius. Photo from Facebook.

After reopening about two years ago, it looks like Berkeley’s ~SKETCH ICE CREAM~ is closing again, this time forever. Chowhounders originally caught the news from Sketch’s Facebook page, saying their last day will be Sunday July 6th, with modified hours. It sounds like they are hoping to spend more time with their daughter, but we’ll definitely miss them! Best of luck to everyone. 2080 4th St. at Addison, Berkeley, 510-984-0294.

Berkeley has another sad closure, this time on Solano. According to Berkeleyside Nosh, ~LA FARINE~’s Solano location closed unexpectedly this morning. Apparently, they’ve been involved in negotiations with their landlord about a sloping floor and mold issue, and were ultimately unable to reach a lease agreement. After 10 years in the neighborhood, owner Jeff Dodge says they hope to reopen nearby, and soon. In the meantime, both of La Farine’s Oakland locations remain open. 1820 Solano Ave. at Colusa, Berkeley.

As mentioned last year in tablehopper, the former ~AQUARIUS CAFÉ~ space was vacated after a rent increase from the landlord. Now, it looks like a new tenant has been found, according to E’ville Eye. It’s called ~BACANO BAKERY~, and it’s a gluten-free bakery currently based in Oakland. They’ll be moving their operation to the Emeryville location, which will function as a bakery and café. Eventually, they plan to move the bakery side of the business off-site. In the meantime, you can try out their goodies at various farmers’ markets, including Grand Lake on Saturdays, Temescal on Sundays, and Clement Street in San Francisco on Sundays. 1298 65th St. at Hollis, Emeryville.

And speaking of trendy dietary restrictions, East Bay Express reports that Berkeley is getting a new paleo-centric café. The new spot, which aims to open in September, is called ~MISSION: HEIRLOOM GARDEN CAFÉ~ and comes from partners Yrmis Barroeta and Bobby Chang. The pair are currently operating a food delivery business with chef Christian Phernetton while they get the restaurant off the ground. While their offerings won’t be “strictly” paleo, or “preachy,” they will focus on foods that are gluten-free, without sugars, refined flours, grains, legumes, or chemicals. Everything will be organic and GMO-free, as well. Because the space doesn’t offer a full kitchen, most preparation will be done off-site at a commissary kitchen and then delivered. They’ll also offer Intelligentsia coffee and those crazy “bulletproof” butter lattes with butter in place of milk in coffee. 2085 Vine St. at Shattuck, Berkeley.


Baguette sandwiches at Bio Café. Photo courtesy Bio.

As of Thursday June 26th, you’ll find Off the Grid at the Vintage Oaks Shopping Center in Novato every Thursday from 5pm-9pm. There will be nine trucks in attendance each week, with a rotating roster of trucks including El Porteño, Rib Whip, Smokey’s and the Oyster Guy, and Johnny Doughnuts. Vintage Way at Rowland Blvd., Novato.

There’s a new location of ~BIO CAFÉ~ in Sausalito. The new location marks their first Marin outpost (the original is in San Francisco’s Financial District). It’s a full-service restaurant with seating for 60. They’ll offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, along with beer and wine. On the menu, look for healthy, French-inspired choices that can accommodate various dietary restrictions including vegan and gluten-free—check out the menus here. Hours are Mon-Fri 6am-10pm and Sat-Sun 7am-10pm.

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