July 8, 2014

July 8, 2014

The Aperol spritz. Photo courtesy of Campari America.


54 Mint’s plump gnocchi all’amatriciana. Photo: © tablehopper.com.


The upstairs at 54 Mint. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

When you read my review of ~54 MINT~ a couple of months ago, were you hungry to try chef Mattia Marcelli’s Roman menu (yeah, like the cheesy cacio e pepe?). Have you ever traveled to Italy, and miss the awesome aperitivo spreads you’ll find at bars in the early evening? Do you know how to pronounce “Negroni sbagliato”? Do the words “Aperol spritz” make you hungry and thirsty? Then this upcoming tablehopper and Campari America event, Una Serata a Roma (“An Evening in Rome”), is custom made for you.

On Wednesday July 23rd, we will gather on the outdoor patio and at the bar at 54 Mint for an aperitivo hour (starting at 6pm), featuring some classic Italian aperitivi, including an Aperol spritz and Negroni sbagliato (you’ll also be able to learn how to make an Aperol spritz—it’s as easy as 3-2-1). Chef Mattia Marcelli will be putting out an abundant spread of some fantastic bites, like supplí al telefono and salumi. We can pretend we’re in a piazza in Rome as we socialize, eat, and drink.

At 7pm, we’ll make our way into 54 Mint’s rustic-chic upstairs dining room for a family-style feast that will include two classic Roman pasta dishes (cacio e pepe and gnocchi all’amatriciana), and then get ready for a very special meat course, featuring chef Mattia’s perfect lamb chops, fennel pollen-spiked porchetta and housemade sausage (the pork is coming from Mark Pasternak’s Devil’s Gulch Ranch), plus sides like roasted potatoes and mustard greens.

Throughout the meal, 54 Mint partner and wine director Gianluca Legrottaglie will talk about Roman culinary traditions, and will also be pairing some wines to go along with the meal (you’ll learn about those too!). For dessert, expect a classic Roman dessert (torta ebrea) and a digestivo (perhaps Averna or Cynar will be making appearances). Let’s just say you may want to have a light lunch that day.

Tickets are only $75 per person, including all beverages, tax, and tip. 21 and over. Special thanks to Campari America for their partnership in this event. A donation will be made to the SF-Marin Food Bank. Ci vediamo!


Time to get behind the curtain! This is how Monsieur Benjamin’s construction scene was looking last month. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

And just like that, ~MONSIEUR BENJAMIN~ is opening tomorrow, Wednesday July 9th. To recap, the 90-seat project is from Corey Lee of Benu, Jason Berthold (previously RN74, and French Laundry and Per Se, where he worked with Lee), and Thomas Palauqui. Lee and company have had a year to prepare the large menu—as Lee notes, “a luxury”—and are taking classic French bistro and traditional French dishes and flavor profiles, giving them a modern update. Lee has been longing for a bistro and late-night destination since he moved to SF in 2009, so like they say, if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.

Tonight I’m going to a preview dinner, so I’ll have many more details for you on Friday about the interior (by Aidlin Darling Design), the inspiration, and what you’ll find on the modern French bistro menu (I do know they are committed to offering top-quality raw shellfish, including oysters that are shucked properly). When I met with Lee about a month ago, he said there would be snacks for $10 and under, appetizers from $10-$19, entrées in the $20s and $30s, plus cheeses and dessert (of course). The menu should be posted on the website soon, and we’ll be sure to run it here.

The look will have an urban San Francisco aesthetic, with references to classic Parisian style, like paper-topped tables and wood chairs that echo the classic bistro shape (nope, no faux bistro here). A few highlights: late-night dining hours, a casual and neighborhood vibe, cocktails (plus an exploration of French liqueurs and spirits), and Master Sommelier Yoon Ha has selected a wine list that features smaller family-owned producers from France (plus some from California too)—many will come from the Loire, and look for bottles to be less than $100, with 10 by the glass.

Hours are nightly 5pm-1am, eventually opening at 1pm on Sat-Sun for brunch in a few weeks. Reservations can be made starting tomorrow on OpenTable or by phone.


Toucan cuteness. Photo: Ryan Robles PR.


The new back dining room, complete with parrots! Photo: Ryan Robles PR.

Fans of the charming and intimate original Loló location on 22nd Street will be pleased to know it has reopened as ~LOLÓ CEVICHERÍA~, featuring five kinds of ceviches and some favorites from the original menu, like the tuna tacon and taco tropical, plus a few more small plates, like guacamole. Chef-partner Jorge Martinez designed the menu to be affordable, and a good place to swing by for a drink and a bite. Low-proof beverages from David Gallardo and Leon Vasquez (the bar managers for Loló Valencia) include some white and red sangrias, white port tonics, and their agave wine margarita slushies, including one variation made with tamarind.

The space was redesigned by partner Lorena Zertuche (of course it’s colorful). If you’re waiting for a table at ~LOLÓ~, this is a good spot for spillover (and large groups of eight or more). Loló Cevichería is doing some soft opening/trial runs during the next week, with a grand opening and full hours planned starting Wednesday July 16th. Hours will be Mon-Thu 6pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 6pm-12am, closed Sun. 3230 22nd St. at Mission.


Pastrami at Rye Project. Photo courtesy of Adam Mesnick.

Last week we mentioned ~RYE PROJECT~ from Adam Mesnick was about to open, and whaddya know, it’s now open! To recap, ~1058 HOAGIE~ has closed after two years (I’ll miss you, #1) and now Mesnick’s Jewish-style deli has taken its place—you can peep the menu here. You’ll find pastrami and corned beef (on rye bread from Detroit), and you know there will be some special combos coming too (just look at Mr. Adams on a kaiser roll). There are also some bagel options (the bagels are sent from New York parbaked and then finished here), with toppings like nova lox and smoked whitefish salad.

Soup of the day, check. The creative salads also look really good (that’s where the “Newish Deli” comes into play), with picks like the Rye House ($13), with romaine, corned beef, muenster cheese, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, cherry tomato, and chickpeas; and the Abuelas ($12), with spring mix, tuna salad, avocado, muenster cheese, pico de gallo, green pepper, cucumber, hearts of palm, and cherry tomato. Oh, and all salads come with a bagel, how about that? Other Jewish deli faves will appear, like chopped liver, mac and potato salad, blintz soufflé, and black-and-white cookies. Come hungry. Open Mon-Fri 11am-4pm. 180 7th St. at Natoma, 415-552-8984.


There’s about to be even more bubbly at Quince. Photo from Facebook.

~QUINCE~ is closing temporarily from July 25th until September 19th for renovations. The new space, which is being designed by Douglas Durkin, will increase the comfort of the restaurant, with a new entrance, custom lighting, and additional exposed brick. The warmth of the space will also be enhanced with new, curved leather banquettes and arched openings throughout.

In addition to these decorative changes, there will also be some new spaces within the restaurant. Two seats will be added to the chef’s counter, offering more opportunities for diners to watch the action in the kitchen. There will also be two more private dining rooms, each with seating for 12, in addition to the existing room for 18. A new private dining room, the Octavia Room, can be reserved for up to 12 people in the kitchen at the neighboring Cotogna as well.

Perhaps the most fabulous (and definitely bubbliest) addition is the new Champagne bar and lounge. It will be situated at the entrance to the restaurant, and will encourage walk-ins. At the bar, you’ll find cocktails, wine, and, of course, lots of Champagne, much of it available by the glass (selected by wine director Jai Wilson). As for food at the bar, there will be à la carte dishes from the main dining room’s tasting menus, as well as special daily appetizers.

During the renovation, the Quince team will be popping up at the nearby Hedge Gallery. Stand by for more details on those dates and tickets next week.


A peek into the new Le Marais Bistro space, which flanks the bakery (at left). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Back in May, we mentioned that ~LE MARAIS BAKERY~ in the Marina was not only expanding into the space next door to include a bistro space (Le Marais Bistro), but owners Patrick Ascaso and Joanna Pulcini-Ascaso also made some new hires (executive chef Nicolette Manescalchi, head pastry chef Emily Riddell, and head baker Kate Mooring).

The bistro side is now open, offering 38 new seats, plus another 6 outside. The airy room has a country bistro feeling, with reclaimed redwood floors and, like the café, it features a skylight, Bundt pan light fixtures, and iron Parisian balcony railings. A large picture of the rooftops of buildings in the Marais in Paris will also be installed soon. For now, the bistro is offering overflow seating for the café until dinner service begins on Wednesday July 23rd. Hours will expand, and another addition will be European wines and beers.

There are also brunch, lunch, and breakfast services (and menus) that will be launched in time—although you may notice some tweaks that have already happened to the sandwich menu (which now includes house-cured ham), with more coming. We’ll have a preview of the new Mediterranean dinner menu for you before it launches, stand by. Hours for now remain 7am-7pm. 2066-68 Chestnut St. at Steiner, 415-359-9801


Ice cream sandwiches from Cream. Photo from Facebook.

~CREAM~, the local ice cream sandwich chain whose name stands for “Cookies Rule Everything Around Me,” is opening their first San Francisco location in the former Ti Couz space on 16th Street, Eater reports. The customizable menu offers 20 ice cream flavors, along with 10 different kinds of cookies, including vegan and gluten-free choices. Owner Alexis Garcia is hoping to open by August. 3106 16th St. at Valencia.

Hot on the heels of the news of ~MARLOWE~’s move to Coco500’s space is the newest change from Anna Weinberg, Jennifer Puccio, and James Nicholas. They’ve hired pastry chef Emily Luchetti to run the pastry at all three of the group’s restaurants: Marlowe, Park Tavern, and the Cavalier. Luchetti was previously at Farallon and Waterbar, but will be starting her new position on September 1st. Look for some fun spins on British sweets at the Cavalier, and straightforward but well-executed choices at Marlowe and Park Tavern.

Getting a seat at ~TOSCA CAFE~ just got a little easier (or harder, depending on how averse you are to planning). They are now accepting reservations for all times the restaurant is open. They can be made here, but the bar area is still reserved for walk-ins.


Amber Dhara. Photo from Facebook.

It looks like ~AMBER DHARA~ on Valencia has closed, according to Scoop. Owner Vijay Bist says that although he has closed the space, he hopes to find some new partners and relaunch the space with a new concept. It’s a huge space (with seating for more than 275), and has a full liquor license, so there’s definitely a lot of potential there. We’ll let you know when we hear what might be happening.

Hoodline reports that ~NECTAR~ on Haight Street has closed. A sign on the door states that the location, which opened in the former Katz Bagels in 2012, has closed indefinitely. Right now, no additional information is available, though it sounds like Sprig is using the kitchen for their meal preparation. 663 Haight St. at Pierce.


Pan con pollo from Salvi. Photo from Salvi.

Kevin Castellanos, who is currently the sous chef at Bocadillos and previously worked at Range and State Bird Provisions, is starting a new pop-up, called Salvi. His very first pop-up is happening on Sunday July 13th from 4:30pm-8:30pm at ~BOCADILLOS~. Castellanos was raised in El Salvador, and his menu will feature dishes he remembers eating there, but influenced by the Northern California ethos of quality ingredients. Think bean and cheese pupusas with housemade masa and cabbage slaw, or a tamal de puerco with braised pork shoulder. Follow along on Twitter for more information and updates. 710 Montgomery St. at Washington, 415-982-2622.


Ready to eat some Pocky? Photo from the 2013 J-Pop Summit by Dave Golden.

On Saturday and Sunday July 19th-20th, Japantown will be overrun with ramen and sake at the The Pop Gourmet Food Festival, part of the J-Pop Summit. There will be a section just for ramen, with all bowls for just $8, each from a different ramen shop. Participants include Men Oh, Munta, and Horaiya, with choices including tonkotsu, shoyu, and spicy ramen. The infamous ramen burger will even make an appearance. There will also be snacks and bites from food trucks and other vendors, including Onigilly, The Chairman, and JapaCurry.

One entire section of the festival will be entirely devoted to sake tasting from some major sake makers and distributors, including Choya Umeshu, Hosoda Bros., and Nishimoto Trading Co. Admission to the sake area is $10, ages 21 and over only. There will also be a space set aside for beer, cocktails, and nonalcoholic beverages as well. The festival includes live music, activities, and, hello, a Pocky eating contest. The festival will run from 11am-6pm both days and is free to attend, with food and beverages available for purchase. Post St. and Webster St. at Fillmore.

Modern Coffee.jpg

Photo: DeCenzo-Cordova Photography.

Folks in the Uptown Oakland area will be happy to know a second location of multi-roaster coffee house ~MODERN COFFEE~ is opening, and whaddya know, they’re opening in another historic building, this time in the Leamington Building (on 19th Street, very close to the newly opened Drexl Bar). It’s also going to be about the same size: 800 square feet, with around 12 seats. One more funny similarity: both locations were hair salons at one point as well.

Like the original location, owner Kristen Nelson will be showcasing a variety of coffees and teas from roasters like Stumptown Coffee from Portland, Counter Culture Coffee from Durham, North Carolina, and Northern California’s De La Paz Coffee (SF), Chromatic Coffee (San Jose), and Verve Coffee Roasters (Santa Cruz). Teas will continue to be sourced from Smith Teamaker in Portland, Teance Fine Teas in Berkeley, and tea importer GS Haly in Redwood City. There will also be some food supplied by local purveyors.

This time around, it’s a full buildout; they hope to open at the end of July or beginning of August. And congrats on the upcoming fifth anniversary of the original location this October. 1814 Franklin (with the entrance at 381 19th Street, between Franklin and Webster).


Squid salad at Shakewell. Photo: Devon Miller.


A beautiful sundae from Fentons. Photo from Fentons.

After hitting a few delays, the team behind ~SHAKEWELL~ in Oakland are happy to announce they are officially opening on Thursday July 10th. In our original piece, we noted that owners Jen Biesty and Tim Nugent are opening their eclectic Cal-Spanish concept on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland. You can look at a preview menu here; we’ll have more for you next week, including details on the cocktails and the space (designed by The Bon Vivants Design+Build). Open for cocktails at 4pm, dinner at 5:30pm, closed Mondays. 3407 Lakeshore Ave. at Trestle Glen.

Oakland institution ~FENTONS CREAMERY~ is celebrating their 120th anniversary this year, can you believe it? They are celebrating with a big party on Sunday July 20th from 12pm-3pm in their parking lot. There will be free barbecue, free scoops of some of their signature flavors (did you know they invented toasted almond?), and the junior size of their Black and Tan sundae will be available for $1.20 (normally, it’s $9.25). Plus, 4-H, their community partner for July, will be on hand with animals to meet and greet, and the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse will be leading craft activities. Oh, and there will also be a raffle with lots of ice creamy prizes and a DJ playing nostalgic music. Happy birthday, Fentons! 4226 Piedmont Ave. at Entrada, Oakland, 510-658-7000.

As previously reported in tablehopper, Jay Porter has taken over the former home of Taco Grill near the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland. The new place is called ~THE HALF ORANGE~ and is opening today for lunch. The menu is small and focused, with a burger made with Marin Sun Farms beef, a housemade sausage sandwich, and some Mexican-inspired plates like Ensenada-style beef tongue. For now, hours are only Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm, with dinner hours (and a beer and wine license) coming soon. 3340 E. 12th St. at 33rd Ave., Oakland, 510-500-3338.

Eater snagged some additional details on Chris Pastena’s newest venture, a Mexican restaurant in Uptown Oakland’s new development, The Hive. Pastena has partnered with Michael Iglesias and Jessica Sackler, both of Coqueta, on the Mexican project, which is called ~CALAVERA~ and should be opening in early 2015. The menu will be focused on traditional cooking methods and high-quality ingredients, prepared in house, including flour and corn tortillas. There will also be a wide selection of mezcal and tequila, with a bar run by Joe Cleveland of Coqueta. 2337 Broadway at 24th St., Oakland.

Starting Monday July 14th, ~OFF THE GRID~ is offering a new place for Monday dinner in Uptown Oakland. From 5pm-9pm there will be eight food trucks at the corner of William and Telegraph, with a rotating lineup of trucks that includes El Porteño, Doc’s of the Bay, and Roderick’s BBQ. William St. at Telegraph Ave., Oakland.

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