July 15, 2014

July 15, 2014
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The exterior of Monsieur Benjamin. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The left/south-facing dining room. Photo by Michael David Rose Photography courtesy UrbanDaddy.

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The view from the bar, on the right side. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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A look into the bar and kitchen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The busy kitchen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Oeufs mayonnaise with pimentón and chervil. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Marrow bones “Blue Ribbon” with bacon marmalade, country bread. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Exciting times in Hayes Valley. Last week we mentioned that ~MONSIEUR BENJAMIN~ was opening, and I got to attend a preview meal to experience it firsthand the day before it opened (I know, I’m a lucky lady). Corey Lee (Benu) has brought on chef Jason Berthold (RN74)—the two share extensive French Laundry and Per Se training and experience. Lee notes: “We know the playbook of French flavors well, and have stayed connected to them.” Lee said he and Berthold speak the same culinary language—their shared history and reference points make for a much more seamless workflow. Lee says, “I’m so lucky to have him. I want to be able to enjoy Benu and not lose sight, and Jason is what makes it possible.”

With Monsieur Benjamin, they are offering a modern bistro experience, which means they have updated cooking methods and use of ingredients with a modern sensibility, while making references to classic French flavor profiles. For example, the steak tartare (which Lee notes is a dish that has been done to death) is made with hand-cut beef, and there’s a pudding of yolk that is seasoned and piped onto the plate. You’ll also find a pissaladière that is sheeted (it has a crisp, lavash-like texture) with the flavors of anchovy and olive, and on the plate there are pulverized dried capers (which Lee notes are more delicate)—when you take a bite with your eyes closed, you taste a delicious (but updated) tartare.

It’s an extensive menu, with many small plates (from deviled eggs to oysters gratinées), a list of appetizers I want to try each and every one of (the sweetbreads and marrow bones “Blue Ribbon” with Della Fattoria bread were outstanding), plus 13 entrées that average around $27-$28—you’ll find steak frites ($36) and a burger ($18.50), as well as roast chicken and Artic char amandine. These à la carte dishes are not compositions: you have a sauce, a garnish, and voilà. Dessert includes a palmier ice cream with Calvados caramel; mon dieu was that good.

Aidlin Darling Design (Bar Agricole, Bar Bambino) is behind the urban and handsome 90-seat space. When you walk in, there’s a dining area both to the left and the right, with the bar in the center of the space—the open kitchen extends into the back. The south-facing side (closer to Hayes Street) has more light and a bar at normal table height (that is also ADA compliant), as well as a communal table made from a single piece of marble, while you’ll find a marble bar with tall bistro-style stools on the right side.

I had a cocktail at the bar, and they are doing a unique setup: your drink is prepared at an island in the middle of the bar area instead of assembling it in front of you, and you won’t see any liquor bottles—just the glassware that hangs above the island. It’s makes for a sleek and uncluttered view.

The dining rooms are in hues of charcoal (including the hex-tiled floor), with deep brown wood panels around the center bar island, and chestnut banquettes along the walls, with glowing filament bulbs suspended from the ceiling. The tables are topped with paper, and the wood chairs are in a classic shape. There’s definitely an urban aesthetic in play—especially noted in the custom metal shelving and the table legs of the communal table—mixing with references to classic Parisian style. Seamless windows surround the space with no breaks in the panels, creating a light-filled indoor-outdoor feeling; there will be outdoor seating added too.

A big deal is the fact this modern bistro is serving until 1am nightly. Lee has longed for a late-night bistro since he moved here in late 2009, but he didn’t want to create a super-traditional facsimile of a French bistro because as he says, “when it’s taken out of context, it feels hollow.” His first job was at Blue Ribbon in New York, and he learned how you have to commit to staying open late night consistently and you have to offer a full menu to truly cater to the late-night crowd. It will be the spot to go after the symphony and opera for sure. Hours for now are nightly 5pm-1am. Brunch will also be added soon.

A couple of other things that have Corey Lee extra-busy: in spring 2015, he has a book coming out with Phaidon, and he is casually looking into is creating a Korean barbecue spot—it’s another thing he thinks our city is missing. Lucky for us, Lee is a creative force who never stops pushing.

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The front dining room at Loló Cevichería. Photo by Wes Rowe.

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Ceviche negro at Loló Cevichería. Photo by Wes Rowe.

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Molotes at the new South. Photo courtesy of Slanted Door Group.

A couple of follow-ups for you on some openings we mentioned were coming. First, let’s circle back around to ~LOLÓ CEVICHERÍA~, which we broke the news about last week. Opening this Wednesday July 16th in the original Loló space, you’ll notice owner Lorena Zertuche has updated the space with a tropical look (complete with toucan wallpaper), banquettes upholstered in parrot-printed beach towels, and yellow woven baskets with Technicolor plastic flowers. Yeah, if you’re having a bad day, this place should perk you right up. Don’t forget: the 44-seat spot also has 16 outdoor seats.

Chef-owner Jorge Martinez has brought on Alberto Pitman from Mexico City to run the kitchen (his background is contemporary Mexican cuisine, and includes working for Enrique Olvera of Pujol in Mexico City, and for Benito Molina of Restaurante Manzanilla in Ensenada). We wrote about the menu last week, but here’s one more fun tidbit: the assistant general manager, Roberto Bocanegra, had his Peruvian mother share some of her family recipes for the ceviches (love it). Hours will be Mon-Thu 6pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 6pm-12am, closed Sun. 3230 22nd St. at Mission.

Last month we broke the news that ~SOUTH AT SFJAZZ~ had closed and was changing its format to a rustic Mexican menu from chef Rymee Trobaugh (formerly Zuni). Look for small plates like the molotes with black beans, queso cotija, and salsa de semillas, as well as heartier dishes like rabbit mole. According to the website, the opening is Thursday July 17th. Cocktails will also be shifted to emphasize rum, tequila, and mezcal. Hours will be Tue-Sun 5:30pm-10pm. 205 Franklin St. at Fell, 415-539-3905.

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Photo from Beast and the Hare’s Facebook page.

As previously reported on tablehopper, chef Brett Cooper joined forces with the Daniel Patterson Group after his departure from Outerlands. Now, Scoop reports that ~BEAST AND THE HARE~ in the Mission is closing, and Cooper and DPG are moving in. They’re planning to open a neighborhood restaurant, but with some more refined options, and are also hoping to become a bit of an industry destination. No word at the moment on when Beast and the Hare will close, but look for the new spot to open in November after a quick revamp (with no major construction).

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The fried chicken sandwich at Belcampo Meat Co. Photo from Facebook.

The new outlet of ~BELCAMPO MEAT CO.~ is now open for lunch from 11:30am-3pm daily. The menu includes sandwich choices like the fried chicken sandwich with slaw or a French dip with jus, a chopped salad, and of course their cheeseburger. 1998 Polk St. at Pacific, 415-660-5573.

~CAUSWELLS~ is now open for lunch Monday through Friday beginning at 11am, and for weekend brunch starting at 9am. According to their Facebook page, they’ve added some new sandwiches and salads to the menu. 2346 Chestnut St. at Scott, 415-447-6081.

Perhaps the review of ~SOUVLA~ we ran last Friday has you craving one of their tasty sandwiches or salads. You’ve got yet another day to get your fix: they are now open Mondays from 11am-10pm.

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Coco500, at the corner of 4th Street and Brannan. Photo from Facebook.

As previously reported on tablehopper, Loretta Keller has sold ~COCO500~. It is now officially closed (sniff), and the Marlowe team will be moving into the space in the coming months.

~HOTEI~ in the Inner Sunset is closing after more than 15 years in business. Owner Steve Fujii, who also owns Ebisu across the street, is slowly retiring after more than 30 years of owning restaurants, though he will continue to operate Ebisu. The last day will be Sunday August 31st. 1290 9th Ave. at Irving, 415-753-6045.

Union Street’s adult candy fantasyland ~AMERICAN CUPCAKE~ has closed, at least for now, according to Scoop. It’s not clear if the spot will reopen, but a note on their Facebook page says that they’ve closed for the summer while the owner takes maternity leave. 1919 Union St. at Laguna.

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The newly remodeled Noe Valley Bakery. Photo from Facebook.

Tipster Adam T. wrote in to let us know that there is a new Northeastern-style Chinese restaurant in the Excelsior, called ~SUNGARI DUMPLING HOUSE~. The chef hails from Dongbei, and the menu offers specialties from that region. Look for Northern ribs, braised duck, and hand-pulled soup noodles. The menu is one of the more, er, strangely translated ones we’ve come across (Sauce Obliterate Autumn or North Pot Package of Meat, anyone?), so it might be best to just go on in and try out whatever looks interesting. 4543 Mission St. at Santa Rosa, 415-333-3681.

Chefs Eddie Lau and Luis Villavelazquez are back with their Fortress: Solitude pop-up. The next one is on Saturday July 19th, with a dinner and cocktail social highlighting figs. Look for different varieties of the fruit, including Black Mission, Melissa, and Adriatic figs showing up in cocktails and dishes. You can check out the menu here. Dinner is from 6pm-8:30pm and costs $55 per person, then from 9pm-11:30pm there’s a cocktail social for $25. You can attend both (and get cocktail pairings at dinner) for $75 per person total. It’s all happening at Naked Kitchen. 945 Valencia St. at 20th St.

The ~NOE VALLEY BAKERY~ has reopened after a brief remodel, according to a tweet. They’re rocking a new look, and are now serving Sightglass coffee to go with their pastries. 4073 24th St. at Castro, 415-550-1405.

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Hedge Gallery; photo via Hedge’s Facebook page.

How’s this for faaaabulous? While ~QUINCE~ is closed for renovations (from July 25th until September 19th), the restaurant will be holding a series of pop-up dinners just across the street at Hedge Gallery, called curATE (the experience will be designed and produced by the one-and-only Stanlee Gatti).

And the plot thickens: not only will the food be assuredly delicious, but each week a different gallery will be installing the work of modern artists (and mixed mediums) at Hedge. Guest gallerists include Jeffrey Fraenkel, Anthony Meier, Jessica Silverman, John Berggruen, and Iwona Tenzing. There will also be a thematic correlation between the gallerist and chef Michael Tusk’s menu for that week. For example, Anthony Meier’s exhibit, titled “Deconstruction,” will feature deconstructed dishes, while Jessica Silverman’s exhibition, titled “White Is the Warmest Color,” will be paired with an all-white menu, so chic. I die! (You can look at all the menus here.)

The events run Wednesday through Saturday from July 30th through August 30th, and you can opt for a gallery reception of wine and canapés from 6:30pm-7:30pm ($50 per person, inclusive of tax and service charge), or go for the gallery reception and five-course tasting menu ($199 per person, inclusive of tax and service charge); the seated dinner begins at 7:30pm. Wine pairings will be offered ($110, including tax and tip), along with select items from the bar and access to the full Quince wine cellar. No corkage, darlings. There will be a communal table for solo diners, or you can purchase an individual table (with seating for up to 10 guests). Tickets and more info here. Jump on it, people—this series is so special and unique. 501 Pacific Ave. at Montgomery.

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Shakewell’s Tim Nugent and Jen Biesty. Photo: Devon Miller.

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Churros with spiced bittersweet chocolate sauce. Photo: Devon Miller.

Last week we mentioned that ~SHAKEWELL~ was opening on Lakeshore in Oakland, and now we want to point you to a few more details of note. First up, the Cal-Med-Spanish menu from chef-owner Jen Biesty (previously executive chef of of Scala’s Bistro and the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, and a participant on season four of Top Chef) and GM-owner Tim Nugent (previously executive pastry chef at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel and a competitor on the first season of Top Chef: Just Desserts) is now posted on the website.

You can come in for a cocktail (there are 12 to choose from) and bites like fried anchovy and aji pepper-stuffed olives ($4), or ramp up with summery dishes like summer squash, feta, basil, garden tomatoes, green olives, olive oil-fried bread ($11) and a glass of rosé. There are a variety of “bombas” (rice dishes baked in the wood-burning oven that showcase local seafood, vegetables, and meats), seafood (like grilled shrimp with Moroccan spiced dried lime rub, yogurt sauce, $16), and meats (chicken albondigas for $12, grilled lamb kefta with harissa, yogurt cucumber sauce, quinoa, and mint for $17). Nice pricing there, right? And save room for dessert, like churros with spiced bittersweet chocolate sauce that are made to order.

The 70-seat dining room includes space for 30 in the bar area. The space was designed by Bon Vivants Design+Build, with lots of custom touches, from the handcrafted wood chairs to the banquettes, and you’ll see some Moorish, Spanish, and Mediterranean elements (you can look at some pics on Eater). Open for cocktails at 4pm, dinner at 5:30pm (until 9pm on Sun, Tue-Thu until 10pm, Fri-Sat until 11pm), closed Mondays. Weekend brunch and lunch will start a month later. 3407 Lakeshore Ave. at Trestle Glen, 510-251-0329.

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The French toast at Doukkala’s brunch. Photo from Facebook.

~DOUKKALA~ in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood is now offering brunch on weekends from 11am-3pm. The Moroccan restaurant is offering brunch dishes with a California twist, like the Benedict with Merguez sausage and harissa hollandaise, or the fig jam-stuffed French toast (yowza). Take a peek at the menu here. For beverages, they offer a selection of teas and coffee, as well as Moroccan mimosas and a sparkling berry sangria. 4905 Telegraph Ave. at 49th St., Oakland, 510-653-8691.

East Bay Express reports that ~STANDARD FARE~, the dinner delivery service from Chez Panisse alum Kelsie Kerr, is now offering curbside lunch pickup via Square. You can now order seasonal sandwiches and salads online or through the app. You just order, then get a text when your food is ready, and your bag lunch is brought out to your car (or bike or whatever) when you pull up. Options include a seasonal soup, rotating meat or vegetarian sandwiches, and salads. The lunch menu is available Tue-Thu from 11am-2:30pm. 2701 8th St. at Carleton, Berkeley, 510-356-2261.

Berkeley is about to get another coffee roaster, San Francisco Magazine reports. It’s called ~SUPERSONIC COFFEE~ and comes from John Laird, founder of Pacific Bay Coffee, and his wife, Björg Brend Laird, of the Nordic Barista Cup. The team will be importing and roasting beans, and will have a Nordic and European focus in their approach. They’re currently working with Dutch espresso machine company Kees van der Westen to import and distribute their machines, as well. By 2015, in addition to roasting coffee, they hope to have cafés in throughout the East Bay. To start, though, they’ll have a roastery and an Airstream trailer for serving coffee. 2322 5th St. at Bancroft, Berkeley, 510-542-2540.

Back in May, Berkeleyside Nosh caught wind that ~NORIKONOKO~ would be reopening this summer after closing due to a fire last year. According to Yelp, it looks like they’re back open and slinging Japanese comfort food once again! The menu is a bit smaller, but you’ll find the same cozy atmosphere and many home-style dishes. 2556 Telegraph Ave. at Dwight, Berkeley, 510-548-1274.

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The exterior of Barkada in Oakland’s Temescal. Photo from Facebook.

Scoop reports that Oakland’s ~BARKADA~ is closed after just over a year in business, bummer. Their last day of service was Sunday July 6th, and there is no word on exactly what caused the closure or what might be moving in. 4316 Telegraph Ave. at 43rd St., Oakland, 510-601-7314.

Small whole-animal lunch spot ~MARROW~ has closed, East Bay Express reports. Apparently, owner Jon Kosorek has been trying to find a larger space for the restaurant, and was also struggling to keep his menu the way he wanted it while still appealing to the lunchtime crowd in the neighborhood. Kosorek and his wife also just had a baby, and are taking some time to decide what their next move might be. In the meantime, he’ll be working with a friend’s catering company in Napa. 325 19th St. at Webster.

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