January 6, 2015

January 6, 2015

The dining room. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.


Banquette seating at Californios. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.


A view of the bar and open kitchen, with a lounge area to the left. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.


Kampachi aguachile served on a vintage plate. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Now open in the Mission is ~CALIFORNIOS~ from chef Val Cantu, who previously hosted pop-up dinners at Naked Kitchen. It’s his first brick-and-mortar restaurant, and his wife, maître d’ Carolyn Cantu (formerly with Ken Fulk’s design firm), has created quite a chic space.

The entire experience is designed to be a bit mysterious and abstract: the restaurant has frosted windows and cryptic signage, and diners aren’t presented with a menu. It’s a tasting menu ($57, seven courses), and even when you receive the menu at the end of the meal, there isn’t much in the way of description—it’s basically just a list of words. So control freaks may have some problems with the format, but personally, I think it’s fun to be in the chef’s hands. (If you have issues with ingredients and allergies, I’d let the restaurant know when you make your reservation—and there is a vegetarian option.)

Cantu’s style is said to be “an avant-garde and reimagined interpretation of Mexican cuisine,” and his cooking experience includes Sons & Daughters, along with Pujol in Mexico City and Uchi in Austin. You’ll see some nods to Mexican ingredients, dishes, and techniques, and there’s a Californian and seasonal bent to his cuisine as well. I attended a test dinner, and already one week later, the menu has evolved and changed, which is in keeping with his creative style.

Our meal included Cantu’s spin on chips and salsa (with fermented chile pepper paste); a pomegranate granita with blueberry purée pudding, white chocolate, and “pop rocks”; kampachi aguachile with thinly sliced radishes and jalapeño (served on a fun vintage plate); chicken soup in a rich grain broth and pickled turnips; his version of barbacoa (tender beef tongue braised in black garlic) with a clever pairing of avocado and wasabi; and a few desserts, including blood orange yogurt and Mexican wedding cookies. The very personal food is modern, experimental, and playful, with a number of different temperatures and plating styles as well.

You can opt for wine pairings ($35), chosen by beverage director Charlotte Randolph (French Laundry), or survey the list for wines from small-scale vintners, plus beers and ciders too. Linea Caffe and Red Blossom Tea Company make up the coffee and tea menu.

The intimate and dimly lit space is perfect for a date: it’s like a funky study that would belong to a cool gallery owner, with tufted leather banquettes in a soft tobacco, black paneled walls, eclectic art (including a fun piece in the washroom), and modern chandeliers. But it’s not a romantic environment: the hip-hop and rap soundtrack keeps it feeling pretty urban. There’s an open kitchen with seating at the counter, with 25 seats in the dining room in all.

Open Tue-Fri 5:30pm-10pm, Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm. It’s worth noting there’s a $40 cancellation fee if you cancel your reservation less than 24 hours before your seating. 3115 22nd St. at Mission, 415-757-0994.


The dining room at Shizen. Photo courtesy Shizen.


The dining room at Shizen. Photo courtesy Shizen.


The exterior view of Shizen. Photo courtesy Shizen.

A report by Dana Eastland. The team behind Tataki sustainable sushi restaurants has a new venture opening this weekend, called ~SHIZEN~. Instead of focusing on sustainable seafood, the new project is all about sustainability in another way: the food is completely vegan. The menu offers sushi, izakaya-style grilled items, and ramen. Partner Kim Lui, a founding chef of Tataki, is the chef, and partner Casson Trenor reports that the aim in the kitchen is to give vegetables and vegan dishes the same level of attention and respect as seafood. To that end, they’ve built a sushi counter and will be offering daily specials prepared according to seasonal availability, so diners can select vegan nigiri-style choices.

They’ve also got a ramen menu, which took some doing. They’ve worked hard to develop a broth that uses no pork and are making egg-free noodles in-house daily. They’ve even managed to create “egg” and “chashu” toppings. There are also izakaya-style skewers, including a smoked bean curd version, or one with shishito peppers, plus grilled corn on the cob with togarashi, lime, salt, and pepper.

There is beer, wine, and sake in the beverage department, though the details of the list are still being worked out and the selections will be refined in the coming months. Hours are 5pm-10pm, though that may change as they learn more about the neighborhood and work out more kinks. The current plan is to open their doors by Friday January 9th, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call ahead to make sure they’re open if you’re headed over. 370 14th St. at Julian, 415-678-5767.


Exterior photo from the now-closed Café des Amis (photo via Facebook).

January is here, and, sadly, that means some closures to report. ~CAFÉ DES AMIS~ closed it doors on Sunday January 4th, after opening in 2010 on Union Street. A press release from Bacchus Management Group, which owned the café, cites problems securing a lease as the ultimate cause of the closure. The hope is to reopen in a new location at a later date, but in the meantime, they are working to make sure all the staff can transition into new positions at the group’s other restaurants.

~THE ABBOT’S CELLAR~ is closing at the end of the month (the last day of service is dinner on Saturday January 31st). The three partners, Christian Albertson, Nat Cutler, and Adam Dulye, opened the beer-centric restaurant in 2012. Moving forward, Albertson and Cutler will continue as partners at Monk’s Kettle, while Dulye will move on to another project. The partners cited issues with labor costs, profitability, and sustainability in the restaurant’s demise, despite its critical successes. Between now and January 31st, they will be open Tue-Sat.

The funky places on Divisadero continue to close, and the latest on the chopping block is ~KK CAFE~, according to Hoodline. The story is all too familiar: (the adorable) owners Jack and Margaret Chang can no longer afford the rent increases and upgrades required if they want to stay. They’ll be closing on Tuesday January 13th, but the news isn’t 100 percent bad. They hope to launch a business to distribute their famed peanut milk, with the help of their son Jon, after closing. Best of luck to the Changs, and be sure to stop by soon and get your fill of peanut milk and a burger. 252 Divisadero St. at Haight, 415-626-6188.

The sad news continues, with the report from Eater that ~GUSSIE’S CHICKEN AND WAFFLES~ has closed. Yelpers are reporting that they closed due to ongoing flooding issues, but will reopen in Oakland. 1521 Eddy St. at Fillmore.

We received notice that ~MASON~ in Potrero has also closed. Chef-owner Ryan Scott, who also owns ~MARKET & RYE~ next door, opened Mason in July. Despite only a few months in operation, Scott reportedly received “an offer that he couldn’t refuse” for the space, according to a press release. 338 De Haro St. at 16th St., 415-255-9335.

And just a quick reminder: the end of 2014 also meant the end of ~EMPRESS OF CHINA~. The iconic grande dame failed to secure a long-term lease after the building that houses the restaurant was sold; for more details on the sale, check out this article from The Examiner. 838 Grant St. at Clay.


The Blue Bottle Ferry Building location. Yelp photo by Adam S.

There are changes afoot at ~BLUE BOTTLE FERRY BUILDING~. The space, which currently consists of the main café space and the north side “secret window,” is getting some upgrades to keep coffee service efficient. There will eventually be three points for ordering coffee, three espresso machines, a brew-by-scale brew bar, and new countertops. From now until Friday January 30th, the north side window will be closed and affogatos, parfaits, Liege waffles, sandwiches, and salads will not be available. Then, from February 2nd through 27th, the main entrance will be closed and all ordering will be done through the north side window. Hours remain the same during the remodel. You can find more details on the remodel here. 1 Ferry Plaza #7 at Embarcadero.

Joe Wolf and Amy Brown of ~MARLA BAKERY~ have another outlet for selling their fabulous baked goods: the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Every Saturday from 8am-2pm you can find their breads, pastries, and cookies in the south driveway. Yeehaw. 1 Ferry Plaza at Embarcadero.

Oakland’s ~JUHU BEACH CLUB~ is coming west, with a new pop-up at the Thursday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market starting January 15th. They’ve got a bright pink tent (you can’t miss it), and they’ll be slinging chef Preeti Mistry’s flava-packed street food for lunch from 10am-2pm. Their signature pavs will be available, including the Pork Vindalated, Sloppy Lil’ P, and some new choices they’ll be trying out. In addition, you’ll find special bhel salads using fruit and vegetables from the market and a seasonal fruit lassi with Straus yogurt. 1 Ferry Plaza at Embarcadero.


Housemade granola and yogurt with fruit at Huxley. Photo courtesy Huxley.

A new year, a new brunch: ~HUXLEY~ is now offering Sunday brunch from 11am-2:30pm. The new menu, which you can check out here, includes their avocado toast with uni, seaweed, and sesame, as well as braised pork with fried eggs, lentils, and radish, or French toast with apple butter and walnuts. There are also ice cream options, including a Sightglass coffee ice cream with coffee brittle. 846 Geary St. at Hyde, 415-800-8223.

Mornings in SoMa just got a lot better: ~MERIGAN SUB SHOP~ is now offering breakfast sandwiches from 8:30am-10:30am Monday through Friday. The menu is still being finalized, but a photo of one with griddled mortadella, egg, salsa verde, and ricotta hit their Facbeook page over the weekend. Yeah, get it.

Hoodline reports that you don’t need an app for all your delivery needs, after all (who knew?). Turns out, you can just make an old-fashioned phone call to ~ROOM SERVICE~ in the Inner Sunset, and they’ll deliver what you need to your door. The convenience store offers a wide selection of beer, wine, spirits, snack foods, and household staples, and owner Daniel Flores reports that one of their top sellers is ice cream. Of course. The minimum order for delivery is $30, with a $5 delivery fee, free delivery for orders over $50. 900 Irving St. at 10th Ave., 415-566-7666.

As of Monday January 5th, ~COFFEE BAR~ has joined the wintertime flavored coffee madness, but with a special San Francisco twist. Two local pastry chefs, Laura Cronin (Perbacco/Barbacco) and Jessica Sullivan (Delfina Restaurant Group) were invited to create a special beverage to raise money for Meals on Wheels.

Cronin’s creation is the seasonal winter mocha with orange, cinnamon, vanilla, Valrhona dark chocolate, Neapolitan espresso, and fresh whipped cream, and is available at the Financial District locations: 101 Montgomery St. at Sutter, 415-397-2233; and 433 Kearny St. at California, 415-795-1214. Sullivan’s creation is the Bicerin, made with Gianduja drinking chocolate, Neapolitan espresso, hazelnut crema, and Gianduja shavings, and is available at the Mission location: 1890 Bryant St. at Mariposa, 415-551-8100.


Rosetta Costantino’s calzoncelli con ceci. Photo from Facebook.

Nothing brings joy to the January doldrums like a serious feast, Italian style. You won’t want to miss this special dinner celebrating the food and wine of Calabria on Thursday January 29th at ~VIA UNO~ in Half Moon Bay. The dinner is a collaboration between chef Giuseppe Sarubbi and author Rosetta Costantino, who are both from the same Calabrian town, and is a celebration of Costantino’s books on regional cooking. The four-course dinner includes many regional dishes, including ‘nduja crostini and sagne chine, a fresh layered pasta dish. Check out the full menu here. The dinner is $80 per person, or $110 with wine pairings. It begins at 6:30pm, and you can reserve your spot by email or by calling the restaurant. 2810 Cabrillo Highway North at Roosevelt, Half Moon Bay, 650-560-8858.

~HILLSIDE SUPPER CLUB~ is celebrating their second anniversary on Monday January 19th with a four-course prix-fixe dinner at 7pm (and hey, one of the courses will include that particular poultry liver that rhymes with trois!). The dinner is $68 per person, with an option for wine pairings for $32; reservations can be made here. 300 Precita Ave. at Folsom, 415-285-6005.