August 11, 2015

August 11, 2015
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You’ll get to see chef-owner Dominique Crenn at your table more than once. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The chic-yet-comfortable dining room. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Gougères. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Cauliflower gratin. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Whole Passmore Ranch trout. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Orange givrée. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The exterior of Petit Crenn. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Every once in a while, I walk into a restaurant space in San Francisco that makes me say, “Wait, whoa, we get to have this?” I had that feeling when I first saw The Progress, and Quince, and Saison. Sightglass too. And now, taking in the crisp, clean, white, modern lines of ~PETIT CRENN~, it makes me happy to see this place taking a stand against all the reclaimed wood and boring chairs and safe colors that are holding our city hostage. I grinned at the glossy and white resin pieces on the walls (by Lucky Rapp), with French phrases in cursive.

It’s more seaside restaurant than stark gallery: elements like the walnut tables (held over from the space’s previous incarnation as Bar Jules), pillows in varying shades of taupe and off-white, pendant lights suspended from white rope, ceramic cider boules (made by Issa Pottery in Sausalito), and antique silverware help create a feeling of rootedness, ease, and warmth, with a nod to Brittany’s maritime roots (echoed in the staff’s jaunty blue-and-white striped aprons).

Since this is chef-owner Dominique Crenn’s casual offshoot, her Michelin two-starred Atelier Crenn’s $200-plus tasting menu has been swapped out for a family-style, prix-fixe menu, which is $72 (inclusive of gratuity).

I went in for a soft opening dinner last week (it officially opens tonight) for a closer look. The family-style format means you will be dining with strangers, and while some couples will enjoy the unexpected conversation and experience, reserving a table for a group of four may mean you get your own table. Seatings are for 6pm and 8:30pm, and the food comes out in waves to all the tables at once. (My friend and I dined with another couple, happily who I already knew, but there was a funny moment of “aha!” when you realize you are sharing a table and dining with others. Crenn is trying to create a fun dinner-party vibe. Let’s play along.)

The menu is written on the wall on a blackboard, a nod to French bistros (and Bar Jules!), so you don’t need to order anything—just sit back and let it happen. Crenn’s roots are in Brittany, so she wanted to reconnect with the food of her childhood and showcase seafood, vegetables, and a simpler style of cuisine. She pays homage to her mother and grandmother with this location (Atelier Crenn was in honor of her father). Her executive sous chef, Aaron Thayer, was previously sous chef at Atelier Crenn.

The menu unfolds beautifully, starting with a classic, baby radishes with salt and butter, followed by Morro Bay Miyagi oysters with smoked tomato gelée and sea beans, and the silkiest rolled omelet with tarragon. Hopefully you have ordered your bubbles by the time the gougères filled with clouds of Navarrais cheese appear.

I went crazy for the stylish ice bucket designed by Tina Frey (it’s going on my wish list), which our bottle of sparkling chenin blanc from Vouvray’s Vincent Raimbault ($52) got plunked into. Personally, I found the list of Champagnes to be far too spendy (the least expensive bottle was from Hubert Paulet for $130), so be sure to check out the “Not Champagne” section of the wine list if you love bubbles but don’t have a big budget.

You’ll also see a list of five ciders (local and French), but I’d like to see at least one poured by the glass, especially considering how extensive and fabulous the by-the-glass selection is (17 in all). Francophiles will enjoy navigating wine director Courtney Humiston’s French-heavy list (with many natural wines), and there a few other European (Italian, Austrian) and California selections as well.

Back to the parade of dishes. There was a tureen containing escargot with a spoonful of mushroom broth and chanterelles, and fortunately there is some bread by Josey Baker on the table, which you will use to mop up the cheesy goodness from the blistered cauliflower gratin with Espelette and smoked bread crumbs (many ingredients get a kiss from the Argentine-style grill). Our table was totally taken with the simplicity of the cabbage with shallots and charred leek vinaigrette.

And then the main event comes out: a Passmore Ranch fire-roasted trout for two, filled with huge leaves of sage from Crenn’s farm, grilled lemon, and thyme, and topped with a cider sabayon. The savory part of the meal concluded with a Little Gem salad and the surprise of slices of a washed rind cheese from Brittany.

And then our table was delighted with the Meyer lemon mousse and lemon granita layered into little hollowed-out oranges, with a flick of fennel pollen (Crenn said her mother used to make this dish, orange givrée, for her). The finale of mignardises signals the end of your dinner party, and it’s time for the next seating to take your place. The meal moves at a good pace, and it’s fun to lose track of the menu and forget what’s coming next.

A few notes: be sure to alert them to any dietary restrictions 72 hours before your reservation. Obviously the menu will change with what’s in season and available. You can request the chef’s table (room for six, $120 each), and there are 10 seats at the bar facing the open kitchen, where you can come by for a glass of wine, oysters, and other à la carte selections (5pm-10pm, no reservations needed). To repeat, seatings are Tue-Sat at 6pm and 8:30pm, reservations required.

Petit Crenn will eventually morph into an all-day café in September, serving a light breakfast (pastries, omelette français, and oeuf à la coque) and lunch (crêpes, tartines, and salads); we’ll keep you posted. 609 Hayes St. at Laguna, 415-864-1744.  

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Chef-partner Ron Pei. Photo courtesy of Chino.

A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the changes happening at ~CHINO~ in the Mission, with chef Ron Pei taking over the kitchen after a temporary closure. The restaurant has reopened, and you can look at the new Cali-meets-Chinese menu here (from clams in bacon-jalapeño broth with scallion pancake to Taiwanese beef noodle soup with hand-cut noodles). You’ll even see Pei’s 70-year-old dad there, helping with the housemade noodles and dumplings, like his fish and leek dumplings. Also on the menu: some updated cocktails from bar director-partner Danny Louie.

Over in the Upper Haight, ~PEOPLE’S CAFE~ is sporting a new look, new owner, and new menu (sounds pretty straightforward); check it out in Hoodline. Open daily 8am-9pm (stops serving food at 8pm). 1419 Haight St. at Masonic, 415-553-8842.

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An exterior rendering of 450 Hayes Street. Rendering courtesy of DDG Partners.

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Lenore Estrada and Anna Derivi-Castellanos of Three Babes Bakeshop. Photo courtesy of Three Babes Bakeshop.

The 450 Hayes development has signed on a restaurant concept from Adriano Paganini’s restaurant group, which also operates Super Duper Burgers, Belga, Beretta, Lolinda, Starbelly, and Uno Dos Tacos. The space is in the construction project next to Flipper’s Burgers, and the restaurant will be moving into the ground floor. There’s no word currently on what it will be, but a press release drops some hints, including that it will be an entirely new concept for the group—and for the neighborhood. Paganini says the project will be approachable and affordable. “We’ve heard from the neighborhood that there needs to be a casual, affordable neighborhood restaurant that makes just as much sense to visit on a Monday or Tuesday as it does on a Friday or Saturday,” he says. Construction on the building is scheduled for completion in early winter of 2016. 450 Hayes St. at Octavia.

Fans of banana cream pie and empanadas will want to tune in to this news. You may have noticed the Three Babes Bakeshop ladies at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8am-2pm, but now they’re going to be opening a kiosk inside the ~FERRY BUILDING MARKETPLACE~! What this means is that they’ll be able to serve their pies by the slice or whole pie, and you’ll be able to order cream pies, too, since they’ll have some refrigeration, plus pick up some pie-related baked goods, like their pie cookies. They are moving into the El Porteño space and hope to open in mid-October. In the meantime, don’t miss the babes this weekend at the SF Street Food Fest: they’ll be serving banana cream pie, peach shortcake, and pie cookies!

Meanwhile, ~EL PORTEÑO~ is moving into a larger space in the Ferry Building Marketplace: what used to be Kingdom of Herbs, across from Cowgirl Creamery’s Sidekick. So Argentines, don’t cry, you’ll still be able to get Joey Ahearne’s beautifully buttery empanadas and alfajores, and he’ll also be able to start offering milanesa sandwiches, soups, facturas (Argentine pastries), and yerba maté drinks. It’s a win-win for all.

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The interior of Soap Box Cafe. Yelp photo by Sandra S.

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The Two-Fer from Go Jojo Mojo. Yelp photo by Joseph C.

In June, we mentioned that there is a new café coming to Nob Hill called ~THE SOAP BOX CAFE~. They are serving Vietnamese sandwiches and fresh spring rolls, as well as bagels, salads, and beverages. Yelpers are reporting that everything is pretty good, and the prices are reasonable (banh mi come in at less than $5, salads are less than $10). There is also Vietnamese coffee and a selection of “fizzes,” including lemon-lime and salted plum. Check out the whole menu right here. 1800 Hyde St. at Vallejo, 415-829-7139.

We mentioned back in April that Vietnamese mini-chain ~PERILLA~ was moving into the former Ming Yao H space in the Lower Haight. Hoodline reports that they are now open and serving a menu of Vietnamese restaurant staples, including garlic noodles, vermicelli bowls, rice plates, banh mi, and appetizers. Hours are Sun-Thu 10:30am-10pm and Fri-Sat 10:30am-11pm. 525 Haight St. at Fillmore, 415-872-6718.

~GASPAR BRASSERIE~ has launched a new Saturday night jazz series, inspired by the midcentury jazz scene in Paris. Every Saturday night from 7pm to 10pm, a different jazz performer will play in their downstairs space, while the bar will offer vintage-inspired drinks. There is also a prix-fixe three-course dinner option for $45, with old-school favorites also inspired by the era. Head here for the weekly menu, to find out who’s performing, and to make reservations.

In November of last year, we mentioned the opening of L’Emigrante on Mission Street. Owner Irfan Yalcin also purchased the former Dante’s Weird Fish and had plans to open it as Le Bistro Bon Vivre, according to Mission Local. However, Capp Street Crap reports that locals and regulars told Yalcin how sad they were to lose Weird Fish, so he got permission from former owner Peter Hood to offer a similar menu and some signature dishes. The restaurant is now open and is called ~URBAN FISH~. They are serving vegetarian, vegan, and seafood dishes. 2193 Mission St. at 18th St., 415-863-4744.

There’s a new regular food truck at the Duboce Truck Stop, and it looks like a good one. ~GO JOJO MOJO~ is serving Korean fusion food, including Korean burritos, breakfast items, and the totally insane-looking Two-Fer, a double Sloppy Jojo with spicy pork and apple slaw (take it easy there). Check out the menu here, and find Jojo at the Truck Stop Mon-Sat 11am-evenings (hours may change depending on weather and availability). 55 Duboce Ave. at Woodward.

Yelpers report that ~LAWTON TRADING POST~ is now open in the Outer Sunset. The bottle shop sells wine and beer, as well as grocery items and housemade café items including soups, salads, and a banana French toast that is being called out as especially delicious. 3645 Lawton St. at 43rd Ave., 415-340-3654.

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Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery. Yelp photo by Amanda S.

~MAGNOLIA GASTROPUB & BREWERY~ is getting a new chef…well, kind of. Dennis Lee of Namu Gaji has been running the kitchen at Magnolia’s Dogpatch restaurant Smokestack since it opened last year, and now he’ll also be taking over at Magnolia. Hoodline reports that Lee has started transitioning into Magnolia already, getting used to the crowd and notoriously small and awkward kitchen. He isn’t planning to make a lot of changes and will keep the focus on California comfort food.

Scoop adds that Lee will be able to use Smokestack’s space for some Magnolia prep projects, including aging meat and making sausages, and they will also incorporate produce from the Namu farm in Sunol. Plus, fried chicken will be on the menu every day now, not just Thursdays. Expect a new menu in the next few weeks.

The Park Chalet has a few things to announce, starting with its new name: ~PARK CHALET COASTAL BEER GARDEN~. There is also a new chef, Ian Hockenberger, who is continuing to serve a seafood-focused menu, with dishes like a bacon crab melt and a seared ahi sandwich. Guests can also now enjoy cracked crab on the lawn of Golden Gate Park as well as a seafood boil. Liter steins from the neighboring Beach Chalet will be on offer starting August 26th, and radlers and shandies are now available. The space also got a bit of a refresh (new paint, carpeting, and a refinished bar). 1000 Great Highway, 415-386-8439.

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Nojo’s dining room. Photo from Facebook.

There are changes afoot at ~NOJO~ in Hayes Valley, Scoop reports. Chef-owner Greg Dunmore has sold the restaurant to a Japanese company called AP Company, which operates hundreds of restaurants in Japan. Nojo will reopen as their flagship restaurant in the United States, and Dunmore will serve as the corporate chef for U.S. projects (he’ll be here until the beginning of the new year, when he will then start work on other locations). Nojo will close on Friday August 14th and should reopen on October 1st.

Downtown restaurant ~CLAUDINE~ is closing on Friday August 14th after almost four years in business. Scoop reports that Franck LeClerc’s Au Bon Repas restaurant group decided to close the restaurant, but will be turning it into a fast-casual concept. In addition, nearby Café Claude is adding two of Claudine’s popular features to their lineup: happy hour and prix-fixe menus. 8 Claude Ln. at Bush, 415-762-2677.

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Oysters on the grill at OysterFest 2014. Photo from Facebook.

On Sunday August 30th, ~WATERBAR~ is hosting the seventh annual OysterFest on their bayside patio. Waterbar is well known for their eclectic and extensive selection of oysters, and this event will only feature sustainable oysters from Waterbar and other oyster shuckers from around town. Look for plenty of bites from Waterbar, EPIC Steak, Farallon, Fish, and A16, plus Napa Valley wines and local beers (including Anchor Steam, Trumer Pils, and Speakeasy). More than 5,000 oysters were served last year, so come prepared to eat! Oh, and there will be live music, an oyster-shucking contest, and even a hot sauce competition. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit The San Francisco Surfrider Foundation, dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans and beaches. The party runs from 12pm-3pm, and tickets are $75, all-inclusive.

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The Hot Wes burger. Photo courtesy of Wes Burger.

~SUPER DUPER BURGERS~ is celebrating Eat Drink SF with a week-long guest burger chef party, from Monday August 17th through Friday August 21st, at their Kearny Street location. The guest chef burger will be available all day, and a portion of the proceeds from the special burger will go to a charity of the chef’s choice. Then, from 2pm to 3pm, the guest chef will stop by, and 100 percent of the proceeds of all special burgers purchased during that hour will be donated. So who will be the participating chefs, anyway? On Monday, Thomas McNaughton will be the guest, followed by David Bazirgan on Tuesday, James Syhabout on Wednesday, Brandon Jew on Thursday, and last but definitely not least, Michael Mina on Friday. More information here. 346 Kearny St. at Pine, 415-677-9936.

The title of best burger is an ongoing and contentious battle around these parts (and don’t even get us started on best burrito), and ~THE HALL~ is wading into the fray with their Burger Battle series. The first one kicks off on Sunday August 30th, when three burgers stars will face off against each other (for charity, of course). The Whole Beast, Wes Burger, and Burger will each be serving half-sized versions of their burgers, and you’ll have the chance to vote for your favorite. The winner will advance to the next round.

Tickets are $45 per person, and include three half-sized burgers and two beers. Fifteen percent of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to benefit Bay Leaf Kitchen. The battle begins at 4pm. 1028 Market St. at 6th St., 415-558-8293.

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Kick-ass Portland chef Jenn Louis will be in town this week promoting her new book, Pasta by Hand. The book includes 65 recipes for rustic Italian pasta shaped by hand, with a particular focus on dumpling-style pastas (you may have seen her article on gnocchi in Saveur earlier this year). First up, tonight, Tuesday August 11th, she’ll be at ~OMNIVORE BOOKS~ from 6:30pm-7:30pm, reading from the book and sharing some of her favorite tips learned in Italy. It’s completely free to attend, and there will be wine from Baker Lane too. Books available for purchase at the event.

Then, on Wednesday August 12th, catch Jenn Louis at Williams Sonoma in Union Square for a cooking demonstration. She’ll be sharing her technique for orecchiette with pesto and showing off some of the tricks she learned in Italy. The event is $30 per person, and tickets are available. Walk-ins are also welcome. 340 Post St. at Stockton, 415-362-9450.

Home cooks and lovers of New Mexican food will be excited to hear that Mollie Stone’s Markets are celebrating Hatch chile season with special chile roasts at various locations this month. The first roast will be at the Castro location on Sunday August 16th from 10am to 2pm and again at the Tower location on Sunday August 30th. Check their website for more details on the roasts and some additional information on what makes the chiles so special. Various locations in the Bay Area.

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Cioppino at Salsipuedes. Photo courtesy of Salsipuedes.

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The patio at Millennium. Photo courtesy of Millennium.

By Dana Eastland. ~SALSIPUEDES~, the new full-service restaurant from Jay Porter (The Half Orange), Luis Abundis (Nieves Cinco de Mayo), and Bradford Taylor (Ordinaire Wine Shop) that we’ve been reporting on since 2014, is now open in Oakland. It’s a bit of a soft opening, with a grand opening planned for August 20th, so be aware that some touches to the interior are still being worked out.

The kitchen is up and running, though, and Marcus Krauss is manning the stoves, as we mentioned in May. The menu is modern, eclectic Californian, with global influences. Prices are reasonable, ranging from $3.50 for snacks to $18 for larger meat dishes. They’ve even got a Tuesday night “burger and fries” special, with a chicken katsu torta, tempura sea beans, and a draft beer for $20.

As for beverages, Porter created the beer list, while Taylor headed up the wines. There are five beers on tap, available either by the liter or the 350-ml pour, including the Sirena pilsner from Cerveceria Agua Mala, and the Cherry Kush from Ale Industries. On the wine list, you’ll find four white selections by the bottle or glass, as well as three reds, a rosé, and a sparkler. In addition, they are serving Sutton Cellars vermouth, straight up or with soda, “San Sebastian style.” They are open Tue-Sat at 5pm. 4201 Market St. at 42nd St., Oakland, no phone yet.

Last year, we broke the news on the expansion under way at ~RAMEN SHOP~. Eater reports that construction is complete and the new space is now up and running. The perpetually busy restaurant has added a cocktail bar space in the former luggage shop next door, which is where you will now enter (you can grab a drink and some bar snacks), and there’s a small front patio too. Next door, there are around 20 new seats in the dining room. All the additional space is intended to help alleviate the long wait times at the restaurant, and they’ve also added a special room for two new noodle-making machines from Japan that will allow them to double the quantity of noodles they’re making. There are even plans to add lunch and possibly even takeout in the coming months. It just keeps getting better over there.

There’s a new spot for alfresco brunch in Oakland now too. ~MILLENNIUM~ is now serving brunch on Sundays from 10:30am-2pm, and their gorgeous patio is the perfect place for it. They’re even taking reservations! Don’t forget to check out their cocktails too. 5912 College Ave. at Chabot, Oakland, 510-735-9459.

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The bar at Calavera. Photo courtesy of Calavera.

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The dining room at Calavera. Photo courtesy of Calavera.

By Dana Eastland. The Hive, a new mixed-use complex in Uptown Oakland, had two new restaurant openings, the Business Times reports. First up is a new Mexican restaurant called ~CALAVERA~. The huge project (it seats 150) comes from partners Jessica Sackler (Coqueta and José Andrés’s Oyamel in Washington, D.C.), Michael Iglesias (Coqueta, Bottega, and Oyamel), and Chris Pastena (Chop Bar and Lungomare).

A full bar is stocked to the gills with more than 400 different types of mezcal and tequila, and plenty of cocktails. There is a variety of margaritas, including the Sandia with Pierde Almas mezcal, watermelon, cilantro, lime, chile pequín, and salt, or try the Salt Air, with Milagro blanco tequila, Luxardo Triplum, lime, and salt.

Chef Christian Irabien crafted the menu, which offers a selection of snacks, including guacamole (of course) and Chihuahua cheese dip served hot with huitlacoche. There is a selection of ceviche, and tacos served on nixtamal heirloom corn tortillas. Look for the lamb sweetbreads taco or the cochinita pibil. There are also larger plates, including birria and a whole red snapper. Plus chef Joe Raffa, who worked with the opening team at Oyamel, is out to help open the restaurant with them. Hours are Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. 2337 Broadway at 24th St., Oakland, 510-338-3273.

Also open is ~DRAKE’S DEALERSHIP~ from San Leandro-based Drake’s Brewing Company. The huge pub seats 350, including a large beer garden with fire pits and a stage for live music acts.

Taylor Smith (Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant, Jasper’s Corner Tap) is the executive chef, and the menu is all about classic bar food. They’ve got a pizza oven, so there’s a selection of pizzas, as well as a burger, a vegetarian black bean burger, some salads, french fries, and snacks. Eater has a copy of the menu to peek at.

The beer is from Drake’s, of course. There are 32 beers on tap, including some limited releases that can’t be found anywhere else. Drake’s classic brews will always be available, but you’ll also have the chance to try some limited and experimental options. They’ve even got three wines on tap, a white, a red, and even a sparkler. Bar hours are Sun-Wed 11:30am-1pm and Thu-Sat 11:30am-1am; the kitchen is open Sun-Wed 11:30am-10pm and Thu-Sat 11:30am-11pm. 2325 Broadway at 23rd St., Oakland, 510-833-6649.