September 9, 2015

September 9, 2015

An array of bites (including halibut chicharrón). Photo: ©


Beef tartare with cured egg yolk. Photo: ©


Roasted whole trout with summer pepper and celery salsa. Photo: ©


Sweet corn ice cream with huckleberries and honey cake. Photo: ©


Salted date ice cream, cardamom marshmallow, sesame and chocolate granola. Photo: ©

Due to open this Friday in Mint Plaza is ~ORO~, a fitting name for a restaurant that is just across the plaza from the historic Mint building (it’s opening in the former Thermidor space). Executive chef and owner Jason Fox of Commonwealth has partnered with Timothy Felkner (founder of Vigilante Hospitality) and is offering a casual menu, with dishes that dip into seasonal and eclectic Californian and Mediterranean flavor profiles. Dishes are meant to be shared, although the single bites section is just for you, ranging from halibut chicharrón topped with salmon roe and crème fraîche to salt cod croquettes with preserved garlic aioli to flavorful grilled lamb on skewers—these bites make some great bar snacks too.

We attended a family test meal over the weekend (you can view the preview menu here), which featured small plates like a cool and smooth zucchini and mint soup with vadouvan oil on top—it’s a housemade masala (and a beautiful dish for Indian summer!). There’s a beef tartare with a crown of cured egg yolk on top and ancient grain croutons that get flavor-fied with beef fat (mmmhmmm), and another ideal warm-weather dish was the albacore tuna with melon, green beans, purslane, and dollops of whipped lardo. There’s a vibrant green salad, full of fines herbes; potato gnocchi with corn, chanterelles, and pecorino; and a grilled pork sausage with shelling bean salad.

As you can see, there’s a bit more rusticity to these dishes than Commonwealth’s soigné style (the chef de cuisine is Travis Day, formerly of Central Kitchen and Yoshi’s). Look for some charcuterie and whole-animal cooking too.

Large plates to share include roasted whole trout topped with a summer pepper and celery salsa and broccoli on the side; half a chicken with tomato, cress, and Swiss chard panade; and porchetta with grilled cucumbers, potato, and horseradish.

Another fun option is the blind tasting menu, which is like an omakase/chef’s choice scenario—the kitchen will send out dishes, including some off-the-menu picks. We don’t have prices for anything yet; look for the actual menu to post on the Oro website soon.

Appealing desserts include a fragrant honey cake with sweet corn ice cream and huckleberries (you want this), and salted date ice cream with cardamom marshmallow, and sesame and chocolate granola.

The bar manager is Randy Mariani (Tupper & Reed and Foreign Cinema), who has put together a craft cocktail menu with housemade ingredients like syrups, tinctures, shrubs, and infusions, and there’s specialty ice. Cocktails include the Granite Lady with cava, Cocchi Americano, dry vermouth, Strega, and lemon, and the 1854, with Scotch, smoked cherry heering, Benedictine, and Sightglass coffee. There are some large-format cocktails, too, good for four people, like the Octopus’s Garden with gin, Aperol, grapefruit, lemon, Peychaud’s bitters, and soda. You’ll notice the layout of the bar has changed to be parallel with the wall and now features a white marble bar top.

Wine director Kelly Evans (most recently head sommelier at Saison) has assembled a 100-plus bottle list—you’ll find many old-world selections, plus California’s latest. Ballers can request a reserve list. Local and imported beers will have their place on the list as well.

The 100-seat and multiple-level space continues its industrial look, and Roddy Creedon of Allied Architecture and Design has warmed things up with walnut tables, painted reclaimed-wood wall panels, and some texture from gray curtains. There is a fun custom chandelier made of miner-style lanterns at the entrance. The art program is also lending some pops of color—it currently features artwork from Erin Parish, and will rotate. Groups can find comfortable tables and nooks upstairs, and there are high-top tables in the bar area, ideal for walk-ins, snackers, and couples. They plan to start lunch on the patio in a month or so—although it’s tempting to drag your table out there right now.

Dinner is served Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. They plan to open this Friday September 11th, but you can confirm on their Twitter feed: @oro_sf. 8 Mint Plaza (at Jessie), 415-974-1212.


Kavitha Raghavan. Photo by Sweet Light Studios.


Green peas (pattani) sundal and Sancerre. Photo via Indian Paradox on Facebook.

When a beer and wine license filing for a place called ~INDIAN PARADOX~ for 258 Divisadero hit the wires a few weeks ago, I wasn’t only happy because an Indian place appears to be opening soon near hopper HQ, but more so because the name on the license was Kavitha Raghavan, a tablehopper reader, and host of the Indian Paradox pop-up, a wine pairing and Indian food event (with idlis, bhel puris, sundals, and dahi sev puris) she has hosted at 18 Reasons and Fat Angel. She was away in Chennai for a wedding, but she has returned; we were able to catch up and now we can release the details.

Kavitha is an electrical engineer, but wine is her true passion: she has been studying hard (she passed the Certified Specialist of Wine exam and is a Certified Sommelier [level 2] exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers), working at wine bars, writing a blog, and along the way was inspired to create a new concept. As Kavitha has been learning more about wine, she can’t believe that beer is always such the default pairing for Indian food. As she says, “How can the food of a billion people always be paired with just beer (or riesling)?” So it has been her passion and quest to find wines that pair well with Indian food and spices, like the high-acid wines of Northern Italy and wines without much oak.

She also loves the street food of India, calling it the soul of the country’s cuisine. So you can see where this is going… Kavitha is going to be opening a casual place, featuring street food and chaat from India with international wines. She wants to make guests feel like they are drinking wine on the streets of India—with the energy and color and upbeat vibe of that scenario—paired with street food from all over India, a delightful mash-up of East and West, a little bit Bollywood and a little bit French (although wines will be from all over the world). The paradox in action!

She keeps seeing the same street food dishes on menus here in the Bay Area and wants to feature new ones. She grew up in Chennai, so she wants to include some dishes from the beaches of home, like grilled corn and sundal (a chickpea salad with coconut), plus she is considering dishes from other regions, like dabeli (boiled potato, dabeli masala, chutney, and sev, all pressed in a pav [bun]), and dishes from Kolkata, like churmur (a crunchy and sweet-and-sour dish with chickpeas and potato), and ghoti-gorom (a cone full of sev, onion, green chile, and fruit). These dishes aren’t set in stone, but it’s to give you an idea of what she’s currently testing and tasting!

Kavitha has been working on this idea for years (more than five!) and finally found her dream location: the Divisadero Corridor (it’s her favorite neighborhood). Indian Paradox will be opening in the former King Foot Subs space and will have a variety of counter seats, tables, and some high tables for perching as well. She is pleased the space has soaring ceilings and plenty of windows as well.

She is thinking of opening in the afternoon and serving until midnight or so, and will consider opening earlier in the day, brunch, and later hours as she feels out the neighborhood and what it needs. Right now, the hoped-for opening is early December—she is pushing hard. Kavitha is also looking for someone who can assist her in the kitchen, and help her develop and fine-tune the recipes while relating to her vision. We’ll let you know when the opening is close, can’t wait for this one. Follow along on Facebook for upcoming pop-ups and more. 258 Divisadero St. at Haight.


Lasagna from Marcella’s. Photo: ©

The delicious Dogpatch lasagna specialist Massimo DiScullo of Marcella’s Lasagneria is opening a second location in SoMa, right downtown. His second location is called ~MASSIMO’S LASAGNERIA~ and is located inside the new Rincon Center. The menu offers seven different choices, including several vegetarian selections, and a lunch special of $12.95 for a piece of lasagna, a salad, and a drink. Plus, they do catering, including events, lunches, or take-and-bake trays (especially good for wake-and-bake days). Hours are Mon-Fri 10:30am-3pm. 101 Spear St. at Mission, 415-974-6959.


The Sunflower sign glows again. Yelp photo by Lily A.

While I was enjoying my sandwich on the beach at Lake Tahoe, I received a text from a bartender with a cold, proudly proclaiming that ~SUNFLOWER AUTHENTIC VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT~ in the Mission had reopened, and he had a delicious bowl of pho in front of him to prove it. Well, Sierra/high-altitude brain got to me and I forgot to write about it in my column last week. (Thanks to Mission Mission for the reminder.) It has the same ownership and cooks—seems like they concentrated on the Potrero location, got it dialed in, and came back. So mysterious. Anyway, you can get your imperial rolls again. 3111 16th St. at Valencia, 415-626-5022.


Charles Phan; photo via The Slanted Door website.

File this under “interesting”: the Los Angeles Times (via LAist) reports that Charles Phan will be opening a location of the ~SLANTED DOOR~ in the City Market South development in downtown L.A.’s Fashion District. Olle Lundberg will be designing the space (like all his other locations). Plan on an early 2016 opening.

Are you a server? Then please check this out: “Calling all restaurant servers in the Bay Area—I want to interview you! My name is Sara Curtis and I’m an independent radio producer and a UC Berkeley Food and Farming Journalism Fellow. I’m interviewing servers working in all types of restaurants, from fine dining to diners. I would love to talk with you for an hour or two, record your observations, and give the server perspective a home on the radio.

I’m interviewing during the whole month of September and the beginning of October. If you are interested in being interviewed or if you know a server that likes to talk, please email me. You can find me on Twitter @sbcsays and on my website. Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!”

Sustainable Seafood Week will be running upstream and downstream in San Francisco from September 13th to 20th. We love our seafood here, so here’s your chance to learn more about it. Local, sustainable seafood will be the focus of Industry Lab discussions; a pop-up gala event (on the ferryboat Eureka!) will feature food from Scoma’s, Fine & Rare, Waterbar, and more; seafood food carts will be highlighted at SoMa StrEat Food Park; and there’s a Fisherman Wharf’s sustainable seafood crawl, among many other activities. And look for restaurants like State Bird Provisions and Homestead in Oakland to be highlighting sustainable seafood dishes through a partnership with OpenTable. Some of the events are kid-friendly; be sure to check them out.


The bar at Pesce. Photo: Dana Eastland. ©

The Castro has a lot of places shuttering this week, starting with ~PESCE~, which moved to 2223 Market Street from Polk Street two years ago. SFist first reported on the closure, citing issues with the larger location. A new buyer is rumored to have already claimed the space, but no one is saying whom. In the meantime, Pesce will close forever on Sunday September 13th, so you’ve got until then to stop in one last time.

According to Hoodline, Castro Mexican restaurant ~ZAPATA~ is closing on October 15th. Owner Jorge Perez cited the end of their lease as the cause (the building’s owner is Les Natali, who owns several empty storefronts in the neighborhood), but said they are hoping to open elsewhere in the area. 4150 18th St. at Church, 415-861-4470.

The Church Street location of ~CHILE PIES~ has permanently closed as of Saturday September 5th, Hoodline initially reported. In fact, the closure is part of a larger change within the restaurant group (which includes Green Chile Kitchen, and additional Chile Pies locations on Baker Street in San Francisco and another in Guerneville). The 601 Baker Street location is temporarily closed this week for a refresh (they’ll reopen on Friday September 11th), and when they reopen, the name will be ~CHILE PIES BAKING CO.~. In addition to the new look, they will also have expanded offerings, including cakes with flavors like mocha, German chocolate, and lemon poppy seed. In order to focus on the expanded bakery, though, the Church Street location was closed. You’ll still be able to find their pies and cakes at Baker Street, as well as on trips to the Russian River in Guerneville. 314 Church St. at 15th St.

Yelpers and tipster Jason B. noticed that ~JOCELYN’S BAKERY~ in the Mission has closed. The space was more than just a bakery and also served vegetable and fruit juices, tamales, and pupusas, and was well known for friendly service. No word on what’s moving in quite yet. 3566 20th St. at Lexington.

In the Financial District, we noticed an ABC change of ownership for ~PALADAR~, known for its Cubano sandwiches (which I always found to be rather lackluster). We called and an employee confirmed it will be closing (timing is TBD). Taking its place is a project from the Megana Corporation; a post on Chowhound notes the CFO was the original owner of Million Thai on Van Ness, although we’ll have to see what opens in this location. 329 Kearny St. at Bush, 415-398-4899.


Tostadas de tinga from El Pipila at the 20th Street Block Party. Photo by Bites & Bourbon/Brenda Ton.

The third annual ~20TH STREET BLOCK PARTY~ is coming up on Saturday September 12th. Ne Timeas Restaurant Group and Noise Pop are hosting the event, which takes over 20th Street in the Mission between Harrison and Bryant from 12pm to 6pm. The party includes cooking demonstrations from Thomas McNaughton (Ne Timeas, Flour + Water), Telmo Faria (Tacolicious, Uma Casa), Ryan Pollnow (Ne Timeas, Aatxe), and Anna Derivi-Castellanos and Lenore Estrada (Three Babes Bakeshop). Check out details and the demonstration schedule right here. Plus, there’s live music from Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Nick Waterhouse, Dominant Legs, and Fine Points, plus many more; here’s the full lineup of musical acts.

Of course the event offers plenty of opportunities to eat and drink, with vendors from the neighborhood and beyond offering lots of tasty goods, including Trick Dog, The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, paella from Ne Timeas’ Aatxe, Burma Bear, and tostadas de tinga from El Pipila. Check out all the participants here, along with special deals on offer during the afternoon from local shops, bars, and restaurants.

The event is completely free to attend, with food and drink available for purchase. There are also VIP tickets available for $95 per person, which include access to a private lounge, restrooms, free food and drinks, and special stage view areas. 20th St. between Harrison and Bryant.


Meat on the spit and over the fire at Heritage Fire. Photo by Galdones Photography courtesy of Cochon 555.

Barbecue lovers, you’ll want to get your ticket to the first Heritage BBQ event in San Francisco, happening this Sunday September 13th at Magnolia Brewing Company in Dogpatch. Cochon 555 is putting on the five-city tour, promoting heritage breed pigs, old-world cooking techniques, and global traditions and flavors.

There will be five chefs competing (Dennis Lee of Smokestack/Namu Gaji, Geoff Davis of The Dock, Michael Rafidi of RN74, Nicolai Lipscomb of The Battery, and John Madriaga of Spruce), with each one cooking one whole, family farm-raised, 180-pound heritage pig for a group of 20 judges (and guests, of course). In addition to sampling the competitors’ dishes, your all-inclusive ticket includes “BBQ Traditions,” a tasting inside the event where 10 notable chefs prepare one dish from their favorite barbecue culture, from al asador to Caja China. There will also be wine, beer, cider, and spirits, with some cocktails, artisan cheeses, and sustainable seafood too.

Tickets for general admission (at 5pm) start at $100, and VIP tickets for early admission (at 4pm) are $200. Magnolia Brewery, 2505 3rd St. at 22nd St.


A cheese plate at the Cheese Fest. Photo via Facebook.

Cheese lovers (and we know there are many of you), you’ll want to get this event on your calendar. The California Artisan Cheese Guild is launching SF Cheese Fest. There will be some pairing workshops and events in Oakland and Dogpatch on Friday September 18th, and on Saturday September 19th will be the Cheesemaker Celebration. More than 20 cheesemakers, plus mongers, Bay Area brews (Magnolia Brewing Company, Fort Point Beer Co., and Harmonic Brewing), and local makers of artisan foods (like Josey Baker Bread and We Love Jam) will all be in the house at Dogpatch WineWorks (2455 3rd St. at 22nd St.). VIP tickets ($125) include early entrance at 6pm, live music, special bites provided by Piccino, and prizes; and general admission ($75) is from 7pm-10pm. (The event will be this year’s primary fundraiser for the California Artisan Cheese Guild.)


Street food at the Eat Real Festival in 2014. Photo by Linc Chu courtesy of Eat Real Festival.

Oakland’s seventh annual ~EAT REAL FESTIVAL~ returns to Jack London Square from Friday September 18th to Sunday September 20th. The festival, from the Food Craft Institute, is free to attend and features street food from local purveyors and restaurants, all for $8 or less. There are chef demonstrations, including a celebration of global fast food on Fast Food Friday, with chefs Preeti Mistry (Juhu Beach Club), Dominica Rice-Cisneros (Cosecha), and Rick Hackett (Bocanova), as well as Anya Fernald (Belcampo Meat Co.), where they’ll be talking about street food and quick snacks from all over the world.

Butchers from Belcampo Meat Co. will also be on hand with butchery demonstrations, and then on Sunday you won’t want to miss the Flying Knives Butchery competition, where local butchers will compete to break down a whole hog as fast as they can. And of course, there are the food vendors, including Baia Pasta, KoJa Kitchen, Bok Ssam, Bombzies BBQ, and Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement. Check out all the vendors here.

There are lots of special events to check out, too, and of course opportunities to imbibe. The Drink Real portion for the festival offers wine, beer, cocktails, and lots of nonalcoholic options like coffee from America’s Best, House Kombucha, and Hidden Star Orchards. There is also a new cider saloon with offerings from the likes of Two Rivers Cider Co. and Sonoma Cider. As for wine, look for pours from Dashe Cellars and Lacuna Wines, to name just a few, along with beer from more than 25 local breweries and local spirits like Hangar One and Darjeeling Gin. Here’s a full list of the beverage vendors. Festival hours are Fri 1pm-9pm, Sat 10:30am-9pm, and Sun 10:30am-5pm. Free to attend. Jack London Square, Broadway and 1st St., Oakland.

On Sunday September 13th, Maria Capdevielle will be teaching a class on homemade Italian pastas in Berkeley, including pumpkin ravioli and spinach pappardelle. The class is almost sold out (two tickets are still available), and tickets are $80 per person including instruction and food. Then next month, she’ll be offering another class on Saturday October 10th on the fall cooking of Piemonte. Tickets are $80 per person or $150 for a pair. Both classes take place at the Playing Life Academy/Footfire Soccer Center, 1645 4th St. at Virginia, Berkeley.