November 24, 2015

November 24, 2015
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The oven and counter at Del Popolo. Photo by Joseph Schell.

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Jon Darsky and Jeffrey Hayden. Photo by Joseph Schell.

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The dining room. Photo by Joseph Schell.

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And, of course, the pizza. Photo by Joseph Schell.

If you don’t feel like chasing down the ~DEL POPOLO~ truck for one of Jon Darsky’s superlative wood-fired oven pizzas, now you can enjoy one of his Neapolitan-inspired pies while sitting in his handsome new restaurant in Lower Nob Hill. Look for about five to seven pizzas in all, from a marinara to broccoli with mozzarella, black olive, and ricotta salata di bufala.

But it’s much more than just a chic pizza spot: the expanded menu includes seasonal antipasti, salads, and house-cured meats. There will be six to ten small plates in all. Chef de cuisine Jeffrey Hayden comes from Boot & Shoe Service in Oakland, and you will see his vegetable-centric and market-driven approach in creative dishes like fuyu persimmon and radicchio with pistachio, mint, and yogurt; Yellow Finn potatoes with green garlic, pounded herbs, and lemon; and charred cauliflower with roasted new onions, pickled lime, and poached farm egg. I’m willing to bet the housemade sausage-stuffed Medjool dates with roasted tomato and bacon will be on most tables (Hayden worked at Blackbird in Chicago, so you can bet he was no stranger to the stuffed dates at sister restaurant Avec). There are also a few desserts too.

Darsky’s naturally leavened dough finds philosophical partners in the selections for the wine and beer program, which will highlight naturally fermented selections; Oakland’s Ordinaire Wine Shop & Wine Bar is behind the wine list, while Andrew Merritt—who has worked with Saison, Michael Mina, and Leopold’s Gasthaus—is behind the beer selections.

The 1,700-square-foot space is anchored with a wood-fired brick Acunto oven imported from Italy, framed by a dramatic backdrop featuring a 20-foot arch filled with firewood. Emily Knudsen for Jessica Helgerson Interior Design in Portland, Oregon, is behind the interior and exterior design. The facade’s original detail was revealed, as well as clerestory windows and the original fir floor.

Hours are Sun, Tue-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat until 11pm. Del Popolo accepts reservations for parties of four or more on Resy, although it’s primarily a walk-in restaurant. 855 Bush St. at Taylor, 415-589-7940.

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Chez Panisse downstairs co-chef Jérôme Waag. Photo courtesy of Jérôme Waag.

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Photo from Chez Panisse on Facebook.

Some big news over at ~CHEZ PANISSE~: downstairs co-chef Jérôme Waag will be departing the restaurant in January to embark on a new project of his own in Japan. Waag has worked at Chez Panisse for something like 25 years (he started as a busboy and eventually worked his way up to a sous position) and was appointed co-chef back in 2011 (the position was previously held by David Tanis).

Waag has been traveling to Japan quite often over the past four years, including for an OPENrestaurant event, the unique event series he co-concepted and produced with members of the Chez community and more. He loves Tokyo and its balance of the traditional and the modern.

In a phone call with Waag, he says, “I feel like it was now or never for me to open my own restaurant.” He originally thought about consulting in Japan, but said doors kept opening for him to do his own thing and he felt like he couldn’t say no. He has a couple of partners he’ll be working with—a Japanese chef and an American who lives in Japan—and he plans to move there in the spring. There isn’t a location yet, but he plans to cook in the Chez Panisse style, obviously with Japanese ingredients and influences. He’s looking forward to adapting to his new environment and to “discover myself as a chef.”

He is also really excited by the food history and agriculture of Japan, and how the Japanese are so connected to the land. He says there is a movement of young people who need to take over from the aging population of farmers, and they want to farm sustainably. He can’t wait to explore this larger context, represent some of the Chez Panisse culture in Japan, and “be a part of something bigger there.”

Of his years at Chez, he says he really liked the environment—it was a remarkable opportunity to be able to cook there part-time and explore his creativity and art at the same time (Waag is also an artist). He says, “It gave me a really good, rich life, and the time to do things as an artist.”

Amy Dencler will take Waag’s place, so the two downstairs chefs will be Dencler and Cal Peternell as of the new year. Waag’s last night will be on January 16th, 2016. I so look forward to hearing how things take shape in Japan in the new year for Waag. So exciting. Best wishes!

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Homage’s exterior and the alley (which will be getting an upgrade). Photo courtesy of Homage.

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Chef-owner David Kurtz. Photo: Brendan Pascoe.

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The Homage loaf in progress, featuring three wheats and a three-day ferment. Photo from Instagram.

We mentioned back in June that chef David Kurtz, previously of Maven, was taking over Galette 88’s space in the FiDi to open his own project, ~HOMAGE~. We can now release some details, and FiDi workers, get excited.

The name will make sense upon first glance at the menu, which will pay homage to local farmers by featuring a different farmer every two weeks. Guests will learn about the farmer’s backstory, products, location, and more, while seeing their products highlighted throughout the menu. A concise menu will be focused on soups, salads, and sandwiches, and the ingredients will be highly seasonal and market-driven (obviously).

Sample dishes include a salad of Little Gems, endive, and Treviso; a preserved Braeburn apple and celery root soup; a hard cider-braised heritage pork “Cubano” with Calvados mustard, Swiss cheese, 4505 cured ham, pickled cucumber, and Braeburn apple; and a duck congee, with air-dried smoked duck, roasted spring onions, and Szechuan pepper. As you can see, the menu will stretch across different cuisines and not be limited to just a NorCal style, so don’t be surprised if one day you find a Taiwanese beef noodle soup. Meats will come from Biagio and other quality purveyors, and they will be roasted, braised, smoked, and more. And even though the menu will rotate often, as favorite dishes and sandwiches are revealed, some items will become mainstays on the menu.

A cornerstone of the project is its bread—it will be naturally fermented for three days and baked in-house. And even though Homage is not a bakery, they will also be grinding their own specialty whole wheats on premise for the ultimate in fresh flour, although they will also use local mills for some of their flour needs. There will be a dark-crusted Homage loaf, in addition to rolls and a soft baguette. Sandwiches will always be made to order—no premade sandwiches in a grab-and-go case here.

There will also be a curated retail section, with pantry items like marmalade, pickles, and more on the shelves, plus freshly milled flour and other products.

Kurtz has a fine dining background and is excited to offer something of quality and freshness that’s made with technique to the lunchtime space, while still being efficient and speedy for the busy downtown clientele.

Homage will be open for breakfast, serving coffee (from a variety of roasters), tea, juices, pastries, and hand pies, and offering a robust WiFi, making it a welcoming place for people to hold morning meetings in the sunlit space. In the late afternoon and evening, a happy hour will kick in, with beer and wine, plus small plates, cheeses, and charcuterie.

The 49-seat space is being designed by Gi Paoletti and will feature an open kitchen (it’s also a massive upgrade from the previous kitchen, which just had a crêperie setup—this is much more complex). The space has some industrial elements, but will also have an urban country feel to it, bringing a NorCal farm aesthetic to the city—the reclaimed wood floors will remain, and there will be subway tile too.

There is an outdoor alley that will have seating for 20—it’s going to be painted and made more pleasant with a redwood fence and planters so you don’t have to look at dumpsters while enjoying your lunch. Homage is running a Kickstarter to complete the outdoor space—please consider kicking in some funds so they can offer downtown a great outdoor space to enjoy, and you can enjoy some sandwiches and more as incentives.

Homage will be open Mon-Fri from 8am-9pm, and eventually Sat through lunch will be added. The goal is to open in Q1, ideally February. Follow along on Instagram and Facebook for updates—and, of course, we’ll keep you posted. 88 Hardie Pl. at Kearny.

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The exterior of Volta. Rendering courtesy of Volta.

We mentioned not too long ago that Staffan Terje and Umberto Gibin of Perbacco and barbacco were opening a new project, ~VOLTA~, in the former ‘Witchcraft location in SoMa. Here’s a little update for you curious diners, because this modern brasserie is going to open in early December.

The menu will pay homage to France (and highlight chef Terje’s classic French training) while using local and seasonal ingredients, so it will be changing often. Definitely look for Scandinavian influences from Swedish chef Terje as well (think housemade aquavit). There will be classic brasserie selections, older styles of Swedish charcuterie, cold and hot appetizers, shellfish, and entrées.

As for the rest of the team, the chef de cuisine is Keven Wilson, previously at Perbacco for the past three years; the pastry chef is Laura Cronin (also from Perbacco and barbacco); and the lead bar manager is Zachary Gray, who will be offering a menu of seasonal, classic cocktails. Working under Gibin will be co-wine directors Tristan Pitre (Acadia in Chicago) and Kevin Born (Soby’s New South Cuisine in Greenville, South Carolina), who will be focusing on French wines with an emphasis on the Rhone Valley, Loire, and South of France.

It will be a few weeks before we can see the modern European brasserie interior by CCS Architecture, featuring patterned tile flooring, art glass, and brass accents. Volta will be open daily for lunch 11:30am-2:30pm and dinner 5:30pm-10pm. 868 Mission St. at 5th St.

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The former Barrique. Photo by Blair Sneddon Photography.

Back in October, we heard a rumor that Lindsay and Michael Tusk were taking over the closed Barrique, which is across the street from Quince. When we followed up, they couldn’t comment on it at the time, but now they confirmed the news with the Scoop, which reports they will in fact be opening a casual bar (beer and wine only) with some bites.

I do know that chef Tusk is definitely inspired by Spanish cuisine and may potentially be integrating some tapas and more on the menu (he’ll be working with Quince sous chef Neil Stetz). Mark Jensen (Jensen Architects), who designed the stunning SHED in Healdsburg, will be designing the 2,000-square-foot space. Look for more details in advance of the spring opening. 461 Pacific Ave. at Montgomery.

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Okonomiyaki in a stone pot at Namu Gaji. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

The last time I ran into chef Dennis Lee of ~NAMU GAJI~ at an event, he alluded to a project that would be coming soon, one that would launch before Namu Noodle in Dogpatch. Now that the ABC license application has hit the wires, we learn that it’s going to be on Divisadero in the current Jay’s Cheesesteak! And with a name like ~NAMU STONEPOT~, I know I’m not alone in getting excited about what that means (I love their bibimbap and okonomiyaki in a stone pot). Stand by for an update on concept and timing soon. 553 Divisadero St. at Hayes.

Meanwhile, out in Mission Bay, details have emerged on John Caine of Hidive’s plans are for the former Jelly’s, which will be called ~ATWATER TAVERN~. Scoop notes that it will be a multilevel restaurant and bar, with outdoor seating and great views (and very close proximity to A&T Park and the upcoming Warriors stadium). The menu will be all about SF classic dishes (think cioppino) and meats off the wood-fired grill. Executive chef James Versfelt comes from Miami Beach, where he worked at Tony Mantuano’s Lorenzo. As for the name, ATwater refers to the old telephone number prefixes (like BUtterfield 8). They are aiming be open by the Giants’ opening day in the spring. 295 Terry Francois Blvd. at Pier 50. 

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The burger at Hamlet. Photo from Facebook.

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The beef scallion rolls at Maple Restaurant. Yelp photo by Maple Restaurant.

By Dana Eastland. ~3RD COUSIN~, the brick-and-mortar restaurant from chef Greg Lutes in the former Kinfolk space in Bernal, is now open. According to Facebook, they opened on November 19th, with a menu informed by Lutes’ pop-up, Kinfolk. The dishes are hearty California style, and a chef’s tasting menu is available for $89 per person as well. 919 Cortland Ave. at Gates, 415-814-3709.

Just in time for Thanksgiving shopping, ~GUS’S COMMUNITY MARKET~ is now open in the Mission. The new grocery store comes from the family behind Noriega Produce and Haight Street Market, and we wrote all about it last month. To recap, the full-service grocery store offers a large produce section, butcher and fish counter, cheese section, bulk items, and more—plus a coffee shop and café with Wi-Fi. 2111 Harrison St. at 17th St., 415-431-9300.

The former Horner’s Corner in Noe Valley is now ~HAMLET~, and Eater reports that it’s open. The owner is John Dampeer of nearby Caskhouse, and he’s brought on chef Pei Mew and bar manager Rafael Jimenez Rivera (both from Urchin). Food is all-American with a seasonal, California bent, so think classics like a burger, roasted half chicken, and braised octopus—served not with the ubiquitous white beans but lentils, pork belly, and chard. Peek at the menu here. As for drinks, the full liquor license allows for cocktails that are also focused on classics, like their take on the Aviation (gin, Dolin Génépy des Alpes, crème de violette, and lemon) and the gimlet (Bols genever, lime, and lavender). 1199 Church St. at 24th St., 415-829-3286.

Downtown workers have a new place for lunch by the pound. According to Yelpers, the newest addition to the lunchtime game is ~LIGHTENING FOODS~, which used to have two locations in the Financial District that are now closed. The newest location is on Pine Street, and initial reports cite good salads, fish, meat, and Mediterranean-style dishes. Oh, and dog trays for the buffet. Apparently, that’s a thing. 201 Pine St. at Battery.

Yelpers also caught the opening of ~MOM’S BUN MI~ in the Tenderloin. The latest Vietnamese sandwich shop offers a classic lineup including a combo, as well as pork belly, tofu, and shaking beef, all for $5 or less (always of importance to purists, it seems). There are also spring rolls, and beef stew or curry dip on weekends. 520 Leavenworth St. at O’Farrell, 415-829-8138.

Earlier this month, we reported that Emin Tekin, a member of the family behind Kobani Mediterranean Grill in the Marina and the now-closed Hayes & Kebab, seemed to have taken over the former Gajalee space on Valencia Street in the Mission. Well, turns out they have opened a Mission offshoot in the location, called ~VALENCIA & KEBAB~, not Kobani Grill, like we’d anticipated. Yelp reports are positive, and call out fresh ingredients, good wraps, and abundant platters. 525 Valencia St. at 16th St.

Those fabulous Chowhounds caught the news of a new Szechuan restaurant in the Outer Mission called ~MAPLE RESTAURANT~. Though the restaurant offers lots of takeout staples like lemon chicken and egg foo young, the “house specialty” section of the menu apparently offers Szechuan specialties from the chef, who hails from Tianjin. And don’t be fooled by the sign, which is from the space’s former occupant, Daily Restaurant. 5820 Mission St. at Lawrence, 415-333-7869.

We’ve been tracking the progress of ~SUKA~ since their liquor license hit the wires, and according to Yelp they are now open in the former Sushi Bistro location. The food is American and Indonesian, with breakfast on weekends, and reviews mention gado gado salad and chicken satay, as well as a burger and bacon, eggs, and pancakes for breakfast. 445 Balboa St. at 6th Ave., 415-702-6860.

The Richmond Blog reports that a new Asian small plates restaurant in the Outer Richmond called ~HAWKER EATS~ opened earlier this month. They have a small, handwritten menu focused on street food and small plates, including yakitori, ramen, and a rack of lamb appetizer. 1650 Balboa St. at 18th Ave., 415-221-6288.

The team behind the DNA Lounge has opened a second location of ~DNA PIZZA~, as well as another dance club, called ~CODEWORD~ on Folsom. It’s a bit smaller than the DNA Lounge, so it will function as an incubator for parties that may then graduate to the larger space. And the second pizza location will also be open 24 hours a day. 917 Folsom St. at 5th St., 415-626-1409.

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The Original U.S. Restaurant. Yelp photo by Christian B.

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Tarts and goodies at Bulka Bakery. Photo from Facebook.

By Dana Eastland. North Beach classic ~ORIGINAL U.S.~ is returning after closing earlier this year. The Chronicle reports that it is being reopened by former general manager Alberto Cipollina and San Francisco Giants Executive Vice President of Business Operations Mario Alioto, though not in the same location. The old location is the future home of Seven Fishes, so they are opening the next U.S. in the former Colosseo space, which seats 120. The plan is to re-create the old location as best they can, and keeping the old school vibe alive. There isn’t a timeline quite yet; we’ll keep our eyes on this one. 414 Columbus Ave. at Vallejo.

Second Act Marketplace on Haight will be adding a new business to their food hall. ~BULKA BAKERY~ is opening in December and will serve coffee from Roast Co. and pastries both sweet and savory. Owner and baker Tatiana Kasatkina will also be making buckwheat cereal, yogurt and granola parfaits, and hot pressed sandwiches. 1727 Haight St. at Cole, 415-999-6012.

There’s a new pizzeria coming to Bernal Heights, called ~RED APRON PIZZERIA~. According to Bernalwood, the owner is Bernal resident Eliza Laffin, who plans to open the doors in January. The restaurant will be “warm, welcoming, and family-friendly,” Laffin says, and the menu includes non-pizza items as well, like salads, piadine, and zeppole for dessert. 3214 Folsom St. at Precita.

There’s Filipino food coming to the Excelsior in December, according to Chowhounds. A new fast-food-style spot called ~CONCHING’S KUSINA MANGAN TANA~ is moving into the former Kuta Bistro and is apparently owned by three women who currently run a catering business. 4994 Mission St. at Italy.

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Man’oushe from Reem’s. Photo from Facebook.

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By Dana Eastland. A fab tablehopper reader and tipster sent us the news that ~NOETECA~ in Noe Valley has been sold to a new owner. According to a note in the window, the owners have sold it to Michele D’Amico while they focus on the upcoming Mission Brasserie (which they hope to open in May 2016). It appears that D’Amico is keeping the concept more or less the same, though, and an announcement on the Noeteca website says that they closed temporarily on November 15th for about a week for “a peaceful exchange of power and a bit of cleaning,” which means they should reopen any day now. 1551 Dolores St. at Valley.

The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market on Saturdays has a new food vendor, and it’s a good one. ~REEM’S~, an Arab street food La Cocina project from Arizmendi alum Reem Assil, will be serving a flatbread called man’oushe. It’s cooked on a special oven called a saj and is available with a variety of seasonal toppings, along with year-round staples like za’atar, cheese, and sujuk (Armenian sausage). It’s a pop-up stall, so be sure to stop by before December 19th (or find them at the Mission Community Market on Thursday evenings). They’ll be at the Saturday market 8am-2pm. Ferry Plaza, Embarcadero at Market.

While we were away last week, we received an email from Danny Bowien letting us know that ~MISSION CHINESE FOOD~ has revamped their menu for the first time in, well, forever. Eater has the details, including the news that new chef de cuisine Frank Mitchell worked with Bowien on the new items. The restaurant’s beloved classics remain, like the thrice-cooked bacon with rice cake and the chicken wings, while new items include cumin lamb larb, beef tartare “lettuce cups,” and sweet-and-sour pork jowl. Oh, and of course those new burritos! Here’s the current menu.

Chef Blaine Wetzel (The Willows Inn) and journalist Joe Ray are going to be at ~ORO~ on Tuesday December 1st celebrating the launch of their new book, Sea and Smoke: Flavors from the Untamed Pacific Northwest. The launch party starts at 7pm and includes snacks, cocktails, discussion, and a book signing. Tickets are $75, and books can be purchased separately. 8 Mint Plaza at Jessie, 415-974-1212.

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The garden at Grand Fare. Photo by Michael David Rose Photography, courtesy of UrbanDaddy.

By Dana Eastland. Yikes. Scoop reports that Oakland’s brand-new ~GRAND FARE MARKET~ has (hopefully only temporarily) closed. According to a note on their website, the closure is “until further notice” and “the market’s current incarnation simply required too much cost to keep up basic operations, and we couldn’t keep it going.” The project just opened two months ago and joined several food hall-style projects in the Bay Area. When we hear what owners Doug Washington and Freya Prowe figure out next for the large (and quite beautiful) space, we’ll let you know. 3265 Grand Ave. at Elwood, Oakland, 510-899-9610.

Chefs Jonathan Tu and Chris Wolff’s Journeymen pop-up will be at Blackwater Station on Monday December 7th, according to East Bay Express, where you can read more about their modern California tasting menu. In addition to their pop-ups, the duo plans to open their own restaurant in the East Bay soon, so this is a good opportunity for them to try out dishes. Dinner seatings are at 6:30pm and 8:30pm, but tickets are going fast, FYI. They’re $60 per person. 4901 Telegraph Ave. at 49th St., Oakland.