April 12, 2016

April 12, 2016
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The modern lines of Mister Jiu’s dining room. All photos: Kassie Borreson.

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Chef and owner Brandon Jew.

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A look at the art installation.

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The custom teak tables with built-in lazy Susans.

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Sizzling rice soup with chicken consommé, water chestnuts, spring veggies, rock shrimp, and schmaltz.

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Tea-smoked Liberty Farm duck with pancake.

Ladies and gents, it makes me happy to report that ~MISTER JIU’S~ is now open in Chinatown. I’d like to give a slow clap to Brandon Jew and his entire team for getting this beast of a project open—it was a huge undertaking and will continue to be so as the project ramps up, but you gotta start somewhere. And when you’re opening in a historic space in the city’s most densely textured neighborhood, the scale of the project would make most well-seasoned restaurateurs question their sanity.

Jew says it has been an amazing experience to get this project up and running—it’s an enormous team, from the landlord (Betty Louie of China Bazaar) to his architect to kitchen team to construction to graphic designers to the Chinese community. He has reached out to many people along the way, and his family has been an immeasurable help.

Brandon Jew is a San Francisco-born Chinese American (his family’s last name was originally Jiu, but of course immigration messed up the spelling). He remembers shopping in Chinatown with his grandmother, an all-day project, as they would go from place to place, only buying the best on her very specific grocery list. She taught him a lot about how to cook and source, something that has stayed with him on his culinary journey (which includes a year cooking in Shanghai, plus learning about Italian cuisine at Quince and California cuisine and whole animal butchery as he cooked in places like Zuni Cafe and Bar Agricole).

Jew’s cuisine at Mister Jiu’s will reflect his multifaceted culinary journey and experience—this is not about creating a facsimile of a Chinese restaurant, it’s not how he was trained. He will be integrating his Cantonese family roots, Chinese American experience, and California training. We’ll be tasting his interpretation and memories of many classic Cantonese dishes, plus dishes from other regions, too, but with his own perspective and ingredient sourcing.

For example, his XO sauce is made with La Quercia prosciutto, and Oregon bay shrimp and Mexican bay scallops they dehydrated. Jew has learned the importance of knowing where your ingredients come from and isn’t inspired to buy dried scallops from a jar in a shop where he doesn’t know a thing about them or even how long they have been sitting around. It’s about the integrity of everything used in the kitchen, so the kitchen’s four dehydrators have been running full time.

Like the Lee brothers with Namu Gaji, Pim of Kin Khao, and Charles Phan of Slanted Door, these chefs have created a new style of their native and beloved cuisines that is told through the lens of San Francisco ingredients. And then there’s Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese, with his completely own freestyle take and expression of dishes, from Chinese American classics to Shanghaiese.

Of course Jew is going to be under a lot of scrutiny from the Chinese American community: it’s a big deal for him to be opening a new restaurant on such a big scale in the historic Four Seas location. It’s a legacy building, one that is so important to the community—so many families and friends would dine there, making a night out of it with dinner and entertainment. As Jew says, “This place deserves people in it and celebrating again.”

The menu is a choose-your-own banquet menu that starts at $69 for five courses. You can select dishes like crispy daikon cake with oil-cured black olives and shiitake mushrooms; hot and sour soup with fish cake, nasturtium, lily buds, and green tomato; cheong fun (rice noodle roll) with Mendocino sea urchin and sprouts (can’t wait to try it); Four Seas fried chicken with sorrel, hot mustard, and red chile; plus supplemental dishes like Heart Arrow Ranch barbecue pork (char siu pork belly, black garlic spareribs, mantou buns, cucumber and daikon pickles) and tea-smoked Liberty Farm duck (pancakes, peanut hoisin, chopped liver, 12-day aged duck breast, confit legs, and gizzards).

As you can see, it’s not about being “Chinese-Chinese, but Chinese for San Francisco,” as Jew puts it. He didn’t want a Chinese experience you could have anywhere; he wanted it to be specific to San Francisco, using quality and local ingredients in a Chinese format. He also wants to keep things simple enough so that the ingredients can really shine.

They are making so many things in-house, including all the noodles, buns, pancakes, and sauces, and are building the pantry as they go along, which will include making their own lap cheong sausage (they are butchering whole pigs). He is also going to be working with farmers to grow vegetables for the restaurant and plans to grow plants on the roof.

He has quite the team with him, including sous chef Sara Hauman (previously Huxley; she worked with Jew at Bar Agricole) and desserts by pastry chef Melissa Chou (formerly of Mourad and Aziza). In the ultimate plug-and-play move, the beverage director and bar manager is Danny Louie, previously at Chino, who also has some great SF/Chinese-American roots—his father was a bartender at Cecilia Chiang’s The Mandarin. The two of them will be working closely on creating culinary ingredients for the bar to use (check out the cocktail menu here).

Congrats to John Herbstritt, who has made the move from the wine aisle at Bi-Rite Market to the role of wine director at the restaurant (scroll down here to see the wine and beer list). (Although I will miss his smiling face and great recos at Bi-Rite.) And ultimate opener Liz Subauste (previously Al’s Place) is the GM.

The 10,000-square-foot space space was redesigned by Boor Bridges Architecture (Lord Stanley, Trou Normand, Sightglass Coffee) and has a clean, midcentury look, a reference to the period when Chinatown was in its heyday. You can only imagine the work it took to restore the multilevel space, which was previously Hang Far Low and dates back to the late 1800s.

For now, there are 85 seats, with 15 at the bar (although the seats aren’t coming for a couple of weeks, so it’s a standing bar at the moment)—a bar menu will also be coming soon. There are three custom­-made teak tables (by Brandon’s uncle) with built­-in lazy Susans, and you can’t miss the massive brass chandeliers, which are from the original space and were refurbished locally. There’s also a 20-foot-long black-and-white piece by artist Afton Love that runs along an entire wall. Also: the original entrance on Grant has been moved to the alley side, on Waverly Place.

As for future plans, the upper floor will possibly be converted into a bar and lounge and private event space during the week, with dim sum on the weekends—plus Jew scored the bar and lounge furnishings from the Empress of China, amazing. And there’s talk of having a window on Waverly, where you can get late-night sweet and sour pork and other drink-friendly food to eat upstairs or to go.

Hours for now: Tue-Thu 5:30pm-10:30pm, bar opens at 5pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm, bar opens at 5pm. Closed Sun-Mon. A portion of the dining room and the entire bar are reserved for walk-­ins every night.

Note that the entrance is at 28 Waverly Place (not 731 Grant as indicated for the moment on Google), between Stockton and Grant, Clay and Sacramento.

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Bar San Pancho’s pierna enchilada torta. Photo courtesy of Bar San Pancho.

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A look at the new graphic mural at Bar San Pancho. Photo courtesy of BSP.

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Buffalo mac and cheese at the new Lodge on Haight. Photo via Facebook.

I broke the news about a month ago that the former ~CHINO~ was transforming into ~BAR SAN PANCHO~, and the Cal-Mex cantina is now open.

To recap, the Tacolicious team is offering a booze-friendly menu that includes tortas, the totally irresistible-sounding quesoburguesa (a chile con queso-stuffed burger, with ancho fries), jalapeño popper tacos (yassss), MF hot wings (and MF hotter wings!), chopped salad, clam chowder Mexi-style, Frito pie, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and more. Take a look here.

The bar will have simple but well-crafted cocktails designed by beverage director Jeremy Harris, plus a few micheladas, 12 beers on tap, and the option to have a build-your-own cocktail using spirits (mezcal, tequila, or rum) that gets mixed with housemade seasonal syrups of your choice (strawberry-rhubarb with black pepper, Meyer lemon-basil, or blood orange-ginger). You may recognize Manny Ramirez as the bar manager, who came over from Tacolicious.

It’s a sports bar, but without all that cliché sports bar atmosphere. There will be TVs with the game on, but kids are also welcome too (there’s a kid’s menu). The space has a new mural by Nigel Sussman, plus a new bar and tables. Upstairs on the mezzanine, foosball tables are coming, and don’t forget the bar up there too—which is great for private events.

Hours for this first week are 4pm to midnight, and starting Saturday April 16th they will be open until 12pm to 2am (unless otherwise noted due to game days). 3198 16th St. at Guererro.

Newly open in the Lower Haight is ~THE LODGE ON HAIGHT~, in the former Rickybobby. As we mentioned earlier, this casual American eatery is from former Greenburger’s chef-owner Matthew Nudelman and Timothy Felkner (Oro). The menu includes approachable dishes like a triple-decker club, Szechuan lamb burger, vegan sloppy joe, and of course a burger, which comes with bacon and cheddar cheese for $12, plus there’s a housemade veggie burger too. A fun item is the all-day breakfast fix: two eggs, house-cured Canadian bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato, served on an English muffin. Oh, and buffalo mac and cheese, with a spicy blue cheese béchamel sauce.

After 5pm, you can get fish and chips, fried chicken (the most expensive item, at $17), and baked stuffed shells. There’s also beer and wine. Open Tue-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-12am, closed Mon. Brunch is served Sun 11:30-3pm. 400 Haight St. at Webster, 415-872-9502.

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Wake up and smell the caffè at Fiorella. Photo courtesy of Fiorella.

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Let’s talk about the brunch toast situation at Fiorella. Photo courtesy of Fiorella.

The folks at ~FIORELLA~ have been happily cooking up pizzas and more for the Richmond, and now it’s time to fry up some eggs! Starting Saturday April 16th, Fiorella will be offering brunch Sat-Sun 10am-2pm. The menu includes Italian-inspired eggs (like with polenta), pizza, pasta, specialty cocktails (like a white peach Bellini), and you can also get Ritual coffee, to stay and to go. Check out the full sample menu here. 2339 Clement St. at 25th Ave., 415-340-3049.

~MARLA BAKERY~ is bringing back dinner service, starting Friday April 15th. Dinner will run Wednesday through Saturday, and the monthly Sunday Supper Series will continue as well. Wednesday and Thursday nights will be casual, while Friday and Saturday will feature a slightly more sophisticated menu, 5:30pm-9pm. 

There are also a few changes and additions: extended weekday breakfast hours now run Tue-Fri 8:30am-2:30pm, and lighter fare is available in the afternoons (2:30pm-5pm), with bagel chips and dip, soup, a baker’s board, salads, and more.

It’s ball game season, which also means ~MERIGAN SUB SHOP~ is running longer hours. You can come by for breakfast in the mornings and more, Mon-Fri 8:30am-7pm and Sat 10am-4pm. They are also open limited hours on Sundays for home Giants games only. I am already pining for my Terrina sandwich, which I plan on getting before the day game I’m attending next week, whooooo!

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The new outdoor tables at Al’s Place. Photo via Facebook.

Good news for folks trying to get a coveted seat at Aaron London’s delicious ~AL’S PLACE~ in the Mission. Starting Wednesday April 13th, they are opening an outdoor dining area on the sidewalk. What this means is that when dinner service starts at 5:30pm, there will now be 24 seats available for walk-ins (when you include the chef’s counter inside). And gas heaters. Yay. Plus palm trees, raised planters and succulent beds, and string lights. The full menu and beverages are available outside. (Via Scoop.) 1499 Valencia St. at 26th St., 415-416-6136. 

According to ABC license transfer activity, it looks like there’s a taker for the former ~LOCAL MISSION EATERY~ space: Rupam Bhagat, who is behind the popular Indian food truck, Dum, known for its dum chicken biryani, plus kati rolls, dahi puri, and ragda patties. Scoop confirmed the news, and Bhagat plans to open a brick-and-mortar location in the space in mid-May, offering an expanded menu of the truck’s offerings. Hours will be Tue-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 11am-9pm. 3111 24th St. at Folsom.

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Put a knife in it: the chicken amaranth waffle at Reverb. Photo by Carmen Troesser.

Over the weekend, the Gather team’s comfort food replacement for ~VERBENA~, ~REVERB KITCHEN & BAR~, closed. 2323 Polk St. at Green.

Meanwhile, the SF location of Sachin Chopra and Shoshana Wolff’s ~ALL SPICE~, which replaced their restaurant Game in the former Masa’s space, has closed. 648 Bush St. at Stockton.

Good news: it ends up Chinatown’s no-frills dim sum spot ~DOL HO~ has reopened after being closed by the Health Department after all—and got a new awning in the process—according to Chowhound. 808 Pacific Ave. at Stockton, 415-392-2828.

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Photo courtesy of A16.

Here’s a quick roundup of all kinds of fun food events and tastings around the bay—click the links for more info if something catches your eye.

City College of San Francisco’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies Department is hosting their annual Wok on the Wild Side fundraiser on Sunday April 17th. Past alums, including Rocky Maselli and Hannah Bouye of A16, Sarah Lau and Mike Zopf of Nopa, and others will be serving bites with current students, along with wine and a silent auction in the mix (there are some great lots, including SF Giants tickets, a two-night stay at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, magnums and cases of wine from Kistler and Vieux Télégraphe, and more). Proceeds benefit scholarships and student programs. 4pm-7pm. Tickets: $75. City College of San Francisco-Statler Wing, Ocean Campus, 50 Phelan Ave.

On Monday April 18th, Lucky Peach is hosting a fun book launch party at ~ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE~ in honor of The Wurst of Lucky Peach: A Treasury of Encased Meats. Guests will enjoy a screening of “Best in Show,” with dressed-up hot dogs by Anthony Myint (The Perennial, Mission Chinese Food) and Tiger beer. Tickets include admission to the movie, food, drinks, a copy of The Wurst of Lucky Peach, and a one-year subscription to Lucky Peach. $45. 6pm-9pm.

~A16~ and ~A16 ROCKRIDGE~ are hosting Artichoke Week from April 18th-24th. There will not only be a slew of beautiful dishes like shaved raw artichoke salad, fritto misto, artichoke pizza, and stuffed artichokes, but there will also be Cynar-spiked drinks and a tiramisu with Cynar as the base and in the mascarpone, whut?

Fans of Devil’s Gulch Ranch won’t want to miss this dinner on Monday April 18th at ~JARDINIÈRE~, who are featuring Northern California farms as part of their Monday Night Supper Club series. Three courses (porchetta di testa with fava beans, roasted capicola, and clafoutis) with wine pairings, just $55. Star Route Farms is next week.

Curious about the upcoming ~HITACHINO BEER & WAGYU~? (You can read about this project on tablehopper here.) The restaurant will be opening soon, but in the meantime, chef Noriyuki Sugie is hosting a pop-up sneak peek at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, with bites and flights of Hitachino. Thursday April 21st, 4:30pm-7:30pm.

For a taste of New York in SF, Feastly is going to be hosting 22-year-old Theo Friedman of Theory Kitchen for a pop-up April 23rd and 24th, offering a 10-course menu at two seatings each night (6pm and 9pm). Theory Kitchen has been noted for hosting a range of events, each event different, from the location to the menu, with a varying crew of artists, creators, cooks, and guests. More here. Tickets are almost gone!

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