September 28, 2016

September 28, 2016

A look into the dining room at The Morris. Photo: Leo Gong.


The smoked duck. Photo: Leo Gong.


Chef-partner Gavin Schmidt (left). Photo: Leo Gong.


A beaming Paul Einbund. Photo: Leo Gong.


Test dinner at The Morris. Photo: Leo Gong.


Exterior of the iconic building. Photo: Leo Gong.

Paul Einbund has been planning and plotting his own project for years, while sharing his talents as a sommelier at top SF places like Frances, Octavia, Slanted Door, and Coi (and building up his collection of rare wines and spirits as well). He’s also had his chef and partner lined up for five years, Gavin Schmidt, who he met when they were both working at Coi (Schmidt was chef de cuisine). Schmidt has also worked at Elisabeth Daniel, Campton Place, Blanca Restaurant in San Diego, and trained under Laurent Gras. He enjoys whole-animal butchery and reportedly has quite the hand with charcuterie. (I even hear he’s working on a country ham, Cali style, swapping out the Virginia molasses for other ingredients—stand by for more on that.)

And now, it’s time for Einbund to open the doors to ~THE MORRIS~, which, as I see it, is a neighborhood restaurant from people who know their shit. It’s opening in the former location of the ultimate neighborhood restaurant, the Slow Club, which Erin Rooney opened back in 1998 in the Media Gulch/Potrero Flats. It still has that great Slow Club DNA, but the update from architect Charles Hemminger and designer Scott Kester has given it a new and fresh feeling. The vibe is meant to be playful and comfortable, backed up with skilled service and quality products.

The dining room tables, from Earl Gonzalez, are now topped with white ash that was whitewashed, and the bar stools are by furniture maker Fyrn. There is a clever divider from the bar to the dining room made of mother-in-law’s tongue plants that you can still peep through. They took a lot of care to install sound-dampening materials since the room was notoriously loud (even the slats on the ramp to the dining room actually help diffract sound). Einbund’s wife, Vanessa Yap Einbund, is known for her crafty design ways; she made some denim coasters and even the wine list has a denim cover, with a fun neck tag (like on a shirt) that says Booze & Stuff. San Francisco designer Evan Kinori designed the uniforms.

Looking at Schmidt’s menu, there are some fun nibbles like shrimp toast and chicken and foie dumplings (sold by the piece), and I can totally see myself posted up at the bar for some of his charcuterie (rabbit terrine, pâté de campagne, tête de cochon, fennel salami) with some cocktails. There’s also a selection of cheeses, and score, they have Tartine bread on the menu (great neighbors to have—they wheel over their wagon each day to pick some up). Schmidt’s food is dialed to be full of flavor and seasoning, the kind of food you want to drink with.

The opening menu has seasonal picks like tomato salad with melon, almond, and burrata, and blistered wax beans with grilled squid and chile lime. Four mains include lingcod, grilled Berkshire pork, and sausages, all $28 and under. And then there’s the sure-to-be-a-showstopper smoked Muscovy duck with pomme rosti and roasted root vegetables, which Einbund says is an abundant dish (half $48, whole $96), inspired by their desire to have something iconic on the menu, like the Zuni chicken. Dishes are easy to share, but you can easily have a meal for one if you want to go that route too.

Of course, the wine list is a major focus here. On the back of the dinner menu, Einbund will be listing his preferred wines of the moment, whether it’s sparked by a selection that goes particularly well with something on the menu, or something he’s excited about (which happens often—like being fired up over four domestic chenin blancs that he said taste like French chenin). Take a look at the biodynamic calendar and lunar cycle notations on the menu—yup, extreme geekery here. Einbund explains, “Over the course of my career, I have learned everything affects wine. Some taste better when the moon is full. I like to consider when to drink a delicate old wine that is fragile. We are paying attention to everything.” So for those of you who like to geek out, you can see if it’s a leaf, root, fruit, or flower day. And if you like to drink wine out of Zaltos (and not everyone does), there’s that option too.

House wine is an important thing to Einbund—he’s known for implementing the “pay only for what you drink” practice (measured by the centimeter) at Frances, which is also how they will charge here. He is a big proponent of California wines that are young, fresh, and affordable. But if you are looking for something old world, or aged, or you really want to splash out or do some spelunking, then you’ll want to ask for the main list, which is deep, with some real finds tucked in there. Madeira is another one of Einbund’s passions.

As for the eight-seat bar, Einbund is known for his love of Chartreuse, and you can bet it’s on the cocktail list, namely in the form of a Chartreuse slushy ($10). He worked with some mighty talented folks in the biz (who prefer to remain nameless) on fine-tuning the classic cocktail recipes. He wants the list of seven drinks to remain pretty set, so they can continue to tweak the cocktails until they hit a Japanese level of execution, with one exception: look for the slushy to get swapped out for a hot toddy in the cooler months.

The Morris (named after Einbund’s father) is due to open on Monday October 3rd. Hours will be Mon-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm. Look for Sundays and weekday lunch to be added, plus brunch and later hours are possible too. 2501 Mariposa St. at Hampshire, 415-612-8480.


Babu Ji’s yogurt kebabs in a stunning sauce of beet and ginger. Photo: ©


The dining room at Babu Ji in New York. Photo: ©

One of my favorite meals while in New York was at ~BABU JI~, offering an inventive and updated version of Indian cuisine. So I was beyond happy to learn the unexpected news (originally via a tweet from Zagat) that owners and husband-and-wife team Jennifer and chef Jessi Singh are coming to SF! (The restaurant first opened in Melbourne.)

Their NYC tasting menu was full of outstanding dishes, like their jaw-droppingly beautiful yogurt kebabs, the abundant thali plate, and some of the best tandoori chicken I’ve had in ages. They will reportedly be taking over the Nostra space on Valencia; stand by for more details soon. 280 Valencia St. at 14th St.

Another Indian import is coming, this time to Civic Center: ~AUGUST 1 FIVE~. Owner Hetal Shah, a partner in Red Hot Chilli Pepper in San Carlos, is bringing over chef Manish Kumar Tyagi, previously at the acclaimed Rasika in Washington, DC, and Taj Hotels and Resorts. The restaurant is due to open this fall, and the menu will be inspired by Northern Indian regional cuisines and feature seasonal influences and modern techniques. Don’t look for the usual suspects of tikka masala and butter chicken, however—they will be introducing other dishes beyond the typical curries. There will also be cocktails and a global wine list. Craige Walters (Black Cat, Hecho) is redesigning the 90-seat space (previously O3 Bistro & Lounge), which will be refined but inviting. The name is in reference to the date of India’s independence from British rule. 524 Van Ness Ave. at McAllister.

As for what will be moving into the former Betelnut, we previously mentioned Adriano Paganini’s restaurant group, Back of the House, was taking over the space, and now they have revealed it’s going to be a contemporary Mexican restaurant.

The menu will feature traditional dishes from Mexican states spanning the Gulf to the Pacific (so, um, that’s a lot of ground, but we’ll see what they focus on). Family recipes, masa ground on-site (by hand!), and roasted meats by the pound (carnitas) are mentioned, plus small plates like sopes and crab tostadas, as well as other starters, salads, mains (whole-roasted fish), and more. Chef-partner Luis Flores of Uno Dos Tacos has been playing a big part in the concept, taking several trips to Mexico with Paganini. There will also be traditional and craft cocktails, with a focus on mezcal and tequila (of course), and pitchers. Always dangerous. Stand by for more on timing and the name soon. 2030 Union St. at Buchanan.


The Big Easy at Powder, with Vietnamese coffee snow, toasted almonds, chocolate sauce, and sweet milk glaze. Photo: ©


The cheerful Powder shop. Photo courtesy of Powder.

There’s a new frosty and fluffy treat for you to try on Divis, ~POWDER~. Previously serving their NorCal version of Taiwanese shaved snow at Off the Grid, owners Mimi Hanley and David Chung now have a cute brick-and-mortar shop.

They freeze their premium ingredients (filtered water and organic Straus Family Creamery dairy) into ice blocks, and then shave them off to order and serve with toppings of your choice. You can get light and fluffy ribbons of their trademark black sesame flavor (SO GOOD), Vietnamese coffee, horchata, and strawberry, with toppings like TCHO chocolate crumbles, mochi, seasonal fruit, local honey, and traditional sweet milk glaze (condensed milk), which is housemade. They’re happy to make suggestions in case you can’t decide which combo to get (check out their S’nome Picks). And even though it looks like a lot, it’s really light, with about half as many calories as ice cream (thanks to the high water content). The sizes are regular ($4.50) and large ($5.50), with toppings that range from 50-75 cents.

The airy space is petite, but there’s the parklet just outside (they share it with neighbor Repose coffee shop). Open Tue-Sun 12pm-10pm. 260 Divisadero St. at Haight.


Some of the brunch gorgeousness at Gardenias. Photo via Facebook.


The Perfect Storm at The Lunchpad: over-easy egg, Swiss, caramelized onions, spinach, and chipotle remoulade on pain de mie. Photo: ©


The Lunchpad. Photo courtesy of The Lunchpad.

The ladies at Lower Pac Heights’ ~GARDENIAS~, Dana Tommasino and Margie Conard, have launched weekend brunch! The menu (go ahead, take a look) will shift up a bit weekly, but the recent version includes a soft scramble with tarragon, chives, and Fontina (um, heaven), and pork pozole verde with a fried egg. And then there’s the socca cake with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, roasted fennel, tatsoi, herbed tahini, shaved Parmesan, and a poached egg, because that’s how they roll. Some toasts, salads, and sweeter options like a mixed grain porridge complete the story, and a grilled burger and even more light (low-ABV) cocktails will be coming soon.

They are serving Sat-Sun 10am-2pm, and don’t forget that lovely back patio with flowers and vines, a little oasis of peace and quiet. 1963 Sutter St. at Fillmore, 415-621-7122.

Hayes Valley’s ~THE LUNCHPAD~—the lunch spot from biz partners Adam Hubbell, Mark Hubbell, and Chris Snowden inside of Noir Lounge—have zhooshed up their brunch service with booze and a dedicated bartender. Serving Sat-Sun 11am-2:30pm, there is a full bar, where you can snag The Brunchpad Bloody (complete with a piece of their candied habanero bacon). On the weekend brunch menu: huevos rancheros, a breakfast biscuit (a housemade cheddar jalapeño biscuit), and biscuits and gravy. You can also order their sandwiches, from their Green Eggs & Ham to their Teamster (roasted turkey, pastrami, Swiss, Dijon sweet and slaw, garlic aioli, and Grandpa’s pickles)—I could only finish half that monster when I took it to the beach. Football fans: there are big-screen TVs to watch sporting events (there’s also a private room available for rent with an oversize screen). 581 Hayes St. at Laguna, 415-522-6647.

~BARZOTTO~ just started serving daily lunch specials, which includes a meatball sandwich on a crusty baguette with provolone and housemade giardiniera ($10), their porchetta on sourdough with peperonata and mustard ($12), a chicken sandwich on sourdough with Green Goddess dressing, pickled onions, and bacon ($11), and squash tartine on six-grain loaf with delicata squash, crescenza, and balsamic radicchio ($10). Lunch is served Mon-Fri 11am-3pm.

And now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s worth noting that ~SAISON~ is now open on Monday evenings, 5:30pm-9:30pm (via Eater). 178 Townsend St. at 5th St., 415-828-7990. 


The center of Volta’s dining room (with such fantastic tile). Photo via Facebook.

Damn it, I hate hearing when a place from good operators closes, and in this case, it’s the nine-month-old ~VOLTA~, the French and Scandinavian beauty from Umberto Gibin and Staffan Terje. Scoop reported they closed on Sunday September 25th.

A note on Volta’s Facebook page states: “We thought our unique concept and sleek design could counter some of the innate challenges of operating within the current San Francisco restaurant climate but the numbers tell us we were wrong. Ultimately, the financial reality of operating a business in a still-evolving urban location overshadowed the incredible talent and hard work of our tireless team. We appreciate all the support and understanding as we put this magnificent restaurant to rest. Through this challenging time, we are more thankful than ever for the success we have found at our other restaurants, Perbacco and barbacco, and hope you will come visit us there sometime soon.” Seems sales dropped precipitously in the summer, starting in August, down 70 percent. Oof. And so the myriad challenges of opening a restaurant in the Mid-Market neighborhood continues.


Don’t miss Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent at the Mill Valley Film Festival.


At 2015 Cochon Heritage BBQ SF. Photo: Gamma Nine/COCHON 555.

Unfortunately I won’t be in town to have a table at Litquake’s Eat, Drink, and Be Literary event this year, but you should totally swing by to listen to and meet a variety of food writers, chefs, personalities, and more, including Novella Carpenter, Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove, and the delightful Margo True of Sunset Magazine. There will also be some food and beverages to taste, signings, and more. It all happens Sunday October 9th, 11am-5:30pm. $40. (Read more about Litquake here.) The Chapel, 777 Valencia St. at 19th St.

There are some pretty cool films that involve food at the Mill Valley Film Festival (October 6th-16th), including Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table, Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, Paris Can Wait (by Eleanor Coppola), and Theater of Life (about Italy’s Massimo Bottura).

Brady Lowe returns to SF with his Cochon 555 on Sunday October 16th, which features five SF and Oakland chefs in a heritage whole hog culinary competition, plus five additional chefs serving some barbecue, from Korean to African braai to asador. It’s going to be a street fest on 22nd Street, hosted at Magnolia Brewery and Smokestack, with music (including DJ Kool Keith), cocktails, cheeses, a pie pop-up, and boutique wines. General admission tickets start at $100, with early admission VIP tickets for $150 and music-only tickets for $50. Magnolia Brewery in Dogpatch, street closure on 22nd between 3rd and Illinois. 3pm for VIP, 4pm for general admission, and 7pm for music only.

There is also a warm-up to the main event on Friday October 15th, Cochon 555 Asian Speakeasy, with Tu David Phu, formerly of Gather; Shawn Naputi of Prubechu; Francis Ang, formerly pastry chef at Dirty Habit; Tim Luym of Buffalo Theory; and Jacob Kwan-Rosenbush, formerly of Stock in Trade. There will be six courses of Devil’s Gulch Ranch pork, wine from Silver Oak Winery, and cocktails. It’s a charity dinner to raise money for Piggy Bank, a farm-in-the-making benefitting heritage breed pig farmers and culinary schools. 8pm. $85. The Tradesman. 753 Alabama St. at 20th St.