November 29, 2016

November 29, 2016
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Smoked duck jook with duck leg confit, pomegranate, and salty duck egg, and Chinese doughnut. Photo courtesy of Rob Lam.

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The Saturn Returns (Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro, pineapple). Photo: Breeane Furlong.

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The White Elephant (Lo-Fi Sweet Vermouth, coconut cream, cold-brew coffee, allspice dram).

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How many of you are as obsessed with jook or congee as I am? It’s the only thing I want when I am under the weather or hungover, or when it’s a cold and rainy morning. It’s also my favorite way to use a leftover turkey or chicken carcass (my freezer is always stocked with this magical rice porridge). Put an egg on it! Fortunately my chef buddy Rob Lam of Butterfly is also obsessed with jook, and since there isn’t anyone in SF doing anything very fun with this magical breakfast item, we decided to throw a brunch pop-up for you: Jook Joint.

We’re hosting the brunch on Sunday December 11th (in one-hour time blocks, from 10am-2pm), which is perfect for those of you who may have had a little too much holiday party cheer the night before. We’re excited to be partnering with Lo-Fi Aperitifs, who will be making a range of low-ABV cocktails for you to get you back in the game. Bartender extraordinaire Claire Sprouse (Tin Roof Drink Community) will be on deck, offering four inventive concoctions using Lo-Fi Dry Vermouth, Sweet Vermouth, and Gentian Amaro. As they like to say, “Lo-Fi Aperitifs are made with botanical conviction, crafted with superb California wines and whole ingredients.” Cheers to that.

This jook brunch will be prepared by chef Rob Lam of Butterfly, a good friend and one of my favorite people to eat with. Rob was born in Vietnam, and when his family moved to Southern California after the fall of Saigon, his mother opened a restaurant called Vien Dong, just outside of Los Angeles. Rob cares deeply about using quality ingredients, so expect things to taste extra-special. I have been lucky over the years to enjoy some of his home cooking and dishes you won’t find on the menu at Butterfly, so here’s your opportunity to try his seriously delicious Vietnamese cuisine.

You’ll be able to choose from three different jooks: there will be one with rock shrimp and crab (with XO chile sauce, crab-uni butter, century egg); smoked duck (with duck leg confit, pomegranate, salty duck egg); and vegetarian (poached farm egg, cilantro and kale pesto, bamboo pith, pickles)—and vegans, you can have it without the egg, no problem! All the jook will come with a traditional savory Chinese doughnut (youtiao) and Vietnamese coffee, and it’s $15 for the whole set ($2 extra if you want to put an egg on it).

You can also order a side of housemade shrimp dumplings (five for $8), and one, two, or three Lo-Fi Aperitif cocktails ($9 each)—you can take your pick from four at the brunch, including the White Elephant (Lo-Fi Sweet Vermouth, coconut cream, cold-brew coffee, allspice dram) and the Saturn Returns (Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro, pineapple). There are also nonalcoholic options (yuzu soda and a lychee Palmer, $4 each). Please note you’ll need to order these items in advance as a ticketed item, so if you plan to bring a jook home for the next day (or your roommate), order an extra bowl in advance!

It’s going to be a fun, lively, and casual brunch, and is designed to move pretty quickly, so we’ll be selling tickets in one-hour time blocks (10am-11am, 11am-12pm, 12pm-1pm, and 1pm-2pm). You don’t have to show up on the dot, but somewhere in that time frame would be great. We’ll reveal the Mission location when you get your ticket.

Tickets are available on Feastly. We can’t wait to see you, let’s eat!

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Canh ga chien/big Buddha chicken wings with yuzu shrimp paste. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Chef Rob Lam of Butterfly. Photo courtesy of Butterfly.

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Erin Brooks from Ernest Vineyards and sommelier Eugenio Jardim. Photo courtesy of Ernest Vineyards.

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Array of pork and shrimp skewers, with lettuce, herbs, sauces, and rice paper wrappers. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Did you ever get a chance to attend the two Vietnamese dinners I hosted with Feastly earlier this year, which sold out in less than 24 hours? Well, if you missed out on chef Rob Lam’s amazing food, or you would love to try some more of his dishes, here’s your chance, because we’re hosting another feast!

On Friday December 16th, I am thrilled to announce we’re hosting Family Style, a Vietnamese family-style dinner, paired with the restrained and elegant European-style wines from Ernest Vineyards, which are primarily sourced from carefully selected vineyards around Sonoma County. Wait until you taste these beautifully made and food-friendly wines! We did a preliminary tasting and were so happy to see how marvelously these wines paired with the menu. And since we’re partnering with Feastly, we’re going to be dining in a cool location in the Mission.

This Vietnamese feast will be prepared by chef Rob Lam of Butterfly, who is also a dear friend and one of my very favorite people to dine out with. I have been lucky over the years to enjoy some of his home cooking and dishes you won’t find on the menu at Butterfly, so here’s your opportunity to try his seriously delicious Vietnamese cuisine.

Rob was born in Vietnam, and when his family moved to Southern California after the fall of Saigon, his mother opened a restaurant called Vien Dong, just outside of Los Angeles, so restaurants are in his blood. And since Rob cares deeply about using quality ingredients, expect things to taste extra-special, with many housemade sauces and more.

During the evening, we have Ernest Vineyards co-founder Erin Brooks and sommelier and wine educator Eugenio Jardim, winner of Sunset Magazine’s 2010 Sommelier of the Year Award, who will be walking us through the pairings and educating us on these exquisite, site-specific wines, from the Eugenia rosé of cinsault (which is going to become your new favorite) to the fresh and floral Edaphos chardonnay, plus a pinot noir and grenache too.

The dinner will begin at 6:30pm, starting with an amuse on arrival (including bo tai chanh/hanger steak carpaccio and tartare). You can view the menu and wine pairings here. There will be three courses of authentic and flavorful dishes—from fried chicken wings with yuzu shrimp paste to bun rieu (Dungeness crab, egg, and tomato noodle soup with fried tofu and shrimp cake)—and the main event will be the bountiful family-style skewers course, served with a variety of pork and shrimp skewers (including some you have never seen before!), sauces, lettuce, herbs, and DIY rice paper wrappers. Get ready to roll up your sleeves.

With each course, you’ll enjoy an Ernest Vineyards wine pairing. There will also be dessert at the end: warm chocolate pot de crème with Vietnamese coffee sauce and matcha chantilly. Mmmmhmmm. No pairing for that one—it stands on its own! We’re planning to wrap up around 9:30pm, but probably closer to 10pm—you know how these things go. Sorry we can’t accommodate vegetarians at this meal since it’s a set menu.

Tickets are available on Feastly for just $80, all-inclusive. Yes, this is a steal, so don’t delay on getting your seat! We are selling tickets to the six bar seats separately, you can nab those here. I can’t wait to see you, especially around a table covered with delicious food prepared by one of my favorite chefs! See you!

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Beet blini with caviar and cured salmon. Photo: Lara Hata.

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Some of the booth seating at Finn Town. Photo: Alana Wolens.

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Friendsgiving: herb-roasted turkey, pan-seared confit stuffing, Grand Marnier cranberry sauce, and a popover. Photo: Lara Hata.

Opening this Friday December 2nd is chef Ryan Scott and business partner Rick Hamer’s ~FINN TOWN~ in the Castro, taking over the former Barracuda. It’s designed to be an upbeat and lively space (a “tavern with a twist”), with two bars, two happy hours, big booths, and plenty of cocktails to choose from, including three on tap (perfect for those “just give me a drink!” moments).

The dinner menu from chef de cuisine Jason Raffin is extensive, starting with oysters (raw, Rockefeller), beet blini with salmon and caviar, and smoked trout rillettes, moving to all kinds of small plates, like an iceberg wedge and chop salad and Parmesan polenta, and, of course, Scott’s killer deviled eggs. Hearty mains cover lamb meatloaf, tea-brined fried chicken, and brined and braised short ribs. Mascarpone gnudi with smoked mozzarella and brown butter will almost make you check your LDLs, but there’s grilled kale pistou on there, so whew. Burger, a double stack, check. And in a fun offering, there are a few entrée salads, with steak, chicken paillard, and grilled market fish.

Regulars will start tracking the weekly specials, which includes spaghetti and chicken-and-mortadella meatballs, and Friendsgiving (so clever) on Thursdays (duh). Items are made in-house, and I already mentioned Cheryl Storms was lending her baking expertise to all kinds of items, so yeah, save room for dessert.

Dishes are priced at a very neighborhood-friendly level (less than $25), and Saturday and Sunday brunch will launch at the opening. Bring on the fried egg sandwich with rosemary pepper bacon, white cheddar, and triple-egg aioli on an English muffin. This Saturday December 3rd, chef Ryan Scott will be hosting a special Finn Town inaugural brunch—Booze, Brunch and Books—and signing copies of his new cookbook One to Five, starting at 10am. Books will be available for purchase at the door.

Anthony Parks of Fifty Fifty Cocktail Co. (Mourad, Dorian, Palm House) put together the cocktails, and there’s a “down low” list you can request too.

Hours are Mon-Wed 5pm-12:30am, Thu-Fri 5pm-1:30am, Sat 10am-1:30am, Sun 10am-12:30am. 2251 Market St. at Noe, 415-626-3466. 

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Masaki Sasaki at the new Sasaki. Yelp photo by Robert D.

After working at numerous sushi counters around town (like Maruya, Omakase), chef-owner Masaki Sasaki has opened his own counter with chef-owner Takanori Wada (Hamano), ~SASAKI~, in the former American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. The minimalist 12-seat restaurant offers a nightly omakase menu of some smaller dishes, 13 pieces of nigiri, dessert, and tea for $180 per person. Reservations only, with seatings Tue-Sat at 5:30pm and 8:30pm (no walk-ins), and a $150 cancellation fee if you don’t give two days’ notice. Eater mentions Sasaki is focused on traditional Edomae sushi, with simplicity at the forefront, and no meat: only seafood and vegetables. Beer, sake, and Champagne are available. 2400 Harrison St. at 20th St., 415-829-8997.

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Front of the now-closed Le Zinc. Photo via Le Zinc’s website.

After being open for 15 years in Noe Valley, neighborhood bistro ~LE ZINC~ closed its doors. But fear not, Francophiles, because taking its place is ~CHEZ MARIUS~, from Laurent Legendre of Glen Park’s Le P’tit Laurent, and previously Clementine Restaurant and Bistro Clement (Marius is his middle name, in honor of his grandfather, who was a chef). He is going to continue the neighborhood bistro vibe, and the menu will be Provencal-inspired, with classics like bouillabaisse, ratatouille, mussels, and escargots, with bistro favorites like foie gras and of course steak tartare.

There will be some low-ABV cocktails and aperitifs added, like a pamplemousse cocktail, kir royales, and more. They are making renovations and will be expanding the back patio by 6-10 seats. And since the patio has a separate entrance, it’s going to be dog-friendly. It will also be kid-friendly, with a chalkboard for kiddies to draw on, and a fire pit where they can make s’mores (hopefully supervised, ha-ha, we don’t want little Francois to fall into the fire).

The plan is to open next week sometime; I’ll let you know the exact date in the Tuesday December 6th tablehopper. Chez Marius will be open for lunch Wed-Fri, dinner nightly, and brunch Sat-Sun. 4063 24th St. at Noe.

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The exterior, with LED artwork from Mexico-based artists Héctor Falcón and Fernando Llanos. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

It seems that ~LA URBANA~ has closed after three years on Divisadero. A sign that has been up for a bit mentioned being closed for renovations, but Scoop heard word from a worker that the restaurant had closed for good. Unfortunately there hasn’t been an official statement from the owners, but it seems to be cerrado.

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The classic two-olive martini at the just as classic Bix. Photo: Kristen Loken.

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Off the Grid at Justin Herman Plaza. Photo courtesy of Off the Grid.

Yup, the holiday crush is on, and it’s time to schedule some fun lunches. While I’m sorry I won’t be hosting another two-martini lunch event at ~BIX~ this year, you can still duplicate it by swinging by during their holiday lunch hours. Bix will be open for lunch all week, instead of just Fridays, from December 5th-23rd. Cheers.

~LE COLONIAL~ is getting in on the action and will be opening for lunch for four Fridays in December: the 2nd, 9th, 16th, and the 23rd. Hours are 11:30am-2:30pm, and there’s a $35 three-course prix-fixe menu from recently hired chef Jean-Paul Peluffo. Or you can order à la carte specials—and a cocktail, of course. 20 Cosmo Pl. between Sutter and Post and Jones and Taylor, 415-931-3600.

This Sunday December 4th is the second annual Holiday Brunch Market at ~THE PROGRESS~, with 20 artisans, craftsmen, and makers, who will take over the entire restaurant and also the private dining room upstairs, The Workshop. There will be walk-around brunch items and a full bar. 11am-2:45pm.

Also on Sunday December 4th is an Annual Holiday Brunch & Toy Drive and brunch at ~RED DOG RESTAURANT~, which is partnering with the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program. Come by from 11am-5pm with a donation of an unwrapped toy or nonperishable food item, and for just $20, you can dive into a holiday brunch buffet with your choice of refreshments (yes, there are mimosas). There’s also a silent auction, with prizes ranging from a 10-person Fire Boat Experience on the bay to an exclusive Firehouse Dinner with the SFFD (hey, fireman!). There will even be a bouncy house and Santa will be there for photos, so bring the kiddies. 303 2nd St. at Folsom, 415-692-0211.

~DANDELION CHOCOLATE~ is continuing their annual 12 Nights of Chocolate. Some of the events are sold out, but there are still spots for this Thursday December 1st with Avery Ruzicka (Manresa Bread) and for Sunday December 4th’s ultimate bake sale with Ron Mendoza (Revival Ice+Cream), Ben Spungin (Post Ranch Inn), and Yulanda Santos (Aubergine), plus a few more events. All proceeds go to the SF-Marin Food Bank, for whom last year’s event raised more than 60,000 meals.

La Cocina is hosting their holiday market, El Mercado, on Sunday December 11th at The Women’s Building (you should come to the tablehopper Jook Joint brunch, and then head on over!). There will be a marketplace of 40 food vendors, artisans, crafts, music, and more, plus bites and drinks too! Check out the ticketed events, from the holiday cocktail party to the tamale classes. 11am-8pm. 3543 18th St. at Lapidge.

While you’re ice skating at the Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center, you can grab a bite to eat at Off the Grid: Justin Herman Plaza, which is running every Sunday from 12pm-4pm through January 8th, 2017. Five rotating food trucks will set up shop, including Happy Dumplings, Lobsta Truck, Judie’s Tacos Locos, Kome Truck, Drums & Crumbs, Me So Hungry Too, Don Pablo, Dum Truck, Kokio Republic, and Soulnese.  

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Dungeness crab Benedict at 6th and B. Yelp photo by Dan B.

Some quick tidbits for you, starting with a breakfast/lunch spot in the Inner Richmond, ~6TH AND B~, which should give you a hint about their corner address. The menu has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a quinoa bowl or eggs Benny, with panettone French toast for weekend brunch. Savory dishes are a bit all over the place, from Asian chicken salad to tacos, but why not? Open Wed-Fri 7am-2pm, Sat-Sun 8am-3pm. 452 Balboa St. at 6th Ave., 415-753-9138.

~BETTY LOU’S SEAFOOD & GRILL~ has opened in North Beach, a no-frills spot for cioppino, sand dabs, lobster ravioli, steaks, and more. Owners Hector Chaparro, Louise Taylor, and Betty Pesce all worked at Gigi’s Sotto Mare together—read more in Hoodline. Open daily 11am-10pm. 318 Columbus Ave. at Broadway, 415-757-0569.