December 6, 2016

December 6, 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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Have you noticed how suddenly chilly our weather has become? Brrrr. Yes, it’s perfect jook weather, one of my favorite dishes for breakfast or brunch on a chilly or rainy day. Think of it as the warm, fuzzy sweater of brunch dishes. (Some of you may know it as congee, or rice porridge.) Fortunately my chef buddy Rob Lam of Butterfly is equally obsessed with jook, so we decided to throw an affordable and tasty 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. I have been lucky over the years to enjoy some of his Vietnamese home cooking and dishes you won’t find on the menu at Butterfly, so here’s your opportunity to try his seriously delicious 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 only $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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Erin Brooks from Ernest Vineyards and sommelier Eugenio Jardim. Photo courtesy of Ernest Vineyards.

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Bun rieu/Dungeness crab noodle soup with fat rice noodles, rock shrimp, fish cake, fried tofu, Dirty Girl tomatoes. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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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! And we mean feast: we’re gonna stuff ya!

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 more than halfway sold-out! 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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Back in May, I mentioned a Cajun restaurant was coming to the Mission from Popsons Burgers and Causwells restaurant founder-CEO Alvin Garcia and chef-partner Adam Rosenblum, and we’re excited to be the first to announce the name: ~ALBA RAY’S~. The name is a combination of Rosenblum’s daughter’s first name, Alba, and Ray is Garcia’s son Noah’s middle name.

There are also some new folks on the team, including sous chef Matthew Russell Woods (previously executive chef of Schmidt’s in San Francisco, and former sous chef of Bacchanal Wine in New Orleans)—he will eventually ramp up to chef de cuisine. And to recap, exec chef Rosenblum worked for James Beard Award-winning chef Donald Link at Herbsaint in New Orleans. The GM is Scott Christopher, previously a manager at House of Prime Rib.

The menu will include New Orleans classics like boudin balls with pickled peppers and Creole mustard, frog legs sauce piquant, shrimp and grits, seasonal crawfish boils, and sweets like upside-down bananas Foster cake and cinnamon roll bread pudding with rum sauce. Oh my.

They are planning to open Alba Ray’s in early January in the space formerly occupied by Hapa Ramen. 2293 Mission St. at 19th St.

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The bar at Hinata. Photo via @hinata_sf.

How refreshing, there’s a new sushi counter that isn’t charging two bills for an omakase experience in SF. In fact, the omakase menu here, which features a salad/starter, 3 pieces of sashimi, 12 pieces of nigiri, and soup (owan), will put you back $78, and you even get dessert. ~HINATA~ is opening this Wednesday December 7th, and Eater reports the chef-owners are Gavin Leung (Zushi Puzzle, Jiro Lin’s pop-up at Saison) and Weida Chen (Sushi Ran, Ijji).

There is a 12-seat bar (omakase only), with 14 seats at tables (à la carte or omakase). The name means “sunny place” in Japanese. (The website charmingly says, “When you are at our restaurant we want you to feel as though you are relaxing on a nice sunny day.”) Open Tue-Sun 5:30pm-10pm (reservations available for seatings 5:30pm-5:45pm and 8:15-8:30pm during the soft opening). 810 Van Ness Ave. at Eddy, 415-829-8291.

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Dip’s namesake French dip. Photo courtesy of Dip.

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Dip’s veal osso buco with potatoes au gratin with Gruyère. Photo courtesy of Dip.

Opening this Friday December 9th in North Beach is ~DIP~, the French dip-centered spot I mentioned earlier this year. Mahmoud “Mo” Khossoussi—owner of North Beach’s Maykadeh and Mo’s Grill, who is in his 70s and can’t stop, won’t stop—and his daughter, creative director Haleh Cunningham, have collaborated to open this bistro based one of their favorite family dishes.

Look for a menu with a variety of French dip sandwiches, all served on Acme bread with house au jus: organic roast beef, organic slow-roasted pork shoulder, organic porchetta alla Romana, leg of lamb, free-range roasted chicken, and a vegetarian version with oven-roasted tomato, fresh mozzarella, and arugula pesto (all $11-$13).

There is also a bistro delivery menu that will begin January 3rd, perfect for those nights when you don’t want to cook, but a plate of beef bourguignon or a roasted half chicken with potato au gratin and roasted vegetable mirepoix and Acme bread on the side sounds like the most amazing thing to have show up at your front door. There are also pasta dishes, sides, and of course, French dip sandwiches. Delivery is free for orders $40 and up to most neighborhoods in San Francisco (there is a 35-year-old delivery system in place from Maykadeh and Mo’s Grill).

The shop is reminiscent of a butcher shop, with lots of white tiles, plus brass and wood.

Mo and Haleh will be donating half of the proceeds from the opening day of Dip (Friday December 9th) to the victims of the Oakland fire and their recovery process. Open daily 11:30am-10:30pm. 1318 Grant Ave. at Union, 415-757-0775.

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Khao man gai from Rooster & Rice. Yelp photo by JP N.

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The “Who Let the Dogs Out” hot dog pizza at Katani; Yelp photo by Dan B.

Fans of the tasty khao man gai (Thai-style chicken and chicken rice) at ~ROOSTER & RICE~ in the Marina will now have a second location to visit in SoMa, according to Hoodline. You can get the original version (poached breast and thigh meat with jasmine white rice), or get skinless breast with organic brown rice, or a vegetarian version with organic tofu. Simple and kind of perfect. Hours to start are Mon-Fri 11am-3pm. 303 2nd St. at Howard.

For my fellow Panhandle residents, Hoodline also reports we now have pupusas in the neighborhood, along with sandwiches, espresso drinks, and more at ~MANITAS CAFE~, a new Salvadoran restaurant. 2078 Hayes St. at Cole.

Nearby, actually on the same block, ~KATANI PIZZA~ is also open in the former Panhandle Pizza. Look for thin-crust pizzas on the menu (yup, they have some creative ones), pastas, and they are even making their own version of jalapeño poppers. Open daily 11am-11pm. 2077 Hayes St. at Cole, 415-742-5234.

Over in West Portal, ~LEMONADE~, the fast-casual vegetable-focused chain (but there are still meats, like Thai chicken meatballs in green curry sauce) from LA is opening another SF location on Thursday December 8th. Open daily 11am-9:05pm. 16 West Portal Ave. at Ulloa.   

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The interior. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The dining room at Range. Photo from Facebook.

Wow, this is the end of an era: was sorry to learn ~RANGE~ is closing after almost 12 years of business on Valencia. So many cocktails, so many Sungold Zingers, so many coffee-rubbed pork shoulders… SFGate reports that Phil and Cameron West are closing their seminal Valencia Street restaurant at the end of December, and it sounds like they have other plans for the space. (There are still 10 years on the lease, and they want to create something more appealing to the current Valencia crowd.) Be sure to swing by for a final-final this month. Thanks to the team for all the memories. 842 Valencia St. at 19th St.

I heard word from a reader that ~KULETO’S~ is closing after New Year’s Eve. Chef Bob Helstrom left last August after being there for 28 years, so this really is the end of the line. Swing by for their amazing eggnog while you can.

And just shy of a year of being open, ~STARBOARD~, the Mission late-night spot with the cheeky menu, has sadly closed. Owners Daniel Hyatt, Patty West (owner of Slate Bar, next door), and Suzanne Ray gave it their best shot, but ultimately had to close; they want to thank everyone for their support. Le sigh. 2919 16th St. at S. Van Ness.

It also looks like venerable ~PAULINE’S PIZZA~ may be closing soon—the restaurant is currently up for sale for $150K. It has been open since 1985, known for its garden-fresh pizza toppings and as a haven for parents with little ones (and having one of the most memorable bathrooms). Go get a pesto pizza while you can. Sigh. [Via Capp Street Crap via Eater.] 260 Valencia St. at Brosnan, 415-552-2050.

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A dish from Junju. Photo courtesy of Robin Song.

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Cold ginger starch noodles with sunflower tahini at Motze. Photo: Pete Lee.

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Butternut squash risotto and white truffles at Trestle. Photo courtesy of Trestle.

Here’s another chance to check out chef Robin Song’s ~JUNJU~ concept at a pop-up before he’s able to open his brick-and-mortar location. Come by Nightbird, where he is working right now, on Sunday December 18th or Monday the 19th to experience his seven-course tasting menu (you can come by anytime between 6:30pm-8pm). The menu looks fantastic and is $95 (buy tickets here). Wines can be purchased that evening for $50 for all 6 tastes, or $15 a glass. At Nightbird, 330 Gough St. at Hayes, 415-829-7565.

Next Tuesday December 13th is a special event from the Ment’or Foundation, which is hosting its final fundraiser for Team USA prior to its trip to Lyon to represent the US at the next Bocuse d’Or competition! Five SF-based chefs who are part of the foundation’s Culinary Council—Corey Lee, Joshua Skenes, Mourad Lahlou, Michael Mina, and Roland Passot—will be cooking together for one night at In Situ. There will be walk-around bites, cocktails, and a panel discussion. Tickets are $200. 7pm-9pm.

In case you haven’t had a chance to swing by Nick Balla and Cortney Burns’s ~MOTZE~ for dinner, they are also serving à la carte lunch Tue-Sun 11am-2pm. Menu items include cold ginger noodles with sunflower tahini and seven-spice; romanesco and cauliflower salad with sesame and sea laver; and nare rice porridge bowls (with spicy chicken, sausage, egg, peanut, and fried garlic schmaltz, or chile egg with kale and squash). There are also low-ABV housemade cocktails and soft drinks, plus beer, cider, and wine. And while you’re looking at the menu, prices include tipping. 983 Valencia St at 21st St., 415-484-1206.

Craftsman and Wolves have decided to add weekend hours to their Bayview café, ~THE DEN~. You can come by for coffee (from Highwire) and kouign amann, and yes, the Rebel Within, plus their granola bowl, quiche, and toasts. Lunch options and their sick frittata sandwich will come after the holidays. Speaking of, you can pick up some holiday confections and their entire retail line for gifts. Hours are now Mon-Fri 7am-5pm and Sat-Sun 8am-2pm. 1598 Yosemite Ave. at Keith, 415-423-3337.

Feel like making it rain? The folks at ~TRESTLE~ are selling 2-3g of white truffle shavings for only $20. Starting Tuesday December 6th (that’s today), you can have them over pasta dishes like their baked garganelli or butternut squash risotto. Through New Year’s Eve, pending availability. 531 Jackson St. at Columbus, 415-772-0922.

Another good deal: ~BELGA~ has launched a new Monday Lite menu, with dinner for $15. You can choose two items: lentil soup; cauliflower with vadouvan, golden raisins, and almonds; avocado toast with pea hummus; kale salad; sautéed broccolini with Grana Padano; falafel and flatbread; and grilled chicken paillard with warm potato and kale salad. There will be $5 Bodkin rosé, plus free corkage during dinner service every Monday night in December. Which means more money for buying truffles (see above). Happy holidays! 2000 Union St. at Buchanan, 415-872-7350.

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A peek at Chapter Two Coffee. Yelp photo by Albertino M.

A couple of fun additions to our local caffeination scene for ya. Over in the FiDi, ~CHAPTER TWO COFFEE~ has opened inside the Wildflower Cafe. You can enjoy Verve espresso drinks, plus matcha lattes, teas from T-We, bagels from Authentic Bagel Company, and pastries. Open Mon-Fri 7am-3pm. 411 Sansome St. at Commercial.

Secondly, the new record shop, ~RS94109~ on Larkin has a café in their space. So you can enjoy a cortado made with Bar Nine coffee while listening to some underground ’80s music. 835 Larkin St. at Myrtle (near Geary).

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Deconstructed samosa from Curry Up Now. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The dining room at Duchess. Photo via Duchess.

Time to catch up on some East Bay news, starting with the announcement that ~CURRY UP NOW~ is expanding to Oakland with a 50-seat restaurant (plus 16 outside). The Indian street food restaurants and trucks are known for their tikka masala burrito and deconstructed samosa, but they also serve classic street food dishes like bhel puri (puffed rice, potato garbanzo mash, cucumber) and one of my favorites, pav bhaji (a Mumbai slider with a mash of cauliflower, beans, carrots, potatoes, and peas). Weekend brunch is also in the plan. They are targeting an early 2017 opening. 1745 San Pablo Ave. at 18th St., Oakland.

After running some soft opening tests (and tempting us with pictures of breakfast sandwiches and housemade pastrami), ~DUCHESS~ is now open in Rockridge. To recap my original post, it’s a café, pub, and local watering hole (with craft cocktails!) from wine pros Caroline Conner and Chris Strieter, with chef Candice Caris. Here’s the seasonal menu. Hours this week are 8am-2pm through Wed, then Tue-Thu 8am-10pm, Fri-Sat 8am-11pm, and Sun 8am-9pm. 5422 College Ave. at Manila, Oakland, 510-871-3463.

A few closures to report, including ~OZUMO~, after being in Uptown for almost 10 years (the SF location remains open!), as well as the rebooted ~GRAND FARE MARKET~, although Freya Prowe’s Brothers & Sisters Flower Shop will remain open Tue-Sun (via Eater). ~PATHOS~ has closed in Berkeley (Nosh reports a dispute with the landlord), and ~CHA-AM~’s owners are retiring—it is being replaced by an Indian restaurant called Jotmahal Palace (1543 Shattuck Ave. at Cedar, Berkeley).

Winner winner chicken dinner! ~SHAKEWELL~ in Oakland is offering some new weekday deals every Tue-Thu, starting with a fried chicken dinner on Tuesday nights, served family style (choose a meal for 2-4 people for $49 or 4-6 for $98). You get buttermilk fried organic 38 North chicken, two sides, pickles, corn bread, and three different sauces. Dine before 6pm and receive complimentary churros with buttermilk syrup. Wednesday is We Drink Wine Wednesday, with no corkage and 20 percent off Shakewell’s wine list. And every Thursday from 4pm-6pm, you’ll find $1 oysters at the bar. AND every Tue-Thu, order off the bar menu and pay half price on bar bites like bacon-wrapped Medjool dates (4pm-6pm, at the bar only). 3407 Lakeshore Ave. at Mandana, Oakland, 510-251-0329.