February 28, 2017

February 28, 2017
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The dumpling station in the back of Market Restaurant. Photo courtesy of China Live.

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Bar Central. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Subway tile and a counter overlooking the kitchen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The exterior of China Live Marketplace. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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One of the massive elm tables in Market Restaurant. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Oolong Café, with hand-painted tiles. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Retail Market. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Last week was a preopening party for ~CHINA LIVE~, giving guests a look at the first floor of the mega culinary and cocktail multifloored project opening on Broadway this Wednesday March 1st. The first floor includes the Market Restaurant and Bar Central, Oolong Café, and a carefully curated retail area, Retail Market. Expect the other floors (including the high-end Eight Tables, which diners will access via a back-alley entrance, and a swank bar) to open later this spring and summer.

George Chen—founder and executive chef of China Live—has been working on this project with his wife, Cindy Wong-Chen, for the past few years. Chen hired one of the top concept design firms, AvroKO (who did a stunning job with Single Thread in Healdsburg), to design the 30,000-square-foot space, which some are calling the Eataly of Chinese food. Other key figures on the team are Joey Altman, Director of Culinary Operations, and Quinn McKenna (Lark Creek Restaurant Group), Executive Director of Operations (I also spotted Jonnatan Leiva and pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez helping out).

Let’s take a look. Visitors will first walk in past a flower and plant stand, and then will note the Oolong Café, outfitted with blue and white tiles that reference 14th-century Chinese porcelain. Be sure to take a close look at the wall installation, you’ll see some Bay Area landmarks cleverly tucked in. At the counter, you can order artisanal teas sourced directly from farmers in Taiwan and China (like Dong Ding “Frozen Peak” High Mountain oolong tea), coffee, and grab-and-go Chinese bites, including pastries and jianbing crêpes. There are 25 seats in the café.

The main event is Market Restaurant and Bar Central, with 120 seats, and it’s like the Chinese food court of your dreams, featuring eight stations: dumplings and dim sum, Chinese charcuterie and barbecue, cold salads and starters, noodles and rice bowls, fresh and live seafood, rice bowls, soups and tonics, wok stir-fry and grill, and desserts. You’ll have table service and order off a daily changing menu, which will feature seasonal products and dishes from many regions.

Some signature items include stone oven-roasted duck prepared Peking style with seasonal fruit glazes; sheng jian bao dumplings (SJB), which are juicy pan-fried pork dumplings; mapo tofu prepared tableside (meat or vegetarian); three-cup Taiwanese chicken with basil and seasonal citrus confit; chrysanthemum salad with star fruit vinegar (which you can pick up in the Retail Market, it has such an unusual and appealing flavor); and dan tat (Macanese egg custard tart) done crème brûlée style. Unfortunately I can’t share a menu at this time, but will go over it with you next week. (I’m also going in for dinner with a friend, so will be able to include more details.)

There are four exhibition kitchens with bar and counter seating, so you can watch the chefs in action. The dining room features chairs and huge communal/group tables handcrafted in China from reclaimed Northern Chinese elm, and it has a very clean look, with subway tiles alongside ones made with Shanghai clay. Of course, the kitchen is mega custom and top of the line. Be sure to peek at the stone oven they will be roasting Peking ducks in and the Wa Guan Tang ceramic cauldron for slow cooking.

Director of beverage Duggan McDonnell is crafting a unique program, from international wines and sherries that will pair with the many nuances of the food, to cocktails that will utilize Chinese ingredients—more on his list soon. There’s also a Malaysian-style cold-brew coffee and a custom Marin kombucha.

The Retail Market is full of cookware, cutlery, unique products for your pantry (including spices and condiments like vegetarian XO sauce), and top-of-the-line soy sauces, vinegars, teas, and more. There will also be fresh produce. Education will be a big part of the experience: there will be guides to help explain all the items in-depth, and screens will be streaming videos of Chinese cooking techniques.

The doors open this Wednesday March 1st 5pm-10pm. Stand by for more from me next week!

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The bar at Hitachino Beer & Wagyu. All photos: © tablehopper.com.

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Some of the booths in the back dining area.

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An array of sake cups/jars used for bar snacks.

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Chef Noriyuki Sugie.

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The view from the back of the space toward the front.

Back in the summer of 2015, tablehopper was first to report on the opening of a Hitachino-affiliated project in San Francisco, and I’m so happy to see ~HITACHINO BEER & WAGYU~ is almost ready to open its doors, the first Hitachino-operated location in North America. The Kiuchi family has been brewing sake since 1823 and is now in its eighth generation. All the craft beers will be served fresh on draft from kegs.

We have been checking in with chef Noriyuki Sugie over the past couple of years, so let me tell you more about him. Some past highlights oh his international career include a chef de partie position at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, working at Tetsuya’s in Sydney, as well as opening his own Restaurant VII. He was also chef de cuisine of Asiate in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. Sugie has been collaborating with Kiuchi Brewery/Hitachino Nest Beer for the past 10 years, from creating a menu for the Hitachino Brewing Lab (a bar and homebrewing classroom) in Tokyo to consulting on the opening of Hitachino Hong Kong.

As for what he has in store for the TenderNob’s Hitachino Beer & Wagyu, it’s going to be a two-stage process. Opening first will be the bar menu, featuring 10 specialty Hitachino drafts—3 of which are exclusive to and brewed for San Francisco. Take a look at the opening menu here, which includes specialty barrel-aged beer as well. You’ll be able to get a 10-oz. pour, or try a tasting flight of three. No bottled beers will be served. An interesting and future program will invite SF brewers to the brewery in Japan to create special beers. There are also six kinds of Hitachino Kikusakari sakes, as well as Kiuchi umeshu plum wine, yuzu wine, and red wine—and charcoal-filtered water, of course.

To accompany the pours is a menu of bar snacks (both warm and cool) served in glass sake cups/jars and then poured into a bowl for diners to enjoy. Dishes include octopus sunomono; spicy squid and chorizo; meatballs with shiso, ponzu, and oroshi (grated daikon); pork belly kakuni with pickled egg; chicken gizzard with shishito pepper, garlic, soy, and shichimi; and beef suji nikomi with oxtail, miso, daikon, and konnyaku (a funky gelatinous substance made from a type of potato). Most dishes are $8.

The next phase of the project will be launching the Kappo menu, centered on fine-bred Hitachiwagyu beef from Sugie’s home region of Hitachi. It will be cut and grilled at the kitchen’s teppan grill. The inspiration is Kappo style, which is from Osaka, and means “to cut.” While designed to serve with beer and sake, it’s a nicer presentation than izakaya style, served on ceramics and other lightly refined touches. It will be a prix-fixe experience and will include a variety of dishes, including seafood and vegetables.

The cool Art Deco building (previously Kyu Sushi) now has a beautiful door from Japan, more than 100 years old, previously used for a storage area (note the vents on it). Once you walk in, you’re greeted with a long bar made from heavy wood that was used to press rice while making sake, with barstools with bright poppy seats. There are cherry blossom wood cabinets, stocked with pottery from Japan as well as some made in conjunction with a potter in Grass Valley. Throughout the space, there are some displays of ingredients like preserved lemon and pickles, plus spices that highlight the notes in the beers.

In the back of the restaurant are a variety of booths (most for 4) in a gray-blue with one large booth in the back for 5 or 6 guests, and a few tables as well; there are just 26 seats total in the whole space. You’ll note some vintage touches, like the exposed brick walls and Deco window cutouts.

As for the BIG QUESTION: when does it open? Right now they are waiting for the brewmaster to come from Japan, which is any day now. Once they get the okay, they will be opening for bar snacks and pours, and then launching the wagyu menu soon thereafter—be sure to sign up on the mailing list on the site to keep up on the news and prioritize your spot on the reservations-only list. As soon as I hear any concrete dates, I’ll let you know! 639 Post St. at Taylor.

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La Nebbia. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Congrats to Sharon Ardiana (Gialina, Ragazza) and the residents of Noe Valley, who are lucky to have ~ARDIANA~ opening in the former La Nebbia space in late spring/early summer. Working with her on the new project is Ardiana’s business partner and Ragazza GM, Greg Hinds (Hog Island Oyster Company, Zuni). She says the menu will be Cal-Med, including vegetable-centric small plates and some heartier entrées, all designed to be shared family style. You can trust she will also be rocking the Marsal pizza oven, offering a selection of pies. Ardiana knows her neighborhood audience and will be making the restaurant kid-friendly.

They will be doing a light refresh of the space—expect a change in color palette, chairs, tables, and lighting. She is honored to pick up the torch from La Nebbia’s Massimo and Lorella, and I can’t think of a better person for the space. Stand by for more.

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Katie Kwan and Valerie Luu at the entrance of their new restaurant location. Photo: Andria Lo.

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Pho rolls. Photo: Andria Lo.

After popping up for six years (I remember trying their banh mi one night on Divisadero, right on the street) and looking for a space for the past few years, Katie Kwan and Valerie Luu of Vietnamese pop-up Rice Paper Scissors have found a restaurant space in the Mission on Folsom and 22nd (formerly a grocery store called Delicateses La Plaza). They want to bring some Saigon style to the bare space, with bright colors, tropical plants, and pyramids of fresh fruit.

They plan to have a casual neighborhood restaurant that serves lunch, brunch, and dinner. The menu will have their trademark beef pho and noodle soups (bun bo hue, chicken pho), plus rice plates, street food (fried egg sandwiches), and dim sum bites, like handmade lamb dumplings. They are known for making everything from scratch, including oyster and hoisin sauces and shrimp chips. Beer and wine will be served.

In order to make this all happen, they just launched a Kickstarter to raise $35,000. There are some tasty food rewards and some pieces by local artists, too, so let’s help them build this place, bowl of pho by bowl of pho. They hope to open in a year, but the Kickstarter runs until March 31st.

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Last Sunday’s first brunch in Beneath the Surface: Brunch & Lecture Series. Photo via Facebook.

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Poster by Madelyn Lee.

Let’s do a quick-fire round of what’s crack-a-lackin’ around town, click links for more info and details.

This Thursday March 2nd, Francis Ang (Pinoy Heritage, Fifth Floor, Dirty Habit) is popping up at ~PCH~, so grab a cocktail and enjoy à la carte Filipino dishes with his contemporary and Cali spin on things, like asparagus and squash fritters and pear pinakurat; sisig fried rice with poached egg, pickled red onion; Lola’s lumpia with mango coriander ketchup; and longganisa tsukune with sugar cane, quail egg (can’t wait to try it!). For those of you who have always wondered/wanted to try balut, he’s serving duckling balut like you’ve never had it, with chicken skin, black truffle zest, jus. Dishes will run from $6-$12, 5pm-10pm. (He also has upcoming Feastly dinners that are more sit-down/degustation menu affairs, check dates here.)

Farm-to-Fork has launched a series of Sunday brunch talks, Beneath the Surface: Brunch & Lecture Series, featuring farmers, food producers, purveyors, and chefs, with Stephen Satterfield (Nopa, Nopalize) leading the charge. This coming Sunday March 5th features Kitazawa Seed Company (the oldest seed company in America specializing in Asian vegetable seeds) and Namu Farm at their land-themed brunch. The family-style brunch includes quiche, biscuits, local cured fish, charcuterie, and more from Farm-to-Fork and Fine & Rare, plus an open bar for all the bubbly, mimosas, and/or cider your heart (or head) can handle. Fresh juice and nonalcoholic cocktails provided by Libations Catering. Tickets: $60. The Village, 969 Market St. at 6th St.

On Monday March 6th is Chowdown for Chinatown, a buffet-style community dinner and fundraiser for the Chinatown fire victims (on February 3rd, a two-alarm fire displaced nineteen senior residents and seven businesses on Stockton Street), with 100 percent of proceeds from the ticket and bar sales going to the Chinatown Fire Victim Fund. The event will be at ~MISTER JIU’S~, with food donated from Mister Jiu’s, Black Sands Brewery, Rice Paper Scissors, AA Bakery, Sam Wo, Mission Chinese, R&G Lounge, Liholiho Yacht Club, Namu Gaji, and more! 6pm-10pm, $20, tickets. Attendees can make additional donations to the fund online or at the event. 28 Waverly Pl. at Sacramento.

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Tacos dorados from La Taqueria. Photo by Blair Sneddon Photography.

Fans of the taco dorado should know that ~LA TAQUERIA~ is now closed on Mondays so that their “employees can get a much needed break.” Effective Monday March 6th.

~OLD BUS TAVERN~ in Bernal has closed for a couple of weeks, and when they reopen on Sunday March 12th, they will be launching a more casual brewpub menu under consulting chef Blair Warsham (The Bird). Fortunately the chili will stay, but will now have a friend in a Frito pie with housemade Fritos. Dinner will also be served nightly, with free live music every Sunday. I’ll keep you posted on the reopening menu.

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The Dolly’s doughnuts, paper-wrapped and ready. Photo courtesy Doughnut Dolly website.

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The bar at Longitude. Photo by Gabriel Hurley.

Extremely sad news for the many regulars and lovers of the pancakes at ~BETTE’S OCEANVIEW DINER~ (and the special woman behind them): chef and co-owner Bette Kroening has tragically passed away at 71 from cancer. Be sure to read this thoughtful piece by Jonathan Kauffman about her important contribution to our local culinary scene, feeding so many of us so well while taking good care of her staff, since 1982! Condolences to her family and many friends and fans.

Sorry to read ~DOUGHNUT DOLLY~ is closing her Berkeley shop after failed lease negotiations with her landlord. Fortunately you can still get your naughty cream fix at her Temescal Alley location and in The Market in the Twitter building. 1313 9th St. at Gilman, Berkeley.

And, man, sorry 510 for all the bad news, but I was also so sorry to hear that Suzanne Long is closing her beautiful tiki outpost, ~LONGITUDE OAKLAND~, after three years in business. You need to come in for your last mai tai before this Sunday March 5th. The tiki community, bar community, and many cocktail aficionados are going to miss this special bar. 347 14th St. at Webster, Oakland, 510-465-2008.