March 7, 2017

March 7, 2017
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Peking duck with kumquat glaze in sesame pockets. All photos: © tablehopper.com.

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Sichuan “working hands” boiled wontons.

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Three-treasure bao zai fan claypot rice.

Mega project ~CHINA LIVE~ is shifting into higher gear, and it looks like they are going to be starting Market Restaurant and Bar Central’s lunch service on Tuesday March 14th at 11am, which means they will then have continuous hours every day until closing. For this week, Market Restaurant and Bar Central are open Sun-Wed 5pm-10pm and Thu-Sat 5pm-11pm. (Remember, no reservations.)

You can look at last week’s overview of the project; I went on opening night to dine with friends, and I now have a menu to share with you. (The menu changes daily depending on what they’re finding at the market, so this is yesterday’s.) Founder George Chen’s team is led by Joey Altman, director of culinary operations, and chef de cuisine Chi-Feng Lin (previously at high-end restaurants in Taiwan), with Jonnatan Leiva and Ivan Tam.

Some highlights from our dinner: the chashu bao (baked pork buns) with their sweet crumble topping; and the lightly crisp sesame pockets for the Peking duck with kumquat glaze, which are something different than the usual pancake or steamed buns/bao presentation we usually see in SF. The sheng jian bao (pan-fried juicy dumplings) are a must, just eat them carefully. The Sichuan “working hands” boiled wontons reminded me of a Chinese version of large and loose cappelletti, such a fine wrapper (ditto the XLB).

Our table enjoyed the three-treasure bao zai fan claypot rice with lap cheong (Chinese sausage), la rou (cured pork belly), and la wei fan (cured duck), and the flavorful Taipei beef noodle soup will warm you right up. The vegetable dishes were a particular highlight, like the winter radish, the chrysanthemum salad, and pressed five-spice bean curd with celery and green peppercorn. There’s plenty of live seafood to choose from, and overall, the kitchen had a light touch.

Dessert is from pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez, who is adding some contemporary and elevated touches. Our table was particularly taken with the sesame soft serve topped with mango shaved ice. Look for some pastries and more, which will be coming from him at the Oolong Café.

Be sure to take a look at the wine list and cocktails by director of beverage Duggan McDonnell. And for those of you joining us this Saturday for the sold-out tablehopper preview event, I hope you’re coming hungry.

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Some of the baked goods you can anticipate from the upcoming Kahnfections. Photo courtesy of Kahnfections.

While it was sad to have Green Heart Foods close a couple of months ago, a new business is taking its place: ~KAHNFECTIONS~, a bakery from Judy Kahn. She was working with Sandbox Bakery for a number of years, and then went out on her own. Now she’s opening her first brick and mortar, where she will be baking and serving biscuits (classic buttermilk, cheddar bacon, dill Swiss, and possibly egg sandwiches down the road), croissants, and scones, plus dessert items and comfort food favorites, like cookies and carrot cake. The opening will be in a couple of months or so. I’ll keep you posted. Hours will be 6am-3pm. 3321 20th St. at Folsom.

Also on 20th Street: wine bar extraordinaire and neighborhood clubhouse ~20 SPOT~ has a new chef, the talented Joyce Conway from Zero Zero. She begins March 15th and will keep the classics, like the deviled eggs, oysters, and cheese plate, but the remaining dishes will be inspired by what’s at the market. Expect some comforting American/Californian dishes, with Italian and Asian influences. And since she will just be coming back from Spain, you’ll see some Spanish touches as well. Some hints at what’s to come: hand-filled pastas, porchetta, crudos, poke, ceviche, hand-pulled mozzarella, fresh ricotta, “all cooked with love,” as she says. 3565 20th St. at Lexington, 415-624-3140.

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The pastrami sandwich from Shorty Goldstein’s. Yelp photo by Vicente G.

There are some emails that I really hate to receive, and I got a couple of them this past week regarding the closure of two businesses, from really great people. Closing this Thursday March 9th is Jewish deli ~SHORTY GOLDSTEIN’S~ in the Financial District, home of my favorite corned beef in the city. Chef-owner Michael Siegel opened Shorty’s four years ago, an homage to his heritage and family recipes. (Shorty was his grandmother.)

When listening to him explain the what and why, I couldn’t help but think it sounded all too much like what happened to Merigan. Both delis had owners with a strong commitment to using quality ingredients, making a great deal of items by hand, and ultimately there was too much of an imbalance between all the hours and labor and effort against the final numbers. He said it was an incredibly hard decision, but at a certain point, they realized they just wouldn’t ever be able to get ahead. Siegel said he didn’t want to sound like every other restaurateur closing a business right now saying, “San Francisco is so hard,” but it’s true. As an example, he explained his cost for meats has doubled since he opened Shorty’s, but his sandwich prices didn’t. He said it’s so hard to explain to people, and it’s a constant battle with people’s expectations and sense of value, and not knowing everything that goes into the making of that Rachel sandwich. Add in escalated rent, minimum wage, and food costs, and it’s all really hard for a small business like his to survive.

He said he hasn’t had two weeks off in more than 10 years, so he’s going to take some well-deserved time to regroup. Siegel will potentially look at opportunities closer to Sonoma, which is where he lives with his wife. While he won’t miss the three hours of daily commute time, he is definitely going to miss all their regulars, who have become family. Expect a heartfelt closing party this Thursday. Best wishes, Michael. Thanks for all the care you took in feeding all of us so well. 126 Sutter St. at Montgomery, 415-986-2676.

The other sad closure news was from the Loló team, who let me know they were closing ~LOLÓ CEVICHERÍA~, after 10 years in the location (it’s where they opened the original Loló, which is now on Valencia). Their lease was going to end at the end of March but they just decided to close ahead of time—their last day of operations was this last Saturday. Loló of course remains open and buzzing on Valencia. 3230 22nd St. at Mission.

One more item to note: heirloom bean maestro ~RANCHO GORDO~ is closing the Ferry Building shop at the end of the month, on March 27th. Fortunately the Napa shop will still be open, offering classes and demos (and is actually going to be expanding). And, of course, you can still order online and find them at various markets.

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Fritas from Cuban Kitchen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Jian bing from Tai Chi Jianbing. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Opening night just getting underway at Off the Grid: Fort Mason. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Last Friday, I got to check out some of the new vendors at Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center, which just started back up. A few highlights: fans of Cuban cuisine who just can’t find a decent Cubano in this town (raises hand) will definitely want to swing by the Cuban Kitchen tent. Founder Lynna Martinez makes a really good one, and I really fell for her fritas: little pork burgers with a smoky, chorizo-like heat from the pimenton she uses, with housemade habanero pickles and crispy little french fries tucked in there. You want this.

You can also try the Chinese street treat jian bing from Tai Chi Jianbing—it’s like an eggy crêpe with fun fillings inside, and they care about using organic ingredients. El Porteño is back with their empanadas, and Pretzelina is serving authentic Bavarian-style pretzels with beer cheese. You can stay hydrated with a fresh coconut from CORE Kitchen, or bring it over to neighbor Rye on the Road and have it spiked with some booze. (Or you can go for one of Rye on the Road’s boozy hot toddies—it hits the spot on a chilly and windy SF night.) And of course a bunch of regulars will be returning, from Johnny Doughnuts to Curry Up Now, and don’t miss the wood-fired pizzas from A16—check the schedule for the latest.

Music will also continue to be a part of the event, with live bands from 8pm-10pm. Every Friday 5pm-10pm through October.

Mark your calendar and get ready for Presidio Picnic to start on Sunday March 19th, returning for its fifth season with The Presidio Trust. Food, drinks, music, lawn games, fun with the kiddies…the bases are covered. Plus groups can pre-order food this year (check the site).

New to Presidio Picnic this year are A’repa, Belgian Frites, Bi-Rite Creamery, Farm Stand Lemonade, Hookt Mini Doughnuts, Jackrabbit, Falcon, Marla Bakery, Ocean Oyster Company, Senor Sisig, and True Jerky. Returning vendors include Ceviche & Co., Cochon Volant, Del Popolo, DUM Truck, Early Bird Tacos, El Sur Empanadas, Fine & Rare, Grilled Cheez Guy, Little Green Cyclo, Nopalito, Sam’s Chowder, Slightly Skewed, Tex Mex, The Whole Beast, and Wings Wings. Main Parade Ground, Sundays through October, 11am-4pm.

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Short ribs at Mockingbird. Photo courtesy of Mockingbird.

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Sambal shrimp and coconut grits at Drip Line. Photo: Nick Wolf.

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Chinese five spice and ginger croissant buns. Photo: Nick Wolf.

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The OK Cheeseburger made with aged beef. Instagram photo via @oldkanbeer.

Some exclusive news for you: ~MOCKINGBIRD~ is reopening at the end of March in their new (and expanded) location in downtown Oakland (they originally opened on San Pablo Avenue in 2013, and closed in 2016). Melissa Axelrod and William Johnson are confirmed for an opening by late March. The bistro format will continue, serving sophisticated yet approachable seasonal cuisine (think Nopa and Zuni Café). Menu items include duck liver mousse with local strawberry rhubarb jam and grilled Firebrand bread; fried Brussels sprouts with lemon-garlic confit aioli, blue cheese, and saba; and slow-cooked pork sugo with manchego cheese and crispy rosemary polenta.

There’s a full liquor license, so they will focus on classic craft cocktails and local beers and wines (with an emphasis in Oakland producers). While dinner will feature table service, lunch will also offer quick counter service for those who are on the go. The 4,200-square-foot space features a 20-seat bar, booths, round tables, and a mezzanine that can accommodate large parties. Note the original exposed red brick walls and refinished antique Douglas fir floors.

They are starting with lunch first, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, then happy hour and dinner service will be added. It will be an ideal spot for a quick drink or bite at the bar before a show at the Fox Theater. Breakfast and brunch will be coming later. 416 13th St. at Broadway, Oakland, 510-290-0331.

West Oakland has a new café and restaurant, ~DRIP LINE~, which opened in a renovated and light-filled warehouse which was previously a cookie factory. The project is from architects Carrie Shores and Josh Larson (their firm, Larson/Shores Architecture and Interiors, sits above the restaurant) and chef Nora Dunning, who is highlighting her Singaporean roots with dishes like housemade sambal shrimp and coconut grits, congee with bird’s-eye chile kosho, and rendang (Indonesian-spiced slow-braised beef)—look for hyperlocal ingredient sourcing. She also has some serious baking skills, making housemade breads and pastries, and she was most recently head kitchen manager and culinary operations manager for Blue Bottle Coffee. Breakfast, coffee service from Four Barrel Coffee, and lunch are served Mon-Fri 7am-5pm. 1940 Union Street #21 at 21st St., Oakland, 510-612-6952.

Also in West Oakland, the former Dock has finished its transformation into ~OLD KAN BEER & CO.~, a brewery and beer garden from Linden Street Brewery founder Adam Lamoreaux and chef James Syhabout. There’s a 35-seat dining room, a 60-seat patio, and a private dining room that fits 48. The first three beers are Old Kan Original, Old Kan Dark, and Old Kan Light, which are currently being produced in San Jose until they get their license. There will also be guest beers on tap, serving 10 beers in all. The pub-style menu includes a burger, meatball sandwich, and salads, plus buttered noodles and more. And if you like fun facts, the name is an anagram of Oakland. Open Wed-Fri 4pm-9pm, Sat 12pm-9pm, Sun 12pm-6pm. 95 Linden St. at 3rd St., Oakland.

If you want to grab some lunch, ~THE WOLF~ is now serving Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm. The menu is here—duck banh mi, check. 3853 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-879-7953.