March 14, 2017

March 14, 2017

The original raw space (and huge windows) at City Counter. Photo via Facebook.

Coming to downtown is ~CITY COUNTER~, a new daytime luncheonette inspired by classic Woolworth’s-style lunch counters, with an updated sensibility. Founder Harper Matheson is a San Francisco native, but was previously busy in New York working as a dancer and a restaurant hostess (a classic combination!), and then in management at places like Tia Pol, Char No. 4, and Maysville—she really fell in love with the restaurant industry. She also was working locally with Doug Washington on Grand Fare.

She is bringing on Blue Plate’s Sean Thomas as consulting chef. He’s building a menu that updates the American diner to 2017, one that reflects many backgrounds and food traditions, and Thomas’s globe-trotting food speaks to that. Dishes will be approachable and nostalgic, but New American and creative. Knowing Thomas’s freestyle ways, you can expect sandwiches and salads with captivating flavors. A few potential dishes he’s tinkering with are a Spanish tortilla sandwich with ‘nduja; licorice-braised pork served like a chashu burger; a salt cod croque; and a crispy greens salad with two kinds of rice, fried chickpeas, chorizo, and an egg.

Lunch service can be to stay or to go, and delivery and catering will be a big part of the plan (they plan to have their own online ordering platform). Happy hour will also be a focus, offering a cool space to go after work for a bite and an approachably priced glass of wine.

It’s a beautiful location in the Standard Oil Building (and just next door to Blue Bottle), and Matheson is excited to integrate the building’s Deco details. The counter itself is made of stone and 40 feet long, with 30 seats—it will have a big curve, and rest on steel posts that make it seem like it’s floating. A woodworker in Connecticut is making the stools, which will be simple and white. The 1,400-square-foot space also has four bay windows, which will have built-in bench seating and tables. Architect Nickie Huang will be balancing classic details, while keeping things current. Shawna Peterson, a neon artist in Oakland, is going to produce the City Counter monogram in hot pink neon for the space.

They are gunning to open in May, with hours Mon-Fri 11am-7pm. I’ll keep you posted on the menu and can’t wait to survey the interior before it opens. 115 Sansome St. at Bush.


The namesake medianoche at Media Noche. Photo: ©


Cubano love at Media Noche. Photo: ©


Media Noche’s counter (where you order). Photo: ©


Picadillo empanadas. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

I have been tracking the opening of ~MEDIA NOCHE~ since I saw the first pic of their Cubano on Instagram and am so happy to report they are open, bringing tropical and happy vibes to the corner at 19th Street and Lexington in the Mission. It’s almost like they requested the beautiful weather we’re having this week for their opening.

To recap my original post, the project is from industry vets Madelyn Markoe and Jessie Barker, who worked with consulting chef Telmo Faria (Uma Casa, Tacolicious) on the Cuban menu—now Juan Martinez (Tres, Matador, Globe) is the chef de cuisine. The menu is casual and compact: you can come by for the trademark medianoche ($11.50) or Cubano ($12.50). Both are hot pressed sandwiches that come with ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard—the only difference is the medianoche is round and comes on an eggy brioche-style bread. Sidenote: this is some of the juiciest pork I’ve had in a Cubano, so good. There’s a fried chicken sandwich, the Celia (cute), with coconut slaw, avocado, and you’ll want to pour their Cuban green sauce all over it.

There are also bowls ($16 or $16.50), like ropa vieja and lechon asado, over black beans, rice, and coconut slaw, plus a couple of salads, including the bright verde ($6/$10) with young kale, cabbage, avocado, spiced pepitas, and a shaving of manchego with mojo vinaigrette (killer salad!).

You can start your meal with snacks like picadillo empanadas ($9), a must, plus hot little fried croquetas ($9) with smoked ham, Gruyère, and pickle that you dip into aioli. With this warm weather, the ceviche ($10) makes total sense, with calamari, shrimp, cilantro, lime, and plantain chips.

For dessert, there are Moon Bar ice cream pops in flavors like chocolate-dipped guava cheesecake and cafe con leche with cocoa nibs, developed by former Delfina pastry chef Jessica Sullivan. There are also guava pastelitos from La Ventana Cubana.

Service is fast-casual—you order at the counter, and then wait your turn for a spot at a table, either some communal ones or there’s counter seating. Some outdoor seating is coming too. The aqua-spiked space (designed by Hannah Collins Designs) makes you instantly happy, with custom concrete and hand-painted tile floors, plenty of wrought-iron touches, plants, and don’t miss the metallic banana wallpaper in the bathroom. You’ll find a flamingo mural outside by fnnch to match the neon flamingo inside, Fiona (now you know). Markoe, who has a music background and studied Cuban jazz, worked with her brother on curating the restaurant’s music.

You can also grab some wine (by the glass, carafe, and bottle, with two whites, two reds, a rosé, and a sparkling), plus sangria, beer, and aguas frescas. Hours are Wed-Mon 11:30am-10pm, closed Tue (look for some later weekend hours soon). 3465 19th St. at Lexington.

I mentioned the affordable Italian spot coming to the Mission, ~PINK ONION~, a Sicilian-inspired panino, pizza, and pasta place, and it’s now open. To recap, it’s an extension of the Lo Coco’s restaurants in Oakland and Berkeley. Look for panini and salads for lunch, and 3-4 handmade pastas and about 10 pizzas with “lively salads” and housemade bread at dinner. There are 12 craft beers on tap and 6 wines on tap, primarily local. Open daily 4pm-10pm. 64 14th St. at Folsom, 925-323-1933.


Tonkotsu ramen at Marufuku. Yelp photo by Ben M.


The glam new Caviar Co. shop and clubhouse. Photo courtesy of The Caviar Co.


Loco moco at Baodown’s morning luau buffet. Photo via Facebook.

I have a few quick openings around town to report on, starting with the latest ramen place to open in Japantown, ~MARUFUKU RAMEN~. If you look at their menu, you’ll see their specialty is Hakata-style ramen (thin noodles, with varying levels of noodle hardness) and two kinds of chicken paitan ramen with a variety of toppings, spice levels, plus small rice bowls. Open Tue-Fri 11:30am-2pm and 5:30pm-9:30pm, Sat 11:30am-9:30pm, and Sun 11:30am-9pm. 1581 Webster St. Ste. 235 at Post, 415-872-9786.

Back in January, I broke the news that ~THE CAVIAR CO.~ was opening in Cow Hollow from sisters Petra and Saskia Bergstein, and they are now open—just look for the caviar cart in the window. You can come by for a variety of caviar, like white sturgeon, local hackleback, spendier golden osetra, and more approachably priced smoked trout roe, and you can pick up special orders too. Call ahead to book special caviar tastings with a group at their swanky table. Open Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12pm-4pm. 1954 Union St. at Laguna.

Open now in the former Game/All Spice (previously Masa’s) is ~BAODOWN~, an import from Vancouver. Known for its Pacific Rim fusion dishes, Baodown started their service with an all-you-can-eat Hawaiian breakfast buffet, featuring loco moco, longanisa with garlic rice, and breaded Spam, served 9am-12pm. Yeah, you may need a nap afterward.

Starting this Wednesday March 15th will be the launch of dinner service, and according to their Instagram feed, dishes include huli-huli chicken, lechon pork, and kare-kare Alberta Beef short ribs (with peanut sauce, tempura bok choy, crispy garlic, sesame seeds, nam phrik, sweet soy). There are plenty of beers on tap to keep your palate fresh. 648 Bush St. at Powell.


A rendering of Dumpling Time’s upcoming interior. Courtesy of Aya Jessani.

Carb lovers, these two pieces of coming soon news should make you happy. First, the Omakase Restaurant Group (Omakase and Okane) are going to be opening a casual dumpling and beer house, ~DUMPLING TIME~ this April in SoMa, just a couple of blocks from their other restaurants. (Owner Kash Feng is from Xi’an, China, so he grew up basically surrounded with dumplings—this is a project he has wanted to do for some time.)

Expect an array of Chinese and Japanese dumplings (primarily gyoza) made fresh throughout the day, with some California inspiration. Guests will choose their own fillings and dumpling skins and shapes, ranging from seafood, heritage pork, vegetarian, chicken, lamb, and wagyu beef, with the option of bright wrappers made with spinach, beets, and more. You’ll be able to watch the dumplings be made from scratch in a glass-enclosed “dumpling room.” Daily noodles will also be available. Plan on 10 local craft beers on tap, plus some bottled selections and wines as well. The 70-seat restaurant will also feature 20 seats on a patio. 11 Division St. at King.

(A quick sidenote, the Omakase PR team let us know Kash Feng will also be opening a yakiniku Japanese BBQ concept, steakhouse, whisky bar, butcher shop, and udon restaurant this fall to One Henry Adams, just by the roundabout.)

Meanwhile, udon fans will be visiting ~KAGAWA-YA UDON NOODLE CO.~, also due to open in April. The Mid-Market restaurant (just by the NEMA building) will be quick service, featuring housemade Sanuki-style udon (known for its square shape and flat edges). It’s famous in the Kagawa Prefecture in the Shikoku region of Japan, where there are more than 600 udon shops, and the local population consumes more than seven times than the national average. (Maybe I just found my future home?)

Chef Sean Lim (Palace Hotel, Kyo-Ya) and his wife Katherine Chiao were trained in Kagawa and imported Japanese kitchen equipment. There will be hot or cold broth available ($8-$15 a bowl), plus Japanese-style curries over rice and a variety of bites like Spam musubi (Lim is from Honolulu), onigiri, and tempura. Check out the udon menu here.

The 40-seat space will have a modern, minimalist aesthetic with an exhibition kitchen, a large custom communal table, and lots of natural light. Hours will be Mon-Fri 11am-7pm. 1455 Market St. at 10th St, 415-703-0995.


Chrysanthemum 10-ingredient salad at China Live. Photo: ©


Contrada’s breakfast pizza with California Caviar Co. smoked trout roe, crème fraîche, soft scrambled eggs, and garden herbs. Photo courtesy of Contrada.

You have a few more hours to check out the new ~CHINA LIVE~ now: starting today, they are open for lunch, which means continuous hours throughout the day. Check out today’s lunch menu here. Bring on the lobster wonton soup and “Marco Polo” zhajiangmian noodles with minced pork. Hours (for now) are Sun-Wed 11am-10pm, Thu-Sat 11am-11pm. They plan to open earlier for dim sum on the weekends soon. Oolong Café should open by the end of March, with hours that start around 7am or 8am for tea service, baked goods, and more.

Over in Cow Hollow, you can now enjoy one of chef Jason Tuley’s fantastic pizzas over the weekend with California Caviar Co. smoked trout roe, crème fraîche (sorry not sorry, every time I write crème fraîche, I chuckle), soft scrambled eggs, and garden herbs on top. Yup, ~CONTRADA~ is open for brunch, with other dishes on the menu like soft scrambled eggs with Josey Baker seeded toast and black truffles, and short rib hash, plus brunch cocktails (low-ABV ones, to be clear). Hours are Sat-Sun 11am-3pm. And guess what? Their spacious patio is now open! 2136 Union St. at Fillmore, 415-926-8916.

Lastly, are you on the waiting list for dinner at ~HITACHINO BEER & WAGYU~? I told you all about this project here, but I just wanted to update you that you have to be on the waiting list in order to score a reservation in the dining area for the kappo-style $68 nose-to-tail wagyu tasting menu (pairings are $30). Wait until you try the tongue and sirloin yakiniku (pics here)! But I have an insider tip for you: the bar is now open Tue-Sat at 4:30pm, serving Hitachino beers on draft and some bar snacks (beer menu here and snacks here). You can come in until midnight, no reservation necessary! Good luck finding a seat, however. 639 Post St. at Taylor.


One year at GourmetFest, chef Michel Bras helped to plate chef Francis Wolf’s dish at the Taste of France luncheon.


1760 chef Carl Foronda and Acquerello chef Suzette Gresham. Photo: Grace Sager Photography.


The long table at an Outstanding in the Field event. Photo courtesy OITF.

Some quick upcoming event notices for you:

Feel like getting out of town this weekend? It’s a good one to head to Carmel-by-the-Sea for the annual Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest 2017 (March 16th-19th), which features the largest gathering of Michelin-starred chefs in the U.S. There are special lunches (Daniel Boulud), a wild mushroom hunt, cooking demos in the Gaggenau Demo Kitchen, a 10-course rarities dinner feast, wine tastings (from Chateaux Margaux and Bouchard Père & Fils to Domaine des Comte Lafon, Chappellet Winery, and Champagne Pommery), tasting panels led by Larry Stone, Raj Parr, and Jeff Kellogg, and more.

On Sunday March 19th, Acquerello’s Suzette Gresham and 1760’s Carl Foronda are hosting a Freaky Friday-style “role-reversal” dinner at ~1760~, with Gresham whipping up dishes rooted in Filipino and Southeast Asian cuisine, while Foronda pulls a page out of Gresham’s recipe book with his personal interpretation of Italian cookery. Tickets and menu here. $75. 5:30pm-9:30pm.

Colu Henry’s pasta cookbook, Back Pocket Pasta, is out, and ~BARZOTTO~ is hosting a party on Tuesday March 21st, cooking up dishes from the book. Wine will be flowing as well. 7pm-9pm. $50. Tickets. (Books cost extra.)

And fans of Outstanding in the Field should know tickets for 2017 go on sale on Monday March 20th, with almost 90 table-to-farm dinners across North America. Some Bay Area events include Secret Sea Cove in Santa Cruz with guest chef Gonzalo Guzman of Nopalito; Tomales Farmstead Creamery with guest chef Nicolas Delaroque of Nico; Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero with guest chef Ravi Kapur of Liholiho Yacht Club; and Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales with guest chef Hiroo Nagahara of Nomica. Don’t delay if you see an event you want to spring for (yes, I am making a pun)—tickets move fast.


Doughnut Dolly’s kiosk in the Twitter building/The Market. Photo via Facebook.

Last month brought the lousy news that ~DOUGHNUT DOLLY~’s Hannah Hoffman was closing her Berkeley shop, and then last week, she announced on Facebook she was also closing her locations at Temescal Alley and at The Market in the Twitter building. Awww hell. Her “naughty cream” gained many fans the past five years, and she’ll be missed by many.

You look like you could use some news about where to go when your sweet tooth hits since you just got your cream-filled doughnuts taken away. Nosh brings word of ~SECRET SCOOP~, a Thai gelato shop with flavors like chocolate lemongrass, roasted coconut, pandan leaf, salted tamarind sorbet, and black tea. They are made with natural ingredients, 100 percent rBST-free milk, and are reportedly “lower in sugar and saturated fat than traditional ice creams.” You can order any of the flavors over sticky rice. Open Mon-Thu 12:30pm-8:30pm, Fri-Sun 12pm-9pm. 1922 Martin Luther King Jr. Way at Berkeley Way, Berkeley, 415-939-2832.

If you’re craving something a bit more savory, come by ~DORA’S~ (previously known as A Dora Pie) in Berkeley for their stuffed sandwiches (“bunzas”) with fillings like chicken korma, beef and cheddar, and Vietnamese pork. Oh, and there are sweet pies too: key lime, apple, blueberry, and chocolate silk. There’s also now a taproom, featuring 12 taps (half are Fieldwork Brewing, and the rest are Altamont Beer Works, HenHouse, and Berryessa Brewing Co.). You’ll find 20 seats and an outdoor beer garden with room for 80 (!) and views of a competition-level rose garden. Well then. Open daily 11am-9pm. 1966 University Ave. at Milvia, Berkeley, 510-705-8800.

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