December 5, 2017

December 5, 2017

Barvale’s dining room and a section of the main bar. Photos: David Martinez.


A selection of cold tapas.


Tempranillo-braised oxtail and mashed potato.


A selection of daily pintxos.


Pulpo with fingerling potatoes, olives, pimentón.


Cocktails include the Arencia Highball, Salty Spaniard, and Valenciana.

Opening this Thursday December 7th is ~BARVALE~, the latest project from Adriano Paganini’s Back of the House restaurant group, its 22nd restaurant, but their first Spanish tapas bar concept. They are opening in the former La Urbana, right at the corner of Divisadero and Grove.

As mentioned earlier in tablehopper, Patricio “Pato” Duffoo is the executive chef, who is making most items in-house and will be utilizing the grill a great deal. His menu features two sections: cold and hot tapas. Cold tapas will be available for $6 per portion, or 3 for $15, served with grilled bread. Some examples include boquerones (cured white anchovies, spicy Iberian sauce); tortilla de patata, pimento aioli, frisée; and garbanzo and pimentón purée, piquillo, grilled bread, mint (their house version of hummus).

Some hot tapas include charred cauliflower, romesco, grilled lemon; grilled sardines, shallots, guindillas (small yellow pickled Basque peppers), olives; gambas (olive oil-poached prawns from the Gulf of Mexico), grilled bread; and tempranillo-braised oxtail, mashed potato, mirepoix. In a fun twist, you’ll be able to order paella (shrimp, mussels, clams, aioli, lemon) by the portion instead of having to commit to an entire pan. It will come out every 30 minutes.

Over at the bar, you’ll find three daily pintxos (bite-sized and served on a skewer)—since they are designed to be accompaniments to their cocktails, sherry, and wine, you’ll find them at the bar only.

Jessica Everett is behind the cocktail list, which will have four gin and tonics, including one on tap, which you can order by the carafe. Jessica and her team tasted more than 40 different gins and worked with gin’s aromatics and tonic’s bitter quality before landing on the four flavor profiles that will be represented in the gin and tonics. One of them (No. 4) features infused Bols genever with pink peppercorn, saffron, and cardamom. She also has a strong eco focus and does what she can to make sustainable choices for sourcing and storage, eliminating as much plastic wrap as possible (bless) and only using eco straws.

There’s the La Urbana, an homage to the previous tenant, with mezcal, apple brandy, palo cortado sherry, and housemade banana liqueur. Or you can go for a low-ABV drink like the Arencia Highball, with dry and sweet vermouths, manzanilla, soda. I’m looking forward to the Salty Spaniard, a spin on a Bamboo, with gin, fino sherry, dry vermouth, orange bitters. Cocktails are $12 and under and designed to be approachable and beautiful; check out the menu here.

There is also a complex wine and sherry list, featuring rare bottles sourced from friends in Spain, special wines (with a focus on certified organic and biodynamic wines), sherries, and ports. Two domestic Spanish-style wines from California are available on tap only and a bottle of completely natural and biodynamic txakolina is available as well.

The space is designed by Hannah Collins of Hannah Collins Designs, her 10th Back of the House restaurant. The spacious bar (with room for around 24) is the anchor of the restaurant, with a mural of a flamenco designer painted above the bar from local creative design studio Wall and Wall. There is also a communal table to the right, on decorative cement tiles (the original ones from La Urbana have been replaced). In the 65-seat dining room, there are punchy tomato red metal chairs, handmade pendant lights suspended with white rope, and tobacco banquettes.

In the former “Garaje,” the garage roll-up doors have been replaced with real walls and contained to create The Pintxo Room, which will be opening in early 2018 (end of Jan/early Feb). There’s a central bar, high-top communal tables, red terra-cotta walls, and art featuring a bull—all of which will create a dark, sexy space for large groups and private parties.

Open for dinner Sun-Thu 5pm-12am, Fri-Sat 5pm-1am. They will only take reservations for parties of six or more. 661 Divisadero St. at Grove.


Chef Joshua Skenes. Photos by Bonjwing Lee.


Wine director Mark Bright.

I have been following up with Joshua Skenes of Saison for the past month about some rumors I have been hearing about him opening a project in the former Chaya space (at 132 The Embarcadero), and today his PR team has finally released some details.

Chef Skenes and wine director Mark Bright partnered with Terra Venture to form the Saison Hospitality Group in 2016, and their next project is to open ~ANGLER~, an American raw bar and grill. They will be opening in the former Chaya space on The Embarcadero, which has fantastic views of the bay, and in Los Angeles. (According to Eater, the L.A. location will be in the Beverly Center, although Saison’s PR won’t confirm that detail.)

Each restaurant will each have a capacity of approximately 100 seats, with space for private parties. Here’s more from the press release on the look and style: “Both outposts will evoke a rich maritime setting, with rusted steel beams, exposed brick, elements of copper with a saltwater patina, mermaid tiles, and natural materials such as American walnut. Each will feature an entry room with a fireplace, full bar, and an inviting salon for diners to gather before and after their meal—or just stop in for a glass of wine, cocktails, and a quick bite. Angler will have an elegant and warm environment with an expansive and diverse wine cellar with a focus on Burgundy, Rhone, and Loire Valley.”

Skenes is known for his dedication to cooking on the hearth, and Angler will feature a massive 32-foot hearth with eight different zones for the various types of live-fire cooking Saison has developed over the years. Live tanks will hold local fish and shellfish sourced by Saison’s fisherman that will be cooked simply and carefully to highlight the products’ natural flavors and peak taste.

The à la carte menu’s sample dishes include raw bar items like oysters and clams; Mendocino sea urchin on grilled bread; cured rockfish with Meyer lemon; simple salad of lettuces and herbs; spot prawns grilled over a bed of seaweeds; California king crab steamed with drawn butter from their cows; Hopi cornbread baked with wild boar fat in a skillet near the fire; elk T-bone roasted over the embers with coffee beans and chiles; and for dessert, wild strawberry soup, and ember ice cream and espresso granita.

The targeted opening is summer 2018 for San Francisco, while Los Angeles will be fall 2018.


The former Chiaroscuro location. Photo via Google Maps.

Back in 2015, it looked like ~QUINCE~ was going to be taking over the former Barrique, which was just across the street—the Tusks were planning to open a Spanish-inspired and casual spot (Bar Ventresca). That project didn’t pan out, but now an ABC license application shows the Tusks potentially starting a project in the former Chiaroscuro at 550 Washington, just a couple of blocks away from Quince and Cotogna. The name on the transfer is Verjus—we’ll have to wait and see when they are ready to talk about their plans. It’s a space that housed Daniel Patterson’s first restaurant (Elisabeth Daniel) and George Morrone’s Tartare (I’ll never forget the arched ceiling and dramatic soup bowls that looked like a manta ray). The space flanks Hotaling Alley, so let’s hope they get to have some outdoor tables. 550 Washington St. at Montgomery.


Chile cheese toast for Saturday brunch at Indian Paradox. Photo courtesy of Indian Paradox.


Disco fry eggs for Saturday brunch at Indian Paradox. Photo courtesy of Indian Paradox.

I’m always happy to have some new brunch options in the mix, and when it’s Indian brunch, then I’m downright stoked. Starting Saturday December 9th, Kavitha Raghavan of ~INDIAN PARADOX~ on Divis is going to be serving brunch from 11am-2pm. (Sundays are possible down the road.)

There will be six new street food dishes on the menu, like chile cheese toast ($9), with warm whole-grain white bread generously topped with a green chile, bell pepper, and garam masala cheese blend, and then grilled to golden brown goodness (sign me up); a masala omelet ($11); and egg akuri ($10.50), a soft-scrambled egg cooked with Parsi masala, ginger, garlic, turmeric, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, served with a buttered toast. And then there’s disco fry eggs ($12), which is almost like a savory Indian (French) toast—the eggs and brioche buns pressed with onions, chiles, cilantro, chaat, and garam masala, exclusive only to the streets of Mumbai. Yum, see you there! 258 Divisadero St. at Haight.

Over in Bernal, ~OLD DEVIL MOON~ is also kicking off weekend brunch on Saturday December 9th. Chef Sarah Duncan (previously The Broken Record) is behind their new Black Magic Brunch, with $13 dishes like huevos rancheros, loco moco, shrimp and griddled grits, cheddar biscuits and gravy, and more. Most dishes include a side of smashed potatoes, fruit, or a side salad, and they are happy to offer some vegetarian options of some of the dishes. Here’s the menu. They’ll be serving Sat-Sun 11am-3pm.

You’ll also find mimosas, Bloody Marys and Marias, a michelada, a Pimm’s Cup, mai tai spritz, Negroni spritz, and Grandpa’s Coffee with Red Whale nitro cold brew, Irish cream, and a nip of Old Grand-Dad bonded bourbon. 3472 Mission St. at Cortland.


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


My last pizza margherita at Una Pizza Napoletana. Photo: ©

It’s that time of year again! ~BIX~ is the perfect setting for a holiday lunch, which is why they are open every weekday for lunch through Friday December 22nd. If there was ever a time for a two-martini lunch, well, this is it.

On the flip side, it’s the time of the year when ~LA TAQUERIA~ in the Mission takes a break from making us taco dorados and closes for a winter break. This year they will be closed Monday December 18th-Wednesday January 10th.

And then there’s the spot that is taking THE BIG BREAK. As you know, ~UNA PIZZA NAPOLETANA~ is closing after almost eight years of business because proprietor Anthony Mangieri is moving back to New York and opening a location in the Lower East Side. I went in for a farewell margherita last Friday, and they said they’d be open for one or two more weeks, but definitely closing before Christmas. And you’ll also want to head in early—at 7:45pm, they were counting down the final dough balls for pizzas that night. Open Wed-Sat.


The new weekend brunch at Donato & Co. includes crispy potato and cheese frico cake with poached eggs and salsa bernese. Instagram photo via @donatoandco.


Perle Wine Bar’s French spin on chicken and waffles, with a Liège waffle. Instagram photo via @perlewinebaroakland.

The 510 has a bunch of new brunches for you to check out, starting with ~DONATO & CO.~ in Berkeley, serving ciambellone, assorted pastries, and Italian-style egg dishes, including scrambled eggs with guanciale, and a potato-and-cheese frico cake with poached eggs. Chef Gianluca Guglielmi is making all kinds of breads, from ciabatta to tigella to focaccia. Available Sat-Sun 10am-3pm. (They are also serving lunch during the week 11:30am-3pm and apericena from 3pm-6pm.) Take a peek at all the menus here. 2635 Ashby Ave. at College, Berkeley.

Over in Montclair, chef Rob Lam has launched Sunday brunch at ~PERLE WINE BAR~, with food coma-inducing dishes like foie gras French toast and a duck rillette croque-madame. Don’t forget the Lipitor. (There are also lemon soufflé pancakes and an egg white and avocado frittata, so don’t fret.) Check out the menu. You’ll have plenty of bubbles to choose from, and cocktails like the Bix Bloody Mary and a French 75. Saturday brunch will launch in the new year. Sat 11am-3pm. 2058 Mountain Blvd. at Antioch Ct., Montclair.

Lastly, ~ALAMAR KITCHEN + BAR~ in Oakland has launched an all-day Sunday brunch from 11am-6pm. The rotating menu features new items each week, plus staples from chef Nelson German, such as braised oxtail hash with poached egg and black pepper hollandaise sauce, and Dominican eggs Benedict (think oxtail or crab on a bed of mofongo—garlicky mashed green plantains—instead of an English muffin). There’s a boozy coffee and a special cocktail inspired by a popular Dominican beverage, Morir Soñando. Chef Nelson says, “My all-day Sunday brunch pays homage to the New York City trend of late brunches where you can recover from a hangover and still roll out of bed in the afternoon without the fear of missing brunch.”

You should also know they’ll play Oakland Raiders games if they coincide with the timing of brunch. (Whether you find that to be a bonus or not is entirely up to you.) There’s also a dog-friendly patio with heaters. 100 Grand Ave. #111 at Valdez, Oakland.