May 29, 2018

May 29, 2018
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Start your meal with boquerones on a soft egg with thyme breadcrumbs. Photo: Jane Srisarakorn.

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Grab your friends and get the tomahawk chop for family supper! Photo: Jane Srisarakorn.

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The tobacco, tufted booths at Pearl will draw you in. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Opening tonight (May 29th) in the Outer Richmond is ~PEARL~, an immediately likable corner restaurant that is just up the street from Pizzetta 211. The project is a collaborative partnership-ownership model with some Pizzetta 211 fam, including co-chefs Mel Lopez (Pizzetta 211, Baker & Banker, Aziza, Zero Zero) and Joyce Conway (Zero Zero, 20 Spot)—who met at Bix—with bar manager Nahiel Nazzal and GM Susan Dunn all as partners, along with Pizzetta 211’s Jack Murphy.

The neighborhood must be so excited to have this stylish addition, which has classic good looks and a cozy yet airy feeling. (It was originally a drugstore, and the vintage tiled floor is downright precious.) You’ll want to nestle right into a tobacco tufted booth or perch at the curving marble bar. The 40-seat restaurant has two sides: one is more dining room-style, and the bar side is like a bistro bar, perfect for solo diners or a couple who like counters. In my Table Talk column for KQED’s Bay Area Bites, I mention it’s like a mash-up of Brooklyn and New Orleans DNA. It’s impressive since they did the design themselves!

The menu is notably affordable, especially considering the quality and seasonal ingredients they are using. There’s a killer chicory Caesar salad on there (so good), and starters like brandade fritters and local halibut crudo, plus a few housemade pastas (Conway was at Zero Zero, so she knows a thing or two about that). There’s a wood-fired oven, which they are not making pizzas in, to be clear. Mains include a juicy grilled pork chop that really hits the spot, with apricot-cherry mostarda. There’s also grilled Gulf prawns, seared local albacore—all appealing. The menu hits an approachable California bistro tone, with some international touches. Large-format roasts (including whole local fish and large pork and beef roasts) are built for group dining. Desserts include their housemade ice cream in a sundae, and rhubarb crostata.

Cocktails are also a part of the experience (and oysters too!). They are open in the morning, with Andytown coffee and wood-fired bagels, so come on by. There’s also outdoor seating, and brunch is coming this weekend. (Put those two together…) Hours: daily café 7:30am-2pm (note the café service stops at 10am on weekend brunch), dinner Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm, and brunch Sat-Sun 10am-2pm. 6101 California St. at 23rd Ave., 415-592-9777.  

 

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The talented and stunning Heena Patel at the friends and family party for her new restaurant, Besharam. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Meet your next obsession: the silky Gujarati snack: khandvi (made from yogurt and flour). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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That’s right! Love the plates from Hatecopy’s Maria Qamar. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Back in April, I wrote about ~BESHARAM~, a restaurant from Heena Patel (of Rasoi), a La Cocina Incubator Program grad who has made a big impression with the flavors, execution, and creativity of her food, whether through her catering business or her CUESA Ferry Plaza farmers market stand. But with this, her first restaurant, she gets to stretch her wings and cook her food.

I was thrilled to attend a friends-and-family welcoming party over the weekend, and she shared that the fact this is happening is “beyond her imagination.” The name Besharam translates to “shameless” and is inspired by the fact that at 50, she’s following her own dreams and doing something she has always been too scared to do. She says, “I am doing this to prove to myself that I can do this.” Well, lucky us that she took the leap to open her first restaurant.

Read my previous post for more about her background—this Gujarati chef is bringing dishes and flavors we don’t have in the city, cooking from her heart and like we are guests in her (new) home. And what a home it is: she moved into the former Alta location at Minnesota Street Project in Dogpatch. (And the punchy plates from Hatecopy’s Maria Qamar jibe well with the artistic neighboring galleries and artists!)

She is starting with lunch service, with a menu that includes some of her previous creations, like blue cheese naan, as well as the classic street food dish of Mumbai: pav bhaji (toasted buns with spiced vegetable curry and a soft fried egg). Snacky bites, yes! She also weaves in a seasonal California sensibility, with her khichdi bowl (with fava dill rice, moong dal, ringan batata nu shaak), and a charred broccoli quinoa salad with arugula and pounded mint-cilantro drizzle. Gujarati cuisine is known for being vegetarian, so expect to be well taken care of if you don’t eat meat, but there are also meat dishes if that’s your preference. She makes so much by hand, like her rolled flatbread for a wrap (with paneer or chicken). Take a look at the menu and start thinking about a lunch date. Served Tue-Fri 11am-2:30pm.

She is working closely with her husband, Paresh, and the restaurant is a second collaboration between Daniel Patterson’s Alta Group and La Cocina graduates; they work closely with Restaurant Opportunities Center United, an advocacy group committed to addressing racial equity and encouraging diversity in the industry.

I’ll keep you posted on the menu after dinner launches (on May 31st!). Brunch is coming too, and they should also be able to start serving cocktails in a couple of weeks. Cheers to all of this. 1275 Minnesota St. at 24th St., 415-580-7662.

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How it goes down at Zuni: a table loaded with the classics. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Xavier Salomon, now the former executive chef of The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay.

There are quite a few chef changes to report on, starting with the departure of chef Rebecca Boice from ~ZUNI CAFÉ~. She started at Zuni back in 2002, and after 10 years, left to cook elsewhere (in 2012), and then returned to Zuni in 2015, picking up the mantle after Judy Rodgers tragically died in 2013. Of all the people to help preserve and build upon Judy’s culinary legacy, Rebecca was it. I reached out to her for an update, and she confirmed she has departed and is going to be enjoying some well-deserved time off and also working on a few projects. I’ll keep you apprised of her next moves. Enjoy the sunshine, Rebecca!

Another talented SF chef has left us: Sara Hauman (most recently chef de cuisine at Octavia and previously Huxley and Mister Jiu’s) is now up in Portland at Arden Wine Bar & Kitchen, a female-owned and -run restaurant; you can read more here.

Last week, I went to the farewell party for the jovial chef Xavier Salomon, who is leaving The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay after 17 years. He is also leaving his 27-year career (!) with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company—he has mentored so many chefs. As you can imagine, the party was packed, with friends and colleagues coming from as far away as Malaysia to salute chef! He is moving with his wife Laura to Los Cabos, where Xavier will be the executive chef at Montage Los Cabos. Merci beaucoup for all your dedication, talent, delicious food, education, friendship, hospitality, and always-warm smile, chef! We will miss you, Zaza! Have fun working on that tan.

I heard that chef Jason Franey departed ~VILLON~ at the San Francisco Proper Hotel quite awhile ago, but neither Franey nor PR would confirm the rumor for me, so obviously they wanted to wait to be able to announce a successor: executive chef Mikey Adams. The Santa Cruz native was previously at The Tower in Edinburgh (until his visa ran out!), Shimo Modern Steak in Healdsburg (with Douglas Keane and Kolin Vazzoler), and Central Kitchen here in SF. His new menu offers a “fine-dining twist on comfort food from around the world,” from a salmon belly tostada with coconut and tomatillo crema to okonomiyaki with prawn kimchi and bonito. You can look over his new menus here.

Over at ~CULTIVAR~ in the Marina, Emily Lai of Malaysian pop-up Masak Masak is now the consulting executive chef. You’ll see some of her ingredient touches on the menu. Get ready for their patio to open in June.

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Coming in hot! Chef Anthony Strong is ready to light things up. Photo: Victor Wong.

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Chef Anthony Strong at his recent Cibi Cotti pop-up. Photo: Victor Wong.

Back in February, I broke the news that chef Anthony Strong was taking over the Hog & Rocks location in the Mission, and now he’s ready to release some details about what he’s launching. The restaurant will be called ~PRAIRIE~, and it’s an homage to his Midwestern roots and his preferred style of eating (grazing). If you were expecting an Italian name—especially considering the 11 years he worked for the Delfina Restaurant Group (when he left, he was group executive chef)—he decided to take a break from the minimum three-syllable names with a bunch of vowels and embrace his American roots.

The menu will still have a primarily Italian sensibility and feeling, but he’s going to be integrating international ingredients and allow his travels (including his love of Japan) to inform the concept as well. He’s ready to loosen up, have fun, and stretch some boundaries.

The menu will offer a slew of antipasti, something he loves about Italian dining (“it’s an onslaught!”), and he’s going to be doing a lot of grilling on the two grills he’s bringing in (a Josper from Spain, which a friend of his says is “God’s gift to chefs,” and a J&R Grill from Texas). He fell in love with grilling as a kid and wants to continue with his passion for it. You’ll be able to order an array of items “by the each” (like sardines with tea leaf salsa verde) and seasonal vegetables, meats, and more—dishes will be sized to share with your dining partners as well (like whole fish). Handmade pastas, also in the plan. He wants it to be fun and relaxed. If you attended any of his recent Cibi Cotti pop-ups, you’ll get the vibe.

To be clear, there will not be delivery! His Young Fava delivery concept from last year is a distant memory—this is a full-service restaurant. There’s going to be a full bar, too, with Italian-ish cocktails. He’s also getting a Suntory Toki highball machine installed (bring on the carbonated highballs, something he enjoyed while eating yakitori in Japan; he liked how well they paired with grilled food).

Strong is doing most of the design and acting as the general contractor, and he’s keeping the look simple, clean, and natural. When the 75-seat restaurant opens in late summer, they’ll be serving dinner nightly and plan to open for brunch on the weekend right out of the gate as well. You’ll be meeting Strong’s kombucha Bellini soon enough. There are also 15 sidewalk seats, always nice for cocktails and bites. Service will go until 11pm during the week and 12am on the weekend. I’ll keep updating you! 3431 19th St. at Mission.

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Smørrebrød from Kantine at the Saturday CUESA Farmers Market. Photo via CUESA.

Consider this a rapid-fire news update, just so you can go check things out in case you are a fan of soft openings or just want something to look forward to. I’ll have more details in the next tablehopper!

Due to soft open on Thursday May 31st is ~DOUGLAS~, the new all-day café and corner market in Noe Valley from Maggie Spicer (Baana), Michael Molesky (Marker), and his father, Jim, who reportedly has quite the palate and cooking skills. Stand by to see what they start with, but breakfast, lunch, coffee (from Portland’s Heart Coffee Roasters) and tea, snacks, and stocked pantry shelves are all part of the plan (read more here). Here’s their Insta for updates. 1598 Sanchez St. at 29th St.

I was chatting with Nichole Accettola about the opening of her upcoming Scandinavian café, ~KANTINE~, and she’s targeting mid-June! Can’t wait for porridge and her smørrebrød (open-faced Danish sandwiches) on her housemade sprouted rye bread. I’ll keep you updated. (Pssst, she’s hiring!) 1906 Market St. at Octavia.

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The dining room at Tosca. Photo by Sonya Yu via Tosca.

A week ago, 60 Minutes dropped a bombshell of a segment outlining further (horrendous) allegations of sexual harassment by New York-based restaurateur Ken Friedman, who is a co-owner of our ~TOSCA CAFE~ with April Bloomfield. The segment also confirms Bloomfield is ending the partnership (finally). You can read more in this New York Times piece about what the dissolution of the partnership entails.

There were more horrific accounts (including a sexual assualt allegation) about Mario Batali’s monstrous behavior revealed in the segment as well (read more here), which seems to finally have been enough for Joe and Lidia Bastianich of the B&B Hospitality Group to (again, finally) announce they are ending their partnership with Batali. The NYPD is investigating this second sexual assault complaint against Batali. So much for the bosom buddies of the “rape room.” And last Friday, it was revealed that three of his Las Vegas restaurants are closing.

More fallout: the Chronicle reported that Tosca’s chef Josh Even and manager Dana Katzakian are leaving the restaurant after negotiations to take it over didn’t pan out. No word on what’s next for them, or the restaurant.

But hey, let’s see if Friedman finally announces plans for the former Lusty Lady space, which he took over in 2014 with Bloomfield. Actually, no, let’s skip that.

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