October 22, 2019

October 22, 2019
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The previous dining room at Lavash. Photo: Maloos Khonsarian, courtesy of Lavash.

I love stories of phoenixes rising from the ashes! After being closed from a fire back on January 24th, 2018, beloved neighborhood restaurant ~LAVASH~ is returning this November. This family-run business, with parents Nazila and Saeed Talai and their son Kaivon, has been working hard to reopen, dealing with a long list of the usual issues, from permits to construction and more, which can be especially burdensome for a small business that doesn’t have any investors. The fire was between the walls in the kitchen, which caused a lot of damage, but fortunately no one was injured.

Nazila and Saeed came to the United States from Iran in the late 1970s after the Iranian Revolution, and started selling flowers on the street, and eventually opened a flower shop. They have had many businesses over the past 30 years—this enterprising couple even owned an award-winning taqueria at one point! Lavash—which they opened in 2008—is known for their soulful Iranian cooking, featuring dishes and family recipes from home, with quality and fresh ingredients and an eye on health (Saeed, a self-taught chef, was also an athlete). Lavash favorites include their koobideh (skewers of mixed ground beef and lamb), jeweled rice, and fesenjan (chicken with ground walnut and sour-sweet pomegranate sauce), and they will all be returning, plus some new specials.

Lavash was also adored for its warm hospitality and welcoming dining room, which had a cozy, residential style (and was full of fresh flowers). The space has been renovated, and the dining room will have more space, and the kitchen got an upgrade, too.

I’ll let you know when they set their opening date! They’re going to start with dinner first, and hope to add lunch soon. You can follow their new Instagram account at @lavashsf for updates. Welcome back, Lavash! 511 Irving St. at 6th Ave.

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The magical view from the Empress of China (never mind what else may be happening in the bar…). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Back in 2014, it was a sad day when it was announced the Chinatown icon ~EMPRESS OF CHINA~ was closing, and offices were going to take over the space. Seriously, noooo. Things were looking up when news came out that City View Restaurant was planning to open in the ground floor.

And now the latest is that Michelin-starred chef Ho Chee Boon (of Hakkasan fame, although this is a solo project) and Asianova Hospitality Group, Inc. are opening a 7,500-square-foot restaurant on the top floor, ~EMPRESS BY BOON~. So happy to hear we aren’t losing access to that jaw-dropping, gorgeous view, and since the Empress of China was known for its fine dining, it’s a nice continuation of that legacy. Look for modern Cantonese cuisine, featuring organic produce grown on the restaurant’s farm in Gilroy, plus some “unexpected ingredients.” Pastry chef Rory MacDonald (Dessert Bar, Gordon Ramsey, Hakkasan) is also on the team.

Look for fine tableware by Ruyi, a contemporary Chinese tableware line from French brand Legle. Bring on some Chinese banquet elegance. UK-based design studio Atelier LLYS is behind the design, which will feature modern elements alongside restored features from the previous Empress, including the beautifully carved panels and the original wooden pergola, which will house the new bar lounge. Yes! They are gunning for an opening in early 2020, we’ll have to see how that timing goes. 838 Grant St. at Clay.

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A killer spread at Prubechu. Instagram photo via @restaurantprubechu.

Some quick updates for you, I’ll share more details when they open: ~PRUBECHU~ is going to reopen in the Mission in the former Commonwealth space. (Not sure how they’re going to manage that jacked-up rent that reportedly squeezed Commonwealth out?) They’re currently renovating and plan to be open for the holidays, stand by for news on upcoming pig feasts. 2224 Mission St. at 18th St. 

Opening November 7th is ~SEÑOR SISIG~’s first brick and mortar, also in the Mission. The popular food truck from co-founders Evan Kidera (CEO) and Gil Payumo (chief culinary officer) are opening in the former The Blue Fig space, and will be adding some new dishes like nacho-rrones and the beastmode Sisig Crunchwrap (pork, chicken, or tofu on a crispy tostada with monterey jack cheese, pico de gallo, lettuce, sour cream, and guacamole, all wrapped in a griddled tortilla and served with a side of spicy nacho cheese). I’ll share more details at opening-time. 990 Valencia St. at 21st St.

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Flora in Oakland. Photo via Facebook.

Wow, sorry to hear that ~FLORA~ in Uptown Oakland is closing on November 9th (along with sister bar Fauna), after 13 years in business. Owner Thomas Schnetz cited personal reasons for closing. Flora was a trailblazer in the cocktail scene, and was always a great place to visit before a show at the Fox. Thanks for all the meals and moments at your fabulous bar. No word on chef Rebecca Boice’s plans—will let you know once I hear back. I was hoping to make it for one of her Book Club Dinners—there’s actually the last one this Thursday October 24th, highlighting Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem (good one!).

Fortunately, there is a taker of the gorg Art Deco restaurant: “former Flora bar manager Christ Aivaliotis, now co-owner of the tiki-inspired downtown Oakland bar the Kon-Tiki, will take over, reopening with new businesses in the space this spring.” 1900 Telegraph Ave. at 19th St., Oakland. [Via Eater.]

A reader wrote in to let me know old-timer ~HOWARD’S CAFE~ in the Inner Sunset has closed (the diner was almost 60!). My tipster said word is that it will reopen as a dumpling place. You can read more in this piece in Hoodline. 1309 9th Ave. at Irving.

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The interior of Boavida in the Outer Sunset. Photo courtesy of Boavida.

I’d been tracking the opening of ~BOAVIDA CAFE & MARKET~ for a bit, and after taking their first baby steps, it’s open and running more smoothly. This Ocean Beach café in the former Streamline is from Andrea de Francisco, who previously opened the Portuguese-focused Cafe St. Jorge in Bernal (she also has the record shop down the street with her husband). She envisions Boavida as a community hub: a café, wine bar (coming soon), and curated market. 

They’re serving healthy California-style food with a European twist, offering a menu of smoothies, breakfast bowls, a breakfast roll, as well as a couple salads and sandwiches, and lots of grab and go for those heading to the beach. Look for house-baked pastries, including traditional Portuguese items (pastéis de nata!), as well as specialty vegan items. Coffee service features Craftsman Coffee from Pacifica. You’ll also find some items like fresh baguettes, bananas, and more so neighbors can grab something for home—and they hope to be able to serve wine and beer to go as well. Open Wed-Sun 7am-3pm for now. 3560 Taraval St. at 46th Ave.

Over in Bayview, ~BLOOMSTOCK~ has taken over the former Trouble Coffee (and then Greaser Coffee) location. Owner Ross Rayala is serving waffles and coffee, and check out the 420-friendly artwork in the space (some of it is his own). Open Tue-Sat 7am-3pm. 1730 Yosemite Ave. at Lane. [Via Eater]

Fans of açaí-and-fruit bowls and chia pudding will want to check out ~PALMETTO SUPERFOODS~ in the Inner Richmond. Here’s their menu of options. You can read the backstory of how this concept came to be. Open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-6pm. 202 Clement St. at 3rd Ave.

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Wayfare Tavern’s famed buttermilk fried chicken is available with waffles for brunch. Photo courtesy of Wayfare Tavern.

Looking for a new brunch spot? ~WAYFARE TAVERN~ recently started offering weekend brunch. Executive chef Scott Quinn’s menu includes challah French toast, bananas Foster pancakes, and, of course, their famed buttermilk fried chicken and waffles. You can also have some healthier picks, like a three-egg omelette or a vitality bowl. There’s a full bar, which means you can go for a Bloody Mary with house-infused bacon vodka or a peach spritzer and more. Brunch is Sat-Sun 11am-3pm.  

Can’t afford an Imperial wagyu tomahawk for dinner at the counter at ~NIKU STEAKHOUSE~? You’re not alone. But you will want to check out their new special evening menu in the bar area, available nightly from 4:30pm-6pm. There’s the Niku burger ($15), made with a blend of 50 percent domestic Imperial wagyu and 50 percent Japanese A5 wagyu; a half-dozen oysters for $10 (hello!), and other bites.

Find happy hour pricing on select glasses of beer and wine, plus a rotating featured cocktail, currently a Toki Highball ($10). And every Thursday is a dedicated Whisky Social, with brand reps sharing distillery stories and offering special pours and cocktails. This month is with Bruichladdich (with Michter’s in November). 61 Division St. at Rhode Island.

This weekend (Fri-Sat Octover 25th-26th), chef Heena Patel of ~BESHARAM~ is celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights, with a multi-course, family-style dinner menu. The four-course menu is completely vegetarian (with vegan and dairy/gluten-free substitutions available), $50 per person (two appetizers, salad, two mains served with rice and paratha, and dessert). Expect special Diwali desserts that chef Heena grew up eating. Don’t miss it!

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