February 11, 2020

February 11, 2020

Lily’s dining room, with a stone counter that flanks the open kitchen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.


Chef Rob Lam. Photo: Erin Conger Photography.


The curving banquette and family table at the back of the restaurant. Photo: © tablehopper.com.


The spice boxes and antique mirrors behind the bar. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I am thrilled to announce the news that chef Rob Lam (Perle, Butterfly) is going to be opening a Vietnamese restaurant on Clement Street in the Inner Richmond, partnering with landowners Lily (Hue) Lieu and her sister, Lucy Lieu. It’s going to be called ~LILY~, and they plan to open in mid-March or so. It’s opening in the former Q, and will have a 49-seat capacity.

The buildout is by CCS Architecture, and it’s an absolute looker, with beautiful materials and details. There’s a long stone bar and counter, which runs the length of the dining room, flanking the open kitchen. Behind the bar is a large wall display of spice boxes, antique mirrors, and intricate light fixtures above the bar. On the opposite wall is a tufted banquette in cordovan leather, which runs the length of the room, and ends in a half-booth with a round table (this is going to be a popular family table).

The room is full of texture, with a carved wood lattice that covers the ceiling, with four different panel designs. The tabletops are made of natural stone, and have a subtle gleam and texture. Both the barstools and chairs are made of walnut, with a chic and minimalist design. There’s a large mural above the banquette that depicts the Qingming Festival, an important day when one shows respect to one’s ancestors, which ties in with the restaurant concept, with both the Lieus and Lam paying homage to their heritage and family recipes.

Rob Lam was born in Vietnam, and when his family moved to Southern California after the fall of Saigon, his mother opened a restaurant called Vien Dong, just outside of Los Angeles, so restaurant life is in his blood. A graduate of the University of San Francisco and The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Lam moved back to California after graduation, where he took on a postgraduate fellowship with the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena. His cuisine is very technique-driven, he cares deeply about sourcing quality ingredients, and loves bold flavor—he’s a big fan of delicious. You can always expect some soigné touches from Lam (he’s a fan of the finer things, like caviar and uni), and he also will be making his own sauces and ferments.

While Lam has included Vietnamese ingredients and dishes at his past ventures, Lily will be his first truly Vietnamese restaurant. It will be in honor of his mother and the women in his life who have helped shape him as a person and as a chef (women ruled his household growing up, and taught him about maximizing flavor while cooking, even while on a budget). Many dishes will hark back to his childhood, like the classic bun cha Hanoi (barbeque pork and rice noodles with Vietnamese herbs and lettuce and a warm fish sauce), but he’s also updating some dishes, like his mother’s bun bung chay, a noodle soup dish traditionally made with pork ribs, tamarind, turmeric, and vegetables, but he’ll be doing a vegan version, with fermented rice and tofu, lily bulb stems, green plantains, green papaya, tofu, and pea tendrils.

He’s also going to show his playful and innovative side, with a spin on a French dip with his pho dip sliders, or his bo tai chanh, a classic rare beef dish with toasted shallots, here served with bone marrow and sesame chips, and instead of lime, it’s paired with yuzu nuoc cham. Whether you come in for a solo meal at the bar counter (there will be a couple wonderful noodle soups, including his fantastic bun bo Hue oxtail-lemongrass noodle soup), or want to go for a full family-style spread (including a whole crispy fried fish or curry lamb shank), the menu will be flexible to accommodate all kinds of diners. I’ll share the menu as the opening gets closer, it’s still getting fine-tuned. (But be sure to look at my post about the tablehopper birthday dinner at the end of February, when you can preview a bunch of the dishes.)

Lam’s good friend James Yu (Great China) is heading up the wine program, which will be sure to have some real gems, with a focus on global, aromatic white and red wines built to pair well with Lam’s aromatic cuisine, offering fruit and lifting acidity. Yu is also the master of offering some incredible deals, which make wine lovers really happy whenever they open his lists.

When Lily opens in March, it will be open for dinner from Wed-Sun 5pm-10pm, and then lunch and Sunday Vietnamese breakfast will be introduced later. (I’m already scheming for a jook breakfast.)

Please note these are preview pics—the space is still under construction and is going to get a deep cleaning! Stand by for more updates on the opening soon. First, we party! 225 Clement St. at 4th Ave.


You’ll be the first to dine at Lily at the tablehopper preview dinner! Photo: © tablehopper.com.


A sneak peek of the Bo Tai Chanh/Bone Marrow and Lime Beef Carpaccio/Tartare. Photo: Rob Lam.


Canh ga chien/caramel chicken wings française with yuzu shrimp paste. Photo: © tablehopper.com.


Many thanks to Champagne Henriot, our sponsor for the evening, who will be pairing their gorgeous cuvées with our dinner!


Chef Rob Lam showing a guest how to prepare the skewer wraps at a past tablehopper supper with Ernest Vineyards. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

SOLD OUT! TO BE ADDED TO THE WAITLIST, PLEASE EMAIL MARCIA. Can you believe tablehopper is turning fourteen? Crazy. Of course, I love any reason to celebrate and get together, but this birthday party is going to be extra-special, because it’s all about following your heart (and talent).

As many of you have noted over the years, I’m a huge fan of my good buddy chef Rob Lam’s Vietnamese food. He was the chef-owner at Perle and Butterfly, but the only times you could experience his Vietnamese food was at the jook pop-up we did together (Jook Joint), at our Vietnamese wine dinners featuring the wines of Vinho Verde and Ernest Vineyards, and he recently prepared the most bangin’ spread at High Ho Silver, my private event for mymilligram and celebrating my 25 years of living in San Francisco. If you’ve ever had his soulful Vietnamese dishes, you know they aren’t like anything you can get in the City, with his top-notch ingredient sourcing, handmade touches, and authentic home recipes (I keep encouraging him to bring the funk—we’re ready for it!).

So, as you just read in my column, he’s finally opening his Vietnamese restaurant (~LILY~), the one I’ve been waiting for and bugging him to open for years. And tablehopper readers are going to be the first to dine in it! On Friday February 28th, we’re holding a celebratory dinner in honor of tablehopper’s 14th and Rob finally giving us the food we want, offering you an extensive preview of the dishes that will be at Lily. Rob loves to feed, so when I say extensive, I mean it. Get ready for an extravagant menu below.

And it wouldn’t be a tablehopper party without some Champagne, hello! I am so thrilled to partner once again with Champagne Henriot! (Our last event together was at Great China four years ago, one remembered and cherished by many!)

Champagne Henriot is one of the last remaining family-owned Champagne houses (founded in 1808!), currently in the eighth generation with Gilles de Larouzière. Henriot’s house style is driven by Chardonnay, with long lees aging (it’s rich and focused, with elegance and finesse). Get excited for a night of tasting some gorgeous cuvées!

And what goes best with Champagne? (Besides me?) Caviar, of course! We are so thrilled to have Tsar Nicoulai providing us with some of their incredible (and sustainable!) caviar. So grateful!

Take a look at our event’s extensive menu (subject to change); this menu will be updated in real time.

First Course (Passed Appetizers)
Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blancs

Goi Cuon Nem Cua/Seafood Salad Rolls
Brokaw Avocado, Dungeness Crab, Kauai Shrimp, Uni, Strawberry Fish Sauce

Da Ga Chien/Crispy Chicken Skin
Black Truffle Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, Pickled Shallot, Lompoc Pepper Crema

Bo Tai Chanh/Bone Marrow and Lime Beef Carpaccio/Tartare
Goji Lime Fish Sauce, Viet Herbs, Pickled Bermuda Onion, Sesame Crackers, Cashews

Muc Chien Moui Thoi/Salt and Garlic Fried Calamari
Peppers and Pineapple, Toasted Garlic, Sriracha Remoulade, Lompoc Pepper, and Lime Sauce

Bahn Mi Pho Bo/Beef Pho Dip Sliders
Hawaiian Bread, Kewpie Mayo, Hoisin Sriracha Sauce, Jalapeño, Pho Dipping Broth

Second Course (Family-Style)
Champagne Henriot Brut Rosé

Bahn Tom Co Ngu/Fried Shrimp and Sweet Potato
Vietnamese Herbs Salad, Pickled Vegetables, Meyer Lemon Fish Sauce

Cha Ca Thang Long/Turmeric Grilled Market Fish
Dill and Onions, Vietnamese Herbs Salad, Pineapple-Fermented Shrimp Sauce, Sesame Crackers

Bun Cha Hanoi/BBQ Noodle Platter
Rice Noodles, Housemade Sambal, Vietnamese Herbs Salad, Pickled Carrot, and Daikon

Third Course (Family Style)
Champagne Henriot Brut Millésime 2008

Bahn Chung Vit/Roasted Duck and Crispy New Year Sweet Rice Cake
Crispy Duck Confit, Apple Hoisin Vinegar, Vietnamese Herbs, Pickled Vegetables

Bo Luc Lac Do Bien/Shaking Beef and Seafood Noodles
Crispy Egg Noodle Cake, Diver Scallop, and Kauai Shrimp Stir Fry, Fried Rock Shrimp, Uni Soy

Ca Chien/Crispy Fried Whole Fish
Chinese Sausage and Pepper Stir Fry, Caramel Nuoc Cham Sauce, Vietnamese Herbs and Lettuce

Dessert Course
Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain

Did that just make your eyes pop out or what? Like I said, it’s going to be a full-court press, the Vietnamese feast of feasts!

We’ll start the evening at 6:30pm, with the passed appetizers and a welcome glass of Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blancs, and then we’ll be seated for the subsequent family-style dinner. Unfortunately, we can’t accommodate dietary restrictions, but if you have to sit a few courses out, you’ll still have plenty to eat. Tanya Pringsheim‑Evans​ of Maisons & Domaines Henriot will be there to walk us through the Champagne pairings.

In honor of tablehopper’s 14 years, we are offering this supper for only $114, inclusive of tax and tip and all pairings. Get your ticket here.

I really hope to see all of you at the table—can’t wait to cheers you with some Henriot Champagne! Let’s ring in Lily, and finally having access to Rob’s delicious food in SF!

Friday February 28th, 2020
6:30pm reception
225 Clement St. at 4th Ave.
San Francisco


Shake Shack classics. Photo via Shack’s Facebook page.


The Indie bowl and tofu poke bowl at Indie Superette. Photo: Aubrie Pick.


The spacious and stylin’ interior at Dumpling Time at Thrive City. Photo courtesy of Dumpling Time.

The lines are already way too long at the first location of ~SHAKE SHACK~ in San Francisco, now open in Cow Hollow. The New York import is known for their classic burgers, chicken sandwiches, griddled flat-top dogs (no hormones or antibiotics), and crinkle cut fries, and something that isn’t as easily found in SF: freshly made frozen custard.

For that last item, they’ve partnered up with local purveyors b. Patisserie, Dough XX, Dandelion Chocolate, and Pie Dreams for some custom sundaes, like the California Cold Rush: vanilla custard, B. Patisserie kouign amann, salted caramel sauce, and Dandelion Chocolate cocoa nibs. There’s also the Bay Area-exclusive Golden State Double, a Richards grass-fed beef cheddar cheeseburger topped with pickles and smoked garlic aioli (I’d tap that). Local brews from Fort Point Beer Company, 21st Amendment Brewery, and Drake’s Brewing Company are available, plus Shake Shack’s exclusive Brooklyn Brewery ShackMeister® Ale, plus two Shack wines.

There’s an outdoor patio with ample seating, and the Cow Hollow Shack was constructed with recycled and sustainable materials. Open Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, and Fri-Sat 11am-11pm. 3060 Fillmore St. at Filbert.

Sharing the terrace is healthy neighbor ~INDIE SUPERETTE~, a plant-based café and wellness market conceived by MINA Group’s President Patric Yumul (he named it after his daughter). The menu should fit in just perfectly with the health-obsessed Marina and Cow Hollow residents, offering primarily organic and non-GMO ingredients for its cold-pressed juices, elixirs, smoothies, a variety of açaí and chia bowls, veggie burgers, nutrient-rich savory bowls, sweet and savory toasts, vegan soft-serve, a selection of pastries from Firebrand Artisan Breads bakery, and coffee beverages featuring LAMILL Coffee.

Fire up with keto-friendly and adaptogenic smoothies, like the Ready to Rumble Monkey, with vanilla ghee, MCT oil, cacao powder, chaga, strong coffee, almond milk, and banana; and Roar, with lucuma, barley grass powder, maca, banana, ashwagandha, cordyceps, vanilla stevia, and macadamia milk. An array of additional adaptogenic supplements can be added to smoothies and açaí bowls for $1 each.   The market includes made-to-order items, fresh produce, specialty grab-and-go sundries, beverages, Moon Juice powders and dusts, and even Beyond Meat burgers and sausages. Look for keto-friendly wines, hard kombucha, gluten-free beer, and additional alcoholic beverages, coming soon. Open daily 7am-9pm. 3060 Fillmore St. at Filbert.

Over at the oddly named Thrive City, the surrounding district of Chase Center, you’ll find a new location of ~DUMPLING TIME~, serving their handmade dim sum inspired by Chinese and Japanese preparations made with local California ingredients. There are also some new items inspired by the menus at Dumpling Time’s Ginza and Shibuya restaurants in Tokyo, Japan, and there’s also a full bar with cocktails, in addition to beer and wine. Dumpling Time is open for lunch 11am-3pm and dinner 5pm-10pm. 191 Warriors Way, Suite 101, at Terry A Francois Blvd.

Future Thrive City neighbors include Miller & Lux by Tyler Florence, Nachoria, Gott’s Roadside, High-Energy Food Hall by Chef Michael Mina, Belly & Sweet Belly, and Mission Bay Wine Bar at Thrive City.


The exterior of the new Tartine Inner Sunset on 9th Ave. Photo: Paige Green.

Some big news came out last week that Tartine Bakery workers (at the original Tartine Bakery in SF, Tartine Manufactory, Tartine Inner Sunset, and Tartine in Berkeley) were trying to unionize in pursuit of better pay, job protection, and more—read the Chronicle story here. The latest update is Tartine management has declined the workers’ union demands—for now. File this one under definitely developing, like their dough.

A quick update, in case you were wondering where the talented chef Melissa Perfit has landed after the closing of Ayala: she’s now the chef de cuisine over at ~NIKU STEAKHOUSE~ (see, she just isn’t about seafood, although we love her for it). Joining her is new GM Mickey Clevenger, our Johnny Cash of front of house.


The new trellis with live greenery at Barcino. Photo: Kelly Puleio.

After many years of running a restaurant at Gough and Grove, The Absinthe Group announced they’re closing ~BARCINO~ on February 15th. The team is going to be focused instead on opening ~ARBOR~ in the former Arlequin Cafe space; Barcino chef de cuisine Kaili Hill and general manager Michael Goss will transition to Arbor in their same roles. Executive chef Ryan McIlwraith is working with the team to develop a new menu that will be convenient to the neighborhood, and they will continue to offer guests access to the refreshed outdoor patio (along with neighboring Arlequin Wine Merchant). Stand by for updates.

Folks in the Castro who depend upon ~SLURP NOODLE BAR~ for a quick dinner or bite before a movie will be bummed to know it closed after six years in the Castro. (469 Castro St.) Just up the street, ~DAPPER DOG~ has also closed. 417 Castro St. at Market. Read more on Hoodline.

Over in the Sunset, ~SAN TUNG 2~ has closed, it was reportedly a challenge to run both locations—fortunately the main dumpling and wing location soldiers on. Hoodline mentions the new tenant is Grill N Curry, serving grilled Pakistani and Indian dishes. 1033 Irving St. at 12th Ave.

Over on Polk Street, neighborhood wine and beer bar ~ROBBERBARON~ is another business forced to close its doors for a city-mandated seismic retrofit, on March 8th, which is estimated to take five-plus months. There is a chance that Robberbaron may not be able to reopen following this closure, so they are hosting a fundraising event on Thursday February 20th and a GoFundMe to help offset some costs and help them reopen. Here’s hoping they survive, and I know they’re looking for a temporary home. 2032 Polk St. at Broadway.