July 28, 2020

July 28, 2020
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Serena Chow Fisher and David Fisher of Marlena. All photos: Stephane Kiss.

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One of the upcoming picnic options from Marlena.

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When Marlena opens outdoor seating, expect dishes like this week-aged bluefin tuna with compressed cucumber gazpacho, avocado mousse, smoked soy, extra virgin olive oil.

Great news for neighbors and fans of the former Hillside Supper Club: a couple is going to breathe new life into the space, Serena Chow Fisher and her husband David Fisher, opening ~MARLENA RESTAURANT~. Serena will head pastry and front of house, while David is the chef. His background in New York includes Jean Georges and Kat and Theo, and he met Serena while they were both cooking together at Pearl and Ash. They relocated to the Bay Area about two years ago, and David was the chef de cuisines at at Bird Dog in Palo Alto and Sorrel. Serena worked at many places in New York City, including Eleven Madison Park, and locally was pastry chef and director of culinary projects at Bird Dog, and took over as bakery manager and as a lead of the pastry team of Backhaus in San Mateo, where she is still working.

They know it’s an absolutely insane moment to be opening a restaurant, but they are excited to share their dream and are up for the challenge, innovating creative solutions for these unpredictable times. Since they’re right by Precita Park, they’re going to offer two kinds of picnics: you can swing by for a picnic basket all packed and ready to go, and return it when you’re done—no fuss, no lugging. One will include their housemade charcuterie, including rillettes and pâté with accoutrements, while the other option will be more of a full spread, with roasted chicken sandwiches, new potato salad, wax bean and pattypan salad, and a stone fruit hand pie. They’re hoping to start offering this in mid-August—just in time for our Fogust summer.

The next stage will be offering affordable and easy meal kits, with dishes like smoked lamb ribs, or glazed short-ribs with potato purée, plus some fun holiday meals, like a Labor Day picnic. They also plan to offer some pantry and larder items, like cured bacon. They’ll be making many things in house, from cheeses to butter to salumi.

Right now, they’re making some updates to the 100-year-old building and doing a bit of a face lift, but they really love the space—it has great bones, a perfect location, and they fortunately have a good deal on rent (it ends up an investor bought the building and needed an operator for the space).

They’re applying for a parklet and outdoor seating, and when they can serve outside, we’ll see a three-course, prix-fixe, market-driven menu that highlights local and sustainable ingredients, and old school cooking techniques meets modern day minimalism. They want a place that feels simultaneously comfortable for the neighborhood, but special enough for date night or other occasions. For dessert, Serena will be working on ice creams, and loves sundaes, pavlova, and panna cotta.

I’ll keep you updated on the various stages of their opening, but for now, you can follow along on @marlenarestaurant. 300 Precita Ave. at Folsom.

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(The photo caption/source for this image was accidentally deleted.)

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A selection of pasta dishes from Trattoria Bruno. Instagram photo via @trattoriabrunosf.

First, I just have to share how happy I am to see that ~ST. FRANCIS FOUNTAIN~ is back open—it didn’t look good for a minute there…and things are still precarious for ALL restaurants. Please support this treasured SF diner (since 1918—yes, during the last pandemic!) with takeout or enjoy brunch at one of their outdoor tables—or get a strawberry shake to go. Open Mon-Fri 9am-2pm and Sat-Sun 9am-3pm. 2801 24th St. at York.

~ALEXANDER’S STEAKHOUSE~ in SoMa has temporarily flipped to a more-affordable Italian concept: Trattoria Bruno, from chef Eric Upper. Look for handmade and stuffed pasta (like pappardelle with wagyu ragù, housemade cappellacci stuffed with corn and squash purée, spaghetti tossed in Santa Barbara uni cream and topped with fresh uni and bottarga, handmade casoncelli stuffed with roasted wagyu and glazed in a beef-butter sauce, and handmade tagliatelle with wagyu hitachi sausage, sweet Italian pepper, and red wine), with antipasti and boutique Italian wines. There’s also a dinner for two. Available for pickup and delivery daily, 12pm-9pm.

And over in Fruitvale, chef-owner Nite Yun is reopening ~NYUM BAI~ today, Tuesday July 28th, after working through some recent discrimination issues involving her employees and workplace culture. Takeout and delivery only (five-mile radius), Tue-Sat 4:30pm-8:30pm. 3340 East 12th St., Oakland.

Since we’re in Oakland, here’s one tidbit to look forward to: the wildly popular S+M Vegan pop-up, known for their shaobing sandwich and other flavor-packed dishes, has signed a lease on a restaurant location! They’re taking over the former Liba falafel and salad bar location (RIP, dear Liba—Gail Lillian closed her restaurant in June after eleven years of so much hard work— this brutal restaurant climate proved to be too much of a loss to try to keep it going). The new project will be called Lion Dance Cafe, and they’ll be serving their vegan Chinese-Singaporean fare, and they’re aiming for September for takeout only. Stand by for their Kickstarter campaign in a couple weeks. 380 17th St. at Franklin, Oakland.

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

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Nasi ulam at the Masak | Masak pop-up at Biondivino. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

After two-and-and-half years on the Divisadero Corridor, ~BARVALE~ has decided to close, and in a couple weeks, the Back of the House restaurant group will be opening a pop-up location of Beretta. Hoodline has further details: the menu will be pretty much identical to the original on Valencia (antipasti, pizza, pasta), they plan to open the week of August 10th, and will offer takeout and outdoor seating. 661 Divisadero St. at Grove.

There was a devastating five-alarm fire that happened this morning in SoMa, which sadly burned out the commissary kitchen on 14th Street for food businesses like ChiliCali, Masak Masak, FulFilled Foods, and it was the brand-new delivery/takeout home for Eko Kitchen, who lost everything (all inventory, equipment, and special ingredients from Nigeria)—you can read an update with Simi in the Chronicle here. 2020, why so hard? Stand by for ways to help these businesses—I imagine they are going to be looking for a commissary kitchen to work out of soon (I know @fulfilledsf needs a space ASAP to continue a project, please direct message them on Instagram). Eko Kitchen just posted a GoFundMe to help five of the food businesses impacted by the fire. Let’s support these businesses in any way we can, I will post updates on Instagram.

Fortunately, no one was hurt except for one firefighter who sustained a head injury and is going to be okay—there were more than 150 firefighters on the scene. Thank you, SFFD! Pink Onion Pizza was spared by 100 feet, although they may not reopen until tomorrow, and Izakaya Rintaro is okay, but closed for today. Nearby Rainbow Grocery and Public Works are also okay, whew. Best wishes to everyone, so sorry for the loss, especially in these already-brutal times.

Was sorry to read chef Jay Hamada is closing and selling JapaCurry, the first Japanese food truck in the Bay Area, and ~IZAKAYA ROKU~ at 1819 Market Street, known for its katsu curry. The last day is July 31st, come by for a last bowl and some deals on sake. [Via SFGate.]

~CHA-AM THAI~ in SoMa—just next to the Yerba Buena Gardens—has permanently closed after 30 years in business. 701 Folsom St. at 3rd St. [Via Hoodline.]

Up the coast in Point Reyes Station, chef-owner Christian Caizzo has decided to close ~OSTERIA STELLINA~, after almost twelve years of business. The restaurant was hyper-local and seasonal, with some amazing pizzas and vegetable dishes, and oysters, of course. It will be missed by many. In a letter he sent, Caizzo says, “Please continue to visit us at Toby’s Coffee Bar, the farmers’ market, and at future projects, yet to come.”