November 10, 2020

November 10, 2020
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Aquitaine’s moules marmandes—Mediterranean mussels, chorizo, tomato concassè, grilled tartine. Photo courtesy of Aquitaine.

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There’s no shortage of wine to choose from (and bring home) and Aquitaine’s new Castro location. Photo courtesy of Aquitaine.

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The spacious patio at Bacco’s new location. Photo courtesy of Bacco via Yelp.

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Falafel salad and side dishes at the new Abu Salim Middle Eastern Grill. Photo courtesy of Abu Salim via Yelp.

One year ago, at the end of 2019, chef-owner Laurent Manrique (Cafe de la Presse) and business partner Andrew Fidelman closed the Financial District location of their Southwest French wine bar and bistro, ~AQUITAINE~, and put everything into storage until their new Castro location was ready. Of course, the pandemic caused further delays. But now, there’s a new and open business on Church Street, which has been feeling quite desolate lately—the sunflower sign and colorful umbrellas are already cheering up this stretch of the street.

You’ll find an extensive wine list and retail selection (30 percent off all wines to go), while the all-day menu is the perfect format for enjoying a few bites with your wine (like cheese and charcuterie, deviled eggs, prawn tartine, smoked bacon tart), or go full-on with a Gascon burger, mussels, Basque chicken, or a ribeye for two. Take a look at the all-day menu here.

There’s a shared space with tables outside (and the umbrellas). Happy hour is Tue-Sat 2pm-5pm ($6 snacks and beer, $8 wine selections), open until 9pm. They accept reservations by phone or email for now: 415-658-7863. 210 Church St. at Market.

After 27 years on Diamond Street in Noe Valley, ~BACCO~ has moved to a new location at 3913 24th Street, previously Savor Open Kitchen (which closed earlier this year, in January). Owner Shari Dominici continues to run the restaurant after the tragic passing of her husband Paolo Dominici in 2009, working with the former co-owner/opening chef and now ongoing consulting chef Vincenzo Cucco (Divino in Belmont), who has updated the menu. You’ll still find their extensive menu of housemade pasta dishes, but they’ve added pizza as well (five different choices). Take a look at their spacious and enclosed patio, nice. Open Tue-Sun 5pm-8pm. 3913 24th St. at Sanchez.

While the new location of ~OLD JERUSALEM RESTAURANT~ remains closed in the Mission due to roof and water damage from fireworks (they hope to reopen in a couple months), they just gave us a wonderful surprise and have opened a new business, ~ABU SALIM MIDDLE EASTERN GRILL~ in the Upper Haight (in the former Burger Urge location).

The menu includes their classic dishes of hummus with fluffy pita, falafel, shawarma, kebabs, and their awesome wraps and platters with their delicious turmeric rice, plus special Palestinean dishes, like their mosbaha (hummus with garlic, lemon, and whole chickpeas), their musakhan sumac chicken (a fave), and Ramallah-style falafel. Everything always tastes so fresh and handmade, and the price is right. There are also some loaded shawarma fries, which should please any stoners in the neighborhood (LOL). There are tables outside, with takeout as well. Open daily 11am-9pm and until 10pm on weekends. 1599 Haight St. at Clayton.

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Scallop crudo at Gardenias with blood orange satsuma, yuzu salt, ponzu, crispy shallots, shiso, extra virgin olive oil. Photo courtesy of Gardenias.

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The oxtail bo kho at Lily, demonstrated with the pro move of ordering it with the banh mi/baguette, pâté, and shallot mayo. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The bun cha Hanoi barbecue platter comes with Sakura Farms heritage pork. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Lime sinh to yogurt drink with salty kumquat. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I’m so happy to report that ~GARDENIAS~ has reopened in Lower Pacific Heights/Upper Fillmore. Chef-owners Dana Tommasino and Margie Conard (previously Woodward’s Garden) have opened for dining in their new outdoor shared space and on their charming back patio, serving their seasonal magic with dishes like scallop crudo, blood orange satsuma, yuzu salt, ponzu, crispy shallots, shiso, extra virgin olive oil; a pappa al pomodoro (tomato-bread soup) with roasted yellow romas, leeks, and Parmigiano; and ricotta gnocchi, roasted maitake mushrooms, spinach gorgonzola, and truffle zest. Sign me up. Dinner service begins at 5:30pm. They’d love to see you. 1963 Sutter St. at Fillmore.

Over in the Inner Richmond, the recently opened ~LILY~ from Lily and Lucy Lieu has expanded to offer takeout dinner service as well. Chef Rob Lam’s dinner menu is as full-on delicious as their daytime chao (you have to try the forbidden rice jook/porridge with succulent rock shrimp, housemade XO with prosciutto and lap cheong, and some of the best century egg I’ve tasted—plus the surprise bonus of youtiao/fried dough) and alllll the banh mi.

The new dinner menu includes braised oxtail bo kho, a tomato-y stew fragrant with lemongrass and a hit of shrimp paste and so rich—once you flake away the tender meat from the bone, you gotta pile it into one of their baguettes (slather on the shallot mayo and housemade pâté for the ultimate, decadent banh mi)—or you can have it with buttery rice. Another wintery dish is the vegetarian curry chay with bamboo heart, cabbage, and fried taro, served with a bountiful mix of herbs like culantro, rau ram, and Thai basil. All the fresh vegetables here really shine.

The bun cha Hanoi barbecue platter features Sakura Farms heritage pork, grilled over binchotan charcoal (and there are also springy herb-studded meatballs), which you wrap up with rice noodles, herbs, and tender sliced onion into fresh Little Gem leaves. And there’s a version of the classic cha ca la Vong, with turmeric-scented fried fish, a bunch of herbs with this dish’s trademark dill, and a one-way ticket to funky town with the pineapple fermented shrimp sauce that you dollop on your lettuce wraps.

Don’t miss the shaking beef salad, available for lunch or a main dish salad for dinner, with the most tender cubes of Creekstone filet mignon, and they’ve added a couple more sinh to yogurt drinks, now made with Alexandre Farms extra-creamy milk, including the bright lime version with salty kumquat. Rob may be a good friend of mine, but I am so obsessed with his food right now—check it out! Takeout hours are Wed-Sun 11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm. 225 Clement St. at 4th Ave.

The Señor Sisig crew announced their new Señor Sisig Vegano truck on Instagram, and just had their launch this past weekend. For now, you can find the truck in the parking lot for Cherin’s Appliances at 701 Valencia Street, Sat 2pm-8pm and Sun 11am-5pm; look for additional locations later on. You can read more about the menu and their R&D in this Eater piece. And have a listen to the On the Fly by tablehopper episode with CEO Evan Kidera.

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A pic with Madame Cecilia Chiang at Meals on Wheels Star Chefs & Vintners Gala in 2012. Horrors, her glass was empty!

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Cecilia Chiang in “Soul of a Banquet.” Be sure to watch this beautiful documentary about her. Photo via Facebook.

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Yelp photo by Heather W.

The day after I sent my previous tablehopper newsletter, one of our city’s most treasured culinary icons departed this mortal plane, our matriarch of Chinese cuisine, Madame Cecilia Chiang. What a force. She made being 100 years old look youthful—and the way she lived, it was like she packed numerous lives into those rich, deeply textured, experience-filled years of hers. She was a mentor to many, and had an impact on so many chefs, businesses, restaurant industry folks, and fortunate friends. You can read my earlier homage to her here.

The evening she passed, I called a couple of her dear friends to check in: Patricia Unterman, who dined with Cecilia often, and has provided me with so many wonderful recommendations for banquet dinner locations with my friends over the years; and George Chen (China Live), who told me she affectionately called him her “problem child,” who has known her for over 50 years, and even worked for her at her groundbreaking Mandarin restaurant. It was so good to connect with both of them, and hear their stories and love and respect for her. You can read some remembrances in this Eater piece, and I loved some of the pics Hoodline dug up in their post. Cecilia was one of a kind, from an era that can’t be revisited, and her impact on our culinary scene will live on—what a life, what a legacy, what a lady.

Last week, I was so sorry to hear of the passing of restaurateur Sylvie Le Mer, the visionary behind our city’s beloved Ti Couz, which closed in 2011. That restaurant was so unique and was one of my favorite hangouts in the 90s and early aughts. The candlelight, the busy bar, the fantastic crepes, the music, the fun crowd, and it was where I first learned about French cider. I had fun looking at this old menu, reminiscing over old favorite dishes. I loved going there on dates, and always brought friends from out of town there so they could experience a slice of SF I adored, bookended with drinks at Dalva (I vaguely remember servers from Ti Couz would come get you when your table or counter seat was ready). Reading this homage in Mission Local, you read what a true heart of the neighborhood Sylvie was, helping her fellow business owners and more. RIP, Sylvie. Just 60 years old. May she be at peace.

And on Sunday November 1st, restaurateur Sam DuVall passed away at 80. He was known for many atmospheric restaurants, including Elite Cafe, Cafe Royale, The Front Room, and Izzy’s Steaks and Chops. The team at Izzy’s shared this farewell post to him on Instagram (which mentions this website, where people are sharing tributes), and you’ll enjoy reading his career history in this Chronicle piece.

I just realized each one of these precious folks have passed at twenty-year gaps: 60, 80, and 100. Thank you to each of them for contributing to our city’s culture, and condolences to their family and friends and fans.

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Take your pick from a variety of dinners to enjoy at home from local chefs for this year’s virtual Cochon555. Photo courtesy of Cochon555.

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White truffles. Flickr photo from Erika Kerekes.

Currently underway this week is a special online version of the annual Cochon555 event: Carryout with Cochon555, running in San Francisco from now until Sunday November 15th, with curated carry-out meals, wine, spirits, and a virtual experience. You can order meals from remaining chefs: Thursday, November 12th: chef Lorenzo Caamal (Merkado); Saturday, November 14th: chef Francis Ang (Pinoy Heritage) and Kevin Diedrich (Pacific Cocktail Heaven); and Sunday, November 15th: chef Mark Sullivan and chef Jake Burkhardt (Village Pub, Woodside). The menus look great! And folks in the Peninsula, you can easily access the Village Pub meal!

Guests will purchase tickets ($100 for one; $185 for two—use code COCHON25 for 25 percent off!), which will include a multi-course meal prepared by the featured chef, with most of the ingredients sourced from heritage breed pig farms; a bottle of wine (red or white) from Patz & Hall; and a cocktail kit or pre-mixed cocktail comprised of either Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Wheatley Vodka, Johnnie Walker, or Mount Gay Rum. During a 45-minute live Zoom, the chefs will recreate one of the featured dishes (guests will cook along); the other dishes will be pre-prepared and ready to heat and/or serve. You can choose to pick up your kit at the chef’s designated restaurant or have it delivered for an additional fee. Cochon555 has committed to donating 80 percent of the ticket proceeds to the participating restaurants. Purchasing a “Carry Out with Cochon555” ticket also gets you a 50 percent discount to one 2021 Cochon555 event!

Smell that earthy and expensive fragrance in the air? It’s white truffle season, and I’m seeing some mentions of dishes and dinners pop up at the Piemontese Perbacco (always a classic for the best dishes topped with tartufi!), Mezzaluna in Princeton by the Sea is hosting a festival from November 13th-22nd, and you can always count on Acquerello to do something fabulous. Donato Enoteca in Redwood City has a special menu starting Friday! I’ll be updating my Instagram Stories with more truffle sightings (and sniffs).

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