August 10, 2021

August 10, 2021
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Sneak peek of a starter from Restaurant Nisei’s tasting menu. Instagram photo via @restaurantnisei.

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Sfogliatelle at Antonio’s Italian Pastries. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Trans visibility is on the menu at Fluid Cooperative Cafe at La Cocina Municipal Marketplace. Instagram photo by @engvinny.

Quick heads up that ~RESTAURANT NISEI~ is planning to open in their brand-new Russian Hill location (previously La Folie) on August 18th, and they have released reservations to try their 12-course tasting menu ($157) that explores Japanese, homestyle, washoku cuisine with California seasonality and ingredients. Stand by for more details in my next newsletter, but if you ever went to chef David Yoshimura’s Oji pop-up, you’ll be excited to book a meal. Vaccinated guests only. Open Wed-Sun 5pm-9pm. 2316 Polk St. at Green.

Another tidbit: next door, the team is opening Bar Iris, a Japanese-influenced cocktail bar with cocktails by bar manager Ilya Romanov (previously Niku), which is coming soon—enjoy a sneak peek here.

According to a tweet from supervisor Matt Haney, the historic ~CATHAY HOUSE~ in Chinatown is now softly open from owners Jaynry Mak and Eric Chung, who opened ~DIM SUM CORNER~ on the ground floor back in 2019. Cathay House is reportedly starting with dim sum service—since Dim Sum Corner uses recipes developed by Koi Palace, and some of the items, like the dumplings, are actually supplied by Koi Palace’s commercial kitchen, it makes me wonder if it will be the same story for Cathay House (one can only hope!). I reached out for more info and will update you when I hear back. Haney mentions, “It’ll be a daytime and nighttime food venue, banquet hall and bar.” I look forward to seeing the vintage round bar and lounge back in action. 718 California St. at Grant.

Just a few days ago, I visited Tony Gemignani’s Toscano Brothers Bakery (and Dago Bagel) in North Beach to check out his latest addition to the lineup: ~ANTONIO’S ITALIAN PASTRIES~. He’s collaborating with the talented pastry chef Lisa Lu, who has been a regular in the neighborhood for years, and is head pastry chef. She brings her extensive pedigree (Boulevard, Michael Mina, Jardinière, and Quince) and well-honed skills, adding a number of fun and delicious Italian-inspired treats to the bakery case.

You can’t miss the Italian rainbow cookie (get more than one, trust me), with fragrant almond cake, raspberry jam, and 
chocolate, and there’s also a spumoni shortbread cookie, with vanilla and little panes of Italian candied cherry and 
pistachio. 
They have two versions of sfogliatella: with an apricot-lemon-mascarpone filling (using old-school squeeze-pit Blenheims) and nocciolata (an organic cocoa and hazelnut 
spread). While I will continue to pine for the lightly orange-scented and ricotta-filled sfogliatella from my favorite pasticceria in Rende (Calabria), these were tasty, with a great textural contrast between the filling and layers of pastry.

There are filled-to-order cannoli (dipped in pistachio, chocolate chip, or rainbow sprinkles)—be sure to eat them soon after ordering them—and you’ll find a lovely seasonal tart with perfect vanilla custard and fresh fruit. Don’t skip Tony’s favorite, the budino: butterscotch and toffee pudding with Johnnie Walker Red Scotch, with flaky chocolate 
crunch, olive oil ganache, and topped with Chantilly cream, a really special treat full of layers of flavor for just $6. 
Open Thu-Sun 8am-3pm. 728 Vallejo St. at Stockton.

There’s a new coffee pop-up in the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace called ~FLUID COOPERATIVE CAFE~, from a trio of trans founders: Shannon Amitin, JoJo Ty, and Santana Tapia. They’re serving coffee from queer-owned roasters, plus some speciality drinks, along with pastry pairings from La Cocina entrepreneurs. (This project makes me so happy to be a San Franciscan.) Be sure to read this in-depth piece from Peter-Astrid Kane on SFGATE about this trailblazing project. Can’t wait to swing by for a cuppa. Open Mon-Fri 8am-2:30pm (enter through the 332 Golden Gate Ave. door).

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The standing bar (in the background). Photo by Robin Stein.

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New dishes, drinks, and bubbles await at the relaunched Black Cat. Photo: Eric Wolfinger.

After a pandemic season of changes, from running their takeout window to collaborative meals like Lord Jiu’s, ~LORD STANLEY~’s husband-and-wife owners and chefs Rupert and Carrie Blease are transforming the restaurant into Turntable at Lord Stanley this fall. They are going to host world-renowned and up-and-coming chefs to collaborate, try out new concepts, or simply cook for a new audience—chefs can be in residence for up to two months at a time, and the Bleases will take them to local farmers’ markets and provide housing. They’re partnering with Michael Goldman, founder of TasteMakers, known for facilitating culinary collaborations and events, including Chefs Club in New York, Aspen, and Taipei.

First up, starting September 7th is Narda Lepes of Narda Comedor, an Argentinian chef, entrepreneur, media personality, food activist, and author who was named “Latin America’s Best Female Chef” by the World’s 50 Best list in 2020. Lepes is bringing with her three other outstanding female Argentinian chefs who will each spend about a month showcasing their menus in the Turntable space between September and the end of November, including Micaela Najmanovich, owner of restaurant Anafe, and chef Mercedes “Mecha” Solís of Café San Juan. Saturday, September 4th will be the final service of Lord Stanley as it has existed for the last six years. Cheers to this new chapter and thanks to the Bleases.

Chef Michael Mina is closing his namesake restaurant and this September is launching ~ESTIATORIO ORNOS A MICHAEL MINA RESTAURANT~ in its place, a Greek, seafood-centric restaurant with Las Vegas chefs Girair “Jerry” Goumroian (Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, Restaurant Guy Savoy and RM Seafood) and Nikolaos Georgousis (Estiatorio Milos). Mina already opened Estiatorio Ornos in Miami in 2020, and the “fish sommelier” role is coming over to this location as well. The transformation of 252 California will feel like a return to the space’s AQUA days, with a vibrant bar, coastal aesthetic, and Grecian color palette.

The shareable, seafood-centric menu will include dishes like Mediterranean sea bass ceviche with lemon citronette; ouzo prawns in a spicy tomato sauce with dill and feta; and an array of fish on the cart, from sea bream to wild branzino. There will also be roasted lemon chicken with Cretan potatoes, grilled Colorado lamb chops with oregano vinaigrette, and a “spread cart” showcasing dips such as tzatziki, melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant), and tirokafteri (whipped feta). The cocktail menu and wine list will also reflect the new direction. 252 California St. at Battery (just four blocks away from Kokkari).

Over in the Tenderloin, Fritz Quattlebaum has relaunched the ~BLACK CAT~ jazz club and restaurant, with a new team, menu, beverage program, and artist programming, now featuring multi-week residencies (the current lineup features jazz trumpeters Theo Croker, Maurice “Mobetta” Brown, and Keyon Harrold). I have always had a blast visiting the club, and am happy to see it return.

You can look at chef Yainiel Negrón’s menu here (previously at Commonwealth and the Proper Hotel), and sommelier/AGM Eric Forbes (previously Foreign Cinema) has assembled quite the grower-producer and vintage Champagne list. Craft cocktails are from Jason Moser (Villon and the Proper Hotel, Forgery, and Ne Timeas Restaurant Group), clocking in at $18 each, so don’t forget your plastic. There’s also the upstairs dining room and bar, featuring nightly DJs spinning vinyl. Proof of vaccination required for entry.

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The interior of Linden & Laguna. Photo via L&L’s website.

Back in June, I mentioned ~LINDEN & LAGUNA~ was taking over the former The Riddler, and it’s now softly open. Owner Chris Nickolopoulos (of Maritime Wine Trading Collective, a boutique wine import, production, and distribution company based in San Francisco) has updated the space which feels a bit more masculine, but is still cozy and neighborhood-y. There are tables inside and out front.

The wine list features independent, family-produced wines, with a few well-known local beers on draught. He tapped Pesha Perlsweig to consult on the extensive menu, which includes seasonal, Californian, and Mediterranean dishes, like sherried wild mushroom and fresh mozzarella flatbread with lemon-thyme oil; brandade gratinée toast with arugula and pickled shallot salad; Marin Miyagi oysters with mignonette; chicken, kale, and white bean soup with lemon and yogurt; and lamb chop lollipops with thyme-garlic sauce. You can check out the menu and wine list online. Hours are Wed-Thu 4pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-12am, Sun 12pm-7pm. 528 Laguna St. at Linden.

Before leaving town, I noticed this thoughtful post from co-owner Angel Davis of Fig & Thistle Market in the Castro, announcing its transformation to ~MILLAY~, which will be less of a bottle shop, and more of “a wine and sake focused bar, you will still be able to buy bottles to go online or in person if you need to, but our focus will be experience within the space.” Read the post for more, it’s a beautiful homage to business partner Nguey Lay’s family legacy in the space (the famed M&L Market). Fig & Thistle in Hayes Valley remains as is (except with killer pizza now). Open Mon and Wed-Thu 4pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm, Sun 2pm-8pm. 691 14th St. at Market.

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Town Hall’s new outdoor plaza seating. Photo courtesy of Town Hall Restaurant.

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Uma Casa’s cheerful seaside-like interior.

I was happy to receive the email about Patricia Unterman’s ~HAYES STREET GRILL~’s reopening, serving lunch Friday 11:30am-2:30pm and dinner 5pm-9pm, an all-day menu Sat 11:30am-5pm and then dinner until 9pm, and Sun 12pm-6pm—they’re also opening for performance nights on Thursdays, so check their website for updates. Their entire staff is vaccinated and anyone who dines indoors is requested to be fully vaccinated—otherwise, there are sidewalk tables placed along the warm, south-facing front of the building. Also nice: Hayes Street from Franklin to Laguna is closed to traffic on Friday nights and all day Saturday and Sunday through August. 320 Hayes St. at Franklin.

Great news: ~TOWN HALL~ is back with their awesome lunch (including their famous fried chicken in a sandwich) and weekend brunch service (hello, eggs Benedict with their buttermilk biscuits and fab Bloody Mary). They plan to expand the menu and hours as things ramp up. For now, lunch is Thu-Fri 11:30am-2pm, brunch Sat-Sun 11am-3pm, and dinner service continues Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm.

Exciting news at ~UMA CASA~: chef-owner Telmo Faria tells me they’re getting their liquor license, and his wife Jessi Graham will be launching a Portuguese-centric cocktail program in a couple weeks (she was bar lead/manager at Pearl 6101 for two years). More on this soon!

We could all use some happy, and ~CAUSWELLS~ in the Marina just launched a happy hour Tue-Fri 4pm-6pm and Sat-Sun 3pm-5pm (weekend happy hour rocks). The menu includes their Americana burger sliders ($4.50 each), classic deviled eggs ($2.50 each), and more, with $6 glasses and $24 bottles of red, white, and rosé offerings, as well as $4 canned beers, and specialty cocktails ($9), including strawberry slushies, house Margaritas, and seasonal spritzes. 

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The Sunset Squares slice shop on Divisadero. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

A quick follow-up from my previous post about things happening in the Namu Restaurant Group. I wasn’t given clearance to write about it before I left, but the brothers converted the former Namu Stonepot on Divisadero into a stealth Sunset Squares pizza shop, offering both their square and round pizzas by the slice or pie (they kept the signage generic, so let’s just say if you know, you know). Last night, my deadline dinner was a slice of their new clam chowder square, and their spicy pepperoni round (the crust had great texture and heft and flavor). Let’s just say I am extremely stoked to have a quality slice in the neighborhood.

Sadly, things didn’t work out for their original ~NAMU GAJI~ concept and space on Dolores Park—in a recent IG post, they announced their closure, and that they are focusing on Sunset Squares Pizza Beer Hall in SoMa (which is where some Namu Stonepot dishes live on). You can read more about the pandemic-related landlord difficulties in this Eater piece.

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The sourdough pastrami sandwich from Hot Johnnie’s. Yelp photo by Jessica S.

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Sweet heat pineapple pizza from JoyRide Pizza. Yelp photo by Jarred M..

Hoodline announced that ~HOT JOHNNIE’S~ is now open in the former Nizario’s Pizza in the Castro (and an adjoining space), slinging house-smoked pastrami sandwiches (for $20 a pop—at that price, I’d love to at least see on the menu where chef-owner Jonathan Young is sourcing the beef; but then again, the vegan “Unreal” Ruben is $18, soooo…it’s just SF), plus a pastrami fried chicken sandwich, pastrami nachos, tacos, and other dishes on the menu. Beer and wine are coming. There’s also a surprisingly spacious patio in the back. Open Sun, Tue-Wed 11:30am-5pm and Thu-Sat 11:30am-9pm. 4077 18th St. at Castro.

The former Tyger’s Café has reopened as ~GLEN PARK CAFÉ~ from owners Damon Victorson and his wife, Ellie—Damon’s mother owns the building, and it ends up “Mario, who cooked at Tyger’s for years, remains in the kitchen, but the menu is new.” Read more in the Glen Park Association post. Open Wed-Sun 8am-2:30pm. 2798 Diamond St. at Chenery.

Congrats to ~SWEET GLORY~, a dessert pop-up that recently opened their brick-and-mortar location in the Tenderloin. I have been eyeballing their roll cakes, crepe cakes, and cream puffs for too long. Open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm and Sat-Sun 9:30am-6pm. 721 Larkin St. at Ellis.

The former Mo’z (previously The Corner Store) across from Target on Geary is now ~THE HOUSE OF HUMMUS~, featuring six kinds of hummus, wraps, Mediterranean tacos, and platters; (menu here). 5 Masonic Ave. at Geary.

Another Mediterranean spot is ~THE BITE~ in SoMa, a vegan-friendly spot offering salads, rice bowls, hummus, and wraps, and serving late. Open Mon-Tue 11am-10pm, Wed-Sat 11am-2am, Sun 11am-9pm. 996 Mission St. at 6th St.

The former Samovar locations in Yerba Buena and the Mission are now ~JOYRIDE PIZZA~, serving six kinds of Detroit-style pizza for dine-in, parklet or patio dining, pickup, and delivery. Yerba Buena Gardens: 730 Howard St., open 12pm-8pm; 411 Valencia St., 12pm-9pm (hours may vary).