January 17, 2023

January 17, 2023
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The jaw-dropping design of the new Akikos at The Avery. Photo: Garrett Rowland.

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Madai: wild sea bream topped with house-cured bottarga. Photo: Joseph Weaver.

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Angular elements at the entry bar. Photo: Garrett Rowland.

It was pretty thrilling to walk into the new ~AKIKOS~ at The Avery at Avery Lane in SoMa for their launch party last month. Chef-owner Ray Lee is on a tear—he recently opened the exclusive sushi counter, Friends Only, and now this 2,700-square-foot, chic sushi stadium, designed by AvroKO. When you walk in, there’s a bar and waiting area that feels like a stylish 1980s museum in a sauna where you’ll be able to get one of Quade Marshall’s cocktails or a glass of Champagne before heading up a few steps intro the dining room.

The room is dramatically centered around a 24-seat chef’s stage and island, where Ray, head sushi chef Shinsuke Hayashi, and the team of chefs will unfold the omakase show. Ray is continuing to use dry agers on his exquisitely and sustainably sourced, single line-caught fish like he’s doing at Friends Only for optimal flavor and texture. The omakase tasting (for dinner, it’s $250, while lunch service is an abbreviated menu for $150) begins with a selection of otsumami (appetizers), such as dry-aged and smoked sashimi; chawanmushi with snow crab, black truffle, and roasted scallion oil; Hokkaido wagyu beef dumplings wrapped in puff pastry with aged Parmesan; and shokupan, grilled milk bread topped with toro and kaluga caviar. The nigiri selection can include zuke—a 10-day, dry-aged, soy-cured bluefin tuna—to kamasu (young barracuda), to akamutsu (a favorite, deep sea perch), followed by housemade, seasonal ice cream for dessert. Ray is always innovating and working on something (Friends Only is his R&D lab), so his regulars can count on a new experience every time they visit.

The design is so visually pleasing and quite stunning, with warm and gleaming wood planks throughout, drawing inspiration from the 1970 Osaka Exhibition, as well as Frank Lloyd Wright, with geometric shapes and unexpected components, like when the chefs open drawers within their stations, a pop of color will be exposed. There are 46 seats total, with a curtained, semi-private dining room.

It’s pretty wild to remember the intimate counter and dark Akikos room when it was downtown (Ray’s parents opened the business in 1987, and he took over in 2009), and then to look at this spacious, dramatic, custom-designed room, outfitted with the best of everything, and a full bar. You’ve come a long way, baby! Open Tue-Fri 11:30am-1:30pm for lunch and Tue-Sat 5:30pm-8:30pm for dinner. 430 Folsom St. at Fremont.

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Mala BBQ pork ribs, with mala miso glaze, koji mayo, red onion relish, bubu arare. Photo courtesy of Piglet & Co.

Husband-and-wife team Chris Yang and Marcelle Gonzales are now in their third week of their soft-opening dinner service at ~PIGLET & CO.~, their first brick-and-mortar location in the Mission (they opened in the former Southpaw space and short-lived Above Ground).

The concept is non-traditional, Taiwanese-inspired cuisine, taking inspiration from dishes you’d find in night markets but made with local ingredients, and also freewheeling enough to include their favorite Asian comfort food dishes and flavors (Chris loves wings, and Marcelle loves barbecue, so she is way into their mala BBQ pork ribs). The food reflects their way of doing things, and making the kinds of dishes they love to eat, so you may find some Korean ingredients or Japanese influences on the menu, too.

The really appetizing menu includes honey walnut shrimp and pork toast (shokupan), rice porridge, chashao pork ssam, and Chinese-style steamed fish (Mt. Lassen trout with ginger-scallion relish). It’s designed to ideally be a meal you share with friends and family: if you got a four-top together, you could order and try all the dishes on the menu. Coming out of the pandemic, they know many people who want to be dining together again.

You may recognize the couple from their pop-ups (and meal kits!) the past three-four years, like El Chino Grande at numerous breweries, and Hén-zhì. El Chino Grande will reappear (with its famed tacos and burger) at future festivals, like Outside Lands.

When they host their grand opening on January 28th, they’ll be launching their family banquet menu plus a few more à la carte dishes, and Sunday brunch is coming February 5th (10am-2pm). Their beer and wine license should also be coming in February. The space has around 40 seats, with 10 at the bar. The décor reflects things they love since they plan on spending a great deal of time at the restaurant (including Bruce Lee on the TVs). The “& Co.” part of the name is in honor of all the community and folks who have helped them bring this restaurant to life.

Open for dinner Wed-Sat. (Book on Resy.) 2170 Mission St. at 18th St.

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Gao Viet Kitchen in SF. Yelp photo by Trewen W.

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Banh cuon from GAO Viet Kitchen. Instagram photo via @gaovietkitchen.

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The dining room at the new L’mida in the Marina. Photo courtesy of L’mida.

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48-hour beef short rib. Photo courtesy of Sura-Gan.

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The new Beluna Cafe in NoPa. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

I wanted to make sure you knew that ~GAO VIET KITCHEN & BAR~ is now open in SF—they had their soft opening in mid-December. I reported a couple years ago that this popular Vietnamese restaurant in San Mateo from chef-owner Viet Nguyen was coming to the former KFC/Taco Bell at Irving and 20th Avenue.

The menu of starters includes Vietnamese classics like chả giò (crispy imperial rolls) and bò tái chanh (beef carpaccio), plus special dishes like bánh khọt (mini savory pancakes) and bánh cuốn (steamed rice noodle rolls), and street seafood dishes, plus chef’s original creations, like marrow cracker with pork belly. There are multiple bowls of specialty phở (I really want to try the wok phở), including soft-shell crab bun rieu and bun bò hue, and the much-hyped/grammed big Gao phở ($33), with a huge beef short rib that sticks out of the bowl, plus filet mignon, marrow, onion, and 24-hour marrow broth. (There’s also the phozilla, which is ridiculous and $95 and built for social media, but go for it.)

Larger courses include shaking beef, five-spice chicken garlic noodles, pork ribs, bún chả (grilled pork belly and grilled fatty pork over rice vermicelli noodles). Family-style is the way here, so come with some dining partners, but be prepared to wait—chef has a lot of followers on the ‘gram. The space has two levels, a full bar, and is open Wed-Thu 4pm-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-11pm, Sun 4pm-10:30pm. 1900 Irving St. at 20th St.

Back in March of 2022, I mentioned ~SURAGAN~, a higher-end tasting menu of royal Korean dishes and luxury ingredients from chef Jongmoon Choi that was popping up in Sushi Sato. Eater reports the restaurant has now open in its own location at 250 Hyde Street. The 12-course tasting menu is $135, served Tue-Sat (two seatings nightly). 250 Hyde St. at Eddy.

Over in the Marina, there’s a new Cal-Moroccan spot the just opened, ~L’MIDA~, from the owners of Khamsa in the Mission (WhatNowSF reported last year it was opening in the former Chestnut Bakery). It has a stylish interior, with dishes coming from the pizza oven, like lahm ajin (minced meat with green peppers and tomatoes) and another flatbread with goat cheese, honey, dry figs, and walnuts. There are maakouda (potato fritters), tagines, mixed grill or fish dishes, and baked-to-order baklawa for dessert. Open nightly 5pm-10pm, and open for bar bites Mon-Thu 1pm-5pm and weekend brunch Sat-Sun 11am-2:30pm. 2359 Chestnut St. at Divisadero.

A friend mentioned a new dim sum spot that recently opened in SoMa in the former and longtime B & M Mei Sing Restaurant, ~VILLAGE TEA HOUSE~, with a varied menu of siu mai, sheng jian bao, boiled dumplings, and dishes like dan dan noodles and beef brisket noodle soup. Open Mon-Sat 11am-2pm and 5pm-8pm. 62 2nd St. at Jessie.

I am totally curious about this new TenderNob Venezuelan-Chinese restaurant, ~CANTOO LATIN ASIAN ROTISSERIE~, serving spicy garlic-fried calamari, chili oil pork dumplings, empanadas, and Venezuelan rotisserie chicken with fried rice, coleslaw, and two kinds of sauces (cilantro cream sauce and sweet and sour sauce, both housemade). Open daily 11am-11pm. 572 O’Farrell St. at Leavenworth.

A tablehopper reader let me know they saw a sign for ~PRINCESS BAKERY~ opening right next to Cinderella Bakery on Balboa (you can’t make this shit up). This is a second location of the Excelsior Chinese bakery known for its egg tarts, pork floss rolls and buns, chashu bao, pineapple buns, and more. 448 Balboa St. at 6th Ave.

Over in the Mission is ~GYROS AND TZATZIKI~ in the former Ritu from Turkish refugee Cem Bulutoglu. You should read Mission Local’s piece about this inspiring and hustlin’ entrepreneur, it will make you want to visit. Open daily 10am-9pm. 3111 24th St. at Folsom.

Out on a walk in my neighborhood, I noticed the former Oakside Café is now ~BELUNA CAFE~, with a bright blue sign, door, and walls (there’s also a mezzanine). The menu includes a variety of coffee drinks and some pastries and snacks. Open Mon-Fri 8am-3pm and Sat-Sun until 4pm. 1195 Oak St. at Broderick.

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The crispy chicken sando returns with Kin Khao’s lunch service. Instagram photo via @kinkhao.

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Eight Tables by George Chen. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Sprouted and toasted buckwheat with raw chestnuts and white Alba truffle at Sons & Daughters. Photo courtesy of Sons & Daughters.

Some quick bites for you: ~KIN KHAO~ has reopened for lunch downtown, serving favorites like their khao soi and chicken sandwich. Hours are Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm.

I’m so happy to see ~1601 BAR & KITCHEN~ has been opening for their regulars off and on the past few months, offering their Californian/Sri Lankan-influenced tasting menu for weekend service, as well as opening for private dining and events. (They also continue to prepare food for SF New Deal.) Just this past weekend, chef Brian Fernando put together a special Sri Lankan crab curry feast in honor of our local Dungeness crab season, and let me tell you, this crab curry was a wonder. (It was also a delightful mess to eat.) I’ll be sharing more on @tablehopper on Instagram when tickets for the next feast go live.

Meanwhile, ~EIGHT TABLES BY GEORGE CHEN~ is now offering a more-approachable, prix-fixe, five-course menu for $150 (launching on January 17th). The new, hyper-seasonal menu by chef de cuisine Floyd Nunn will change monthly—look for this month’s menu to include exciting dishes to honor the Lunar New Year/Year of the Rabbit. There will also be special à la carte supplements, and world-class wine pairings from sommelier Genaro Gallo, formerly of Restaurant Mugaritz. Dinner Tue-Sat.

Some news at ~SONS & DAUGHTERS~ (which opened in 2010 on Nob Hill): owner and chef Teague Moriarty has announced Harrison Cheney as the new executive chef to lead the kitchen team and menu development. Moriarty will be stepping away from the kitchen completely. Cheney has worked at Quince, two Michelin-starred Gastrologik in Stockholm, The Square in London, and at The Ledbury at Notting Hill, and will be showcasing modern, progressive dishes with Nordic influences and locally sourced ingredients.

New dishes include Laurentian rutabaga with cured wagyu fat; sprouted and toasted buckwheat with chestnuts and white Alba truffle; and cured Mt. Lassen trout with seasonal barigoule. He is joined by pastry chef Michelle Fried, previously at Eleven Madison Park and Saison. Desserts include koji ice cream with passionfruit and pink peppercorn; and Royal Tioga cherries with chocolate mousse, chocolate shortbread, fig leaf ice cream, and absinthe. The menu at Sons & Daughters is priced at $225 per person, served over the course of two and a half hours, with an optional beverage pairing for $165 per person.

In 2021, Moriarty sought to ensure his staff was compensated with higher salaries to align with the cost of living in the Bay Area, offer benefits to include two weeks of paid vacation, unlimited sick pay, fully paid health insurance, and split 50 percent of the profits. Tipping was replaced with an 18 percent service charge, which contributes to these salaries and benefits. The restaurant was also updated in 2020, with a new interior design with a larger stove, new flooring, painting, tables, banquettes, and increased wine storage. 708 Bush St. at Powell.

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Bluestem dining room; photo by Angie Silvy.

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Owner Jeanine Egan of The Cheese School of San Francisco (now at Daily Driver in Dogpatch). Photo: Pamela Gentile.

I only posted about this on Instagram, but wanted to be sure you knew Stacy and Adam Jed sadly closed ~BLUESTEM RESTAURANT AND MARKET~ on December 24th, after 11 years of business. You can read their farewell note here. Best wishes and thanks to them for all the tasty meals and cocktails and hospitality over the years.

After four years at Ghirardelli Square, ~THE CHEESE SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO~ has moved to ~DAILY DRIVER~’s spacious (7,000 square feet!) flagship location in Dogpatch, where they will share their spacious facilities to host classes, events, and lead farm tours, while also focusing on catering and a virtual tastings program. Jeanine Egan, owner of The Cheese School, is excited about access to Daily Driver’s built-in creamery (the only commercial cheesemaking facility in San Francisco), and the wood-fired ovens, plus all the great space for classes and events, like cheesemaking and pizza classes! It’s pure kismet because they even have opposite schedules: Daily Driver makes bagels and serves breakfast and lunch from 8am-2pm, while The Cheese School’s events are in the afternoons and evenings. Talk about a win-win!

The Cheese School’s upcoming classes (through June) just went live. They can also host parties, meetings, and team-building events and classes. Love seeing this kind of collaborative solution during these challenging times for business. 2535 3rd St. at 22nd St.

I’ve been looking at an ABC license transfer in the window of the now-closed ~ ZAYTOON~ on my neighborhood walks, listing a new business called La Sarrasine. SF Business Times tracked down incoming owner Kamel Bouzidi, who will be moving his downtown business (previously Cafe Med, and recently the Tunisian Dar Fatma, which I wrote about when it opened at 215 Pine Street) to Zaytoon’s space, reportedly offering Northern French buckwheat crêpes, plus kebabs, and other Mediterranean dishes. Here’s hoping the shakshuka and merguez sausage with tastira (peppers and eggs) and fries come over! Stand by for updates. [Thanks to Hoodline for the deets since I can’t afford a Biz Times subscription, LOL.] 607 Divisadero St. at Hayes.

A quick note that Lindsay and Michael Tusk of ~QUINCE~ have temporarily closed the restaurant until summer to do some renovations and redesign the dining room and bar, all in Quince’s 20th anniversary year. The post further says: “During the renovation, we will continue to host your private dining and events at Cotogna and Verjus and are available for catered events at locations of your choosing.” You can read a few more details in this Eater update.

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