Denham Returns to the Stoves for a Week at Laïola

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Laïola exterior (photo from Laïola).

I thought this was a cool way to handle (and celebrate) a restaurant’s transition: before ~LAÏOLA~ transforms into Tacolicious, they will be hosting a series of dinners with the original chef, Mark Denham, and some of the original crew will be returning to cook as well. The dinners will stretch four nights (December 28th-31st), offering an à la carte menu that reflects both the restaurant that Denham created at Laïola, as well as a sneak preview of his upcoming animal-to-table restaurant concept called Bishop (more on that in a sec). Here’s a look at Denham’s menu for these special evenings, and it includes his signature chickpeas with house-made blood sausage; a brussels sprout salad with almonds, Serena cheese, and Meyer lemon; an esquiexada of local hamachi, celery, radish, and chopped egg; local petrale sole a la plancha with winter greens and crispy trotters; and roasted Napa Valley lamb, celeriac purée, and watercress. (Did your stomach just grumble? Mine did.) There will also be a New Year’s Eve menu ($75 for four courses).

So here’s more on Denham’s upcoming project: it’s tentatively named Bishop—an homage to his Chez Panisse mentor, Willy Bishop. And while Denham doesn’t have a location locked in yet, he sure does have a clear concept. It’s going to be a Mediterranean-inspired menu with local ingredients, with a special emphasis on his whole-animal program. Denham said in an email to me, “This time around I will not cave on serving anything I cannot procure whole.” (You can read more about using the whole animal in an article I wrote for meatpaper a while ago.) He also said the style will be modest, intimate, tavern-y, with a heavy focus on beer, all wines by glass/carafe/bottle, etc. Denham’s dream location will be in the Mission/Noe Valley/SoMa/Upper Market area, with occupancy around 65 to 75 seats. Let’s hope 2010 helps Bishop find a church!