The Chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
November 29, 2016
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Smoked duck jook with duck leg confit, pomegranate, and salty duck egg, and Chinese doughnut. Photo courtesy of Rob Lam.

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The Saturn Returns (Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro, pineapple). Photo: Breeane Furlong.

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The White Elephant (Lo-Fi Sweet Vermouth, coconut cream, cold-brew coffee, allspice dram).

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How many of you are as obsessed with jook or congee as I am? It’s the only thing I want when I am under the weather or hungover, or when it’s a cold and rainy morning. It’s also my favorite way to use a leftover turkey or chicken carcass (my freezer is always stocked with this magical rice porridge). Put an egg on it! Fortunately my chef buddy Rob Lam of Butterfly is also obsessed with jook, and since there isn’t anyone in SF doing anything very fun with this magical breakfast item, we decided to throw a brunch pop-up for you: Jook Joint.

We’re hosting the brunch on Sunday December 11th (in one-hour time blocks, from 10am-2pm), which is perfect for those of you who may have had a little too much holiday party cheer the night before. We’re excited to be partnering with Lo-Fi Aperitifs, who will be making a range of low-ABV cocktails for you to get you back in the game. Bartender extraordinaire Claire Sprouse (Tin Roof Drink Community) will be on deck, offering four inventive concoctions using Lo-Fi Dry Vermouth, Sweet Vermouth, and Gentian Amaro. As they like to say, “Lo-Fi Aperitifs are made with botanical conviction, crafted with superb California wines and whole ingredients.” Cheers to that.

This jook brunch will be prepared by chef Rob Lam of Butterfly, a good friend and one of my favorite people to eat with. Rob was born in Vietnam, and when his family moved to Southern California after the fall of Saigon, his mother opened a restaurant called Vien Dong, just outside of Los Angeles. Rob cares deeply about using quality ingredients, so expect things to taste extra-special. I have been lucky over the years to enjoy some of his home cooking and dishes you won’t find on the menu at Butterfly, so here’s your opportunity to try his seriously delicious Vietnamese cuisine.

You’ll be able to choose from three different jooks: there will be one with rock shrimp and crab (with XO chile sauce, crab-uni butter, century egg); smoked duck (with duck leg confit, pomegranate, salty duck egg); and vegetarian (poached farm egg, cilantro and kale pesto, bamboo pith, pickles)—and vegans, you can have it without the egg, no problem! All the jook will come with a traditional savory Chinese doughnut (youtiao) and Vietnamese coffee, and it’s $15 for the whole set ($2 extra if you want to put an egg on it).

You can also order a side of housemade shrimp dumplings (five for $8), and one, two, or three Lo-Fi Aperitif cocktails ($9 each)—you can take your pick from four at the brunch, including the White Elephant (Lo-Fi Sweet Vermouth, coconut cream, cold-brew coffee, allspice dram) and the Saturn Returns (Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro, pineapple). There are also nonalcoholic options (yuzu soda and a lychee Palmer, $4 each). Please note you’ll need to order these items in advance as a ticketed item, so if you plan to bring a jook home for the next day (or your roommate), order an extra bowl in advance!

It’s going to be a fun, lively, and casual brunch, and is designed to move pretty quickly, so we’ll be selling tickets in one-hour time blocks (10am-11am, 11am-12pm, 12pm-1pm, and 1pm-2pm). You don’t have to show up on the dot, but somewhere in that time frame would be great. We’ll reveal the Mission location when you get your ticket.

Tickets are available on Feastly. We can’t wait to see you, let’s eat!

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Chef Rob Lam of Butterfly. Photo courtesy of Butterfly.

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Canh ga chien/big Buddha chicken wings with yuzu shrimp paste. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Erin Brooks from Ernest Vineyards and sommelier Eugenio Jardim. Photo courtesy of Ernest Vineyards.

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Array of pork and shrimp skewers, with lettuce, herbs, sauces, and rice paper wrappers. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Did you ever get a chance to attend the two Vietnamese dinners I hosted with Feastly earlier this year, which sold out in less than 24 hours? Well, if you missed out on chef Rob Lam’s amazing food, or you would love to try some more of his dishes, here’s your chance, because we’re hosting another feast!

On Friday December 16th, I am thrilled to announce we’re hosting Family Style, a Vietnamese family-style dinner, paired with the restrained and elegant European-style wines from Ernest Vineyards, which are primarily sourced from carefully selected vineyards around Sonoma County. Wait until you taste these beautifully made and food-friendly wines! We did a preliminary tasting and were so happy to see how marvelously these wines paired with the menu. And since we’re partnering with Feastly, we’re going to be dining in a cool location in the Mission.

This Vietnamese feast will be prepared by chef Rob Lam of Butterfly, who is also a dear friend and one of my very favorite people to dine out with. I have been lucky over the years to enjoy some of his home cooking and dishes you won’t find on the menu at Butterfly, so here’s your opportunity to try his seriously delicious Vietnamese cuisine.

Rob was born in Vietnam, and when his family moved to Southern California after the fall of Saigon, his mother opened a restaurant called Vien Dong, just outside of Los Angeles, so restaurants are in his blood. And since Rob cares deeply about using quality ingredients, expect things to taste extra-special, with many housemade sauces and more.

During the evening, we have Ernest Vineyards co-founder Erin Brooks and sommelier and wine educator Eugenio Jardim, winner of Sunset Magazine’s 2010 Sommelier of the Year Award, who will be walking us through the pairings and educating us on these exquisite, site-specific wines, from the Eugenia rosé of cinsault (which is going to become your new favorite) to the fresh and floral Edaphos chardonnay, plus a pinot noir and grenache too.

The dinner will begin at 6:30pm, starting with an amuse on arrival (including bo tai chanh/hanger steak carpaccio and tartare). You can view the menu and wine pairings here. There will be three courses of authentic and flavorful dishes—from fried chicken wings with yuzu shrimp paste to bun rieu (Dungeness crab, egg, and tomato noodle soup with fried tofu and shrimp cake)—and the main event will be the bountiful family-style skewers course, served with a variety of pork and shrimp skewers (including some you have never seen before!), sauces, lettuce, herbs, and DIY rice paper wrappers. Get ready to roll up your sleeves.

With each course, you’ll enjoy an Ernest Vineyards wine pairing. There will also be dessert at the end: warm chocolate pot de crème with Vietnamese coffee sauce and matcha chantilly. Mmmmhmmm. No pairing for that one—it stands on its own! We’re planning to wrap up around 9:30pm, but probably closer to 10pm—you know how these things go. Sorry we can’t accommodate vegetarians at this meal since it’s a set menu.

Tickets are available on Feastly for just $80, all-inclusive. Yes, this is a steal, so don’t delay on getting your seat! We are selling tickets to the six bar seats separately, you can nab those here. I can’t wait to see you, especially around a table covered with delicious food prepared by one of my favorite chefs! See you!

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Beet blini with caviar and cured salmon. Photo: Lara Hata.

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Some of the booth seating at Finn Town. Photo: Alana Wolens.

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Friendsgiving: herb-roasted turkey, pan-seared confit stuffing, Grand Marnier cranberry sauce, and a popover. Photo: Lara Hata.

Opening this Friday December 2nd is chef Ryan Scott and business partner Rick Hamer’s ~FINN TOWN~ in the Castro, taking over the former Barracuda. It’s designed to be an upbeat and lively space (a “tavern with a twist”), with two bars, two happy hours, big booths, and plenty of cocktails to choose from, including three on tap (perfect for those “just give me a drink!” moments).

The dinner menu from chef de cuisine Jason Raffin is extensive, starting with oysters (raw, Rockefeller), beet blini with salmon and caviar, and smoked trout rillettes, moving to all kinds of small plates, like an iceberg wedge and chop salad and Parmesan polenta, and, of course, Scott’s killer deviled eggs. Hearty mains cover lamb meatloaf, tea-brined fried chicken, and brined and braised short ribs. Mascarpone gnudi with smoked mozzarella and brown butter will almost make you check your LDLs, but there’s grilled kale pistou on there, so whew. Burger, a double stack, check. And in a fun offering, there are a few entrée salads, with steak, chicken paillard, and grilled market fish.

Regulars will start tracking the weekly specials, which includes spaghetti and chicken-and-mortadella meatballs, and Friendsgiving (so clever) on Thursdays (duh). Items are made in-house, and I already mentioned Cheryl Storms was lending her baking expertise to all kinds of items, so yeah, save room for dessert.

Dishes are priced at a very neighborhood-friendly level (less than $25), and Saturday and Sunday brunch will launch at the opening. Bring on the fried egg sandwich with rosemary pepper bacon, white cheddar, and triple-egg aioli on an English muffin. This Saturday December 3rd, chef Ryan Scott will be hosting a special Finn Town inaugural brunch—Booze, Brunch and Books—and signing copies of his new cookbook One to Five, starting at 10am. Books will be available for purchase at the door.

Anthony Parks of Fifty Fifty Cocktail Co. (Mourad, Dorian, Palm House) put together the cocktails, and there’s a “down low” list you can request too.

Hours are Mon-Wed 5pm-12:30am, Thu-Fri 5pm-1:30am, Sat 10am-1:30am, Sun 10am-12:30am. 2251 Market St. at Noe, 415-626-3466. 

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Masaki Sasaki at the new Sasaki. Yelp photo by Robert D.

After working at numerous sushi counters around town (like Maruya, Omakase), chef-owner Masaki Sasaki has opened his own counter with chef-owner Takanori Wada (Hamano), ~SASAKI~, in the former American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. The minimalist 12-seat restaurant offers a nightly omakase menu of some smaller dishes, 13 pieces of nigiri, dessert, and tea for $180 per person. Reservations only, with seatings Tue-Sat at 5:30pm and 8:30pm (no walk-ins), and a $150 cancellation fee if you don’t give two days’ notice. Eater mentions Sasaki is focused on traditional Edomae sushi, with simplicity at the forefront, and no meat: only seafood and vegetables. Beer, sake, and Champagne are available. 2400 Harrison St. at 20th St., 415-829-8997.

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Front of the now-closed Le Zinc. Photo via Le Zinc’s website.

After being open for 15 years in Noe Valley, neighborhood bistro ~LE ZINC~ closed its doors. But fear not, Francophiles, because taking its place is ~CHEZ MARIUS~, from Laurent Legendre of Glen Park’s Le P’tit Laurent, and previously Clementine Restaurant and Bistro Clement (Marius is his middle name, in honor of his grandfather, who was a chef). He is going to continue the neighborhood bistro vibe, and the menu will be Provencal-inspired, with classics like bouillabaisse, ratatouille, mussels, and escargots, with bistro favorites like foie gras and of course steak tartare.

There will be some low-ABV cocktails and aperitifs added, like a pamplemousse cocktail, kir royales, and more. They are making renovations and will be expanding the back patio by 6-10 seats. And since the patio has a separate entrance, it’s going to be dog-friendly. It will also be kid-friendly, with a chalkboard for kiddies to draw on, and a fire pit where they can make s’mores (hopefully supervised, ha-ha, we don’t want little Francois to fall into the fire).

The plan is to open next week sometime; I’ll let you know the exact date in the Tuesday December 6th tablehopper. Chez Marius will be open for lunch Wed-Fri, dinner nightly, and brunch Sat-Sun. 4063 24th St. at Noe.

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The exterior, with LED artwork from Mexico-based artists Héctor Falcón and Fernando Llanos. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

It seems that ~LA URBANA~ has closed after three years on Divisadero. A sign that has been up for a bit mentioned being closed for renovations, but Scoop heard word from a worker that the restaurant had closed for good. Unfortunately there hasn’t been an official statement from the owners, but it seems to be cerrado.

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The classic two-olive martini at the just as classic Bix. Photo: Kristen Loken.

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Off the Grid at Justin Herman Plaza. Photo courtesy of Off the Grid.

Yup, the holiday crush is on, and it’s time to schedule some fun lunches. While I’m sorry I won’t be hosting another two-martini lunch event at ~BIX~ this year, you can still duplicate it by swinging by during their holiday lunch hours. Bix will be open for lunch all week, instead of just Fridays, from December 5th-23rd. Cheers.

~LE COLONIAL~ is getting in on the action and will be opening for lunch for four Fridays in December: the 2nd, 9th, 16th, and the 23rd. Hours are 11:30am-2:30pm, and there’s a $35 three-course prix-fixe menu from recently hired chef Jean-Paul Peluffo. Or you can order à la carte specials—and a cocktail, of course. 20 Cosmo Pl. between Sutter and Post and Jones and Taylor, 415-931-3600.

This Sunday December 4th is the second annual Holiday Brunch Market at ~THE PROGRESS~, with 20 artisans, craftsmen, and makers, who will take over the entire restaurant and also the private dining room upstairs, The Workshop. There will be walk-around brunch items and a full bar. 11am-2:45pm.

Also on Sunday December 4th is an Annual Holiday Brunch & Toy Drive and brunch at ~RED DOG RESTAURANT~, which is partnering with the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program. Come by from 11am-5pm with a donation of an unwrapped toy or nonperishable food item, and for just $20, you can dive into a holiday brunch buffet with your choice of refreshments (yes, there are mimosas). There’s also a silent auction, with prizes ranging from a 10-person Fire Boat Experience on the bay to an exclusive Firehouse Dinner with the SFFD (hey, fireman!). There will even be a bouncy house and Santa will be there for photos, so bring the kiddies. 303 2nd St. at Folsom, 415-692-0211.

~DANDELION CHOCOLATE~ is continuing their annual 12 Nights of Chocolate. Some of the events are sold out, but there are still spots for this Thursday December 1st with Avery Ruzicka (Manresa Bread) and for Sunday December 4th’s ultimate bake sale with Ron Mendoza (Revival Ice+Cream), Ben Spungin (Post Ranch Inn), and Yulanda Santos (Aubergine), plus a few more events. All proceeds go to the SF-Marin Food Bank, for whom last year’s event raised more than 60,000 meals.

La Cocina is hosting their holiday market, El Mercado, on Sunday December 11th at The Women’s Building (you should come to the tablehopper Jook Joint brunch, and then head on over!). There will be a marketplace of 40 food vendors, artisans, crafts, music, and more, plus bites and drinks too! Check out the ticketed events, from the holiday cocktail party to the tamale classes. 11am-8pm. 3543 18th St. at Lapidge.

While you’re ice skating at the Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center, you can grab a bite to eat at Off the Grid: Justin Herman Plaza, which is running every Sunday from 12pm-4pm through January 8th, 2017. Five rotating food trucks will set up shop, including Happy Dumplings, Lobsta Truck, Judie’s Tacos Locos, Kome Truck, Drums & Crumbs, Me So Hungry Too, Don Pablo, Dum Truck, Kokio Republic, and Soulnese.  

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Dungeness crab Benedict at 6th and B. Yelp photo by Dan B.

Some quick tidbits for you, starting with a breakfast/lunch spot in the Inner Richmond, ~6TH AND B~, which should give you a hint about their corner address. The menu has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a quinoa bowl or eggs Benny, with panettone French toast for weekend brunch. Savory dishes are a bit all over the place, from Asian chicken salad to tacos, but why not? Open Wed-Fri 7am-2pm, Sat-Sun 8am-3pm. 452 Balboa St. at 6th Ave., 415-753-9138.

~BETTY LOU’S SEAFOOD & GRILL~ has opened in North Beach, a no-frills spot for cioppino, sand dabs, lobster ravioli, steaks, and more. Owners Hector Chaparro, Louise Taylor, and Betty Pesce all worked at Gigi’s Sotto Mare together—read more in Hoodline. Open daily 11am-10pm. 318 Columbus Ave. at Broadway, 415-757-0569.

November 22, 2016
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An array of dishes at Babu Ji. Photo: Katie Newburn.

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Thali plate. Photo: Katie Newburn.

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The private dining room. Photo: Katie Newburn.

A couple of months ago I mentioned ~BABU JI~ was coming to the former Nostra on Valencia, and this playful-yet-precise Indian restaurant has now opened. Owners Jennifer and chef Jessi Singh are from Melbourne, but are known for their restaurant in New York.

The menu is very similar, with the signature chef’s tasting menu ($62) carrying over (wait until you see the thali plate that comes with it), plus à la carte options like their trademark yogurt kebabs, Colonel Tso’s cauliflower, brilliant tandoori chicken, and “unauthentic” butter chicken. Check out the menu here.

The self-serve fridge stocked with beer will also carry over, although this one will have many local beers in its 40-strong selection, plus there are small keg draft brews like Mikkeller. Rajat Parr is behind the wine list, and we’ll have some NYC bartender flava with savory cocktails by Vincent Chirico of Raines Law Room (scroll down to see the list). There are 74 seats in the dining room, with 16 in the private dining room.

Hours are pretty crazy for the next few weeks: open tonight Tue Nov 22nd 6pm-12am, open again Fri Nov 25th-Sun Nov 27th and then Wed Nov 30th-Sun Dec 4th 6pm-12am. After that, just let the Resy app tell you when it’s open. Starting Wed Dec 14th, hours will be 5pm-12am, closed Tuesdays. 280 Valencia St. at 14th St.

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Dashi-based ramen at the new Hinodeya Ramen. Yelp photo by Keiko N.

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The Split Ranger Burger. Photo courtesy of Split.

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A new falafel bowl at Troya Fillmore. Photo courtesy of Troya.

A bunch of smaller openings for you to note, including ~PHLOX COMMONS~, which just opened in the former Saha at the Hotel Carlton (the owner, Ryan Olson, previously worked at Saha—it ends up he’s a big hiker, and phlox is everywhere on his California hikes). The 49-seat room had a massive remodel from Hannah Collins Design (Belga, Delarosa Downtown) and feels light and bright, with a marble bar, blond woodwork, white tile, and shimmery wallpaper—a couple of skylights were revealed too.

It’s a casual spot, with a seasonal Cali comfort/gastropub menu (it’s on the site) that is priced right. Chef de cuisine Mina Kacos also makes some mad Old Bay chips, so you can always grab a seat at the bar for those and a glass of wine or beer (Brian Reccow of Specialistas Hospitality put together the list of 60 California-produced beers and wines). Breakfast Mon-Fri 7am-11am; weekend brunch Sat 8am-12pm and Sun 8am-2pm; dinner Tue-Thu and Sun 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. 1075 Sutter St. at Larkin, inside the Hotel Carlton, 415-500-2734.

~HINODEYA RAMEN~ is opening Wednesday November 23rd in Japantown, which Hoodline says is serving dashi broth-based ramen (think: umami-rich stock made from seaweed and seafood) from chef Masao Kuribara. The menu will add additional dishes added as they ramp up. They will be open for dinners, 5-10pm (including Thanksgiving), closed on Tuesdays. 1737 Buchanan St. at Sutter, 415-757-0552.

I mentioned that the Mixt (formerly Mixt Greens) folks were opening a Split Bread in the former La Boulange on Polk, and now they shortened the name to ~SPLIT~—and it’s open. To recap: the fast-casual menu highlights updated American classics.

Breakfast has chorizo hash with kale and squash, while the egg sandwich has housemade sausage. Lunch has a range of burgers, plus salads (which you can design yourself), sandwiches, and more. Dinner adds mains like fried chicken, Mt. Lassen trout, and a pork chop. Here’s a PDF of the entire menu with the prices—the sourcing is local and organic, with many housemade items. There’s also Four Barrel coffee, wine on tap, craft beer, and mimosas at brunch. You can also order online ahead of time. Open daily 8am-9pm. 2300 Polk St. at Green.

The popular Inner Sunset hot pot shop ~NABE~ has expanded to the Marina—just in time for the winter. Hoodline reports it features the same menu (for now) from siblings and owners Hilwin and Hubert Wong, with a modern look by Alan Tse. Dinner only, Sun-Thu 5pm-10:30pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. 2151 Lombard St. at Steiner, 415-345-8344.

Starting this week, Turkish-Mediterranean ~TROYA FILLMORE~ is changing its format to more of a fast-casual menu with counter service. There will be mezes, wraps and bowls, and kebabs and larger plates. The wine list will reflect more Mediterranean selections, and the beer list will be expanded as well. The space got a refresh and will feel more relaxed. Hours: 11am-8:30pm daily.

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Chef-partner Alejandro “Alex” Morgan. Photo courtesy of Flores.

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The dining area of China Live’s Market-Restaurant (with exhibition kitchen stations in the back). Rendering: AvroKO.

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The classic piadina (at The Italian Homemade Company). Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Adriano Paganini’s Mexican restaurant with operating partner Luis Flores has a name, ~FLORES~, and it is opening Monday November 28th (it will be soft opening with a limited menu this weekend if you want to swing by). You can peep the dinner menu here, which covers a variety of Mexican regions. Chef-partner Alejandro “Alex” Morgan is going to be highlighting masa on the menu, from the handmade tortillas to crab tostadas, plus sopes, taquitos, and enchiladas de pato confitado (duck confit wrapped in a housemade tortilla, served with salsa verde, avocado, lettuce, and pickled radishes). Also: there are cocktails. Hours are Mon-Wed 5pm-11pm, Thu-Sat 5pm-12am. 2030 Union St. at Buchanan, 415-796-2926.

Great news: things are ramping up for George Chen’s ~CHINA LIVE~, and they are targeting an opening for Chinese New Year in 2017. You can take a look at my last in-depth piece for an overview of this hefty, 30,000-square-foot project. They have also made some key hires to oversee its Market Restaurant & Bar, Oolong Café, retail marketplace, several bars, and Eight Tables by George Chen: Quinn McKenna (previously Lark Creek Restaurant Group) is the executive director of operations; Joey Altman is the director of culinary operations; and Chi-Feng Lin from Taiwan is chef de cuisine. 644 Broadway at Stockton.

Hot on the expansion path are the lovely Italians at ~THE ITALIAN HOMEMADE COMPANY~, who will be opening their third location in Hayes Valley. The husband-and-wife owners, Mattia Cosmi and Alice Romagnoli, along with business partner Mirco Tomassini, will keep spreading their gospel of housemade pastas, sauces, piadine, and cassoni. Lucky us. They will also sell pantry goods and hope to serve beer and wine. Hoodline’s report says to look for an opening in March or April 2017. 1 Franklin St. at Page.

One of my favorite slices in the city is from Tony Gemignani’s ~SLICE HOUSE~, which is opening a sixth location in the former Big Slice Pizza. Hoodline caught a picture of the sign, but no word on when the opening is coming. 1535 Haight St. at Ashbury.

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A rendering of the upcoming Café Lambretta. Courtesy of Dahlin Group.

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A look toward the front door of Café Lambretta. Rendering courtesy of Dahlin Group.

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The sunny and light-filled Blue Bottle South Park. Photo courtesy of Melissa Ryan.

If you have been a longtime tablehopper reader and you’re an Italian scooter fan, you may remember reading about ~CAFÉ LAMBRETTA~, which opened on Polk Street back in 2007 (also: enjoy looking at that almost ancient tablehopper issue!) and closed not too soon thereafter. Well, owner and Lambretta fanatic John Quintos has been busy with many other businesses over the years, including his Cento café and Cento Coffee roasting label, Special Xtra and Special Xtra 2 cafés, and more. And now he has a great opportunity to open his biggest yet, so he’s going back to where he started and opening Café Lambretta again.

The SoMa location is in an old building that dates back to 1913. There is 1,500 square feet for retail—fortunately the building owner was a Cento customer, and they were able to work out a deal. Quintos is going to be offering a menu for breakfast, lunch, and happy hour, with an extensive selection of in-house baked goods.

He’s working with Najla Turczyn (20th Century Café, Papa November) on the Italian-style breads and savory baked goods, while Christian Ciscle of Wing Wings is consulting on the rest of the menu. It’s going to be a little bit Parisian and a little bit Italian. Think croissants, either with chocolate or havarti and prosciutto for breakfast, plus a croque-madame, frittatas, scones, and more. Lunch will have a variety of sandwiches on house-baked breads, either grab and go or open-face with a meatball from a family recipe, plus some pressed panini as well as salads (bring on the panzanella in the summer, yes!). Happy hour will have some share plates, salads, and wine and beer. Catering and some wholesale business to local offices are also in the plan.

There will be 49 seats, with tables, booths, and of course, vintage Lambretta bikes installed throughout—the space is a beaut, with 18-foot ceilings. Quintos, a CCAC grad, is also creating an original art piece to be mounted on the wall: he’s taking apart a Lambretta and making the parts look like one of those old-school plastic model kits. Can’t wait to see it. He’s hoping to open in March 2017, I’ll keep you updated. Hours will be Mon-Fri 8am-8pm. 101 Townsend St. at 2nd St.

Not too far away, the new ~BLUE BOTTLE SOUTH PARK~ café has opened in the former Jeremy’s space, which is 1,200 square feet. It’s Blue Bottle’s first café designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. An extra room brings an expanded menu and coffee program and an iced coffee bar, or Cold Bar, which will serve zero-proof mixed coffee drinks. It also features the company’s first-ever Mavam espresso machine, with equipment that is built in beneath the counter. You can also enjoy the finely tuned audio off the vintage Klipsch speakers. Open daily 7am-7pm. 2 South Park St. at 2nd St.

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The housemade ricotta with beets at a Tartine Manufactory test dinner. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The whole salt-baked petrale sole at a Tartine Manufactory test dinner. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

If you’re looking for some new places to add to your roster, for your consideration:

~TARTINE MANUFACTORY~ has their dinner service under way, served Wed-Sun 5:30pm-10pm. Take a look at the menu here. Obviously the bread service should be at the top of your list, and at a test dinner, the tartare and salt-baked petrale sole were notable. And then there’s that porchetta too. Vinny Eng is rocking the wine list, with some fantastic food-friendly selections.

Over on Nob Hill, the new chef at ~MASON PACIFIC~, Max Mackinnon, has launched weekend brunch (Sat-Sun 10am-2pm). Dishes on the menu range from a sourdough waffle with maple and bacon to a classic omelet with Comté and green salad. Or you can go full tilt on a New York strip steak and eggs with potato and hollandaise.

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Dario Cecchini at Nopa. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Dario Cecchini at Nopa. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

The one and only Dario Cecchini—the famed opera-singing, Dante-quoting butcher of Panzano in Chianti—is in the Bay Area for a variety of events. His visit has been organized by the Italian Consulate General and the Italian Cultural Institute in San Francisco, in collaboration with Italian food expert and cooking instructor Viola Buitoni, to mark the First Week of Italian Cuisine in the World.

I saw Dario conduct a butchery session about seven years ago at Nopa, and it was a marvel to watch. Try to catch one of these classes or dinners if you can.

CLASSES

Sunday 11/27, 4pm-6:15pm
Arclinea, Showroom 160
2 Henry Adams, SF (between Rhode Island and Vermont, Alameda and Division)
Demo class on whole hog butchery with lecture on responsible and ethical consumption of animals, followed by prosecco and tastings of two of Dario’s signature delicacies. Presented by 18 Reasons. $65; $55 for 18 Reasons members. Register.

Monday 11/28, 10:30am-12:45pm
New Seasons Market Evergreen
5667 Silver Creek Valley Road, San Jose
Demo class on whole hog butchery with lecture on responsible and ethical consumption of animals, followed by prosecco and tastings of two of Dario’s signature delicacies. Presented with Community Cuisine. Tickets.

RESTAURANT APPEARANCES

Monday 11/28, 5:30pm-10pm
~A16 ROCKRIDGE~
5356 College Ave. (between Manila and Bryant), Oakland
Special dinner menu with six specialties from Antica Macelleria Cecchini prepared by his right-hand woman Simonetta with the restaurant’s kitchen crew. Dario will greet guests and also do a butchery demo during the evening. Prices will be à la carte; to reserve, go to the restaurant’s website or call 510-768-8003.

Wednesday 11/30, 12pm-2pm
~MONTESACRO~ Pinseria
510 Stevenson (between 6th and 7th Streets), SF
Special porchetta sandwiches served on Montesacro’s special pinsa bread; must be booked in advance, only 50 available. There will also be a live butchering demo from Dario for the first hour; the sandwiches will need to be preordered with the restaurant. Click to buy a ticket, $35, includes glass of wine.

Wednesday 11/30, 5:30pm-10pm
~BOULEVARD~ Restaurant
1 Mission St. at Embarcadero, SF
Special dinner menu with four specialties from Antica Macelleria Cecchini, prepared by his right-hand woman Simonetta with the restaurant’s kitchen crew. Dario will greet guests, talk about his specialties, and his philosophy during the evening. Prices will be à la carte; to reserve, go to the restaurant’s website or call 415-543-6084.

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Brenda’s Hangtown fry. Photo via Facebook.

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Release the Dungeness crabs! Photo via Fine & Rare’s Facebook.

A couple of fun and out-of-the-ordinary brunches for you this week: guess who’s open for brunch on Thanksgiving? ~BRENDA’S FRENCH SOUL FOOD~! They are normally closed for the holiday, but this year they had to close this Tue-Wed for maintenance, so they decided to open for Thanksgiving brunch from 8am-3pm. Their usual weekend brunch menu will be served, plus a deep-fried turkey plate lunch and pumpkin pie pancakes with gingersnap streusel.

And then on the day after Thanksgiving (I refuse to call it Black Friday), instead of battling stampeding people over flat-screen TVs, you can stay in your fat pants and head over to ~HOG & ROCKS~ for brunch. There are $1 oysters from 11am-5pm, plus new dishes like chorizo migas, biscuits and gravy, duck confit French toast, and eggs Benedict. Plus, they’re open all weekend. And they take reservations!

‘Tis the season for Dungeness crab, and ~ALAMAR KITCHEN & BAR~ in Oakland is hosting the ultimate pregame feast on Wednesday November 23rd, their Annual Pre-Thanksgiving Crab Feed, featuring all-you-can-eat chile crab, salad, grilled Firebrand bread, and vegetables. Limited menu available from regular dinner menu. $55 per person. Children ages 2-5 are $25; under 2 are free. No leftovers can be taken home. A 20 percent gratuity will be added to the final check. There’s a two-hour time limit for all parties. 5pm-9pm. Reservations are required. 100 Grand Ave. at Webster, Oakland 510-907-7555.

In SF, ~FINE & RARE~’s 3rd Annual Crab Feast is happening Saturday December 3rd. For $75, you’ll get unlimited steamed Dungeness crab, seasonal salad, garlic noodles, sourdough garlic bread, and bottomless beer or mimosas. Two seatings: 11:30pm-1:30pm and 2:30pm-4:30pm. Tickets here. Proceeds will be donated to Golden Gate Salmon Association. 555 Golden Gate Ave. at Van Ness, 415-297-3980.

November 15, 2016
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Bison keema. Photo courtesy of James Bueti.

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Gol guppa flight with different flavored waters. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Paneer kebab. Photo courtesy of James Bueti.

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Paneer large plate. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Cricket Cup. Photo courtesy of James Bueti.

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The lounge area and seating. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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The blue velvet booths and large-party dining table. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

~AUGUST 1 FIVE~ is now open, serving lunch and dinner. Meet your new pre-symphony or opera destination, and nearby workers should be happy with this option as well. As I’ve mentioned before, owner Hetal Shah is a partner in Red Hot Chilli Pepper in San Carlos. She has hired chef Manish Kumar Tyagi, previously at the acclaimed Rasika in Washington, DC, and locally at Amber India. The restaurant’s name refers to the date of India’s independence from British rule.

The upscale Indian menu is inspired by Northern Indian regional cuisines and features seasonal influences and modern techniques. Don’t come here expecting tikka masala and butter chicken—chef Tyagi has many more dishes to show you. The small plates portion of the menu is extensive, including a gol guppa flight ($8), which is his updated version of pani puri with rice added to the shell for extra crunch, and a series of five waters you pour in beyond the usual mint and tamarind.

Square arancini ($10) are a spin on his mother’s recipe of fried patties of rice and lentils, with the additional flair of goat cheese. Paneer kebab ($11) from the tandoor ovens in the kitchen is actually like a little sandwich with red chile paste inside, with a punch from mustard powder. Palak chaat ($8) features fried leaves of baby spinach, with layers of flavor and texture, like garbanzo, tamarind, and yogurt. A crock of bison keema ($16) is a substantial dish that’s loaded with flavor and spices—you treat it like a sloppy joe and spoon it inside the house-baked pao, which are like little Parker House rolls. The breads are housemade, including a trio of naan ($9) stuffed with a variety of fillings. There are 18 small plates, mind you.

Large plates range from tandoori sea bass ($29) to tender lamb chops ($32) slathered in a cashew paste and spiked with cardamom and mace. Chef Tyagi uses sustainable seafood, organic meats, and has a strong focus on local sourcing as well. Vegetarians will find a clever execution of rolls of paneer ($19) stuffed with pistachio, mint, and fenugreek inside, in a creamy tikka-like sauce, plus soy kofta ($17), and there are two kind of biryani, either vegetarian or chicken.

The plating is elegant and sophisticated, but not too fussy, and you’ll definitely feel fed without getting stuffed on saucy food, rice, and puffy naan—which means you’ll have room for the royal mousse ($8) for dessert, featuring crisp rounds of sweet dough and Bavarian cream.

The lunchtime menu includes some of the dinner menu’s small plates, plus wraps ($13), rice plates ($13), and sandwiches, including the bison keema with pao (trust me, you want this).

There is quite the creative cocktail list, like the Cricket Cup with Pimm’s and the unexpected addition of yogurt, and the turmeric lassi with dark rum—both pair well with food. If you’re coming by the bar for a cocktail, the Royal Bombay Yacht Club is a good place to kick off happy hour, with the smoky spice of Ancho Reyes. There are 10 in all, and all $12. The smart wine list includes many food-friendly California and French wines, with some affordable bottles in the mix.

The space has a variety of dining areas, from the dining room with eggplant leather chairs and peacock-blue velvet private booths that seat four (on both sides of the restaurant) to a larger table for groups and a high communal table flanking the bar. There are high-top tables near the bar as well, with a bronze tufted banquette and chic brass and leather chairs. It has a contemporary and colorful look, with an image of the Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala on the wall (and his extraordinary bling—he was quite the lover of opulence and indulgence), overlooking it all. There are also fun touches like the colorful glass pendant lights and sconces, lattice on the sides of the booths, and plenty of punchy and shimmery colors. Craige Walters (Black Cat, Hecho) designed the 90-seat, 4,000-square-foot space.

Lunch Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, happy hour nightly 3pm-6pm, dinner Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm. 524 Van Ness Ave. at McAllister, 415-771-5900.

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Biscuit testing! Instagram photo via @cherylstorms_pastrychef.

While fans of Cheryl Storms and her sweet creations were sad to hear about the recent closure of both of her ~PINKIE’S BAKERY~ locations, it ends up she is now the consulting pastry chef for the soon-to-open ~FINN TOWN~. She is collaborating with chef Ryan Scott on classic cakes, plus Parker House rolls, housemade brioche hamburger buns, and a daily bread at dinner. When brunch launches, there will be biscuits, doughnut holes with raspberry filling, and bear claws. Look for an opening after Thanksgiving—we’ll keep you posted. 2251 Market St. at Sanchez.  

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The Motze team working on the Fat Rice meal. Photo via Facebook.

Chefs Adrienne Lo and Abraham Conlon of Chicago’s acclaimed Fat Rice are in town to celebrate the release of their cookbook, The Adventures of Fat Rice, which centers on their exploration of the unique food culture of Macau (a blend of Chinese, Portuguese, Malaysian, and Indian foodways). Nick Balla and Cortney Burns of ~MOTZE~ are hosting the duo and preparing a three-course dinner this Wednesday November 16th, $58 per person (tip included, excluding beverages), $35 per book (available for purchase throughout the evening). 5:30pm-10pm. 983 Valencia St. at 21st St., 415-484-1206.

This Friday November 18th is the 16th annual Taste & Tribute event, when 27 Bay Area chefs come together to support the preservation of the Tibetan culture through the Tibetan Aid Project. Chefs work in pairs to create a four-course experience for guests, with paired fine wines. A live and silent auction rounds out the evening. $350 per person. Four Seasons Hotel, 757 Market St. at O’Farrell.

Civil Eats, the fantastic nonprofit independent media site by founder Naomi Starkman, is hosting their first in-person event and fundraiser on Tuesday November 29th (they don’t take advertising so they rely on their subscription service, independent donations, and foundation grants to pay their writers and editors). Now more than ever, we need to help support independent coverage of food politics and policy.

It will be a walk-around tasting event, with top chefs from restaurants like Alta CA, Nopa, and Piccino, with the support of purveyors and partners like Bi-Rite Market, Llano Seco, Marin Sun Farms, and Mindful Meats, plus local wine, beer, and spirits. Civil Eats’ advisory board member Alice Waters and many other food movement movers and shakers will be in attendance.

Tickets are $125. If you aren’t able to attend in person, please consider making a donation via the Eventbrite link, and subscribe online. The Civil Eats team thanks you! 6:30pm-9:30pm. The Village, 969 Market St. at 5th St.

November 8, 2016
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The eye-catching custom chandelier suspended over the stairwell to the downstairs. All photos: © tablehopper.com.

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The beautiful upstairs bar.

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The Saratoga original blade sign.

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The Cubano frank.

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The chic downstairs bar.

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The vintage art installation by Lost Art Salon in the downstairs dining room.

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Fried apple hand pies with cream cheese frosting.

Opening on Thursday November 10th is the latest beauty in the Bacchus Management Group portfolio, ~THE SARATOGA~, which is unexpectedly nestled on the corner of Larkin and Post—yup, right there in the TenderNob, with Mr. Holmes Bakehouse just up the street and Jane on Larkin down the street.

When you see the space, you’ll see why principal Tim Stannard couldn’t resist the building, which was built soon after the 1906 earthquake—it dates back to 1907 (when it was the Elk Hotel) and then rebranded one year later as The Saratoga. Stannard says they discovered the spacious basement and were inspired to make it into a two-level supper club and bar.

They took care to highlight the Carnegie steel throughout the space, and there’s even an imprint on one of the support columns that says “Folsom Street Ironworks 189?” (they can’t make out the last digit). They also kept the original blade sign outside, of course, outfitting it with some new neon.

It’s rather stunning. As you approach the building, you’ll see the tremendous wall of backlit booze shimmering dramatically, along with a custom tiered chandelier designed by Stephen Brady and Magnus Schevene, who did a lot of the metalwork, including the bar shelves and details.

Upstairs is more of a dark yet warm industrial bistro vibe, with room for 64. Tables circle the stairwell that leads to the 23-seat downstairs—a more formal dining room with white tablecloths and a beautiful bar of Carrara marble and a tufted base. There’s also a small lounge area tucked near the stairs. The lighting is very sexy and flattering, and this swank downstairs bar is where you’ll want to start your next hot date, mark my words. Stannard was inspired by a favorite bar in Paris, and the grey mohair walls adorned with vintage art, selected by Lost Art Salon, add to a timeless, salon-style vibe.

The menu by chef Mark Sullivan and chef de cuisine Jason Wittek is a playful take on New American cuisine, but of course using the best ingredients, with produce from BMG’s SMIP Ranch. There are bites good for upstairs or downstairs, like seven-spice chicken sliders with ‘Bama white sauce and dill pickles, or ‘Toga tots with Fiscalini cheddar, chorizo, and scallion. Of course there’s a burger (with Taleggio cheese and slaw on an onion bun) and a fun Cubano frank, which is a deep-fried dog topped with slow-roasted pork, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and mojo relish on a Mayfield Bakery roll (yeah, it’s pretty amazing).

Vegetable dishes include a warm Chantenay carrot salad with avocado, toasted seeds, and vadouvan, or a bagna cauda-poached tomato, with grilled levain, garlic cream, and basil. The berbere-spiced chicken paillard is accompanied with labneh, while a classic Flannery dry-aged New York steak will come in Cognac-peppercorn sauce.

Desserts are full American nostalgia, from their version of a Ho Ho to Cracker Jacks to fried apple hand pies. Pricing couldn’t be confirmed at press time—you’ll need to check the site for the menu in a couple of days.

Barman Brandon Clements, who has been with Bacchus since he started as an hourly bartender at Spruce in 2007, is now a partner in this venture, and he has created quite the extraordinary list. He said he has been “hoarding” the past 1 1/2 years and has sourced some vintage and extremely rare spirits, more than 800 bottles in all and focusing on Chartreuse—he even has a Chartreuse from the 1920s on the list. (His goal is to be the number one Chartreuse bar in the country.) Other vintage herbal spirits are also highlighted, including Benedictine (from the 1940s and onward), Fernet (1950s-1970s), and there are other Pimm’s to try—he found #2, #3, #5, and #6. Vintage bourbons, rums, and more will be added too.

Obviously these come at a premium, so those who are just seeking a well-made cocktail will be happy to find an extensive and fairly priced list ($12-$14). The bar team is starting the first week with highballs and some shaken and stirred numbers, and the following week will ramp up with Chartreuse cocktails from all over, including some New York bar recipes.

And if you’re with a group, there are some stunning large-format vessels with enough to serve six people—Clements will be using old “Cocktail Bill” Boothby punch recipes (he found some that date back to when The Saratoga opened). Expect a fantastic wine list from BMG wine and spirits director Andrew Green.

Hours are Mon-Thu 5pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-1am. 1008 Larkin St. at Post, 415-932-6464.

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The soaking room at Onsen, with the cold plunge shower to the left. Photo: Raquel Venancio Photography.

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The dining area and tearoom in the front. Photo: Grace Sager.

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Rice porridge with miso kimchi and pickled quail egg. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Halibut sashimi with cucumbers and preserved sweet pepper dashi with shiso. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Beets and avocado with fermented tea and shallots. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Opening this Friday November 11th is a very special project, ~ONSEN~, a combination bathhouse and restaurant in the Tenderloin. Owners and husband and wife Sunny Simmons and Caroline Smith took over a former auto shop and transformed it into quite the peaceful destination. Meet your new oasis. It has a Japanese and highly handcrafted aesthetic, with many artistic touches: Sunny is a carpenter/craft builder and Caroline is an artist and acupuncturist. I loved all the personal and crafty touches, and it’s quite apparent how much work and thought went into the space.

The 3,200-square-foot location opens in the restaurant area, which has 20 seats, a beautiful wood bar area, exposed brick, and tables made from old chalkboards. Chef George Meza—previously Oro, Ame, and Urchin Bistrot—will initially be offering dinner service, and his menu has a NorCal seasonal sensibility with Japanese influences and many housemade touches.

I recommend showing up before your bath for a small bite, such as rice porridge with miso kimchi hiding in the bottom of the bowl and a bright pink pickled quail egg ($7), or something light, like daily sashimi with cucumbers and preserved sweet pepper dashi with shiso. Enjoy your bath or treatment, get dressed, and then come back into the restaurant for some skewers off the binchotan grill, like charred artichoke hearts, miso, and seaweed ($7) or the tender braised kakuni lamb ($8) with mustard sauce, which will pair well with the housemade pickle plate ($6).

Additional plates include maitake dumplings soup ($12), with cabbage, bonito, and dill, or warm udon noodles ($12), Brussels sprouts, and egg yolk with trout roe and furikake, both perfect for a cool SF night. The food is as beautiful as it is flavorful—it really adds a unique element to the entire experience. The menu is easy to share, or you can come by for a solo meal—you don’t have to come to the bath, you can just come by for dinner. There are also some creative low-ABV drinks, local and imported sake, and beers. And tea, of course.

As for the rest of the space, there are six rooms where you can schedule healing treatments, from massage to acupuncture to reiki, and the highlight is the eight-person hot soaking pool under a skylight in the former mechanic’s pit (bring your friends!) surrounded by plants and a fun soundtrack in the background. Plus, there’s a redwood dry sauna (wait until you see the embedded Himalayan salt), groovy tiled steam room, and steampunky cold plunge shower.

Something that really struck me during my visit is how well Sunny and Caroline have gotten to know their neighbors. They really care; they aren’t just some callous gentrifiers opening a posh spa in the TL. Quite the opposite. In fact, they will be closed on Tuesdays so they can offer community services, including free acupuncture for veterans and sliding-scale services for neighbors who can’t afford alternative health treatments. They really want people who work in the area, like bartenders, to be able to come in and take care of themselves. This couple really walks the walk, and it’s a pleasure to witness.

Another cool thing: Onsen is going to be open until 1am on Saturdays, woot. Check the site for details on the different days for soaking. Open Wed-Mon 10am-10pm and until 1am on Sat. Dinner (to start) begins service at 5pm, and lunch will launch later. 466 Eddy St. at Hyde, 415-780-4987.

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The iconic Roosevelt Tamale Parlor sign; Yelp photo by Marina N.

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The cozy room (and Barry’s Caesar salad!) at The Roosevelt Sip N Eat. Photo courtesy of The Roosevelt Sip N Eat.

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Short rib ragù with pappardelle and pecorino. Photo courtesy of The Roosevelt.

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. After making the hard decision to close The Roosevelt Tamale Parlor last December, owners Barry Moore and Aaron Presbrey thought they had a buyer lined up for the restaurant. Well, the deal fell through, and after trying and failing to find other buyers, they decided to reopen the restaurant and do the concept that resonated the most for them. Meet ~THE ROOSEVELT SIP N EAT~.

The gents want diners to feel like a guest in their home, a warm place that is casual. It’s like when your friend who really knows how to cook has you over, with really enjoyable wines and beers on the table. The tight bistro-style menu is going to be seasonal, simple, accessible, and refined casual—their motto is “Always thoughtful, never fussy.” Presbrey is going to be moving to back of house and acting as Moore’s sous chef, baking desserts, and managing the beer and wine list.

It’s also going to be affordable—you’ll be fed well, whether it’s the roasted Mary’s half chicken ($19) or Duroc pork shoulder ($17) with beet salad, beet greens, pork crackling, and tarragon oil. Barry’s famed Caesar salad will be on the menu ($12), and his love of green chile will be showing up in a curry ($15), with roasted root vegetables and basmati rice. I have a feeling I’ll be coming in for the short rib ragù ($17) with pappardelle and pecorino soon. All entrées will be $20 and under and will change with the seasons. They will be sourcing sustainable ingredients and look forward to having their own Oakland farm plot where they’ll be growing vegetables and more.

The wine list is going to have some great pricing, and they want to offer some lesser-known alternatives to the usual suspects. So instead of having a zinfandel, what about a nice tempranillo instead? Tweaks like that…and wines ranging from $8 to $12 by the glass.

The 32-seat space already had cute décor from the last go-round, but they are updating the interior again and will be adding some artwork this week. While they were sorry they couldn’t find someone to carry on the tamale parlor legacy, they still wanted to honor the place’s beloved history by keeping part of the name. They are excited to be there and serve people once again.

There will be a second round of test dinners this weekend (Thu-Sat)—please note it will probably be cash only this weekend until their POS system is up and running. They will officially be open next week, on Tuesday November 15th. Hours will be Tue-Sat 5:30pm-10pm, or maybe even until 10:30pm if that’s what the neighborhood needs. No reservations (unless it’s for a large party). 2817 24th St. at York, 415-824-2600.

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Doughnut Dolly’s new kiosk in the Twitter building/The Market. Photo via Facebook.

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Smørrebrød from Kantine at the Saturday CUESA Farmers Market. Photo via CUESA.

Your mornings just got naughty: Oakland-based ~DOUGHNUT DOLLY~ is now open in The Market. Owner Hannah Hoffman is serving her filled-to-order naughty cream- and jam-filled doughnuts, with cherry jam, plus bourbon cream and dark chocolate. There will also be coffee from Algorithm Coffee Co. at the kiosk. Open daily 7am-4pm. 1355 Market St. at 10th St.

Nearby, another location of Pascal Rigo’s ~LA BOULANGERIE DE SAN FRANCISCO~ has (re)opened in the former La Boulange location in the Financial District. Eater reports the addition of a trio of chicken confit dishes to the menu. Open daily 7am-6pm. 222 Sutter St. at Kearny.

Over in the Outer Richmond, the former Americana Grill is now ~EAT AMERICANA~, and former Rickybobby chef James Moisey is in the kitchen. Owner Tony Lai renovated the space and menu (it’s all about American comfort food and all-day breakfast now) and added outdoor seating. Open Wed-Mon 10am-3pm and 5pm-10pm. [Via Hoodline.] 3532 Balboa St. at 36th Ave., 415-387-2893.

There’s a new lineup of pop-up vendors that will be at the CUESA Saturday market at the ~FERRY BUILDING~ for the winter. There’s Kantine by Nichole Accettola, serving Scandinavian open-style sandwiches (smørrebrød) with a focus on whole, local ingredients; Volcano Kimchi from Aruna Lee, who plans to offer several varieties of kimchi as well as kimchi juice shots and kimchi fruitcake; Crumble & Whisk (baker Charles Farriér) makes creative handmade cheesecakes in flavors like harvest pumpkin spice, apple spice, and pecan crumble; Rasoi from La Cocina grad Heena Patel serves Western Indian dishes honoring Gujarati traditions and using local ingredients, like egg uttapam with avocado and pav bhaji; and Salt Pt. Meat Share offers handmade sausages and charcuterie sourced from pasture-raised animals from local ranches (Giovanni Betteo is a former 4505 Meats butcher and started Salt Pt. last year).

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Sugarlump interior; Yelp photo by fat c.

Some closures to report around town, starting with ~SUGARLUMP~ on 24th Street, which was a favorite café of many local laptop workers. It has gone through some ownership changes, and the latest ABC license transfer lists Alimento LLC as the newest owner, but after a call to Alimento in North Beach, they said they were not expanding. We’ll have to see what’s next for the space. 2862 24th St. at Florida.

A reader let me know another Mission café has closed: ~RODGER’S COFFEE & TEA~. 3520 20th St. at Mission, 415-829-3405.

One of my favorite signs to shake my head over will no longer be flying on Franklin: ~KAKA UDON~ has closed. I know, their many delivery customers who loved their freshly made udon are saying, “Oh, crap.” 1535 Franklin St. at Pine, 415-577-2380.

And over in Glen Park, a tipster let me know ~OSHA THAI~ is closed and papered over with a new sign: ~ONE WAAN THAI~. 2922 Diamond St. at Bosworth, 415-586-6742.

November 1, 2016
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Your table is ready is Motze. Photo via Facebook.

After last week’s news about Nick Balla and Cortney Burns leaving ~BAR TARTINE~, we can look and see what they’re up to with their new venture, ~MOTZE~, which is now open.

As I previously mentioned, they opened quickly and on the fly in the former Herbivore, and since the lease is only for 1 1/2 years, they didn’t want to sink too much into it. Cooks will be running food from the kitchen, with a manager and a couple of “guides” overseeing the room.

But let’s take a look at the menu, because that’s why you’ll be coming here: to feast. The three-course set menu is $58 (tip included) and is served family style—and if you have any dietary restrictions, they’ll take care of you. Right now you’ll start with rainbow trout nare zushi with fresh wasabi, and seed bread with cultured butter, avocado, trout roe, and honey truffle. Expect waves of dishes to follow, with many of their housemade ingredients, from miso to soy sauce. They are continuing their exclusive relationship with Full Table Farm in Yountville—whatever they deliver, the restaurant works with, which eliminates a great deal of waste, and sparks a lot of creativity.

The beverage program will also have handcrafted touches, from rice spirit cocktails infused with grains, fruits, and vegetables to their nonalcoholic sodas on tap (zero waste is a big component to what they’re doing).

Open Tue-Sat 5:30pm-close. 983 Valencia St at 21st St., 415-484-1206.

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A corner of the dining room. Photo courtesy of Coffee Manufactory.

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The dining room at Cala. Photo by Chloe List.

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Shoyu ikura at Ijji. Photo via Facebook.

A few things to note around town, starting with the impending dinner service at ~TARTINE MANUFACTORY~, served Wed-Sun 5:30pm-10pm, starting Wednesday November 9th. This week, they are doing a warm-up series of five dinners, and even though all the tickets are gone (dagnabbit), you can still get a sense of some of the dinner menu items from chef Sam Goinsalvos, like housemade ricotta, beets, serrano chile, rye crisps; oyster stew, bacon, leeks, potato, scallop cream; beef heart and hanger steak tartare, black trumpet mushrooms, fried shallot, nasturtium crackers; and skillet roasted chicken, leeks, sherry vinegar, hazelnuts, rapini, anchovy, Calabrian chile. I’ll take it all, thanks. We’ll share the actual à la carte menu next week. Get ready to make some reservations, like, now! 595 Alabama St. at 18th St.

Starting this Sunday November 6th, ~CALA~ will no longer serve brunch on Saturdays—it will be on Sundays only (11am-3pm). Bonus: for the month of November, they will be offering a half bottle of Champagne and a half-dozen oysters for $40 to all brunch guests. Pop!

There are a few sure things in life, like death and taxes, and we thought scoring a burger at ~NOPA~ at 1am was another one, but be prepared for your sense of reality to take a beating. As of now, Nopa’s owners decided to curb the closing hour Sun to Thu to midnight, while Fri and Sat will still stay open until 1am. Scoop’s piece quotes partner Jeff Hanak: “It wasn’t an easy decision. We’re just trying to look at the health of the staff and the longevity, just looking at the sustainability of it, making sure staff is not leaving at 3:30 or 4 in the morning.” Thanks for all the late-night burgers and keeping us fed all these years!

A bit farther down Divisadero, the recently opened ~IJJI~ from chef and co-owner Billy Kong (Saru Sushi) and Kua Chuang (Seiya in San Carlos) has upgraded the menu to a 19-course omakase format, which includes 5 starters, 13 pieces of nigiri, and a soup. It’s now $135 and excludes beverages, taxes, and gratuity. There are just 15 seats: 8 at tables and 7 at the sushi bar. Seatings are 5:30pm and 8:30pm, plus a 10pm seating on Fri and Sat. Yup, this is the new Divisadero. 252 Divisadero St. at Haight, 415-658-7388.

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Empanadas Argentinas at Sofia Café. All photos courtesy of Sofia Café.

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Tri-tip Angus beef with vegetables.

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Panqueques de dulce de leche for dessert.

The sweet little Café Sophie closed down not long after getting its beer and wine license, but fortunately there’s a new taker for the space, Nelson Jameson, who is opening ~SOFIA CAFÉ~ in its place (one of his two daughters is named Sofia). Jameson is Argentine, and so is his chef, Pablo Gimenez Melo, who was most recently at the nearby Hearth.

The plan is to initially open for coffee service, breakfast, and lunch, daily from 7:30am (or 8am) to 4pm or so—as they get their feet wet, they will adjust hours. There will be egg dishes and sandwiches, and Melo has been busy making housemade pastries. Proyecto Diaz will be supplying the coffee. Although in a few months, look for some Honduran coffee that Jameson has access to through a colleague who has a finca there; he will have Proyecto Diaz roast the beans for him.

Lunch will be inspired by the seasons and farmers’ markets; it will be clean comfort food, from housemade ravioli to a hearty plate of tri-tip Angus beef, with grilled vegetables, chimichurri, and organic cherry tomatoes, or Patagonian-style lamb shank with baked vegetables on the weekend. Menu plans include an eggplant sandwich with provolone, baby arugula, and olive oil, and another with ham, kale, tomato, cheddar, eggs, and mayo. Look for a daily soup, salads, and empanadas, too, including classic beef, and another with mozzarella, tomato, and fresh basil. Got a sweet tooth? Check out the panqueques de dulce de leche.

Once things are under way, the plan is to launch a happy hour, with a few tapas, Argentine and local wines, beer, and more. Jameson wants to create a relaxed and pleasant vibe, with music too. The whole point is to be a neighborhood place, so they will make any adjustments as needed. Dinner service will also be added—I’ll keep you posted on this next stage.

Jameson is a general contractor, and this is a personal project; he is opening Sofia because he wants to create a space for friends and neighbors to love. They will open Monday November 7th for breakfast and lunch. 3463 16th St. at Church.

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Chef Evan Gotanda makin’ magic at Salt House. Photo: Hardy Wilson.

After celebrating its 10th anniversary, ~SALT HOUSE~ owners Doug Washington and brothers Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal announce a new chef, Evan Gotanda, who was previously chef de cuisine at Anchor & Hope and also worked in LA at Bastide, Patina, and Celestino Drago’s restaurant group. His new menu features housemade pasta (like beet top ravioli, baby beets, goat cheese, pine nut gremolata) as well as some dishes that pull from his Japanese heritage (roasted cauliflower, radish, soy mayo, roasted cashews, kabocha squash, furikake), plus other international inspirations. Many housemade items are forthcoming, like kimchi and vinegar.

Over at ~CHAMBERS EAT + DRINK~ in the Tenderloin, partner Isabel Manchester has brought on chef Yosuke Machida (previously executive chef at Ame). Some new dishes on the seasonal menu include confit of octopus with chorizo, butter beans, preserved Meyer lemon, shiso, and Castelvetrano olives; and a beet salad with persimmon, chicory, Parmesan, horseradish, and a balsamic vinaigrette. He has also added a tasting menu. 601 Eddy St. at Larkin, 415-496-5178.

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White truffle. Flickr photo from Erika Kerekes.

You smell that in the air? That’s right, it’s white truffle season, and local restaurants are making it rain! Come by ~PERBACCO~ from November 1st-12th for their Piemontese dishes, including the classic, tajarin: hand-cut tagliatelle with a guinea hen ragù and 63°C hen egg. Pricing will reflect the market price of truffles.

Over at ~DELFINA~, they are hosting their White Truffle Dinners November 14th, 15th, 16th, and on the 19th, which is also a celebration of their 18-year anniversary! Reserve your table now. 

~IZAKAYA RINTARO~ is hosting a special guest from Tokyo, Cocco Nomura, who is well known in food circles in Japan. She will be teaching some cooking classes and will be accompanied by her daughter, Yuri Nomura of Restaurant Eatrip in Harajuku. Tickets are still available for Sunday November 6th, and a Monday block of tickets just opened up too. $150. 15 students per session, which will include hands-on instruction followed by lunch. 11am-2pm.

Want to experience a Hawaiian luau? Executive chef Sharon Nahm of ~E&O KITCHEN AND BAR~ is hosting a luau-themed night on Thursday November 10th. Check it out here. $60 all-inclusive (includes three courses and drink pairings!). 6:30pm.

The seventh annual Fall Chocolate Salon is Tuesday November 15th, at a new venue, the Hotel Kabuki. There will be 30 chocolatiers, confectioners, wineries, and other culinary artisans, and even a film screening, chef and author talks, and more. Check out the full lineup. 10am-5pm. Advance tickets $20, $25 at the door. 1625 Post St. at Laguna.

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Photo from Pinkie’s Bakery.

It was already a bummer to learn that ~PINKIE’S BAKERY~ in SoMa had closed, and now owner Cheryl Storms has closed the Bernal Heights shop too. Thanks for all the treats over the years! (Via Eater.) 833 Cortland Ave. at Gates.

Meanwhile, across the Bay, Nosh reports ~THE ADVOCATE~ in Elmwood has closed. Owners John Paluska and Andrew Hoffman (they are also behind the successful Comal in Berkeley) decided to close it after being open for a little bit over a year and have put the restaurant and the business up for sale. 2635 Ashby Ave. at College, Berkeley.

October 25, 2016
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It’s that time of the year, when Michelin releases the latest meteor shower of stars around the Bay Area. You can read the complete list of 54 winners here. The highlights: Quince now has three stars, joining Benu, Saison, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Manresa, and The French Laundry in the three-star club. Lazy Bear earned two stars this year, and the new one-star additions are Hashiri, Ju-ni, Mister Jiu’s, Mosu, and The Progress in SF, Madera in Menlo Park, and Adega in San Jose.

Big congrats to all the winners. The Michelin Guide San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country goes on sale tomorrow (October 26th), and the entire selection is also available on the Michelin Restaurants app available for free download.

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Chefs Cortney Burns and Nick Balla. Photo by Chad Robertson via Facebook.

I know I’m not going to be the only one bummed over the news that Cortney Burns and Nick Balla are no longer going to be taking over the ~BAR TARTINE~ space and turning it into their restaurant, Crescent. It sounds like a deal couldn’t be reached, so they will be moving on after their last service on New Year’s Eve (December 31st). Scoop reports they will still try to find another location for the concept, ideally in the Mission. In the meantime, the duo will also be going full tilt on their new project, Motze, which is due to open on Valencia very very soon, possibly this weekend.

No word on what Tartine’s Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt have in mind for the space just yet, although they will be keeping it—and it has that monster oven still in there, so this should be interesting.

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The fried chicken sandwich at The Bird. Yelp photo by Stephanie T.

Folks are lining up for lunch each day to try the new fried chicken sandwich at ~THE BIRD~ in the FiDi (the project is from Adriano Paganini). The fried chicken sandwich (regular or spicy thigh meat) is dressed with celery, housemade Fuji apple slaw, mayo, and pickles for $8. A few more details: the chicken is free-range, and it’s a berbere spice blend that gives it that extra oomph. The bun is also made every morning by a local baker. There are also curly fries on the menu. Open Mon-Fri 11am-10pm (or until they sell out). 115 New Montgomery St. at Minna, 415-827-9825.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a casual Filipino pop-up called ~ELENA UNA~ was coming to the Marina, and the opening is happening right on schedule, this Thursday October 27th. Tue-Sat 8:30am-2pm and 4:30pm-9pm. 3347 Fillmore St. at Chestnut.

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The main room at Marla Bakery. Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux.

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Fable’s mohair banquette, plus animal portraits. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

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The cozy dining room at MINA Test Kitchen. Photo via Facebook.

There are some changes in kitchens around the city, starting with ~MARLA BAKERY~ in the Outer Richmond. Co-owner and baker Amy Brown is taking over the savory offerings (instead of being so focused on the baking side of things). Her chef de cuisine is Max Newman (formerly of Zuni and Black Jet Bakery). New dishes include city ham and pea greens flatbread (from their oven) with leek cream, provolone, and cherry bomb chile paste;
 and whey-brined roasted half chicken with citrus-glazed sweet potatoes and carrots, pasilla cream, nora pepper butter, and pea greens.

Sean Ehland, most recently the pastry chef at Aster, has also returned to Marla and is now a partner overseeing the bread program, and Nicole Walsh (formerly of Mission Pie) runs the pastry program, adding desserts like the strawberry bay parfait, with layers of dark fudge cake and strawberry-bay leaf gastrique topped with bay nut cream. 3619 Balboa St. at 37th Ave.

Some changes at ~FABLE~ in the Castro: chef-partner Jon Hearnsberger let me know he has sold his share to his business partner Erik Rhoades and is no longer involved with the restaurant. Stand by to see what Hearnsberger does next; he hopes to have a new place in the coming year, after taking a much-needed break. 558 Castro St. at 19th St.

The ever-changing series of dinners at ~MINA TEST KITCHEN~ continue. Up next (launching November 12th) is Postcards from La Costiera, a concept featuring coastal Italian cuisine. Chef Adam Sobel’s menu will highlight seafood like crudos, shellfish, pastas, and whole fish. Sobel and Mina are currently touring Italy with Livio Colapinto, hitting 23 destinations, from Cetara to Catania, so expect plenty of inspiration. The five-course, family-style menu is $59, classico wine pairings are $30, $40 for the riserva. Italian-inspired cocktails by Brian Means are also available. Tue-Sat dinner. 2120 Greenwich St. at Fillmore.  

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The sunny dining room at Yuzuki. Photo courtesy of Yuzuki.

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Celebrating Diwali at Dosa in 2012. Photo via Facebook.

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Pulling the noodles at M.Y. China. Photo courtesy Creative Mint.

Loosen that belt, it’s going to be too tight after this lineup of deliciousness.

~PERBACCO~ is turning 10 and is hosting a fancy dinner tonight (Tuesday October 25th), but you can also dine throughout the week (until Saturday October 29th) and enjoy a selection of exceptional wines for $10 a glass. They will also be gifting each table at lunch this week with a complimentary appetizer as a token of their gratitude.

On Wednesday November 9th, help ~YUZUKI~ celebrate their fifth anniversary with a special modern sushi kaiseki dinner. $100, including a complimentary beer or glass of sparkling wine. Sake pairings will also be available for an additional $50. Make your reservation or call 415-556-9898.

You can celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, at a couple of locations in the Bay Area. ~DOSA ON FILLMORE~ is hosting their annual Diwali Celebration on Sunday October 30th, from 5pm-11:30pm, with a special menu ($55), housemade Diwali sweets, music from DJ Nix, complimentary henna art, and more. Reservations are filling up; book online or call 415-441-3672.

~AJANTA~ in Berkeley is celebrating on Sunday October 30th and Monday October 31st—with party decorations in effect. They are offering a special $42 prix-fixe lunch and dinner menu that will include paired wines by the glass. (A vegetarian version of the menu is $39.) All guests will be served complimentary mithai, which are traditional Indian sweets during Diwali days.

There’s a Chengdu Food & Cultural Festival coming to SF November 10th-18th, thanks to chef Martin Yan. Chengdu is considered the culinary capital of the Sichuan province and is also Asia’s first UNESCO city of gastronomy. Unfortunately we can’t attend the gala at City Hall featuring a team of Sichuan’s finest chefs, but five restaurants are also taking part with special Sichuan-themed culinary events hosted by chef Yan and the visiting chefs, who will be working closely with the staff in each venue. Release the heat!

On Friday November 11th, ~KOI PALACE~ is hosting a dinner from 6:30pm-9:30pm, $128 per person, call 650-992-9000. ~M.Y. CHINA~ is featuring a special Chengdu-inspired menu November 12th-30th, and ~CRYSTAL JADE~ is hosting their dinner on Wednesday November 16th from 6:30pm-9:30pm, $188 per person, or call 415-399-1200.

Other dinners include Chef Chu in Los Altos (Nov. 13th, $100 per person) and China Stix in Santa Clara (Nov. 14th, $65 per person).