September 25, 2007

Cute new restaurant alert! In the former Vogalonga space in the Mission is ~LOLO~, a friendly little spot with one heck of an intriguing concept: Latin American meets Mediterranean. A friend dined there on the opening night and said the flavors were fab and fresh—the restaurant has a focus on local and organic ingredients, with produce from Happy Boy Farms. Lolo is the nickname of owner Lorena Zerpuche, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Jorge Martinez, and their biz partner, Merdol Erkal, who is Turkish. Lorena and Jorge usually live in Guadalajara, where they have two other restaurants, I Latina and Anita li—check out the sites, they’re playful and fun. I want to fly to Mexico and visit both restaurants, right now. (Why are people so afraid of color here? Seriously.) Lorena, who designs restaurants and furnishings, designed Lolo’s space, and is inspired by the styles and colors found in smaller cities in Mexico. My friend said the food was beautifully presented; dishes include panko-encrusted fried shrimp wrapped in jicama with chipotle aioli ($7.50); huitlacoche and ricotta-stuffed gyoza skin steamed with roasted pepper, tomato, and squash blossom sauce ($8); and roasted eggplant puree with braised grass-fed Superior Valley lamb wrapped in an eggplant flower ($15). Some of Lolo’s kitchen staff previously worked at the couple’s restaurants in Mexico, so the staff will be holding it down since Lorena and Jorge will be traveling back and forth between Mexico and SF. Open at 6pm for dinner nightly. 3234 22nd St. at Bartlett (between Mission and Valencia), 415-643-5656.

Okay, fellow guanciale lovers: A16’s latest venture, ~SPQR~, passed its inspections and opened last week! And it swung the door aperto with a bang, see, the town is obviously fired up to eat straciatella (Roman egg drop soup), mozzarella in carrozza (with anchovies, yum), local sand dabs, and you can indulge in afore-mentioned guanciale in the pasta all’amatriciana (my favorite) or carbonara (decisions, decisions). And try finding house-made fusilli anywhere else around town. So check this out: you can be seated until 11pm! The A16 folks are trying to keep late hours at this newest restaurant, and debunk the myth that there is nowhere to eat in this town after 9pm (well, besides the ones we all know and love, like NOPA, etc.). So act like a New Yorker and support the late hours, or at least swing by for a bite and glass of vino after a movie, otherwise the late nights will say “ciao.” (In the goodbye sense, not the hello sense.) Dinner nightly 5:30pm–11pm. Lunch kicks in next week on October 1 and hours will be 11:30pm–2:30pm Mon–Fri. (Wait until you see the list of panini, including bresaola with Robiola and artichokes, I am so sold.) Brunch starts on Saturday, October 6, and the hours will be 9am–2:30pm. 1911 Fillmore St. at Bush, 415-771-7779.

So thanks to a dedicated reader, I got more word on ~MEDITERRANEAN SPIRIT~, and why it closed. Fortunately it wasn’t due to something tragic (some of us were a little worried there)—the owners decided the restaurant was taking too much time away from their kids, so they decided to sell it. A kebab place is opening in its stead (I’ve heard it called the Afghan Kebab House or something like that), and Khalil, the former Mediterranean Spirit owner, hopes people will support it. Sure, but I’ll still miss Mediterranean Spirit something crazy. I know I’m not alone. 1303 Polk St. at Bush.

A new restaurant has joined the city’s izakaya ranks (okay, it’s officially a trend now): ~SOZAI RESTAURANT & SAKE LOUNGE~ has opened in the Sunset. The owner and executive chef is Mari Takahashi (of Mari’s Catering, Inc.), who has put together a menu that blends authentic Japanese dishes, like filet katsu, ochazuke, and assorted fresh sashimi, with some California-cuisine inspired small plates, like edamame hummus, all served izakaya/tapas style. Beau Timken of True Sake has chosen handcrafted sakes from some of best master brewers of Japan to pair with various menu items, which you can enjoy at the six-seat bar in the lounge, or while dining in the 32-seat minimalist Japanese-influenced dining room, with woodwork by Tim Frick. There is also an open kitchen, where you are sure to hear welcoming shouts of “Irassaimase!” And now it’s time for your Japanese lesson: sozai means “ingredient” in Japanese. Open Wed–Sun, 5pm-10pm. 1500 Irving St. at 16th, 415-681-7150.

Thirsty for more wine? You better be. By mid to late October, ~BIN 38~ is opening in the Marina at the former Mi Lindo Peru space, and will be pouring an array of New World numbers (think South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand, Oregon, Washington, and California; 40 by the glass), plus some fab international brews as well: 15–20 bottled brews, to be exact, and they will be served in proper glassware, yay. My favorite little detail: partner Don Davis of Uncorked Events loves bubbles about as much as I do, if not more, so there will be at least five sparklers available by the glass, along with plans to sell Krug at retail, making it the least expensive pour in town. (Davis even mentioned having some available by the glass during the holidays.) Oh, and there will also be some food beyond olives and cheese plates: James Schenk of Destino consulted on the culinary concept, and Glenn Christiansen, previously at NOPA and Delfina, will be the chef, so you know the local/seasonal approach will be in effect. I peeked at a preliminary menu, and dishes may include a ricotta tart, some salads, hand-cut steak tartare, quinoa-crusted fried calamari, and quail and garlic sausage with polenta and a sauce from roasted grapes. Just wait until you try some fries with a flute of bubbles, which is sure to become a house favorite (it’s one of my favorite combos to get at Zuni.)

The sunny space will include sidewalk seating, a front area with large windows facing the street, and a spacious patio to boot. (Yes, there will also be plenty of heat lamps, this isn’t Miami, and don’t we know it.) Jim Maxwell and Cindy Beckman of Architects II are the architects and designers, creating a warm and woody space, adding touches like an onyx bar, a communal table, and private alcoves. Speaking of private, there will be a variety of opps for renting part or all of the space out for private parties. Joining Davis in the project are Peter Scully of Dolce and 38 NORTH, and Shaw Amirghassemkhany and David Sheridan, from Shaw Management Group. About the name: 38 represents the latitude of San Francisco, and a bin is a term that signifies a grape-growing parcel of land. Got it? Good! Mon–Wed 3pm–12am; Thu–Fri 3pm–1am; Sat noon–1am; Sun noon–12am. 3232 Scott St. at Chestnut.

Many of ~PORTNOY’S~ desserts, the talented pastry chef at Campton Place. Well, guess who is consulting on the Magnolia Pub and Alembic dessert menus? Meow! Look for some yum magnets like chocolate pudding with tea caramel mousse, and how about this, “Baked” Alaska with hempseed meringue and passion fruit mousse! Brilliant. How perfect for the Haight. Dude.

Starting October 1, ~DOSA~ will be open on Monday nights, so grab that wait-free table while you can. 995 Valencia St. at 21st, 415-642-3672.

The opening of ~FISH & FARM~ is nearing. It's a new restaurant adjacent to the Mark Twain Hotel that should be open by early October. The website proclaims “New American Seafood and Artisan Meats,” and there is a strong eco-friendly and sustainable focus as well. The majority of the food is sourced from small farms within 100 miles of the restaurant, there is a rooftop garden, materials used in construction included reclaimed bamboo floors and recycled marble countertops, plus there is an emphasis on recycling, composting, and there are plans to be carbon neutral. Partners are Frank Klein (First Crush Wine Bar, Biscuits & Blues), and brother and sister John Duggan and Elena Duggan of Original Joe’s.

Commandeering the kitchen is chef Michael Morrison, previously an executive sous chef at Ame—he also worked at Michael Mina, Bizou, and Fringale. If you want to look at the menu, it’s online, take a look here—it’s full of house-made touches, from the pappardelle to malt vinegar and tartar sauce to cured fish. (I do think the “hand-smashed red potatoes” designation is taking it a little far, however.) The staff will be making dessert, offering American classics like crumbles, pie, and the like. There will also be cocktails and a worldwide and affordable wine list. Sheri Sheridan of Swallowtail Design designed the American “vintage chic” space (she also did Salt House, The Ambassador, and Otis)—the dining room has 42 seats, while the neighboring bar seats 16. Design elements include booths, a tufted banquette, an antique clock that stretches five feet across, and bell-shaped lanterns with Edison bulb fixtures. Open for dinner Tue–Sun, 5pm–10pm (until 11pm Thu–Sat). 339 Taylor St. at Ellis, 415-474-FISH (3474).

Some random downtown news for you (these are not recommendations, mind you): the short-lived ~BETTY BOOP DINER~ on Powell is now going to be Herbert Cafe (I guess Betty just couldn’t draw a crowd like she did in the ’30s—let’s see how Herbert fares) and ~TAD'S STEAKS~ (with one of my favorite groovy signs ever—here’s a link to a pic I found on the SFphotorama.com site) is reopening around October 1. I think they had a fire there earlier this year? Broiled steaks, for real.

Since we’re in the random zone, why not a random thought? Okay, is it a good thing or bad thing if the ~TAMALE LADY~ recognizes you? Does this mean you have a drinking problem? No need to answer, just musing over this out loud.

Since we’re now on topic for booze, tonight is CHOW's inaugural ~SQUARE OFF~ organic cocktail competition from 5:30pm–7:30pm at the Ferry Building. The chosen finalists, the manager of a theater company from New York and Ronaldo Colli from Bar Americano, are facing off using organic ingredients from the farmer's market, with Cantina's Duggan McDonnell (AKA Shotzi) emceeing. Judges include Jeff Hollinger (Absinthe), Jane Goldman (CHOW), and Natalie Bovis-Nelsen (The Liquid Muse). Robbie Lewis of Bacar is preparing hors d’oeuvres. Proceeds benefit CUESA and Om Organics. $10 per person, includes cocktails and food. Buy your tickets online.

This event is right up my alley, but it’s a shame (a crying shame, I tell you!) I spend every Monday night home writing this column: ~LA COCINA AND DUGGAN MCDONNELL OF CANTINA~ are hosting a mixology class, with some mighty tasty eats to keep you from getting too wasted on your handiwork. The event will be held at Cantina, on Monday, October 15, from 6pm–8:30pm. $125. RSVP to caleb [at] lacocinasf [dot] org">caleb@lacocinasf.org ASAP (like, right now) since space is limited to 20 people. All proceeds go to the programs at La Cocina and a portion of the cost can be considered a tax-deductible donation.

And now, boozing you can feel good about: next Tuesday, October 2, from 6pm to 7:30pm, ~ONE MARKET RESTAURANT~ will host a special happy hour open to the public with Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers and several other linemen to promote the Streetsmart4Kids campaign, a non-profit organization that benefits local city youth and family programs. There is no entrance fee or minimum donation required, and One Market will offer a 49er Red & Gold Martini, with 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the drink to benefit StreetSmart. One Market will also host a silent auction of 49er memorabilia with all proceeds to benefit Streetsmart. Vernon will be available for photo opportunities and autographs, and voluntary donations will be accepted at the event. The event kicks off the Streetsmart4 Kids campaign, running October 1–November 18, with participating Bay Area restaurants asking diners to make a voluntary $3 donation when paying their bill, with all proceeds directly donated to San Francisco's Huckleberry Youth Programs, La Casa de Las Madres, and Larkin Street Youth Services. 1 Market Plaza at Steuart, 415-777-5577.

Just a reminder that ~EAT LOCAL WEEK~ is going on until Saturday—there are a couple dozen restaurants offering nightly specials made with local ingredients (like Scott Howard, Café Maritime, and the new Mexico DF), plus markets and a slew of producers taking part. You can also look for Eat Local SF at San Francisco magazine’s upcoming FallFest on October 6, highlighting locally sourced ingredients at all the food tables. There is some word that the coalition is considering a “DRINK & Eat Local Week” for the spring depending on the website traffic and response, so let them know that you care, and clickity click click!