April 14, 2009

After months of wondering what was going to go into the 54 Mint space in Mint Street Plaza, I was thrilled to get the first peek at the project. A very special Italian restaurant is going to be opening in the now-chic space, a project from Alberto Avalle (an original founder of Il Buco in New York), Carla Nardi, and Nicola Della Morte. It’s opening in the old El Balazo space, just across the street from Blue Bottle. And what’s it going to be called? Simple: ~54 MINT~.

54 Mint will follow the Italian cooking philosophy of using natural, pure ingredients; all of the ingredients are specially sourced, analyzed, and of top quality. The partners have their own line of culinary products, including olive oil, salt, vinegar, flour, and wine, in addition to specialty ingredients like fennel pollen, bottarga, peperoncino, and truffles. Their cheese selection will include a 36-month Parmigiano and pecorino aged anywhere from 3–24 months. So while it’s a restaurant, it’s also going to serve as an alimentari, where you can bring empty bottles and get them filled with olive oil or vinegar, or pick up a chunk of cheese.

The wines will be organic and biodynamic from selected estates of Europe—the only California wine will be from Robert Sinskey. Prices will range from $22–$80, and guests will be able to buy wine retail, by the bottle or case. There is also full liquor, so there will be a small selection of cocktails made from quality spirits.

Avalle hails from Umbria, a region with a long tradition of curing. He will continue this tradition in the restaurant’s offerings, highlighting ingredients cured in salt, air, olive oil, or vinegar. He will continue this tradition in the restaurant’s offerings, highlighting ingredients cured in salt, air, olive oil, or vinegar. The menu will also include antipasti like pinzimonio (a dip for fresh vegetables), frittura mista (a mix of fried items), 8–12 pastas, and baccalà (salt cod). The chef de cuisine is Giancarlo Bortolotti (most recently the chef-owner of Mangiafuoco). Ehsan Ganji is the bakery/pastry chef; his background includes Il Buco, Bouley Bakery, Sullivan Street Bakery, and Balthazar in New York. His pastas will be painstakingly made and rolled by hand (not by machine), and will include pappardelle, fettuccine, tagliolini, lasagne, gnocchi, and ravioli. Ganji will be making the pastas and bread with a special organic flour (the group mills their own grain)—some of the breads will be no-knead, pre-fermented, and cultured. There is also a special water filtration system for all water used in the kitchen and consumed in the restaurant. There will not be any beef—only Ossobaw pork from North Carolina that the kitchen will use to make sausages, pancetta, and lardo (other kinds of salumi will appear later).


The clean Euro look balances the old and new, and includes white metro tile, a granite counter with white permanent stools, a laser-cut chandelier with different offshoot lights that looks like flowers, old pottery and artifacts, and handmade plates from Rovere. Downstairs there are concrete floors, displays of all the products, grey walls that will feature art, and tables that can be used for large groups or private dining (there are three tables for 8, 10, and 12). There is room for 42 upstairs, 30 downstairs, and 44 outside on the Plaza (to be outfitted with chic Emu furnishings, by the way). Look for an opening in (hopefully) late April. Hours will be Mon–Sat 11:30am–3:30pm, and then 5:30pm–10:30pm, closed Sunday. Brunch will be added later. I’ll keep you apprised of the opening date! 54 Mint at Jessie.

Since the lease is now final, I have a tidbit to make South Park workers (and neighbors) happy: ~IRONSIDE~, a casual dining concept from the District team is slated to open in late summer in the Chronicle Books building (it’s a build-out from a raw space). Coffee/pastries, lunch, and dinner will be served, with plans for brunch down the road. The food is geared to be high quality, healthy and simple with a focus on seasonal Italian and American home-style food. Prices will be affordable and the food will be ideal to take home. And since Caterina Mirabelli is involved, you know there will be some wine available, with five or six wines by the glass. The two-floor space will be cozy, with brick walls and iron elements, and an open kitchen. I’ll release more info as updates come in. 680 2nd St. at Townsend.

Sunday was the last day for the ~LARK CREEK INN~, after nearly 20 years of business. The restaurant is closing for a re-concepting and interior renovation, and will reopen in late May as The Tavern at Lark Creek. As noted on the website, the reason for the change is this: “Today the emphasis is on neighborhood versus destination, lower prices versus higher ones, and simplicity versus complexity.” Chef-partner Erica Holland Toll will be putting together a seasonal menu with main dishes coming in at under $15. Some examples include Delta crawfish boil with Old Bay and drawn butter ($10.25); spiced Petaluma chicken wings with celery vinaigrette ($8.25); meatball sandwich on a crunchy roll ($11.50); free-form duck lasagne with goat cheese and hazelnuts ($13.50); wood-oven roasted half chicken ($14.50); and mom’s classic pot roast with root vegetables ($14.95). Affordable wines by the glass, bottle, and carafe will be available, plus handcrafted artisanal cocktails. Some interior changes include reigniting a wood-burning oven in the dining room, refinished antique tables, new chairs, lighting, and a fresh color palate. There will also be a new herb garden, a refurbished brick patio, and updated street-side grove. 234 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415-924-7766.
Â
After over a million dollars and a complete gutting, the Sunset restaurant ~EBISU~ is slated to have its grand opening on May 7th. Owner Steve Fujii is excited to unveil the redeveloped interior, a new and improved sushi bar, and a state-of-the-art kitchen designed by the team at Tekton Architecture. There will also be new menu items, plus a new website with online ordering—you should be able to check out the menu online during the week of April 27th. As if this project wasn’t keeping the owner busy enough, a few months back I alluded to a new Ebisu location opening downtown. Ebisu will be opening a location in the Financial District at 336 Kearny Street in late summer. It will serve as Ebisu's express lunch spot, with custom catering for downtown hotels and businesses. 1283 9th Ave. at Judah, 415-566-1770; 336 Kearny St. at Bush. Â


I’ve been looking forward to the opening of ~BAR CRUDO~ on Divisadero (I know I am not alone). The latest opening date has shifted to May 1st, stand by. In case you want to go by the old location before it closes, Eater has the word that the Bush Street location is closing on April 25th. After that, the Tunnel Top owners take over and will reopen it as Swell (more on that project soon). 603 Bush St. at Stockton, 415-956-0396; 655 Divisadero at Grove.

I got more details about the bakery I mentioned that is opening in the Lower Haight: ~ROLAND’S BAKERY AND CAFÉ~. It’s a project from owners Philip Roland and Michael Green, who met in the baking program at City College. Roland’s background includes working at Sweet Inspirations, his Escape from San Francisco Bagels in Willits, and recently some part-time work at Mission Beach Café. Roland, an East Coastie, is going to be offering hand-rolled specialty bagels from a water bath—can’t wait to plunk myself down with a bagel and some lox, cream cheese, and capers. Additionally, there will be danishes, muffins, scones, croissants, breads, and sweets like cookies, cream pies, layer cakes, and cream puffs. You will also be able to order birthday and wedding cakes. Some light breakfast and lunch will be served, with brunch potentially added later. I’m especially excited for the late-night hours slated for Thursday through Saturday until 3am. The grand opening should be June 1st with a soft opening in late May. Closed Tue, open Wed–Mon 6am–5pm, with special evening hours from 8pm–3am Thu–Sat. 422 Haight St. at Webster.

More baked good(ness): ~ANTHONY’S COOKIES~ has opened in the Mission, and according to a happy tablehopper reader, the cookies are delicious. Flavors include banana walnut, oatmeal, semi-sweet chocolate chip, toffee chip, and whole-wheat oatmeal with chocolate chip. Initial hours for now are Mon–Fri 10am–7pm, Sat 10am–8pm, and Sun 10am–4pm. 1417 Valencia St. at 25th St., 415-655-9834.

I was surprised to learn ~STEVEN OLIVER~, the GM extraordinaire of Le Colonial, was let go after eight-plus years of service. This economic downturn is no fun, no sir. Oliver says, “It’s not my first rodeo—I’m sad to depart but excited too. It’ll be good for me, and will put me out there.” I guess we have to make sure his next destination is big enough to accommodate his annual holiday hootenanny.

Was very sad to read this article on SFGate about Paolo Dominici, the owner of ~BACCO~ in Noe Valley who has gone missing in Hawaii. He disappeared after going spearfishing and getting separated from his friend and dive partner. Sadly the search has been called off. So very tragic. Condolences to his family, friends, loved ones, and customers.

Eater broke the story that the owner of ~FIOR D’ITALIA~ has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. We’ll see what this means for America's oldest Italian restaurant. 2237 Mason St. at Chestnut, 415-986-1886.

A few months ago I mentioned ~MOUSSY’S~, the café opening in the former La Cave Bistro space in the Alliance Française. Well, it’s now open. You can check out pics of the place and the casual menu here—there are a variety of egg dishes, like eggs Benedict, croque madame, and croissant stuffed with egg and cheese. For lunch, there’s a Merguez or steak sandwich, and homemade tarte tatin for dessert. Open Tue–Sun 9am–4pm. 1345 Bush St. at Larkin, 415-441-1802.

According to permits, the Sunset’s ~ENJOY VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT~ is going to be opening a second location in the Ming Seafood Garden location in the Financial District/Chinatown. 839 Kearny St. at Washington.

And now, some on-the-street reports from the intrepid reader Jason B:


“New (upscale) Lee's has replaced Bamboo Buffet. I put upscale in parenthesis because really, a Lee's can't truly be upscale, but they have a nicer interior, dark wood palette, it’s definitely a step up.” 322 Kearny St. at Bush, 415-986-1052.

“And a new SF Soup, home of the fabulous parfait and half hummus sandwich!” 580 California St. at Kearny, 415-781-7687.

“Chocolates on Castro seems to have changed to Chocolate Bar & Café.” [Ed. note: according to a Yelp review, they are serving real Belgian waffles with pearl sugar.] 504 Castro St. at 18th St.

Amy's Café has taken over the spot of Mediterraneo Gourmet Pizza.” 357 Kearny St. at Pine, 415-397-5850.

“Izalco in the Mission has closed.” 2904 24th St. at Florida.

Grazie, Jason!

-Over in Cow Hollow, ~NETTIE’S CRAB SHACK~ is now offering California Casual Clambakes on Sunday nights (replacing the Sunday Crab Feeds). The family-style clambakes include a salad to start, cornbread, a pot filled with steaming hot mussels, clams, Delta crawfish, whole prawns, spicy sausage, and boiled potatoes, and whoopee pies for dessert. $35 per person. Sundays from 5pm–10pm. 2032 Union St. at Buchanan, 415-409-0300.

I mentioned ~PICKLES~ [site not live yet] is now serving dinner, but I thought I should clarify that chef Matthew Kerley’s menu just isn’t about hamburgers and onion rings and frozen egg custard: it also includes an Americanized version of pasta carbonara, with hand-cut fresh egg pappardelle, house bacon, sweet peas, tomatoes, fine herbs, Grana Padano, and egg yolk; grilled Niman Ranch pork loin with apples and house potatoes; shrimp scampi; and chicken piccata (all $12.50–$14.50). Plus there are new hours, with dinner until 10pm Tue–Thu, and until 2:30am Fri–Sat. 42 Columbus Ave. at Jackson, 415-421-2540.

In a time when every place around town seems to be closing for lunch, ~HOME~ on Market Street just launched weekday lunch. On the menu: crab salad, steak salad, Cobb salad, salmon BLT, fried chicken sandwich, and grilled meatloaf sandwich, plus various pasta dishes. Open for lunch daily at 11am (weekend brunch starts at 10am). 2100 Market St. at Church, 415-503-0333.

I was happy to hear of another benefit dinner for victims of the Abruzzo earthquake. Tonight, Tuesday April 14th, ~A16~ is hosting a benefit dinner, with the evening’s profits sent directly to help the victims. Chef Liza will be offering some Abruzzo-inspired dishes and many of A16’s wine friends have donated wines for the occasion. Even if you don’t get a reservation, there are always tables set aside for walk-in guests. 2355 Chestnut St. at Scott, 415-771-2216.

Tax Day Relief


Yeah, April 15th is not a favorite day of many. Blergh. Here are a few ideas on how to numb the pain:

~COFFEE BAR~
is hosting their monthly film night (second Wednesdays) and will be screening Raising Arizona. For your snacking pleasure there will be some trailer park gold standards: $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon, Hamm’s, and Miller High Life, plus mac and cheese, tater tots, chicharrones, and more! The screening starts at 7pm, so come early and get your seat and snacks. 1890 Bryant St. at Mariposa, 415-551-8100.


I was reading on the SF Weekly food blog about ~DEEP FRIED NOT BOMBS PART TWO~, when folks are invited to bring vegetables and other vegan items to plunk into the provided hot oil. (Are Peeps vegan?) 5:30pm. United Nations Plaza at Civic Center.

There will be another cookies and milk happy hour from 5pm–8pm at ~WINE BAR & SHOP~ in Embarcadero Two. Cookies from CMBSWEETS will be $1 and the milk is free. 2 Embarcadero Center (Front St. between Sacramento and Clay).

How about some meal deals?

~1300 ON FILLMORE~ has kicked off a $28 Monday night fried chicken prix-fixe special. You get your choice of a mixed green salad or spiced pumpkin bisque, a serving of black skillet-fried chicken with buttermilk whipped potatoes and pan gravy, and apple cobbler à la mode for dessert. 1300 Fillmore St. at Eddy, 415-771-7100.

Gotta love this thread on Chowhound, outlining ~WHERE TO GET $1 OYSTERS AROUND TOWN~.

Here are some cool culinary events:


Yup, pickling is hot. Those of you with a taste for the sour, you’ll want to check out ~SAUERKRAUT MADE SIMPLE~, a cooking class at La Cocina on Wednesday April 22nd. Here’s more from the event announcement, “The folks at Farmhouse Culture will lead you into the secret, scintillating world of sauerkraut; they will teach you the history, science, and health benefits of lacto-fermented goodies. Then, you'll get to try your hand at making sauerkraut. By the end of the night, you'll have a jar full of cabbage and bacteria (the good stuff, promise), ready for some fermenting in the comfort of your own home.” 6:30–8:30pm. $30. Buy your ticket here. BYOBeer and BYODinner (snacks provided). 2948 Folsom St. at 25th St.

I also thought this event sounds like a winner: ~RENEWING AMERICA’S FOOD TRADITIONS: GARY PAUL NABHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH ASHLEY ROOD~ on Wednesday April 29th. Here’s more: “Gary Paul Nabhan may be best known by farmers’ market fans for the pioneering Southwestern locavore experiment he described in Coming Home to Eat. He founded the Renewing America’s Food Traditions alliance (RAFT) and edited the book by the same name. Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods is a journey across our continent’s 13 distinct food nations that details over 90 endangered plant and animal foods and brings them to life with cultural histories, folk traditions, and historic recipes. In this conversation with sustainable agriculture advocate and contributing writer Ashley Rood, Nabhan will offer tidbits and tales of renewal from the book, discuss biodiversity in California, and remind us how our food choices can support a region’s distinct culinary identity.” The presentation will take place in the Port Commission Hearing Room, second floor of the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The presentation is followed by a tasting of heritage foods from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Tickets: $10 (plus $1.24 service fee); order here. 6:30pm–8:30pm.


And in case you feel like getting your bohemian groove on and heading out of dodge for a unique event, ~NEPENTHE~ is having their 60th celebration on Friday April 24th (it’s in Big Sur, 28 miles south of Carmel). There will be readings by Romney Steele from her forthcoming book, My Nepenthe, live music, belly dancing, fire dancing, and more. You can read the event schedule on the site. You can finish up the day with an Ambrosia burger or Lolly's roast chicken, and their three-berry pie. 48510 Highway #1, Big Sur, 831-667-2345.