August 7, 2007

One regret I had about my recent New York trip was I failed to visit ~FALAI~, a contemporary Italian place in the Lower East Side from Tuscan Iacapo Falai—I had a couple tablehopper readers highly recommend it, one describing the food as “alchemy.” Well, I shall cry not, because it looks like Falai will actually be opening a location in SF! Well, not for a year and a half or so, but still. I spoke with Mauro Buffo, the sous at Falai, who said they are location hunting soon, and if all maps out accordingly, he’ll be the chef of the 40–50 seat restaurant out here. Falai is known for creative cuisine, integrating global influences and cutting-edge techniques, and everything is done by hand, from all the pasta to the bread. Buffo worked at El Bulli in Spain for four years, so you know they take that “creative” thing seriously. Let’s hope 2009 brings a Falai to SF—I’m ready for trattoria 2.0 in this town!

While we’re in “la zona,” some of you have been asking for an update on ~SPQR~, the latest A16 project moving into the former Chez Nous space. Good news on that front: construction is underway, and they are looking at a hoped-for opening of the last week of September. Parola! (That would be Italian for “word.”)

And now, the three Bs. First is ~BOSSA NOVA~, the latest project from the Maktub Group, which opened with a bang last week in the old Buzz 9 space in SOMA. The staff sports a variation of the Brazilian yellow soccer jersey—perhaps they get to choose their favorite numbers? (According to some pics, team player Kaka’s number 8 and Cicinho’s 13 were in rotation.) The kitchen is open until midnight every night, serving small plates like salt cod fritters, fish stew, mussels, and rodizio-style beef skewers. Full bar in effect. The downstairs is reportedly opening next. 139 8th St. between Minna and Mission Streets, 415-558-8004.

The small plates restaurant, ~BREEZY’S~, which moved in to the former Blue Muse space on Gough, has opened its doors. The owner, Bawer Tekin, also has Hayes and Kebab around the corner. The menu from chef Rodney Boca has lots of French touches, and includes a number of tapas like petit purses of braised short rib and scallion cream with cognac reduction ($8) and fried blue point oyster salad with radicchio, chive sticks, and Champagne vinaigrette ($8); mains include potato-scaled John Dory with artichoke confit and whole grain mustard ($24) and a black trumpet, chanterelle, and truffle risotto with tomato ragout and vegetable stock for you vegetarians ($18). (I’m relieved there aren’t any beans on the menu—could be dangerous with the restaurant’s name and all.) There is also a full bar and wine. 409 Gough St. at Hayes, 415-552-3400.

Some changes are afoot at ~BACAR~: pastry chef Leena Hung has departed, and is now doing part-time consulting in the interim. (She’s currently doing some work back at Fifth Floor, and is enjoying a bit more time with her new husband.) Also heard through the grapevine that chef de cuisine Ben Cohn (who came over from Masa’s) has departed, and is now chef de cuisine in the kitchen at Spruce. Will keep you posted on who comes in next. 448 Brannan St. at 3rd, 415-904-4100.

I know some folks (namely oyster lovers, lesbians, and cocktailians) have been wondering about the reopening date of ~MECCA~ since the fire back in June. Well, we’re now looking at late September or early October for the reopening. ETA Design (LOVE that name) of San Francisco has been hired to do the renovations. 2029 Market St., 415-621-7000.

And now, your Mission report: have you heard about the ruckus concerning the closure at ~LA RONDALLA~? Remodeling? Hardly. More like a cucaracha convention, and this was their Moscone West. Check out what the SF Weekly uncovered. 901 Valencia St. at 20th, 415-647-7474.

~EL TORO~, the cousin to Pancho Villa, is also closed for a remodel. (A real one, not a “cucaracha closure.”) After 25 years, I’d say they deserve a little freshening up. Expect the bull to reopen in three weeks or so. 598 Valencia St. at 17th, 415-431-3351.

Asian fusion fans in Berkeley are familiar with ~UNICORN~—there is now going to be a San Francisco location opening any day now in the Financial District. 191 Pine St. between Battery and Front Streets.

Some somm shifts around town: ~SHANGHAI 1930~ has a new wine director, Johnathan Farr, who recently moved from Miami and has six years of working in luxury hotels under his lapel. (He is also reportedly cute and all of 26 years. Ladies, no word on his availability.) He’s going to be adding some more South American and Aussie vinos to the list, and running some monthly specials highlighting some faves, like Champagne and some roses, that will pair well with the cuisine at Shanghai 1930. 133 Steuart St. at Mission, 415-896-5600.

Then, over at ~BONG SU~ it’s like the tides of Aqua: former Aqua beverage director Chris Wright is scooting to work with Peter Armellino at the Plumed Horse in Saratoga, and Ashley Luna, who was also recently at Aqua, is taking Chris’s place at Bong Su. 311 Third St. at Folsom, 415-536-5800.

Now, before Chris left Bong Su, he sent me an email that was too good not to share: “As a parting gift to you before I leave Bong Su, I would like to give you my secret SHRIMP CUPCAKE PAIRING! That's right, I've spent the last month looking for it… Anyway, the pairing is: 2004 Kruger-Rumpf Scheurebe, Spatlese, from Munster-Samsheim in the Nahe. Here's the deal. This wine is full of tropical fruit. There's lots of banana with dried papayas and mangos. It's also got this wet stone mineral thing with some citrus going on but really it's just the tropical fruit and some sugar which are perfect with the coconut milk and the shrimp! It's also nice because it has a relatively high acidity for this grape, which keeps it from being cloying. To tell you the truth, it works well with lots of the food.” And that’s all he wrote. Thanks Chris, now I know. Wait, now we all know. Yup, he’s gonna rock it at The Plumed Horse.

~CORTEZ~ has a new GM, Brian Escobar, who was most recently sommelier at Ame. Those of us dining tonight at the tablehopper supper will have a chance to meet him and ask geeky wine questions. 550 Geary St. at Jones, 415-292-6360.

I couldn’t hold back my curiosity (that damned cat!)—some pals and I went by ~SPRUCE~ to check it out Friday evening after the Bay Guardian Best of the Bay party. Let’s just say super-impressive for a second night of biz, man. Tony space—the kind you actually want to spiff up a little for. (No, it’s not stuffy nice, just contemporary nice, in a sophisticated and simple way.) You’ll also pony up a bit—mains on the American menu (with French flair) run from $26–$36. As for those mains, wow, lobster prepared exactly as it should be (tender and succulent and buttery), and the charred pork tenderloin was a pig epiphany. Speaking of epiphanies, I never thought I’d be craving a white chocolate dessert, but there you have it: William Werner’s creation with crème and hazelnut cake won over my entire table. You can sit at the long, already-busy bar and order items like a burger, or house-made charcuterie, and the can’t-miss boudin blanc. Wait until you see the wine selection (and storage). Drool. Business diners—here’s your latest destination. (I also savored the departing evening light streaming through the original skylight.) Complimenti, and congrats to the team on getting it open, and for training an excellent staff that is already so on. 3640 Sacramento St. at Spruce, 415-931-5100.

Boozers, your (bleary) eyes do not deceive you: one of the darlings of the bar at Range, ~THOMAS WAUGH~, is gradually making his way over to the bar at Alembic. He has a few shifts a week right now, and plans to be full time in early September. 1725 Haight St. at Cole, 415-666-0822.

And attention all you ~TOP CHEF~ hopefuls: Top Chef is holding their Season 4 Open Call this Sunday, August 12, at Postrio from noon–4pm. Check out the link for more info about how to apply!