December 9, 2008

~SERPENTINE~is undergoing some executive chef changes: Chris Kronner, the executive chef of Serpentine who has been working at owner Erin Rooney’s Slow Club and Serpentine for a combined total of almost four years, is departing at the end of the month. Kronner is currently looking into other opportunities—will keep you posted. Taking his place is Mark Young, who just came over from Ottimista Enoteca, where he was the chef for the past three years. Young actually worked at Slow Club previously with Sante Salvoni, so you could say he’s coming full circle. Young has already started on lunch service, and will be doing dinner service once the transition is complete. Rooney mentioned prices might come down a bit, and menu changes will be subtle—they still want to maintain their close relationships with farmers and purveyors, like Mariquita.

Serpentine is also turning one this Thursday, so they are celebrating from 5pm–7pm, offering a complimentary glass of sparkling wine and snacks, as well as their specially priced Neighborhood Night cocktail list. 2495 3rd St. at 22nd St., 415-252-2000.

Meanwhile, taking Mark Young’s place at ~OTTIMISTA~ is Glen Tinsley, an alum of Joe's Restaurant in Venice Beach, and most recently AKA in St. Helena. Here’s more from Ottimista: “You'll find an expanded selection of large plates and more market-driven specials, including three–four contorni (vegetable sides) each night. To whet your appetite, think baked penne with porcini fonduta, Robiola, and guanciale; pizza with duck confit, figs, butternut, and balsamic; pumpkin ravioli with crispy chestnuts, chanterelles, and brown butter; and roasted figs with Valdeon blue, Iberico ham, chestnut honey, and aged balsamic, just to name a few.” Wine director Don Jost has also moved on to boutique import companies Trilussa and Zigzagando, but you'll still find him behind the bar at Ottimista on Sunday nights. GM Lorraine Castillo has transitioned into the role of GM/wine director. 1838 Union St. at Octavia, 415-674-8400.

I was so sorry to learn ~TAJINE~ on Polk has closed—the last night was December the 2nd. The charming owner Mohamed Ghaleb has some personal family matters to attend to, and between his trips home to Morocco and running the restaurant, he sadly had to choose to close the business for a while. He hopes to reopen in a year. For now, let’s all wish him (and his family) well. 1338 Polk St. at Pine, 415-440-1718.

More sad closings: the Western Addition’s ~KATHMANDU CAFÉ~ has closed. I will miss their butter chicken and momos! But then again, I swung by last week and tried to get some take-out, and was told it was going to be 30–45 minutes. Huh? (Let’s just say it wasn’t very busy in there.) Oh well, I guess that was my last chance to have their butter chicken and I lost it. According to a Yelper, the owner “Udim was tired of running the restaurant and wanted to return home where the majority of his family lives.” And according to some permits, Saffron Grill will be moving in—no idea who is behind it, what it is, or when it’s opening, so stand by. 1279 Fulton St. at Divisadero.

Also found out the ~CALIFORNIAN BAR AND RESTAURANT~ in the Gramercy Towers on Nob Hill has closed. This place is now officially on the “cursed locations of San Francisco” list. 1177 California St. at Jones, 415-474-2000.

Not too far away on Mason Street, ~LALOLA BAR DE TAPAS~ just opened over the weekend. I personally find the name to be way too similar to the Spanish Laïola in the Marina, but hey, it’s not my restaurant. It’s a sleek tapas place that has opened in the former Fortune Wok location, serving a variety of pintxos (one for $3/two for $5), and small or large tapas to go with wines off the all-Spanish list (plus some beer and sangria). Thrillist transcribed the food and wine menu, check it out here. 1358 Mason St. at Pacific, 415-981-5652.

A tablehopper reader tipped me off to this little Thai tidbit: ~THE MONKEY CLUB~ in the Mission (most recently the Syn Lounge) now has the chef from SoMa’s Manora’s Thai, Maa Dom, cooking for them. She has been the chef at Manora’s since 1989, and is still helping the restaurant as she transitions off her full-time duties. For now, she is cooking lunch Mon–Fri 11am–3pm and dinner Fri–Sat 5pm–1:30am at The Monkey Club. The plan is to eventually offer dinner service during the week as well. The menu is very reasonable—check it out on the restaurant’s MySpace page. There is also a rather generous happy hour that runs from 5pm–9pm. 2730 21st St. at Bryant, 415-647-6546.

More goodies and renegade-style cooking in the Mission: this Thursday, Ryan Farr, most recently the chef of Orson, will be cooking at ~MISSION STREET FOOD~ at Lung Shan. One look at his menu and you can see why this guy is one of our top local talents. How about corned lengua, fried farm egg, spiced pork belly rice, and fennel sprouts ($12), or pork and kumquat sausage, curry Brussels sprouts, persimmon, and herb salad ($12)? Uh huh. But dessert is the one that really make me arch an eyebrow: reconstructed pecan pie, bourbon cream, and lines of bacon "snow" ($7). Bacon snow, is that the latest thing the Mission kidz are getting hopped up on? It’s gonna be a late night. 6pm-midnight. 2234 Mission St. at 18th St.

Are you keeping up on ~BURRITO EATER’S 2008 SLAB SCRUM~? The semifinals are almost done! And I thought my job was tough on my body…

Over at ~AQUA~, Ron Boyd has been named executive chef after two years as chef de cuisine.

Now, let’s venture to see what the Italians are up to. Stefano Coppola, the owner of Lupa in Noe Valley and the new owner of the Kookez location, has decided to open an American grill in the space, called ~CITY GRILL~. He plans to have the restaurant open Tue–Sun for dinner and Fri–Sun for brunch. The interior is getting freshened up—will keep you posted on the opening date and menu. 4123 24th St. at Diamond.

Meanwhile, the Giuseppes of Tiramisu and their other Belden properties are opening up ~QUATTRO STAGIONI~, a casual pizza and to-go place in the former Pasta Paradiso spot in the Financial District. In addition to pizza, there will be salads, soups, plus cannelloni, and other lunch items. There are only 25 seats, so it’s primarily meant for to-go orders. Timing is TBD while they are waiting on permits, but the space is almost done, so stand by. Lunch Mon–Fri. 318 Kearny St. at Bush.

A small name change: due to some legal issues, Lettüs Organic in the Marina is now ~THE PLANT CAFÉ~. Same owners, menu, hours, everything—just a different name. When the Pier 3 location opens (for now it’s looking like mid-March), it will also be The Plant Café—Pier 3. 3352 Steiner St. at Chestnut, 415-931-2777.

More holiday menus: ~LE COLONIAL~ is doing a special three-course holiday prix-fixe lunch this Friday the 12th and next Friday the 19th for $21.95 (excludes tax, gratuity, and beverages). You can take your choice of soup, a vegetarian roll, or crab cakes; then lemongrass chicken, red snapper, or vegetable curry; and chocolate flourless cake for dessert (no substitutions). The regular menu is also available. 20 Cosmo Pl. at Taylor, 415-931-3600.

I was at ~INCANTO~ last week for an, ahem, enchanting wine tasting dinner, where we tasted a variety of Il Molino di Grace wines (I personally loved the ’04 Chianti Classico Riserva—super smooth, and an awesome pairing with the dish of corzetti with trotters, foie gras, dates, and breadcrumbs, swoon). I was talking to chef Chris Cosentino about their private room and parties, and in case you haven’t figured out a location for your friends/family/office holiday party yet, and you’re a bunch of bona fide carnivores, it’s hard to beat the deal of a Whole Beast Dinner! $1500 (food and beverage minimum) for a whole pig, goat, or lamb, plus side dishes, and wine, and you can fit 12–20 people in the private room. I know, total bacchanalia! Check it out. 1550 Church St. at Duncan, 415-641-4500.

Now, this campaign isn’t quite as dire as the post 9/11 “America: Open for Business” campaign, but locals should check out the ~SHOW YOUR ZIP CAMPAIGN~. Residents in the nine-county Bay Area (San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Napa, Sonoma, Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano, and Santa Clara) can show their ZIP code in San Francisco during the month of December and get special offers at participating merchants, from restaurants to museums and more. (It could be on a driver’s license, business card or other proof of residence.)

There is only one week left to vote in ~7X7’S EAT & DRINK AWARDS~. Vote for your favorite places and help support local businesses—winners will be announced in the February 2009 issue.

Gearing up for Wednesday’s episode of ~TOP CHEF~? Even though local chef Jamie Lauren was on the chopping block last week (side note: damn, why are eggs so difficult? I guess it’s because they are so delicious.), her corn soup seems to be Padma’s fave dish of the season so far. Go Jamie!

This Thursday December 11th, chef ~DEBORAH SCHNEIDER OF THE RANCHO LA PUERTA FITNESS RESORT & SPA~ in Tecate, Mexico, is coming to San Francisco on tour for her new book (co-authored with Deborah Szekely), Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta. She will demo a selection of winter recipes at the Macy’s Cellar: quinoa cranberry salad, saffron vegetable stew with lemon zest aioli, and Mayan chocolate sorbet. She will be available to answer questions on essential cooking tips and techniques, and will show ways to transform favorite recipes into healthy meals. Copies of her cookbooks will be available for purchase and signing after the demo. 6:30pm. 170 O'Farrell St. at Stockton.

Then on Saturday December 13th, ~MARISA CHURCHILL~ of Bravo’s Top Chef season two, the Food Network Challenge, and pastry chef at Zaré at Fly Trap, is all about indulging without the guilt. In this demo, she’ll show you how to make decadent desserts that won’t completely sabotage your skinny-kick: one of the top-selling desserts from Zaré at Fly Trap’s dessert menu: a silken panna cotta, and her low-fat chocolate torte. 2pm. 170 O'Farrell St. at Stockton.

This Thursday December 11th is the second ~DIVISADERO CORRIDOR ART WALK~. From Geary to Haight, a total of 25 galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and bars are offering discounts, food and drink specials, and showcasing local artists. The festivities start around 5pm. Shop, eat, drink, repeat.

John Hurley, Justin Hafen, and Scott Sasaki have opened their 40-seat neighborhood place, ~MARZANO~, in Oakland. Chef Robert Holt (formerly of Cetrella in Half Moon Bay) is preparing dinner (antipasti, pizzas from the wood-fired oven, a few larger plates, contorni, and soft-serve gelato for dessert) and brunch on the weekends. Check out the site for the menus. Full liquor too! 4214 Park Blvd. at Glenfield, Oakland, 510-531-4500.