February 10, 2009

It looks like ~TSUNAMI MISSION BAY~ is on track to open in the Avalon Towers this Thursday February 12th. The loft-like space features brick-layered and white oak-paneled walls and a custom granite bar, where a variety of spirits, including 20 gins and of course a number of sakes will be poured. Adachi Hiroyuki, chef at Nihon and Tsunami Panhandle and chef de cuisine Thomas Cooke have put together the menu, featuring traditional sushi items, plus some new-to-Tsunami dishes like a sunomono salad, Kobe beef tataki, and special rolls. Tessa Fernandez, formerly of Bacar Restaurant and Americano, is the GM. The restaurant will be open from 6pm–midnight, and the bar from 5pm–1am. Lunches and happy hour will start in March. 302 King St. at 4th St., 415-284-0111.

Things are getting close for ~THE TIPSY PIG~, the new American gastropub opening in the former Bistro Yoffi space in the Marina—the grand opening is Tuesday February the 24th. The crew behind the project is Nate Valentine, Stryker Scales, and executive chef Sam Josi of the Sustainable Restaurants group (Mamacita, Umami, and Blue Barn). The co-executive chef is Daniel Burckhard (Blue Barn, Foreign Cinema, and Greens). The brunch, lunch, and dinner menus will highlight American pub classics made with seasonal and artisanal ingredients, sourcing a majority of produce from the Josi family’s Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma. Dishes will include a spinach salad with kabocha squash, aged gouda, and a bacon-sherry vinaigrette; a maple-brined Niman pork chop with caramelized apples deglazed with brandy, grain mustard sauce, and Yukon Gold/Brussels sprouts/apple hash; and of course there’s a Tipsy Burger, but this one is made with three cuts of house-ground beef: sirloin, brisket, and chuck.
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The look by designer Christie Clark is rustic and warm, and includes the space’s original ten-seat wooden bar that dates back to 1931 and many recycled items, plus brown walls, wood floors, and large chalkboards announcing daily specials. There are two rooms: the main dining room is “The Living Room,” and there’s a more intimate “Library” room with a working hobbit stove (hold on the Frodo jokes). You’ll find a sunny 50-seat patio in the back with communal picnic tables, a canopy of trees, and a garden with pink lemons, grapefruit, Buddha’s hand, and herbs. The bar program will include updated American classic cocktails, wine, and eight beers on tap, with 15 beers by the bottle, including the “Tipsy Pig Brew,” an exclusive brew. The GM is Matt Brown from Buckeye Roadhouse. As for the name, here’s the story, “During England’s apple season (October–April), farmers would send pigs to retrieve fallen apples, and because the apples would often ferment, the pigs would get drunk or ‘tipsy.’” Awwww, drunk piggies. Hours will be 5pm–2am, with food served until 10:30pm. Brunch and lunch service will start a few weeks later. 2231 Chestnut St. at Pierce, 415-292-2300.


Got word that executive chef Sarah Kirnon is leaving ~THE FRONT PORCH~—she has been there since they opened almost three years ago. Her last day is this Saturday, and then she’s taking a couple weeks off, and will be bottling her habanero hot sauce, Miss G’s Hot Sauce, a favorite at the Porch. It’s an homage to her great-grandmother, who was a cook and housekeeper on a sugar plantation and taught Kirnon how to cook. The hot sauce will be available at the Front Porch after February 22nd. She is also going to be taking a trip to the Caribbean, and will be busy focusing on her intended restaurant project on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley—she is still in negotiations, so stand by.

The Front Porch’s new chef is Michael Law, who hails from New Orleans. After being displaced by Katrina, he made his way west to work at Lark Creek Inn and was the opening sous at Epic Roasthouse. The Front Porch will be closed from February 15th—19th for some kitchen renovations, and will reopen on the 20th with his new menu—look for some NOLA, Southern, and yes, Caribbean notes on the menu (Law’s mother is from the Dominican Republic). 65A 29th St. at Mission, 415-695-7800.

The former executive chef of Baraka, Chad Newton, is the new chef at ~URBAN TAVERN~ at the Hilton San Francisco. He just started last Friday and will be working with Donna Scala, who is returning from a scouting trip in France this week. In the meantime, he’s just making small changes—there will be more to share about the new menu in the coming weeks. Laurent Manrique's C&L Partners and executive chef Patrick Kehler are no longer involved with the project. 333 O'Farrell St. at Mason, 415-923-4400.

Over in Cow Hollow, after 14 years of business, ~PLUMPJACK CAFÉ~ will be closing for a remodel and re-concepting, effective Friday February 28th. According to a statement from the publicist, the owners decided “It is time for the business to evolve to keep up with the changing desires of their neighborhood.” But where are earth are the regulars going to go for their tuna tartare cones in the meantime? 3127 Fillmore St. at Filbert, 415-563-4755.

There’s a lot brewing (har) in Hayes Valley, starting with ~MERCURY~, a new café opening in the corner space that was most recently Akelare. While there will no longer be live music, some book readings may occur down the road. On offer will be coffee from De La Paz, either in individually brewed cups of coffee or espresso drinks, plus soup and sandwiches. Hopefully beer and wine will be coming soon. There will also be homemade apple pie for dessert since the owner, Nick Parker, is a pie maker. The opening is another week or so out, stand by for additional details next week. 201 Octavia St. at Page.

~MODERN TEA~ will no longer be hosting the Modern Cooks program in the Modern Tea restaurant space—more on what is moving in there in a moment. In the meantime, tea maven Alice Cravens is still working on developing the program, which may include teaching cooking and vocational skills in a local school, and taking it into a network of restaurants. In the meantime, she is continuing to focus on her wholesale tea business for restaurants and cafes, and individuals can still buy her tea online through the website. Cravens writes, “We miss everybody (our customers were the best!!!), but we hope to have some exciting news soon.”

Moving into the space will be ~ALTANO CAFFE~, an affordable Italian lunch and dinner place, offering panini, pizza, and pasta. The new owners plan to appeal to the symphony and opera crowds. The chef is Ali Kazakaya, who also was chef-owner at Trapeze in Burlingame. The outdoor seating will continue, and brunch will come soon. The opening is currently pointing toward March 1st. 602 Hayes St. at Laguna.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the folks from El Delfin in Delano were potentially opening a restaurant called ~MARINO~ in the former Mad Magda’s/Frjtz space. I finally connected with one of the owners, Raul Vargas, who is opening Marino with his sister, Maria. It will be a sit-down Mexican restaurant, featuring seafood dishes (they are from Mazatlán). Sadly the patio was all covered up with a restroom and storage by the time the siblings took over the place, so that’s the end of that little secret oasis. I’ll have more details in coming weeks, but for now, they hope to open in mid-March. 579 Hayes St. at Laguna.

There are also two big Hayes Valley anniversaries to note: both Zuni and Hayes Street Grill are turning 30. ~ZUNI~ turns 30 on February 15th, and will be celebrating both Sunday and Tuesday since y’all know they are closed on Mondays. On the menu will be classics from the past three decades and wines from 1979—be sure to mention the anniversary when making a reservation. 1658 Market St. at Franklin, 415-552-2522.

~HAYES STREET GRILL~
is going to be working through three decades with three different dinners, at $30 a dinner. Thursday February 12th is the 80s, Wednesday March 4th will celebrate the 90s (hello warm spinach salad), and Tuesday March 17th (yup, St. Paddy’s Day) will be the Hayes Street Grill’s 30th anniversary, starting at 8pm. You can check out the menus on the site, and reserve now. 320 Hayes St. at Gough, 415-863-5545.

Hey, I want to do a small public service announcement: this one is about the ~HEIMLICH MANEUVER~. I hope this article from Joan Nathan in the New York Times is a good reminder for everyone about the importance of knowing how to help a choking victim. Lucky Joan had Tom Colicchio save her life while she was hosting a dinner party. Yeah, scary. (And Tom is rad.) Here’s a how-to.

Okay, back to the news. In case you’re wondering why ~PANCHO VILLA TAQUERIA~ at Pier One on the Embarcadero is now featuring Southwestern items on the menu, no, you’re not in New Mexico. It’s just that Pancho Villa has been replaced by a place called ~PIER ONE SOUTHWESTERN GRILL~. There are still some quesadillas on the menu, plus egg breakfast dishes, burgers, hot links, chipotle chicken wings, nachos, and the like. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available. Pier 1, Embarcadero at Washington, 415-982-2182.

~INCANTO~ has started serving Sunday brunch. On the menu: house-milled whole-wheat polenta with a poached farm egg, a brunch version of the legendary handkerchief pasta, Boccalone meats, and a black truffle-mortadella panino with potato-leek salad. You can order up a Roman Bloody Maria and let the healing begin. 10am–2pm. 1550 Church St. at Duncan, 415-641-4500.

~PICCINO~ will now be open for dinner on Sunday evenings. They will feature roasts and braises, perfect for scrumptious family dinners, and pizzas, of course. The first-ever Sunday dinner kicks off this Sunday February 15th. 801 22nd St. at Tennessee, 415-824-4224.

There’s a small delay with the opening of ~CONTIGO~: now it’s looking like the last week of February instead of the 17th, stand by. They have also decided to open without reservations unless you have a party of six or more. 1320 Castro St. at 24th St., 415-285-0250.

I had a chance to chat with the owner of ~SUNFLOWER~, who is going to be opening a location in the former Baraka space on Potrero Hill. He said they are in a holding pattern right now. They are deciding what kind of concept they want to open in the space, so there’s nothing to report at the moment. 288 Connecticut St. at 18th St.

I spoke with one of the owners of the Hard Knox Café about their rumored opening of a location in the ~LIBERTY CAFÉ~—he said nothing is determined at the moment and negotiations are still underway. Someone whose husband works for Liberty Café wrote in to Eater: “There are new owners- one owns hard knox cafe and the other owns sally's in potero [sic]. They don't intend to change the name or anything else. They both love the format and want to keep it just the way it is.” Well, that’s nice to hear, but ultimately time will tell. 410 Cortland Ave. at Bennington.

tablehopper reader Jeff W. asked what is going on with ~MEDICINE EATSTATION~ in the Crocker Galleria since the suspicious “closed one week for remodeling” sign has extended into its third week, and not much is going on inside. Emails and calls have gone unreturned, so nothing is confirmed except it’s currently closed, and based on the evidence it looks like it might be permanent. 161 Sutter St. at Kearny, 415-677-4405.

Also downtown, tablehopper reader Jason B. has noted Mediterranean ~CAFÉ 36~ “had a note posted on their door saying they had closed up shop for another opportunity.” 36 5th St. at Stevenson.

Out on 24th Street, the second location of ~SUSHI BISTRO~ that was supposed to be opening up next to St. Francis Fountain has hit a snag due to a neighbor protest on their beer-and-wine license. Yup, just one non-partying person can seriously cramp your biz plan. The build-out is all done and they are ready to get the restaurant rolling, but that protest is holding things up indefinitely. A public hearing might be next. 2809 24th St. at York.

In the mood for dinner and a movie? There are a couple happenings around town, like ~COFFEE BAR~ in the Mission shows films the second Wednesday of each month. This week is Stanley Kubrick's Lolita. “Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” (Nabokov, you fabulous fiend.) You can also enjoy avant-garde desserts from Jasmine Rae Bakery, and of course coffee specials, beer, and wine. 8pm, space is limited, so RSVP. 1890 Bryant St. at Mariposa, 415-551-8100.

~FARINA~ is organizing an Italian brunch this Sunday February 15th, dedicating it to bambini, with a kid-friendly menu of pizza, pasta, and more. They will also be showing Ratatouille at 12:30pm. Reservations are required—the maximum seating capacity for the movie is 30 kids, and they must be accompanied by a parent. Brunch runs from 9:30am–3pm. 3562 18th St. at Dearborn, 415-565-0360.

San Francisco is getting an import from Livermore. No, not wine, but the restaurant ~BRUNO'S ITALIAN CUISINE~, which is opening a second location in the Fillmore District, just across the street from Yoshi’s. Thrillist has the details, and a copy of the menu—think pizzas and pasta. 1375 Fillmore St. at Ellis, 415-563-6300.

~SCOMA’S~ is kicking off its Second Annual Crab Challenge, when all crab lovers are invited to put a favorite crab recipe to the test. Last year, the winner was a tablehopper reader, with his winning “Crab Tower.” Shall we go for a double play this year? Simply email the recipe to contest[at]scomas[dot]com before Friday February 27th, 2009. Scoma’s judges will choose the best one and feature it on Scoma’s menu for the rest of crab season. The top crab recipe also wins dinner for two at Scoma’s, and a weekend at San Francisco’s Orchard Garden Hotel. The winner will be notified no later than March 9th, 2009.

Tuesday February 24th, the great grandson of Auguste Escoffier, Michel Escoffier, will be the guest of honor at a special AIWF (American Institute of Wine and Food) dinner at the Michelin-starred ~PLUMED HORSE~ in Saratoga. AIWF members pay $120 per person for dinner only (includes tax and tip) or with wine pairings for $165. Non-members pay $170 or $215, respectively. 7pm. Leave a message on the AIWF hotline at 415-508-6790 for payment and reservation details (there will also be roundtrip transportation from San Francisco available for $20–$40). 14555 Big Basin Way, Saratoga.



Up in San Anselmo, Heidi Krahling’s ~MARINITAS~ is now open, just two blocks from her first restaurant, Insalata’s. She is working with chef Frank Villa on the menu, which doesn’t have a single entrée over $17. The Latin-inspired menu features items like Peruvian empanadas, tacos dorados de verduras (crispy tacos filled with roasted corn, rajas, crushed potatoes with nopales salsa), bistec argentino (grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce), and pescado yucateco (roast cod with sikil pak, corn cakes with epazote, and cherry tomato-pumpkin seed vinaigrette). There’s even an ensalada mexicana, their answer to the Mexican fattoush, plus daily specials, like pork tinga on Thursdays. The full bar (featuring 70 tequilas and drinks made with fresh juices) and late hours (there’s a bar menu from 10pm–midnight) should make some people in the area very happy. See, you don’t have to turn into a pumpkin at 10pm! The restaurant seats 135 at booths, banquettes, and tables; the bar seats 15—there’s also a large stone fireplace. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 218 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415-454-8900.

With all this whole-animal and butchery madness going on, would you like to get on board and learn some butchery skills yourself? On Monday February 23rd, ~CAFÉ ROUGE~ is hosting the second in a series of classes on the art of butchery: Butchering a Goat, with a demonstration and discussion. Owner Marsha McBride and Café Rouge butchers Scott Brennan and Ben Broadus will discuss and demonstrate the art of butchery and share their recipes for dry goat salami, kefta, and crepinettes. Special guests Jeanne McCormack and Al Medvitz of Montezuma Hills Lamb and Goat of Rio Vista will be on hand to discuss goat breeds, raising and breeding, and humane animal protocol. Students will be able to taste charcuterie made from goat with complimentary wine selected to go with the samplings. Limited to 40 people. $65. 6:30pm–9:30pm. 1782 Fourth St. at Virginia, Berkeley, 510-525-1440.

The ~LEVENDE LOUNGE~ and ~LEVENDE EAST~ folks have some news: they will be opening a second East Bay project in downtown Oakland, just around the corner from the Levende East location. It will be a full-scale spirits lounge that will also serve food, but will have a different name and concept from Levende East. The vibe will also be more social and casual, although the décor will be high-end. The space is being built out from scratch, and the opening is months away, so stand by. 481 Ninth St. at Washington, Oakland.

Alex Marsh
, recently the chef of Brick, is now the executive chef of ~LEVENDE EAST~. Marsh is bringing his “California Comfort” style to the menu: think hearty, rich classics with a modern twist and seasonal ingredients from local and sustainable farms. Some additions to the lunch and dinner menus include cast iron white-corn grits with Dungeness crab and Old Bay-seasoned roasted vegetables and grilled Monterey Bay calamari with white beans and fennel salad. There will also be half-off on bottles of wine on Tuesdays, and a special late-night happy-hour menu of eats from 11pm–1am on Friday and Saturday nights, with tuna and lamb sliders along with some other bar food, all at a special price. 827 Washington St. at 9th St., Oakland, 510-835-5585.

~SIDEBAR~
just opened in the former Trio Bistro space, right off Lake Merritt. The gastropub project comes from executive chef Barbara Mulas and executive pastry chef Mark Drazek, formerly of ZAX in San Francisco and ZAX Tavern in the 510, and Anne Marie Adrain. There’s a bar serving a variety of beers (once it’s a full bar, Jonny Raglin will be busting out his bar consultant moves), plus there’s a lounge area, and counter seating. You can check out the appetizer-heavy Cal-Med bistro-esque evening menu here. Lunch begins Monday February 16th. 542 Grand Ave. at Euclid, Oakland, 510-452-9500.