February 13, 2008

Both the Birkin bag-toting set and the nightlifers have been awaiting the opening of ~LE CLUB~ in the landmark 1250 Jones Street building on Nob Hill. People, it’s close! March 1 marks the day the doors officially swing open for dinner to Gina Milano and Todd Traina’s swank new hideout. You’ll need to make reservations, whether you are drinking, dining, or both. There are four rooms total, including a dining room, a bar, a lounge, and a billiards room—an outdoor space is also in the works. Milano says the sexy glam space feels like visiting a friend’s fine home with private club ambiance—the luxurious interior will make a firm nod to the past, with silks, leather, velvets, a green onyx bar and light blue and rose onyx-topped tables, French marble floors, and custom furnishings. The chef is Bob Cina from Chez Henri in Boston, who is putting together a menu of Cal-French cuisine with some classic Continental provenance: look for dishes like escargots, steak tartare, lobster pot pie, a vegetable tart, and baked Alaska for dessert. Apps will range from $7–$14, entrées $16–$28, dessert $6–$9, caviar service $75–$240, fondue for two for $18, and cocktails will run from $7 for well drinks to $12 for specialty drinks. Cocktail service begins at 5:30pm, and dinner is from 6:30pm–midnight; Mon–Tue the kitchen will only turn out bites like charcuterie and cheese. The reservation lines open February 18—you can reserve a spot all the way up to 1am. There is also a Champagne-colored Town Car available for car service (with “2leclub” on the license plate, natch). 1250 Jones St. at Clay, 415-922-2582.

I was checking in with Stephen Weber on how things are looking for ~BEST-O-BURGER~ opening soon in Belden Alley, and he said they will be open in about four weeks. MECCA’s former executive chef and Weber’s Best-O-Burger business partner, Randy Lewis, will be back from Wisconsin to help him with the opening; Lewis is now Director of Food and Beverage at the Relais & Chateaux resort Canoe Bay in Wisconsin, and is reportedly loving it. Small sidebar: I didn’t realize both Lewis AND Weber had resigned from the MECCA team, but they did.

~A16’S~ Skye LaTorre, one of their senior sommeliers, has left the restaurant as of last Tuesday—will keep you posted where she lands, and if A16 decides to fill her place.

On a sunny and unexpectedly glorious February afternoon, like the one we just had this Sunday, there are very few things I’d be game for attending in a dark room with no windows. Unless, of course, it was an invitation to hang out with the SF chapter of the ~LES DAMES D’ESCOFFIER~ society for a seminar with some of the city’s best bartenders at Bourbon & Branch. Sign me up, yo! It was a stellar line-up, as good as the back bars and bitters these folks curate, and included Scott Beattie (Cyrus in Healdsburg), Erik Adkins (Slanted Door and consultant to Flora in Oakland), H. Joseph Ehrmann (Elixir), Jeff Hollinger (Absinthe), Dominic Venegas and Todd Smith (Bourbon & Branch), Amanda Washington (Rye), and Greg Lindgren (Rye, Rosewood Bar)—and Charlotte Voissey was in town, who I will be happily seeing again at the Hendrick’s Gin dinner at Absinthe tonight.

Not to tempt you with things you can’t order, but Hollinger was behind two of my favorite drinks of the day, which (sob) aren’t currently on the menu at Absinthe, but they could very well appear again someday. One was Jitterbug Perfume, an epiphany of a drink made with Tanqueray infused with roasted red beets and green Szechuan peppercorns, plus sherry gastrique, Aperol (or Punt e Mes), and a splash of Szechuan tincture (red Szechuan peppercorns steeped in vodka for a week or more) and orange bitters. Garnished with a clove-scented cocktail onion. Uh, dude. Wow. Or how about the Mushroom Hunter: Old Overholt Rye infused with locally foraged candy cap mushrooms, plus Cossart Gordon Rainwater Madeira, Aperol, orange bitters, thyme tincture, and flamed orange for garnish. Again, dude. The earthy note of the mushrooms was so funky-cool, reminded me of a truffle grappa I had in Venice when I was 20. (Yes, a while ago.) Talk about an intersection of culinary and cocktail! Everyone’s drinks were so fab, but being the food-meister I am, of course I got fired up on beets and mushrooms in my drink. Thank you Les Dames for your hospitality! Oh, and East Bay folks, be sure to try Erik Adkins’s awesome elderflower fizzes made with St. Germain at Flora in Oakland. There’s one with raspberry, or cucumber with mint… we tried four, all were quite meow.

Since we’re on liquids… the latest new business to open on Fillmore (man, that area is getting busy) is going to be ~WINE JAR~, in the former Trio Café space. This modern-looking wine bar and lounge will have about 150 wines, with 60% from California, mostly hard-to-find or smaller production wines (think less than 500 to 1,000 cases), and the rest will be international, like French, Aussie, Italian, and the like. There will be 25 or so available by the glass, ranging from $7–$18 for something special, and a variety of half bottles too. There isn’t a retail component, but you can get a bottle to go at a discount. The wine director is Julie Henderson, who was a buyer at California Wine Merchant, and is also the GM and wine director of Wellington’s Wine Bar in Sausalito. Small bites will also be served—the menu is getting finalized right now, but one thing that’s sure is desserts will be featured prominently, with fruit tarts, chocolate, and the like, making it a nice place to hang out for a sweet and a vino nightcap. The bar will have room for 16, with another 20 or so seats for lounge-style seating with tables. Your new waiting room for your table at SPQR is almost here—Wine Jar should be open by next weekend, the weekend of the 23rd. Hours will be Tue–Sun 3pm–11:30pm or midnight. 1870 Fillmore St. at Bush, 415-931-2924.

~UMI~ in Potrero Hill has opened, plying neighbors with sushi and small plates in the former Thai Bar-B-Que space, and is launching lunch service soon. You can refresh your memory with the restaurant’s details in my January 15 column. Dinner nightly at 5:30pm. 1328 18th St. at Missouri, 415-355-1328.

~TINDERBOX RESTAURANT~ in Bernal not only has a brand-spanking-new website, but they are also launching lunch service next Tuesday, on 2/19. Look for a reportedly “amazing” grass-fed burger on a brioche bun, a variation of pho, plus some salads, beignets, and other items on the small bistro-style menu. And for those of you craving some suds with lunch, both North Coast Brewing Company and Ommegang are on tap. Hours will be Mon–Fri 11:30am–2pm. 803 Cortland Ave. at Ellsworth, 415-285-TBOX (8269).

Here’s an update on a couple upcoming projects since I know some of you are wondering: the ~OUT THE DOOR~ location in the Fillmore area is slated to open in March—stand by! 2232 Bush St. near Fillmore.

I’ve been hearing rumors about February 26th for ~ORSON~ in SOMA—this is totally unconfirmed, so stand by for more details in the next couple weeks! 508 4th St. at Bryant.

I can’t help but think ~COCO500’s~ new happy hour is geared toward freelancers. Or the unemployed. Or day traders. The restaurant is launching a new afternoon tapas and cocktail menu, running from 3pm–5:30pm Mon–Fri. The menu will feature a rotation of six different tapas priced at $3 each, and drinks for $6. Now I know where to go when my column is all done on Tuesdays, conveniently at 3pm on the dot. 500 Brannan St. at 4th St., 415-543-2222.

Lastly, if you can’t go to New York, then you might as well bring New York to you. I’m leaving the 415 environs and will be heading down to ~QUATTRO RESTAURANT AT FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SILICON VALLEY~ when they are hosting executive chef Marco Canora and sommelier Paul Grieco from NYC’s Italian eatery, Insieme, for a series of events from February 21–24. (Insieme was on Frank Bruni of The New York Times’s list of ten best new restaurants—some of you might recognize Canora and Grieco’s names from Hearth, the restaurant they opened in 2003, prior to Insieme.) There will be three- and four-course traditional and contemporary Italian dinners offered, a wine tasting seminar, a cooking demo, and a brunch. I was invited to check it out so I’m going to head down for a dinner—hmmm, what to do, traditional or modern? Both menus look killer. Interested? You can learn more and can make reservations at Quattro Restaurant at 650-566-1200. Ciao!