February 26, 2008

First, some news. I know this is going to make some soul food fans happy: ~HARD KNOX CAFÉ~ in Dogpatch is going to be opening a second location in the Richmond by the end of March, possibly early April! They are moving into the former Greco Romana space that sadly closed due to a fire a while ago. The menu will mostly be the same, with a few potential additions since the space will be twice as large as the current location, about 85 seats. There will be a mezzanine, and the plan is to keep the rustic roadhouse look. Their fried chicken is so good. Ditto on the spicy chicken sandwich! 2448 Clement St. at 26th Ave. Since we're talking barbecue and the like, I thought I should update you on ~AL'S BACKYARD BBQ & GRILL~, the joint that's opening next to the Transfer Market on Divisadero. Timing is now looking like May, so sit tight for the slow-smoked brisket! 853 Divisadero St. at McAllister.

Hello fisheads. I got this interesting email from ~SEBO~ last week, so I thought I should share what they said about Kindai Honmaguro, "We have been, over the past couple of years, making efforts to be responsible and conscientious with regard to acquiring our product while at the same time maintaining the quality and authenticity of our food. We are now one of a very few restaurants in the US that are receiving bluefin tuna that has been cultivated from the egg by Kinki University in Japan. Unlike other methods of cultivation, this method has no impact on natural populations. They are raised in low population density and are far superior to other cultivated bluefin that we have tried. Not only is the feed organic and pretty close to what the tuna would eat naturally, they also log what the fish eat and what water they are living in every day of its life. Additionally, the fish benefit from the low population density by being able to swim more naturally, as cage free chickens taste better than caged. By controlling where the fish swim/live the university is also able to significantly reduce exposure to bacteria and other contaminants resulting in a fish that is free of chemicals, hormone and antibiotics. We feel this is the only practical solution in maintaining the bluefin population around the world. We are hoping to receive this tuna every Friday as there are only 2 to 3 fish sent to the U.S. At this stage the university is still developing and refining the cultivation methods and are not a profit seeking venture. If you haven't tried it yet, you should definitely stop by and let us know what you think, we are working indirectly with the university to provide them with feedback, questions or concerns. Also for a short period of time we will have kanburi, which is the largest and oldest (=fattiest) stage of the yellowtail. It's only around for a couple months at most in the winter." Sounds good, no? Yes! 517 Hayes St. at Octavia, 415-864-2122.

It's the month of openings! Last Wednesday I attended the ~FIFTH FLOOR~ opening party at the Hotel Palomar—leave it to the French to have one of the better cheese spreads that I've ever seen at a soiree. (Although someone needs to tell the chick on the temporary website how to hold a wineglass.) We had some tastes of items from Laurent Manrique and chef de cuisine Jennie Lorenzo's menu; a fave was the chestnut soup with a brunoise of prosciutto and pistachio and a supple quenelle, a homage to Jean-Louis Palladin. Looking at the menu, the oxtail and eel main braised in Bordelaise sauce is not something you see on most menus around town—I'm also keen to try the squab crusted in sugared almonds, with braised celery, smoked fingerlings, and lemon confit-flavored squab jus. The Gascony-inspired menu is not surprisingly running on the higher end: $12–$22 for apps, and mains for $29–$39, plus a rib eye for two for a whopping $90. Desserts include baba, gateau Basque, and canelé, all from $11–$14. Emily Wines has quite a spiffy new wine room—big congrats to her for passing her Master Sommelier exam, woot! The Puccini Group did a spiffy redesign—it all felt kind of chic Paris atelier to me, with sleek club chairs in white leather with metal legs, red glass overhead lighting fixtures and mod sconces, hardwood floors (alas, the zebra carpet is no more, kidding), and whoa, you can actually look out the windows now? Nice touch! Open for dinner Mon–Sat, 12 Fourth St. at Mission, 415-348-1555.

Opening today in SoMa is the much-anticipated ~ORSON~ from Elizabeth Falkner (this being her third restaurant) and her partner Sabrina Riddle. Had a chance to hit the opening party last night for a bit when I should have been home writing this thing, but I had to see it! Duty called! The restaurant is in a spacious and historic warehouse, with tall ceilings and trusses, and sexy darker lighting (and cool clubby art too—it works well with the space). What a gorg marble bar, with room for 30—it's bar manager Jackie Patterson's new cocktail island, where she's dreaming up drinks like a celery gimlet that went down way too easy—dangerously so. I look forward to seeing the furnishings, and tasting more bites from the menu of "edgy California cuisine." Which according to the website can include razor clams a la plancha, with violet, parsley, lemon and chicharrones; wood-fired pizzas; tempura egg with shoyu and spice; and samosas, raita and chutney sorbet. The reservations line is open. Dinner Mon–Sat 6pm–11pm, bar menu served Mon–Sat 5pm–6pm and 11pm-midnight. 508 4th St. at Bryant, 415-777-1508.

It's been over a month, and no one from ~CHAPEAU!~ ever calls me or emails back (I'll leave out my own word with an exclamation point) to discuss the changes at ~CLEMENTINE~. So, here's what I do know: a while ago Philippe Gardelle of Chapeau! took it over from Didier Labbé, who is off to Rio de Janeiro—in fact, you can still hear Didier's goodbye message on the old answering machine. (Uh, time to change it, don't ya think?!) And after a brief closure, it sounds like the new menu is supposed to have some differences from the Chapeau! menu, plus there's a full bar. My info is derived from this helpful blogger's post (thanks Fuzzy Chef), who also mentions, "a green color scheme with a copper bar." That's all, folks! 126 Clement St., at Second Ave. 415-387-0408.

So, to recap the big shifts in four-star land: ~CAMPTON PLACE RESTAURANT~ just keeps promoting people. Now we have Srijith Gopinathan as executive chef—he was formerly the restaurant's executive sous chef de cuisine. When the previous executive chef, Gavin Schmidt, returns from Mexico, I'll let you know what his next steps are. Gopinathan's two sous chefs, Perfecto Rocher Battaller and Chett Bland, will be working with him to roll out the new dinner menu, and there's a new lunch menu in the works. Hopefully Perfecto lives up to his name, and Bland isn't afraid of Maldon salt—sorry, lame joke, couldn't resist. A native of India, Gopinathan's background includes working as the executive sous chef at the Deep End, the fine-dining restaurant at Taj Exotica Resort and Spa in the Maldives, and a stage at Le Manoir Aux Qaut' Saison in Oxfordshire. Some new menu items include sea bream sashimi wrapped in avocado and enoki, with dashi essence, endive, and Perilla foam; and Tellicherry pepper-crusted ahi tuna, seared artisan foie gras, and ginger linguine and cuttlefish broth. I'm going to check out the new menu in a couple weeks, will report back! 340 Stockton St. at Campton, 415-955-5555.

Meanwhile, over at the ~RITZ-CARLTON SAN FRANCISCO~, after 17 years, executive chef Jean-Pierre Dubray is leaving—he is now the executive chef of The Resort at Pelican Hill, a luxe resort in Newport Coast. 600 Stockton St. at California, 415-296-7465.

So, someone else is having an anniversary: Rachel and Ben of ~LUELLA~ are celebrating three years in business, and starting March 3, all of their wines by the glass will be available for $3 each, Mon–Thu, until the end of March. Cheers darlings! 1896 Hyde St. at Green, 415-674-4343.

Yet another anniversary, and this might really get you and your liver in trouble: the ~R BAR~ is turning five on March 7. Tod asked me to send out a big thanks to everyone, especially the "bar/restaurant/hospitality/liquor biz folks who have gotten us to this point and made us what we are." Yeah, the biggest Fernet account in the City. Anywho, the anniversary party will be on March 16, starting at 8pm—the night before St. Paddy's Day, so consider it basic training. 1176 Sutter St. at Polk, 415-567-7441.

Also in the Polk Gulch neighborhood: I was wondering what was moving into the Café Ya-Bon space when I saw the windows all papered over some weeks back. Behold: less café, more restaurant! Now it's style="font-weight:bold;">~ZITOUNA~, and according to the fine folks at Thrillist and Eater, it will have an expanded menu of homemade Tunisian-Moroccan eats. Gotta check it out. Sadly the 24 hour action is gone: Mon–Thu and Sat –Sun 6am–10pm, Fri 1:30pm–10pm. 1201 Sutter St. at Polk, 415-673-2622.

SoMa workers: did you know ~PRANA'S~ lounge is open for lunch and bar service (helpful in case you are suffering from the DTs at 2pm). There is a global menu of sandwiches (braised short rib), wraps (the much healthier portobello mushroom wrap), and some entrées like ginger-garlic prawns with soba noodles, plus salads, and naan pizzas. Hours are Tue­–Fri 11am–3pm, and happy hour is 4pm–7pm. 540 Howard St. at First St., 415-247-9911.

As if all this food and wine isn't enough punishment: are you aware of all the Italian winemakers who will be descending on San Francisco next week for the ~GAMBERO ROSSO/TRE BICCHIERI TASTING~ event on March 5? Look for a bunch of special winemaker dinners at your favorite Italian places around town. Shelley Lindgren of A16 let me know that for a week, all of their 40 wines by the glass will be Tre Bicchieri winners. They will also be highlighting two Italian winemakers: Sabino Loffredo from Pietracupa, on Thursday, March 6, and then Gunther Di Giovanna from Di Giovanna winery in Sambuca di Sicilia on Wednesday, March 12. 2355 Chestnut St. at Divisadero, 415-771-2216.