February 5, 2008

Whoa. Big major bummer here: this remains officially unconfirmed, but I heard from a couple folks ~SCOTT HOWARD RESTAURANT~ has closed. Thud. Damn. Howard was reportedly personally calling all the employees yesterday to tell them the unfortunate news that they wouldn’t be open today. I didn’t get an email back to confirm the sad what and why, but I do know business in January has been rough for some places around town… Will let you know next week once I hear back from him. I know a lot of local people are really sorry to hear it didn’t work out—so many folks love his cooking, and have a lot of respect for him. Best to you, Scott, thanks for all the heart and soul you have put in your food and restaurant. I look forward to seeing where you land next—and I know I’m not alone! 500 Jackson St. at Montgomery, 415-956-7040.

Let’s cut to some really good news: the staff of A16 and SPQR want to give a “Big happy returns” to ~CHRIS GERWIG~, the sous chef from A16 who was rescued on Monday morning—he is thankfully ok after being reported missing this past weekend while skiing at Alpine Meadows. His friend and ski buddy, Patrick Frost, is also reportedly fine and they only had a little frostbite. Amazing. Read the harrowing tale of their lost weekend surviving in snow caves here.

Been hearing some buzz about ~CANTEEN’S DENNIS LEARY~ opening a new place, one rumor placing it downtown. At the moment, Leary is being muy silencioso about the project, so I’ve got nothing definitive. The details are getting worked out, and he promised he’ll be sharing the concept and name and design details once those things are final. Soon. Can’t wait!

OK, more big and slightly mysterious news: executive chef ~SEAN O’BRIEN OF MYTH~ has partnered with Sprezzatura Restaurant Group (i.e. Joe Hargrave and Andrew McCormack of frisson and Laiola). All right! They are reportedly not working on a set project at the moment, and just getting the partnership thing underway. BUT, I couldn’t help but ask if they were planning to make changes to frisson. My little inquiry has to remain unanswered and unconfirmed at the moment—they said to sit tight and all will be revealed in the coming weeks.

But wait, there’s more! (I feel like a Ginsu commercial). Executive chef ~TYSON GREENWOOD OF PLUMPJACK CAFÉ~ is no longer at the restaurant. I’ll keep you posted on where Greenwood lands. 3127 Fillmore St. at Filbert, 415-563-4755.

Also heard that ~1300 ON FILLMORE’S~ chef de cuisine, Shawn Paul, is no longer with the restaurant. They are currently interviewing for a candidate to take his place. I’m waiting to hear back from him where he is landing.

Since we’re talkin’ 1300, the restaurant is celebrating ~BLACK HISTORY MONTH~, running through February 29. A four-course tasting menu will be offered ($85 per person, plus tax and gratuity), paired with wines from African-American-owned wineries (Black Coyote, Esterlina, Vision Cellars, and Brown Estate)—there will also be a special flight available of these wines. 1300 Fillmore at Eddy, 415-771-1700.

Opening today in Hayes Valley, in the former “friend” space, is ~CHRISTOPHER ELBOW CHOCOLATES~. This is the first store out west for the Kansas City chocolatier. This combination chocolate boutique and café will have everything from artisanal caramels (hello, strawberry balsamic) to gorg ganache little numbers to truffles to an array of hot chocolates to coffee (a special blend from The Roasterie in Kansas City). The modern look is done up in chocolate brown (natch) and red accents, and there are tables and chairs, plus a long bench with armrests and light-up tables. Hours are Mon–Thu 11am–8pm, Fri-Sat 11am–10pm, and Sun 12pm–6pm. 401 Hayes St. at Gough, 415-355-1105.

The Western Addition, excuse me, NOPA, will have some jazz coming to the neighborhood, ironically not too far from the previous location of the Saint John Coltrane Church, before it moved to Fillmore Street some years ago. This project is a jazz café that’s moving into the former liquor store on the corner. Funny, the café will be called ~ON THE CORNER~, inspired by the Miles Davis album. Owner, Rich Hohl, a jazz guitarist, is partnered up with Jean O’Rourke, the former owner of O’Rourke’s Bar, which later became my pal Jamie’s 540 Club on Clement Street. The 1400-square-foot-space will have a café atmosphere by day, with Wi-Fi and coffee, and by night, will have more of a living room/loungey atmo, with couches, armchairs, and tables and chairs for eating. The owners plan to have live music nightly, and since there isn’t a stage, the musicians will be right there, very close and in the mix. It doesn’t have a full kitchen, but they will be offering sandwiches, bagels, hummus plates, plus personal pizzas will be available in the evening. And since O’Rourke is 100% Irish, look for a tasty sausage breakfast in the morning. They are applying for a beer and wine license, which will hopefully happen soon. The opening is slated for the last day of February—yup, it’s a leap year, which should make for some interesting anniversaries if they meet the date. 359 Divisadero St. at Oak.

If you are craving some jazz in the 94117 right now, my favorite new bicycle café, ~MOJO BICYCLE CAFÉ~ has Tuesday night Jazz Night each week with the Jack Tone Riordan Trio starting at 8pm. Jack Tone Riordan has been playing in the San Francisco Jazz Scene for eight years, and is an indispensable member of multiple performing groups. His own band includes Smith Dobson Jr. and John Shifflet. 639-A Divisadero St. at Grove, 415-440-2338.

And now, some updates about some SF stalwarts. First, ~KIMO’S~ on Polk is under new ownership as of February 1. The two partners in the project are currently revamping the upstairs, redoing the bar, and putting in new tables and chairs, and adding lots of TLC. Once the upstairs is complete, the downstairs refresh will begin. The punk format will be gone, and more rock and blues will be on the playbill. Drag too, yay, just like old times! The name will remain. 1351 Polk St. at Pine, 415-885-4535.

Second, I can finally reveal the new owners of ~GINGER’S TROIS~: Dahi Donnelly, Brian Sheehy, and Doug Dalton of Future Bars (i.e. Bourbon & Branch, Anu, Swig, and the upcoming Cask Spirits). They just took over last Tuesday, and are planning to keep everything status quo in the coming months while they are getting Cask up and running and the extension to Bourbon & Branch—no details to reveal on the latter, yet. The only changes at Ginger’s mentioned for now are “new barkeeps, cleaner restrooms, and stiffer pours.” I know they have a lot of respect for what an institution Ginger’s is, and are sensitive to keeping the loyal long-term clientele happy. 246 Kearny St. at Sutter, 415-989-0282.

Over in Glen Park, a ~FAMILY-STYLE ITALIAN RESTAURANT~ will be moving into the old Bird & Beckett bookstore location. I spoke with owner Monhal Jweinat of Higher Ground Coffee House, and he said to look for an opening in the end of April or so. Jweinat lived in the Friuli region and in Milan for six years, but he said the restaurant will pull from all kinds of styles, from pesto to puttanesca. The name is still undecided, and the chef hunt is on, so expect more details in the coming months. 2790 Diamond St. at Chenery.

Looks like two ramen shops are brewing: moving into the Dragon House space on Geary in the Richmond will be ~WATAMI~, which has Chowhounders wondering if it’s a spin-off of the big izakaya chain in Japan, or perhaps just inspired by it. Meanwhile, a second ramen place, ~ASUKA RAMEN~, is reportedly opening in March in Nob Hill, in the former Asuka Mart space. Are we finally going to have multiple ramen choices in this town? Shocking. Watami, 5344 Geary Blvd. at 17th St.; Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St. at Taylor.

Also on Bush Street, downtown’s ~POPOLO~ (375 Bush St. at Belden) has closed… After ten years of business, the owner decided to close when the landlord renegotiated the lease and raised it to an impossible amount. Guests are being referred to their sister restaurant, Pasta Bene, 88 Hardie Place at Kearny, 415-989-2222.

And a reader tipped me off that ~GUSTOFINO FINE FOODS~ on Church has closed too. I emailed with owner Matt Rutledge, and he said things just weren’t working out. The space has already been leased to a café. Mrow. 248 Church St. at 15th St.

Some good news in the neighborhood, however: I’ve had two people tell me how happy they are with ~GOLDEN NATURAL FOODS~, a market that recently opened on Church Street right across from the behemoth Safeway, near Burgermeister. These are the same owners of Golden Produce, and supposedly the meat counter is amazing, highlighting organic, local, and sustainable products, with unusual cuts available too! According to a post on Yelp, “they plan to add a hot foods counter for quick take-home dinner food, [and] they do made-to-order sandwiches at lunchtime.” I gotta check it out. 130 Church St. at Duboce Ave.

And ~BRANDY HO’S~ new location in the Castro is having their grand opening party this Friday—Saturday the dining room will be open to guests. Hunan in the hizzy! 4068 18th St. at Castro, 415-252-8000.

After their December fire, ~VELVET CANTINA~ in the Mission is back open again! Swing by for a margarita and say hello. 3349 23rd St. at Bartlett, 415-648-4142.

~KING-CHA CHA~ has officially opened in the former Citizen Thai space in North Beach. According to a Yelp post, it’s the same owner of King of Thai Noodle House. Eater has news about the “Monkey” space, which is now Manchester City English Pub. 1268 Grant Ave. at Vallejo, 415-364-0008 (King-Cha Cha) and 415-391-8215 (Manchester).

~MIXT GREENS~, the ever-busy salad outpost, will be opening its third location in the Financial District, this one is slated to open April 7. According to the Mixt Greens folks, this new location will have, “a totally new look and feel and showcase a whole bunch of new green building materials. We are also adding more tables to the JP Morgan Courtyard so we will have plenty of outdoor seating. And we are designing the restaurant to have a significant catering operation to service SOMA.” The new location will be 580 Mission St. at 1st St.

Nicole Kosta was just appointed wine director/sommelier of ~SILKS~. Kosta hails from Adelaide, Australia. She was general manager of Valentino’s in Omaha, NE within one year of joining the restaurant; worked under Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon in Detroit where she studied and obtained her Sommelier Certification; and at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Livonia, MI as wine director. Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 222 Sansome St. at Pine, 415-986-2020.

In the event world, ~BATTLE OF THE CHEFS: ROUND TWO~, a lighthearted cooking competition between San Francisco chefs is underway. The lineup includes:

Monday, February 11: Rick Corbo of Ducca vs. Travis Flood of Moose's
Monday, March 10: Mark Sullivan of Spruce vs. Mark Denham of Laïola
Monday, April 7: Joel Huff of Silks vs. Ian Begg of Café Majestic

During their “battles,” the chefs are given 45 minutes to prepare a dish using the night’s “secret” ingredient. Chefs are allowed to bring ingredients that showcase their style of cooking, as well as a sous chef to assist them in preparation. Marisa Churchill, known for her role on Bravo’s Top Chef and currently the executive pastry chef at Yoshi’s of San Francisco, will provide the play-by-play commentary. The judges for each event will consist of local and national food personalities. Admission to each "Battle of the Chefs" event is $10 and includes the competition, food, and wine samples. The bell sounds at 6pm on the fight night dates above. Space is limited. For more detailed information, including tickets, which are now on sale, please visit rivera-pr.com.

~FOREIGN CINEMA~ is hosting their anniversary party this Thursday, well, 8 ½ years, screening what else but Fellini’s 8 ½. Bites will be passed on the patio, plus some drinks, and a variety of entertainment, like the Jazz Mafia, Vau de Vire Society, and acrobats will be performing. 6pm–late. $40. All of the evening’s proceeds will benefit StreetSmart 4 Kids of San Francisco. 2534 Mission St. at 21st St., please RSVP, space is limited: 415-648-7600.