January 13, 2009

Yup, this is definitely going to be a challenging start to the year. So many restaurants are hurting out there, and a bunch of them will not be able to weather this horrid economic climate. I am really going to hate having to write about so many places closing in the coming months, but it’s a harsh reality. Just this past week, we’ve had a lot of closures after the holiday party season wrapped up. Sigh. Here goes:

I was most saddened by learning about the closure of ~BARAKA~ in Potrero Hill. Chef Chad Newton (Postrio, Redd) was doing good things up there on the hill, and I liked the new restaurant owners, Michelle and Justin Hughes. Alas, one of my favorite little romantic spots is no more. Here’s wishing them all the best, and I hope to be writing up Newton’s latest location soon. Not sure who or what is slated to go into the space. 288 Connecticut St. at 18th St.

I got word that ~AZIE~ in SoMa has closed. 826 Folsom St. at 4th St.

~MARCHÉ ON THE SQUARE~ at Ghirardelli Square has closed. I received an email about “continued problems with the cost related to earthquake proofing and permitting.” I was told their excess food was donated to Food Runners, and they are trying to find homes for their employees. They may continue the profitable wine business at another location in the future. Â

One interesting solution is to just go into a hibernation of sorts: ~CETRELLA~ restaurant in Half Moon Bay normally has a winter break in January, but they decided to extend it through April 31st of this year, reopening on May 1st, when the busier season kicks in. (Yup, it helps when you own the building.) 845 Main St., Half Moon Bay.


-Or hey, you can just ~START CHARGING FOR BATHROOM ACCESS~. Might be profitable if you’re in a busy area. You can even make a festive sign like this one, with balloons. (Seriously?)

Back to reality: we’re also going to see a lot of places diminish their hours and cut lunch service. Business-dining and power-lunch bastion ~AQUA~ has cancelled lunch service for January, and according to their monthly mailer, intends to resume service in February. Dinner service will be nightly, however. 252 California St. at Battery, 415-956-9662.

Okay, so how about some good news? Indeed. A few doors down from Aqua, Staffan Terje and Umberto Gibin of Perbacco are taking over the Rado’s Gourmet Delicatessen space, and will be opening ~BARBACCO~, a modern trattoria. During the day, lunch will be served—think a quick bite that’s light on the wallet. Dishes will include panini, a few soups, salads, and some baked pastas, like cannelloni. At dinner, you will be able to build your menu with well-priced apps and a few smaller entrées. The market-driven food will be fast, healthy, rustic, and will feature menu items that are different from Perbacco’s. In fact, expect to see dishes from all over Italy, and not just the Piedmont region. There will also be a rotating supply of Terje’s famous salumi (plus salumi to-go for those who work in the area), cheeses, and more pickled items. The 80-seat space will be full of counter seating, plus tables for two, and mini-communal tables for six. No cocktails—only beer and wine (about 50 by the glass!) that will be temperature controlled, so expect to get your red wine at a nice cellar temp. CCS Architecture/Cass Calder Smith is designing the space (CCS also did Perbacco)—the look will be inviting, and a bit more modern and younger in style. The opening is currently slated for the end of July. 230 California St. at Battery.

Over in Noe Valley, ~CITY GRILL~ is due to open tomorrow, Wednesday the 14th, in the former Kookez space. The project is from Stefano Coppola of Lupa. On the opening menu: affordable and traditional grill items, including steak and fries ($24—all prices approximate!), a pork chop ($17), a 10 oz. burger ($10), salmon, chicken, and a vegetarian choice. Coppola said once things are underway, he is hoping to add items like wild boar and venison, plus a nightly fish special. Dessert choices are also pretty straightforward, including apple crisp, maple pecan pie, and a chocolate flourless torte. Dinner Tue–Sun, and brunch will also be served Fri–Sun, and begins this Friday. It’s a soft-opening period, so expect things to develop and change in the coming weeks. 4123 24th St. at Castro, 415-285-2400.

-Another opening this week: Charles Phan’s ~HEAVEN'S DOG~ (link not active yet) opens this Friday for dinner in the SoMa Grand. Some items on the preliminary menu include daikon rice cake, cured pork belly, lapchang sausage, dried shrimp ($6); braised pork belly, clam shell bun, scallions ($9); bean-curd roll, shiitake, cabbage, jicama, glass noodles ($7); noodles in a bowl, and soups like custard tofu hot and sour soup with fresh bamboo and fresh tree ears (all $7–$9); plus some stir-fry dishes like dan dan mein, ground pork, peanuts, sesame, red chilies, egg noodle (all $9–$12). $10 cocktails. Hours for dinner are 5:30pm–10pm. Lunch will begin in February. 1160 Mission St. at 7th St., 415-863-6008.

And lastly, ~SUMI SUSHI~ is opening in the Castro this Saturday for dinner. To recap, the folks from Sushi Ko in Berkeley are behind the project. Opening hours will be Sun–Thu 5pm–10pm, and until 11pm Fri–Sat. 4243 18th St. at Collingwood, 415-626-7864.

Got word that chef Jennifer Biesty is fully launching her menu at ~SCALA’S BISTRO~ this week (about 75–80% of the menu are her own dishes). The menu will continue to offer Northern Italian dishes with French country influences, but Biesty is also putting her strong local ingredient spin on the menu, with a number of items being made in-house, including pastas, cheeses (like the mozzarella for the pizzas), and cured meats. Some new additions to the menu include a crudo of the day, such as the sea bass ceviche with pickled chilis, watermelon radishes, micro arugula and lime salt; plus house-cured duck prosciutto bruschetta; pappardelle with tomato-braised pork sugo, Swiss chard, marjoram and Parmigiano Reggiano; and grilled rack of lamb with a sunchoke puree, braised kale, and romesco. Open 11am–11:30pm daily, offering a late-night menu until close. 432 Powell St. at Sutter, 415-395-8555.

Since we’re talking about East Coast-hailing female chefs on ~TOP CHEF~, kudos to Jamie Lauren of Absinthe for winning last week’s round. “Top Scallop,” indeed. The new judge Toby Young has got to be terrifying, and I was annoyed with half of his allusions, like, really? Stop trying to look so damned clever. Total verbal peacocking. And is it my imagination, or does it seem like Toby and Tom Colicchio aren’t very simpatico? I think there was a little tension there—maybe there’s only room for one intense chrome dome on the show. Speaking of tension, I can only imagine what will happen when Hung visits the show this week. Hold on!

Star tablehopper reader Jason B. Noticed that the Muddy Waters in Bernal has become ~CAFE SEVENTY8~. Per his report, “Same menu, new owners, at least that is what the girl behind the counter told me.” 78 29th St. at San Jose, 415-970-2233.

One bright side to this messy economy: if you have any money, it’s a good time to score some tasty and cheap vittles. Yes, even at ~EPIC~. The restaurant is offering a $20 Burger, Beer, and Brownie prix-fixe lunch in the upstairs Quiver Bar, which is available Monday through Friday from 11:30am–5pm. The burger is half a pound and ground daily, with your choice of a 12 oz. Anchor Steam or Trumer Pils draft beer, and yes, a house-made brownie. Plus there’s that killer view. 369 Embarcadero at Folsom, 415-369-9955.

Then across the Golden Gate Bridge, ~POGGIO~ is doing a porchetta supper every Monday night. Chef Peter McNee will be preparing the porchetta exactly as he learned to do it in Italy: deboning a small pig and stuffing it with herbed sausage before sewing it back up and roasting it in the wood-burning rotisserie. Porchetta will be available on Monday nights until March 30th. You’ll be able to enjoy it with another Tuscan classic, fagioli all’uccelletto, all for only $16 per person. Add a quartino of Chianti for $6. 777 Bridgeway, Sausalito, 415-332-7771.

More budget-friendly dining: this week’s menu at ~RADIO AFRICA & KITCHEN~ at Coffee Bar really caught my eye! Mezze ($6/$25) include Cornish hen bastilla with almonds and coriander oil; sautéed prawns with sinafich (Ethiopian mustard sauce); butter lettuce with tangerines, avocado, and goat cheese; spinach and leek soup with crème fraîche and grains of paradise; plus some hearty main dishes for $16–$20, like roasted leg of lamb with Ethiopian root vegetable alicha and saffron yogurt raita. Dinner will be served this Thursday and Friday night (January 15th and 16th) from 6:30pm–10pm. Reservations accepted but not necessary at 415-637-7343. Coffee Bar is located at 1890 Bryant St. at the intersection of Mariposa and Florida, 415-551-8100. Â Â

Pig patrol:Â charming ~LA CICCIA~ is hosting a suckling pig dinner on Monday January 26th. The menu includes salumi and pickled vegetables; Sardinian semolina gnochetti served with pork meat sugo and pecorino; roasted suckling pig served with Sardinian-style root vegetables; and ricotta cheesecake for dessert, plus vermentino di Sardegna and cannonau di Sardegna. Dinner is $75 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Dinner begins at 7pm. Call for reservations. 291 30th St. at Church, 415-550-8114.

Speaking of oinkers, tickets for the very popular ~PIGS AND PINOT~ event on March 20th–21st at the Hotel Healdsburg are now on sale. You can make a weekend of it, and use my jetsetter guides on Healdsburg for ideas on where to go up there when you’re not eating pig and drinking pinot.

This past weekend, ~NOTHING BUNDT CAKES~ opened in Dublin. Yup, bundt cakes, and that’s it, yo. You can walk in and buy any size, bundtlet or bigger (8-inch and 10-inch sizes). Flavors are marble, chocolate chocolate chip, carrot, pecan praline (that sounds delicious), lemon, red velvet, white chocolate raspberry, white white chocolate, and cinnamon swirl. Store hours are Mon–Fri 9am–6pm, Sat 9am–4pm, closed Sun. 6601 Dublin Blvd. Ste. N., Dublin.