January 15, 2008

Big news that’s been brewing in Cow Hollow, well, the Triangle to be exact: Rob Lam of butterfly restaurant has taken over ~EASTSIDE WEST~ and will be launching a groovy new restaurant and lounge this spring/summer. While the concept (and name) are still being fine tuned, look for a casual dining establishment that will offer straightforward dishes made with quality ingredients (read: sustainable, local, organic; think: the perfect chicken, fresh oysters…). The menu will rotate often based on what’s in season, and there will also be weekly specials (meatballs and cioppino are being discussed). Dino Vasquez, who has been working with Lam for over ten years, will be running the kitchen. Not just any kitchen, but an all-new kitchen, with a gorg Montague charcoal grill, woot woot. And the best part: they will be serving after midnight.

Julio Bermejo is putting together the drink program, so while the popular bloody Marys and mojitos will remain, you know there is going to be some additionally good cocktailing to be had. Some proposed changes: the music will be less clubby but still upbeat, there will be a strong focus on the food (so people won’t just be drinking their dinner), some alfresco dining will be available (the back room is going to be opened up), and the look will be sleek since Walid Mando of FORMA LLC will be doing the redesign (he also did the recent redesign of La Folie, Fleur de Lys, and The Plumed Horse). Kurt Niver, general manager extraordinaire, will be acting as GM, so service will be tight. Eastside West should be going dark in late March, and the new concept should be launching in May or June. I’ll reveal more in the coming months. 3154 Fillmore St. at Greenwich.

And now, in the TV chef world: folks have been wondering what Food Network star ~TYLER FLORENCE~ was going to do out here since moving to the 415 last year. (Any time a hotel project said their restaurant was going to have a “big time chef” moving in, people often wondered if it was going to be Florence.) Well, the rumor mill can stop, because Florence is partnering with Personality Hotels to open his first signature restaurant here. The restaurant will be opening in the former Empire Plush Room space, in the Hotel Vertigo (currently the York Hotel), and should be opening this summer. Thomas Schoos Design, Inc. is renovating The York Hotel (past projects include the Huntley Hotel and O-Bar, Koi, Table 8, and Tao restaurants). For you fellow cinephiles, the York Hotel will be renamed Hotel Vertigo after the Alfred Hitchcock film (it ends up Kim Novak’s character lived in the York Hotel during the last half of the film). No word on the restaurant’s food, style, etc. yet—the ink is still wet on this one, but I’ll be able to share more details as the concept takes shape. 940 Sutter St. at Leavenworth.

If all goes well, you may find legendary Washbag (and formerly Perry’s) bartender ~MICHAEL MCCOURT~ behind the bar at Amante’s during the day. Yup, it seems the bar will be opening earlier in the day. Which would mean two things: McCourt’s throngs of fans in North Beach won’t have to wait too long in the day nor have too far to go for their next drink, and his inimitable company. 570 Green St. at Columbus, 415-362-4400.

Things are moving along and getting close for ~EPIC ROASTHOUSE~ and ~WATERBAR~—they are both on target for their opening date of Jan 29. Impressive. From what I hear, the test dinners are deeeeelish, and Camber Lay is going to be the bar chef at EPIC, so you know where I’ll be cocktailing soon. Nicole Burke is going to be the wine director over there too (she was most recently at Garibaldi’s, and 415 Restaurant & Lounge). Get ready to make those OpenTable reservations on the 29th (although you can actually call either restaurant and make reservations now)! Epic Roasthouse, 369 Embarcadero, 415-369-9955; Waterbar, 399 The Embarcadero, 415-284-9922.

Folks in Potrero will be bummed to hear that the charming ~PETITE PATISSERIE~ on 18th Street has closed. They have left a note on the window saying they'd like to sell the business to someone who would like to continue in a similar vein and continue the relationship with the folks on the hill. You can call Rachel and Kirsten at 415-794-0319. 1415 Eighteenth St. at Missouri.

But let’s not leave things like that. Here’s some good news on the hill: hopefully by the end of the month, ~UMI~ will be opening in the former Thai Bar-B-Que space (the name means “ocean” in Japanese). This 30-seat sushi restaurant comes from three partners, Stuart Chen of the former Skipjack Sushi in Cow Hollow (he has 19 years of preparing sushi under his belt—he reportedly goes direct to distributors to select and then filet his own fish); Shamus Booth (a contractor who did the Skipjack space and is doing Umi); and Russell Richardson. Umi will be open for lunch and dinner, and Beau Timken of True Sake, who put together the Skipjack sake list, will also be refreshing the sake list for this project, with something like 27 sakes to choose from. In addition to the sushi offering, there will be seasonal specials, and Chen is adding eight–ten new small dishes to the menu, like albacore tataki with yuzu soy, and grilled miso-marinated black cod with pineapple salsa. There is also a patio in the back they hope to upgrade and open soon. Opening hours to start are lunch Mon–Fri 11:30am–2pm; dinner Mon–Thu 5pm–9:30pm, Fri–Sat 5pm–10pm, and Sun 4:30pm–9:30pm. 1328 18th St. at Missouri, 415-355-1328.

Was very bummed to be reading The New York Times food section last week (although it was fun to be reading it while I was actually in New York) and discover the talented ~JEREMY BEARMAN~ is leaving LarkCreekSteak for a Brussels-based restaurant launching in New York, Rouge Tomate. Like, crap.

After the paper being up in the windows for months, the mysterious café at the corner of Turk and Divisadero has opened for business. I swung by for a cappuccino yesterday, and got the word on what it’s all about. The café’s name is ~APOLLO~, and you can get Equator coffee and espresso drinks, a variety of tea, beer and wine, along with an array of pressed panini, and sweet treats like macaroons, brownies, Madeleines, and the like. They are just having a soft opening for now, but look for Wi-Fi and other details to come… The space has a contemporary look, with wood tables, a bright color palette, and lots of tall windows. Starting next week, the hours will be 7am–11pm. It’s nice to see this stretch of Divis get a little something something. 1064 Divisadero at Turk.

So I know I already listed all the other unofficial alt names for ~THE HUB~ neighborhood last week, but I couldn’t resist this little bit from a reader, “Heh, I have a friend that lives on Haight at Gough and he and his neighbors have always referred to the neighborhood as 'The Flax'...” Love it!

Okay, I was pretty shocked with how many emails and reports I received from folks in the industry who have received the exact same phony phone call from the ~SCAMMING “DR. SUSSMAN”~ (the fraud I mentioned last week who calls restaurants saying he’s a big regular and asks for money so his son can get a cab ride downtown because he locked his keys in his car, blah blah blah).

Here is what a few industry folks had to say:

“I received the exact same Dr. Sussman call, only I told him I did not feel comfortable with his request and suggested his son go to a fire dept., so they could break into his car!!”

“OMG – that Dr. Sussman tried the same scam here. I told him I couldn’t give him money, but that I would be glad to drive his son to the dealership. Imagine how surprised I was that he turned down my offer!”

“About the scam artist "Dr. Sussman" you mentioned. It happened to us as well. I took the call and had the exact same conversation. I looked up the name in OpenTable as he continued to compliment the restaurant, only to not find his name in the system. Once he got to the cash part, I told him I cannot give out cash, there are just too many scammers out there to trust anyone. This guy was very convincing and I actually felt bad saying no.

Two weeks later I walk to the front door of my restaurant to find one of my managers standing there with an envelope. I asked him what he was up to and he said a doctor called. I started laughing. He said his son was on his way in. I thought man, this will be fun. I didn't have the time to call the police as he showed up a few minutes later. He came in and I took over the conversation asking what's up. He starting telling me how pissed his dad was at him and I said "I would be pissed off at you too since you did the same thing just two weeks ago." He still played it off asking what do you mean and then I got to lay into him. It was great fun. I only now wish there would've been enough time to have the police question him. Thanks for these posts. There's enough of this out there to start a full time blog of these losers.”

“I had that guy try the same trick on us twice in the last 2 years! He looks up the managers’ names ahead of time. Last time he made the call from the phone in the hotel lobby. I'm sure he has made the rounds.”

“I too was contacted by Dr. Sussman, but I have been around a little. Almost got me with something similar years ago. Thanks again.”

I also wanted to post this from a reader, in response to the poor restaurant worker who got robbed last week in the Marina. Some good info here:

“May I suggest that people who are interested in knowing ~WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS~ are completely allowed to be in the know by asking the station commander at your local police station to be included in the 'summary report' that is a daily email thing. Our district Captain Chignell/Taraval Station sends us one daily. All you need to do is call the station and ask if they have such a report, I think they all do. The one I get daily is very clear and concise and really helps, and at our last community wide meeting the officers from OUR station showed up and ASKED us to sign up for it. It makes us feel slightly more secure, we do live in a city after all.”

I also want to post this reader comment, because I think there’s a really important observation here:

“I've been tending bar or serving tables in SF for 20 years, and I am always blown away to see my colleagues heading home in the late night hours wearing the ~DEAD-GIVE-AWAY BLACK SHOES AND BLACK PANTS!~ Why not wear a sign that says "Carrying Cash!?” (and I have no comment for the guy on the BARhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifT platform at midnight in all white still wearing the Cheesecake Factory apron). Marcia, tell them to change clothes before heading out into the streets.”

So I am doing just that. Please be careful out there.

According to a tip on Eater, ~SAGE~, the casual café I mentioned back in October that was going to open in the Performing Arts Garage is now open, and its sister restaurant, ~THE BLUE MUSE~, offering Asian fusion with French influences has reopened in its new location, too. Sage, 340 Grove St. at Gough, 415-252-9887; Blue Muse, 370 Grove St. at Gough, 415-701-9888.

Looks like the ~LA CASTRO TAQUERIA~ is morphing into an Indian place? According to the new permit, it will be Kasa Indian Eatery. That’s about all I have; anyone know anything? 4001 18th St. at Noe.

~ABSINTHE BRASSERIE AND BAR~ is celebrating their ten-year anniversary, no easy feat in this town. In honor of the decade, Absinthe will be rolling back the prices of select signature menu items (so the French onion soup will be $4.50) and cocktails (hello, Ginger Rogers) to reflect their opening menu in 1998, as well as offer a selection of premium 1998 vintage wines (like a Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs Champagne). The promotion will run from January 20–February 1. 398 Hayes St. at Gough, 415-551-1590.

And now, some booze news. ~DOMINIC VENEGAS~ has joined the Gitane team as "bar chef.” And they are still hoping to be open in May. Meow. 5 Claude Ln. at Bush.

Over the holidays I made some mugs of hot buttered rum for my pals at our annual Christmas party. But I am quite sure the ones that will be prepared at Elixir on January 17, for ~NATIONAL HOT BUTTERED RUM DAY~, will be far superior. I had no idea the drink dates back to George Washington’s time. I guess there’s a reason this drink has stuck around—it’s good. $6 Gosling's Hot Buttered Rum cocktails, 6pm until close. 3200 16th St. at Guerrero, 415-552-1633.

I was sorry to miss the benefit last night at Cantina for ~BROOKE ARTHUR~, the poor bar manager at Range (and also an employee of Umami) who is currently hospitalized due to a horrible fire in her apartment on December 31. She suffered second-degree burns on her back, and terrible lung damage from smoke inhalation and soot—she is currently on a ventilator and fighting some infections, but is slowly improving day by day. Her co-workers, friends, and fellow bartenders are trying to raise money for her to help cover the costs of her hospital stay, the loss of all her belongings, and no income for the past two weeks (and counting). At Range, their past bartenders have helped by picking up her shifts and are trying to raise some money for her. Tuesdays and Thursdays they will have guest ex-Range bartenders, including Carlos Yturria, Dominic Venegas, Thomas Waugh, Camber Lay, and Enrique Sanchez mixing drinks behind the bar and creating a cocktail of the day in her honor. All tips for those evenings will be matched by Range and put into a fund for Brooke. Let’s make those evenings jam packed, and tip big, people. There is also a website set up to follow her daily progress, where you can also donate money via PayPal. Here’s wishing her a speedy recovery—I know a lot of people are pulling for her.