January 29, 2008

The Roman republic had its ups and downs, and things at ~SPQR~ are no different. Co-executive chef Daniel Holzman is no longer with the restaurant—his official last day was January 25th. The statement from the restaurant is, “Daniel has decided to pursue other opportunities. He was a great chef and we're sad to see him go, but we wish him the best of luck.” Now, restaurants are built on relationships, and we all know relationships are very, very personal. So I'm just going to say I'm sorry it didn't work out for all parties involved. Nate Appleman will now be the sole executive chef of SPQR, while continuing to oversee A16; they have great kitchen crews in place at both establishments, so things will continue to be status quo (i.e. delicious). I spoke with Holzman and he said, “I'm not looking at this as a bad thing,” and he's got a couple options he's thinking about pursuing, like a side venture he's had brewing for a bit, and perhaps opening his own place. He said he'd keep me posted.

Since we're talking Italian, I thought you may want to know ~A16's~ four-year anniversary actually falls on Valentine's Day. They are offering a four-course menu ($95) with wine pairings ($55), so if you feel like celebrating with one of the city's favorite restaurants over some veal meatballs, you know where to go. 2355 Chestnut St. at Scott, 415-771-2216.

More paisano news: I'm happy to report an Italian buddy (and fellow Calabrese) will be opening his restaurant, ~POESIA—OSTERIA ITALIANA~. Francesco D'Ippolito (most recently part of the opening team at È Tutto Qua) is taking over the Ararat Mediterranean location in the Castro on February 16. After a freshening up of the 49-seat space, Poesia should be opening in the beginning of March. (It's in one of those upstairs 18th Street restaurant spaces.) The chef is Italian import Ulisse Guastone (of course the chef's name had to be Ulysses, of course), who will be working closely with local Gregory Leon, who has worked at a variety of places around town, like Kelly's Mission Rock and Tapeo. The menu will be full of mostly Calabrese and other Southern-influenced dishes, but the food isn't totally limited to the south of Italy—there's reportedly a fantastic risotto that will be available too. The menu will be tight, and changing every few days depending on what's fresh at the markets. Dishes will be affordable, ranging from $11–$12 for pastas, and mains below $20. The well-chosen wine list will be about 80% Italian, and there is also a cocktail list that will feature a variety of Italian cocktails and spirits. Un bar Italiano! The petite bar has room for eight. Well, actually, seven, because I will be sitting in one of the seats, sorry. Dinner will be served nightly from 5:30pm–11pm, and even later on Fri–Sat, with brunch on the weekends. Look for a poet's corner with some couches and a coffee table for canoodling over bruschetta and vino, plus a bookshelf of poetry if you are so inclined to read to your sweetie (or yourself). 4072 18th St. at Castro.

The town has been buzzing for weeks over the impending sale of ~MYTH~ and the adjoining Myth Café. Nothing is final yet, so I've opted to step back from reporting much on it since anything I would say is just speculation. Once the deal is done, I'll report back with the plans of the potentially new Ron Siegel/Stephane Lacroix/Carl Pascarella team. The two things we do know, however, is executive chef Sean O'Brien's last day is Thursday; Nathan Foot, who has been working with Sean and doing a great job, will assume the reins until the new owners take over. I ran into Sean and his wife Pat at the crazy Kuleto-fest (i.e. opening parties for Waterbar and EPIC) on Sunday—Sean is optimistic about his options and said he'll have some news to share soon. The second thing we know is wine director Alex Fox will be staying on until the transition is complete, probably until the end of February or so. Tom Duffy created a special and incredibly popular restaurant that was all about showcasing the talents of his rising star staff, and I can imagine how difficult it is for him to say goodbye to it. So, let's stick with “soon” for news on all of this.

One of Duffy's protégés of sorts, Ryan Scott of Myth Café, has been announced as one of the four contestants on the upcoming season of ~TOP CHEF—CHICAGO~, along with Jen Biesty of COCO500, Erik Hopfinger of CIRCA, and Zoi Antonitsas, a consultant who also worked at Bovolo/Zazu, Presidio Social Club, and the former Bizou—yup, seems that Loretta Keller breeds killer talent in her kitchen. You can check out all 16 contestants here. The new season is kicking off on Wednesday, March 12 at 10pm—you know the city will have viewing parties all over the place. Congrats to all four contestants, doing SF proud!

More winning: congrats to all the establishments who won in ~7X7'S EAT AND DRINK AWARDS 2008~. I really hoped to go to the party last night, but guess who was having a late date with her computer and eating noodles while writing this column? Glamorous, I know.

Hey, have a second to vote for bartender/bar manager extraordinaire, ~NEYAH WHITE~ of Nopa? He's the only American finalist in the Bols Cocktail Master 2008 competition! Vote for his drink, the Wing and a Prayer, which has pepper and lavender in it, so Cali. Good luck Neyah! (And you might win a trip to Amsterdam for voting, cool yo.)

Saturday night I had a chance to attend the reception for ~V RESTAURANT~, which biz partners Jefferson McCarley and Emory Etheridge plan on making the greenest restaurant in the world. They will be using all recycled or used materials instead of buying new (even the groovy green dishes and glassware are previously used!), and the vegetarian menu will feature organic/local/sustainable produce, plus they will be using solar power, and green build-out practices. The chef is Stephen Sonke—he currently manages a café at Gap Inc. headquarters and provides direction for the food at all four Gap Inc. cafés. The goal is to open later this year, and they plan to open in the Mission. Right now they are looking for investors, and I gotta say, these kind gents have done their homework and have assembled one heck of a team, so if you're looking for some investment opportunities, I'd check out their project. Saturday's reception at the Women's Building had some bites from chef Sonke, organic and biodynamic wines from Quivira, and the current Miss Trannyshack, Pollo del Mar, unveiled the sign. Here's hoping we see it lit up soon. (Here I am with Pollo and Jefferson, making me look like I am barely five feet tall!)

Vegans and vegetarians will be bummed to hear veggie goldmine ~MEKONG RESTAURANT~ in the TL has closed according to a post on Chowhound. But dry those tears. The new place, Bang San Thai Cuisine, which already has a location in the area (at 505 Jones), has taken its place and will be continuing to offer vegan and vegetarian substitutions, plus Halal meat for the carnivores. 791 O'Farrell St. at Larkin, 415-928-2772.

Here's another place where you'll be able to Thai one on: a third location of ~THAI HOUSE EXPRESS~ (one of my fave Thai places) is coming to the Mission, their biggest location to date. It will be possibly opening in late May or June, at 530 Valencia at 16th. (Odd factoid: it's the former site of the Deaf Club, a punk venue, waaaaay back in the day.)

~METRO KATHMANDU~ is now open Monday nights, so dinner is a nightly thing 5:30pm–11pm. The happy hour continues from 5:30pm–6:30pm, with all soju drinks, wines by the glass, and beers for 50% off. 311 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-552-0903.

Since we have a bookworm from Pete of Green Apple Books this week, I wanted to bring up this story about ~ANOTHER SCAM~ that's happening—this time bookstores are being targeted! The East Bay Express had the story about this crazy new twist about people impersonating authors who are due to come in for book signings (in this case, Eric Gower of The Breakaway Cook) and trying to work the bookstore for some cash—it seems there was a similar scam at University Press Books in Berkeley too. Pfffft.

The Hotel Nikko San Francisco is opening a nightclub called ~THE RRRAZZ ROOM~ featuring jazz and cabaret acts six nights a week. The 200-seat space is currently under construction (it was formerly a board room) and is slated to open February 12, on the lobby level. There is a full bar, and there will be light food service. Fridays and Saturdays will bring two shows, with “LAST CALL!” starring Terese Genecco & Her Little Big Band running later into the evening (it's supposed to be a great show). Tickets will range from $25–$65 with a two-drink minimum, offering seating on the main floor at small cocktail tables, and at a few levels of banquettes. Shows are kicking off with Paula West. 222 Mason St. at O'Farrell, 415-394-1189.

Ugh. ~SUPER BOWL SUNDAY~. I usually take advantage of this opportunity to grab brunch somewhere normally too popular to get into, or I go shopping. (I know I'm in the minority here.) For those of you fired up for the game, a couple options include the “Club Level” at ~ENRICO'S SIDEWALK CAFE~, which will be furnished with couches, inside and out. You'll be able to have some Level vodka drinks (they're sponsoring the event) and eats from chef Seamus Cronin while viewing the game on several big screens. Doors open at 11:30am; the party continues after the game with live music. Guests can reserve sections of Enrico's for their own personal party within a party, and their own couches for groups of 6–20 people. There is a minimum charge of $250 for drinks and food for the first six people, but no additional minimum or cover charges. 504 Broadway at Kearny, RSVP: 415-982-6223.

Those of you hosting your own party, ~LUNA PARK~ will be offering a special delivery service with a "Tailgate Platter," perfect for city-dwellers living without a grill. Dishes offered include Niman Ranch BBQ chicken and ribs, coleslaw, French fries, beans, and mashed potatoes, and will be available from 2pm until the end of the game. Cost is $29.99 for two people and $49.99 for four people. Guests can order online or over the phone. Oh, you might need the number, won't you? It's 415-553-8584.

Lastly, this is gonna sell out quick, so get on it if you're interested! ~HENDRICKS GIN AND ABSINTHE~ are hosting a special four-course cocktail dinner by executive chef Jamie Lauren, paired with cocktails developed by Jeff Hollinger, author of The Art of the Bar. The dinner is February 13, and is $85. To reserve your place, RSVP with Absinthe Private Dining at 415-551-1453 or email jhollinger [at] absinthe [dot] com.