July 28, 2009

Some of the biggest news in the last couple of weeks was about chef Nate Appleman's sudden departure from the ~A16/SPQR~ restaurants and group. He is currently in New York, so I am sure we'll hear soon enough where he is turning up next in the 212. Liza Shaw will continue to hold down the kitchen at A16 like she has been doing (and very well, I might add), so no changes there really, except she is now chef instead of co-chef. As for SPQR, chef de cuisine Chris Behr opted to not take over the show, and executive sous chef Huw Thornton will also be leaving—but not until the new chef is hired. The partners are currently conducting a search to fill the chef position—they won't be hiring a CDC since they will have a dedicated executive chef overseeing that restaurant alone. They have also decided to close down SPQR for 7–10 days once they have the new chef so they can refresh the space, and get things up to speed with a new kitchen crew—probably at the end of August. All employees will be kept on payroll provided they are working with the new chef or willing to pick up a paintbrush and help with the sprucing up. As for Urbino, well, sadly that project has been shelved at this time due to various issues relating to the lease and timing, but A16 Japan is still on track for an opening in Tokyo in September.

The other big boom was about the departure of Laurent Manrique, not only from ~FIFTH FLOOR~, but now he has resigned from ~AQUA~ as well. Of Aqua, he says, "the nearly three years of legal battles related to the ownership of Aqua that have been going on since shortly after the 2006 death of Charles Condy have come to make it impossible for me to effectively perform my job and maintain the high standards of my profession. I am very happy to have had the chance to help build what became a two-star Michelin restaurant and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Charles Condy, a most distinguished restaurateur." The legal battle he is referring to is between founder Charles Condy's sons and their stepmother, Mary Condy, over ownership of the restaurant. Manrique will continue to stay involved with Cafe de la Presse and the adjacent Rouge et Blanc Wine Bar (he is a co-owner), and remains a partner with Christopher Condy in CL Partners, a restaurant development company. He is also a partner in the Miura Company with Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji. Plans for the future include a new San Francisco restaurant/wine bar (of course I will keep you posted); but for now, it looks like he gets to enjoy the summer. As for chef Jason Pringle, who came over from Epic Roasthouse, he currently remains at Aqua—we'll see what happens next. What a sh*tshow. 252 California St. at Battery, 415-956-9662.

As for ~FIFTH FLOOR~, as I mentioned, Manrique has departed, and so executive chef Jennie Lorenzo is leading a new concept, offering New American cuisine at a less-expensive price point. I got a peek at the new menu, which includes delicious-sounding appetizers, like chilled English pea soup ($11) with calamari a la plancha and spiced oil powder; and tuna "zuke" ($13), with sashimi strips, green tea soba, yuzu vinaigrette, and crispy mohama. Mains currently feature baked black cod ($25) with hearts of palm, sprouts and blossoms, sea urchin sauce, and fried brine shrimp; and stuffed quail ($24) with asparagus and pea succotash, herb puree, and Madeira sauce. The most expensive main is the rib eye "paillard" for $29, and the five-course tasting menu, now called The "Fifth" Tasting, for $65 (with pairings from Master Sommelier Emily Wines for $50). Lorenzo has a flair for flavors and presentation, so I'm excited to try the new menu. Jacques Bezuidenhout and Emily Wines will also be developing the bar concept further (plus a bar bites menu), look for an update on that in coming weeks. 12 Fourth St. at Market, 415-348-1555.

A graduate of the Fifth Floor kitchen, Melissa Perello has finally found a home for her personal project, ~FRANCES~. She is moving into the former Palencia spot in the Castro. In an email to me she says, "I love the neighborhood, the space is really charming and feels very comfortable to me. I'm working on plans for the space with an architect right now, though the renovations will be moderate and I anticipate a fall opening. I'm very excited about the project, it's been a long time in the making." 3870 17th St. at Noe.

Folks in the Marina have probably noticed ~BISTRO AIX~ has closed (it closed last Monday the 20th). Fortunately, it's just for a remodel, albeit a lengthy one since the reopening won't happen until the end of the year if they're lucky. Owner Jonathan Beard plans to totally gut the place and redo it from the ground up—upon reopening, there will be an oak fireplace grill in the kitchen where they will be preparing quality meat, poultry and fish. There will also be a glassed-in patio with a 100-year-old olive tree, reclaimed redwood, and an updated facade. They promise that many of their classics will remain on the menu. 3340 Steiner St. at Chestnut.



The street food–loving masses are gearing up for the upcoming ~SAN FRANCISCO STREET FOOD FESTIVAL~ from La Cocina and 7x7 magazine on August 22nd. Have you marked it on your calendar? The daylong block party (it will be on Folsom between 25th and 26th Streets from 11am–7pm) is free and open to the public. Each vendor will sell food and drinks, with nothing costing more than $10. Now, about those vendors: you can check out the entire list of who is making bites here, and what they're making, but I don't recommend clicking it if you're hungry. There will also be a beer and spirits garden, street musicians, street art projects, and a hands-on children's play area, as well as multilingual services for attendees. The event is a benefit for La Cocina, and is a sister event to the Eat Real Festival taking place in Oakland's Jack London Square August 28th–30th.

To further build excitement, the ~GO GAME STREET FOOD ADVENTURE~ is kicking off on August 1st. For three weeks, there will be a variety of food-related challenges for you to navigate and show how much you know about the local food scene. Each week of the game will present some missions you (and your team) can complete within the comfort of your own home, and will gradually lead you to actual vendors, festivals, and fairs to complete real-time missions for mega points! Play in teams (easier to eat more food that way!) or on your own! The game will culminate at the Street Food Festival, when the final scores will be tallied.

After beaucoup delays, the second ~SUSHI BISTRO~ finally opened in their Mission location on 24th Street, just next door to the St. Francis Fountain. Look for a similar format to the original location, with an extended sake list. Hours are Tue–Sun 5pm–10:30pm. 2809 24th St. at York, 415-282-2001.

More 24th Street news: ~DYNAMO DONUTS~ has opened its inside seating/cafe space! Now you can take a load off and sit with your coffee and donut, meditating on their deliciousness. 2760 24th St. at Hampshire, 415-920-1978.

More coffee-related news: ~RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS~ is now serving coffee at the Alemany Farmers' Market. You can grab a cup of French press coffee or cold-brewed coffee, plus there are also 12 oz. bags of coffee beans for sale. You can find Ritual in the prepared food vendors row. Every Saturday, 7:30am–2pm. 100 Alemany Blvd.

Yay, ~SCHMIDT'S DELI~ is now serving beer, wine, and dinner. 2400 Folsom St. at 20th St., 415-410-0200.

I was skeptical when I heard about yet another Neapolitan pizza place opening, but when I read on Urban Daddy that the owner of ~PULCINELLA~ is Luigi Pucci, heir of Antico Molino Caputo (THE preferred pizza flour), I was like, whoa. And the pizzaiolo is from a pizzeria in Naples. And they are using a Mugnaini oven. Yup, we all have another pizza place to check out (it's in the former Cinque Terre space). 641 Vallejo St. at Columbus, 415-829-7312.

More "my name ends in a vowel" news: a tablehopper reader wrote in to let me know the owners of ~VINOROSSO~ wine bar in Bernal Heights (Giuseppe Manna and his wife Vega Freeman-Brady) have taken over Valentina Ristorante. You might have heard that Valentina became very ill last year but thankfully has almost fully recovered, however, her doctor has asked her to not go back into the restaurant biz at this time. The VinoRosso owners reportedly plan to do antipasti, salads, and pizzas. They just took possession, and a name change is to be announced. 419 Cortland Ave. at Bennington, 415-285-6000.



Poor ~GUSSIE'S CHICKEN & WAFFLES~, they keep hitting snags. The opening should happen this Friday; for those of you trying to keep track, I'll keep you posted on my Twitter feed when it actually opens. (Thrillist posted a copy of the menu here.) Hours will be Sun–Thu 7am–11pm, and Fri–Sat 7am–2am. 1521 Eddy St. at Fillmore, 415-409-2529.

Well, in my last column I mentioned ~IAN BEGG and RYAN MAXEY~, formerly of Café Majestic, had a North Beach project up their sleeves. If all goes according to plan, they will do a test run this Friday July 31st. I'll tweet later this week what it is, and will share all the details in next week's column.

Who said big projects are over? Because whoa, this is big: 7x7 had the scoop that ~TYLER FLORENCE~ is taking over the Rubicon space. According to the post, TyFlo writes, "It's going to be called Wayfare Tavern. Modeled after the San Franciscan Bohemain [sic] culture of the late 1890's. We've got an amazing designer who instead of building the place up, will patina it down to look as if it has always been there […] think American Balthazar! Researching antique menus from the period. Shooting for Spring 2010, March or April." Huh, maybe that's who has been outbidding me on vintage menus on eBay. (Image of me wagging my fist.) As for Bar Florence, a tablehopper reader told me a while ago that it looked like construction had stopped (did it ever get going?), so I'd say that project looks kaput. 558 Sacramento St. at Montgomery.

Here's yet another big project. Nope, we aren't talking 49 seats. We're talking a 6,700-square-foot space. Months ago I toured a big restaurant site on Yerba Buena Lane, just across from the Four Seasons. Here's what's opening late this year in it: ~BLUESTEM STEAKHOUSE BRASSERIE~, a modern reinterpretation of the American steakhouse from Adam and Stacy Jed. (The name comes from the premium grass favored by cattle ranchers throughout North America.) Bluestem will offer all-day dining and will have a rooftop bar. Michael Magliano, formerly of Craft in Los Angeles, will serve as executive chef. Bluestem will source its meats from sustainable ranchers, and will base the choices on seasonality and source from a variety of regions. There will be a twist on the usual steakhouse line-up, with different cuts and unfamiliar selections, and more than just beef on the menu.

Olle Lundberg of Lundberg Design is designing the space, which has 18-foot ceilings, a multi-level dining space, and according to the press release will feature "a bar top made by local artisan Concrete Works with embedded crystal rods lit from underneath with LED lights. The palette at Bluestem consists of warm earth tones of wheat, amber, and deep reds, and incorporates the use of refurbished sustainable materials wherever possible, including cork-wrapped columns, carpet made from yak hair, and end-grain flooring made from reclaimed Indonesian plantation wood." It will seat 200 indoors, including 45 in the lounge, plus another 35 on the rooftop patio, and there's a lobby lounge and bar area. 1 Yerba Buena Lane at Market.



More in North Beach: looks like a new Mexican joint is coming to the area with the opening of ~DON PISTOS~ in the former North Beach Lobster Shack space. 532 Green St. at Grant.

Things are close on ~CODA~, the jazz supperclub from Chris Pastena and Bruce Hanson that's opening in the former Levende Lounge spot. The grand opening is this weekend (August 1st–2nd) with cocktails and music, and dinner service starts on Tuesday the 4th (dinner and music will be available six nights a week). Adam Theis and the Jazz Mafia will perform on Tuesday night, beginning a weekly Tuesday residency. Guests will notice an improved and expanded music area with unobstructed sightlines and an updated sound system. Dishes on the menu include roasted salmon, braised greens, red wine lavender ($12); miso-fried Cornish game hen with coleslaw ($11.50); and coffee-crusted pork loin with Jameson cream sauce ($14.50). 1710 Mission St. at Duboce, 415-551-CODA (2632).

I recently wrote Metro Kathmandu was becoming District 5 with their changeover to California comfort cuisine, but they have now decided to go with ~METRO CAFÉ~ as their name. 311 Divisadero St. at Page, 415-552-0903.

A while back I wrote about a bagel place that was opening in the Lower Haight. Looks like ~ROLAND'S BAKERY AND CAFÉ~ is now officially open, offering hand-rolled specialty bagels from a water bath, plus danishes, muffins, scones, croissants, breads, and sweets like cookies, cream pies, layer cakes, and cream puffs. You will also be able to order birthday and wedding cakes. Open Tue–Sun 6:30am–5pm, with special late-night hours Thu–Sat from 8pm–3am; closed Mon. 422 Haight St. at Webster, 415-896-4925.

Downtown's ~BEST-O-BURGER~ now has a downstairs 50-seat dining room so you can take a seat while scarfing your burger (Mon–Fri 10am–4pm). There are also some new menu additions, like the Spicy Crispy Chicken and a Sloppy Dog. 89 Belden Pl. at Pine, 415-986-3808.



Looks like the former Marche on the Square space at Ghirardelli Square is going to be ~NORTH POINT CAFÉ~ by Laurel's Catering. Word from my source is that they are trying to open next week. 900 North Point St. at Larkin.

On Sunday August 9th, Slow Food on Film presents: ~MAD CITY CHICKENS~, a film about keeping chickens in the city. 6pm–9pm. $15 for screening and reception following the screening (benefits Slow Food San Francisco School Garden Project). Tapas and wine will be available at the reception. Wine pours at an additional charge. Buy tickets here. Delancey Street Theater, 600 Embarcadero St. at Brannan.

In this week's intro I mentioned ex-Rubicon chef Stuart Brioza and pastry chef Nicole Krasinski are doing a dinner using peaches from their adopted tree at Masumoto Family Farm. Boulette's Larder will be hosting ~STUART AND NICOLE'S FIFTH ANNUAL PEACH HARVEST DINNER~ on August 11th. They will be working alongside Boulette's chef Amaryll Schwertner, and pastry chef Sarah Ellsworth will collaborate as well on inspired peach savory dishes and desserts with select wines. $175. Seating is limited. Call 415-399-1155 (and be sure to learn the cancellation terms). One Ferry Building #48.

More seasonal fruit menus: tomato mania is also here. Through the end of July, chef Dominique Crenn at ~LUCE~ is offering a tomato menu, with all of the tomatoes coming from Dirty Girl Farm in Santa Cruz. The menu is $34.95, excluding tax and gratuity, and the menu will be paired with wines for an additional $12 (not bad)! 888 Howard St. at 5th St., 415-616-6633.

Chef Dmitry Elperin is hosting a summer cooking class at ~THE VILLAGE PUB~ on Saturday August 15th from 11am–2pm. You will be guided through techniques on how to prepare great summer dressings, how to shop for summer produce, simple dishes, and the preparation of infusion oils, all based around the tomato. Immediately following instruction, there's a sit-down four-course luncheon. $125. Limited availability, reserve by calling Ashley Muggli at 650-851-9888. 2967 Woodside Rd., Woodside.

It's deal-time, yo!

Starting today, ~ABSINTHE~ is offering a three-course prix-fixe lunch menu for $16 (excludes beverages, tax, and gratuity). It's available on weekdays from 11:30am–2pm. The new menu will change weekly and feature chef "Jamie's Pick" for a soup or salad, sandwich, and a sweet treat from pastry chef Luis Villavelasquez. 398 Hayes St. at Gough, 415-551-1590.

And on Friday and Saturday nights after 10pm, ~YOSHI'S SAN FRANCISCO AND OAKLAND~ will offer 10 chef's choice pieces of sushi for just $10 (excluding tax and gratuity). "10 for 10" will be offered in the upstairs Sake Lounge at Yoshi's San Francisco and in the Lounge at Yoshi's Oakland. 1330 Fillmore St. at Eddy, 415-655-5600; 510 Embarcadero West, Jack London Square, Oakland, 510-238-9200.

Speaking of the East Bay, here's more on former Ducca chef Richard Corbo's project once he returns from his travels. He has signed a lease with the new Jack London Market to develop his next project, ~PIZZERIA ZANNA BIANCA~ (which means "white fang" in Italian, a reference Jack London's book). There will be an Italian wood-fired oven turning out pizzas, plus house-made pastas, salumi, and seasonally driven small plates will be on the menu. All items on the menu will be priced less than $20. Construction of the restaurant will begin this fall, and is set to open in early 2010.

Up in Mill Valley, ~TSUKIJI SUSHI~ is opening in the previous Ora space tonight, Tuesday July 28th. 24 Sunnyside Ave. at Miller, Mill Valley, 415-383-1382.



And a tablehopper reader let me know "the boys at the Sand Dollar Restaurant in Stinson Beach took over the Stinson Beach Bar & Grill which opened July 11th as the ~BEACH SHACK BAR & GRILL~. Sam Temer is operating the new place while his brother August is running the Sand Dollar. They are open six days a week and closed on Tuesday. I stopped by for a beer and the bar staff was playfully researching and creating new beach friendly drinks with locally referenced names. The kitchen manager was superstitious about anything related to disaster, so Shark Bite and Tsunami will not be on the drink menus." However, mojitos did make it onto the menu. Crab rolls too. Open for lunch and dinner. 3465 Shoreline Hwy., Stinson Beach, 415-868-0115.