July 29, 2008

Drama over at ~CAFE MAJESTIC~: GM Ryan Maxey is uh, suddenly no longer working there, and now executive chef Ian Begg and the bar manager have given their notice. Begg’s last day will be August 6th (hello restaurant folks, here are some quality folks to snap up!). The restaurant is currently looking for a new chef, we’ll see who they hire. It’s a shame what’s happened—it was the perfect place to send folks looking for a quieter, classy evening with well-executed food. Will keep you posted on where Begg lands. 1500 Sutter St. at Gough, 415-441-1100.

While I was at the Praaaaaaada opening party (yes, darling, nibbling on spoons of caviar, go ahead and keep hatin’), I ran into Martel Toler of Martel and Nabiel nightlife fame/infamy (ha ha). Ends up the late-night duo have been brought on as consulting partners for the ~BAR FLORENCE~ project, Tyler Florence’s first namesake restaurant that is moving into the Empire Plush Room. I got a few more details about the project: since it’s part of the hotel (formerly the York, now the Vertigo), there is a lobby with casual/café seating that will offer coffee, light breakfast, and snacks during the day, plus bar food until 1am on the weekends. The 80-seat dining room will serve dinner nightly, and will also have a private dining room accessible through the kitchen, a chef’s table of sorts, that will look into the dining room. A skylight in the atrium has been revealed, a cool feature. The lounge area will have a classy atmosphere, and look for some Vertigo-era décor elements. I’ll have more about the menu in the coming months. Oh, and it’s looking like a January opening. 940 Sutter St. at Leavenworth.

The Vintage 415 chaps are busy with two upcoming projects. I was wondering who was going into the ~BISTRO YOFFI~ space in the Marina after learning it was on the market a few months back, and the answer is Nate Valentine, Sam Josi, and Stryker Scales—they’ll be opening an American gastropub in January or February of 2009. The guys take over the space at the end of September, and will be transforming it to include a “living room,” library, and the back garden will be spruced up. The presently unnamed restaurant will be open for dinner seven nights a week, serving casual and simple fare, with a few nods to English pub classics, like bangers and mash, and pot pie. An executive sous chef will be hired to carry out Sam Josi and Daniel Burckhard of Blue Barn Gourmet’s culinary vision; and some produce will hail from Josi’s family’s farm, Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen. And yup, there’s a full bar. 2231 Chestnut St. at Pierce.

Things are also getting closer on Vintage 415’s project (Nate Valentine, Demetrius Chapin-Rienzo and Todd Palmerton are on this one, partnering with Gian-Paolo Veronese) in the Jackson Square area called ~AVENTINE~ (rhymes with Valentine); it’s named after one of the hills of ancient Rome. It’s a two-level space dating back to the 1850s, and was formerly a clothing boutique. It actually has a wall downstairs that was the retaining wall to the pier along the water—remember, this was the Barbary Coast before all the landfill came in.

The focus will be primarily on meeting the needs of the local lunch set, opening at 10am for the day traders, plus offering a new hangout for the happy hour/after work crowd. In fact, downstairs there will be 40 lockers, where individuals/companies can have their own liquor lock box, a house account of sorts, and list five people on a “manifest” who are allowed to drink from your stash; Aventine will replenish the lockers and bill ya each month. The downstairs will be reserved from 3pm–7pm for locker holders only. Not like they’re encouraging consumption, wait, maybe they are, because there will also be coins handed out at the bar, one per drink you consume. Collect four and you get a freebie. Now, that is what I call hard currency.

There will be an all-day menu of rustic Italian fare, including piadine, seafood and shellfish like cracked crab, salads, and charcuterie and cheese; there isn’t a hood in the kitchen, just convection ovens, hence the simpler fare. The chef was originally going to be Adolfo Veronese, but he’s busy with a cool gig in Vegas, so they are currently interviewing. The look will be Old World, with exposed brick, smoky mirrors, maps, oil paintings, some nautical elements, and the original supporting columns of redwood have been made into the bar—actually, there are two bars: one upstairs, another downstairs. Hours will run from 10am until midnight Mon–Tue, and until 2am Wed–Sat, opening at 5pm on Saturday, and closed Sunday. Look for an early September opening. 582 Washington St. at Hotaling (between Montgomery and Sansome).

How cute: ~PICCINO~ is not living up to its name, and is actually expanding! Well, true to form though, it’s a teensy expansion: owners Sher and Margherita are moving the coffee part of the business into a small space a few doors down, so folks can order their coffee at a window that will have pop-out shelves. There will also be some grab-and-go items, like panini and baked goods. Customers will still be able to savor their coffee or cappuccino at the tables at Piccino next door if they want to linger… Meanwhile, the restaurant will be gaining about another precious five spots or so. Look for the coffee window to be open for business in late September. Hours for the window will be 7am–6pm. 801 22nd St. at Tennessee, 415-824-4224.

More café news: the nice folks behind the now-closed ~CAFE CRESCENDO~ will not be reopening in San Francisco, and have decided to relocate to the Denver metro area. Best wishes to them.

And now, the mystery business section. A tablehopper reader let me know that there is a ~NEW ITALIAN CAFÉ~ opening at 59 30th Street at San Jose. Anyone who lives over there know what this place is called? I didn’t have a chance to schlep out there and find out.

Another tablehopper reader was asking what is opening at ~CALIFORNIA AT 17TH AVENUE~, where the coffee shop called California Grind previously was. The business owner reportedly closed her doors on July 1st, due to an ongoing battle with the landlord over an increase in rent. One neighbor heard a rumor about a wine bar. Anyone know anything? 5501 California St. at 17th Ave.

More vague wine bar news: some ABC paperwork mentions ~PURE VINO~, and lists Michael Benziger. From what I could gather, this is an independent project from Benziger Family Winery, although it is the nephew of Mike Benziger/son of Bob Benziger. The business in going into the former Burton’s Pharmacy space in the Marina. I’ll keep you posted as details emerge. 2016 Chestnut St. at Fillmore.

In the Upper Haight, the ~COCO-LUXE CONFECTIONS~ retail shop I mentioned back in April has opened. Truffles, espresso, and hot chocolate are available, plus a few stools to perch on. Open 11am–7pm. 1673 Haight St. at Cole.

Over in North Beach, ~PANTA REI~ was granted a conditional use permit to expand into the adjacent and former shoe repair store on Columbus. It was reportedly a very emotional hearing, with about 40 Italians in attendance, including competing business owners who were there in a show of support. 431 Columbus Ave. at Vallejo, 415-591-0900.

This season’s Top Chef winner and fan favorite, ~STEPHANIE IZARD~, is cooking a special Top Chef dinner this Saturday August 2nd at Mission Beach Café with executive chef Ryan Scott, who was a contestant on the same season with her. They are co-creating and presenting a tasting menu highlighting their signature styles, followed by dessert from the café’s pastry chef extraordinaire, Alan Carter. Five-course, prix-fixe dinner, $95 per person, exclusive of alcohol, tax, and gratuity. Space is limited. Reservations required. 8:30pm–midnight. For reservations or additional information, call 415-861-0198, ext. 2. Mission Beach Café, 198 Guerrero St. at 14th St.

Did you read about the ~MIRACLE FRUIT PARTIES~ in the New York Times? Well, next Monday August 4th, a Miracle Fruit party will be happening here! Miracle Fruit (Sideroxylon dulcificum) is a cranberry-sized West African berry that numbs your sour and bitter taste buds for a couple of hours after eating it. What that means is everything that used to taste sour now tastes sweet. It's like a candy Willy Wonka would have invented—after eating one, stout beers taste like a chocolate milkshake, grapefruit taste like pixie sticks, cheeses tastes like frosting, and it will even make the lousiest Tequila taste like lemonade. The $25 price includes a berry, and a buffet of regular/everyday food items the event organizers have curated to showcase the transformative power of the fruit. Everything from lemons, to cheeses, to beer to other things you may not expect. A berry should give you a trip of one to two hours. Buy tickets in advance. The party will be hosted at 8pm at Temple, 540 Howard St. at 1st St.