July 4, 2006

Folks are fired up that ~ROOSEVELT'S TAMALE PARLOR~ has finally reopened (as of Saturday, June 24) after a massive remodel. Investors Isaac Mejia and Ray Klein (Don Pico's, Tartine Bakery, Pizzaiolo, Rib Shack, Café Cacao) partnered up again to save this San Francisco icon. One of the oldest tamale parlors in California (since 1919) and the oldest in San Francisco, Mejia just couldn't bear for San Francisco to lose something so precious. They have lovingly insured the original old wainscoting was restored, plus adding some touches like installing 80-year-old alabaster lamps (the drop ceiling is all gone), and a flesh pink and brick checked quarry tile floor. To do honor to this heartfelt renovation, they have brought in Karen Taylor of Primavera, who does the spectacular Slow Food-style tamales at the Ferry Building Marketplace Farmer's Market, and you've probably seen them at Whole Foods. (She also does killer tortillas and fish tacos at the FB, but we're talking about the tamales.) She's a close friend of Diana Kennedy, the authority on Mexican cooking (well, yes, besides Mister Bayless)—Kennedy might even come up from Mexico and teach some cooking classes at Roosevelt's. We shall see. For now, head on over to Roosevelt's and check it out—I plan on doing the same. Closed Mondays. 2817 24th St., at Bryant St., 415-824-2600.

Thanks to an avid tablehopper reader (thanks CS!), I got a tip-off about ~AVENUE G~, a new resto that just opened on Saturday, July 1, on Clement St. in the former Pho Tu Do space. The G stands for Grant, the chef/owner who has worked at Chaya, Betelnut, and The Brazen Head/Liverpool Lil's. An SF native, he was especially excited about this project because it was a chance to return to his hometown neighborhood, and fulfill the project with the help of his talented friends. After three months of construction, he's opened a linear space that seats 54 (for now), with bamboo floors, a palette of urban industrial colors, like graphite and sand, Asian-style mahogany chairs, and an open kitchen in the back. The menu is an international globetrotter, focused on what he is calling "San Francisco cuisine." Expect dishes like foie gras, a killer feijoada, rib eye steak, sashimi, Dungeness crab potpie, white truffle French fries… yes, it's a grand tour. His recipes are authentic (he even sought moms around the city for recipes), and are served in good, hearty portions. Apps run $9-14, and mains $17-26. He's using local/sustainable/organic ingredients when possible, and is even offering an omakase/chef's choice menu ($55/five courses, plus $20 for wine pairing). Speaking of vino, Brandon Clements (the bar manager of MECCA, and he worked with Grant at Betelnut) has put together an international list that's as eclectic as the menu, plus a focus on sake, and some soju cocktails and beer too. Dinner will be served nightly, 5pm-midnight, and even later on Fri-Sat. Sounds like there will now be some good late-night eats on the "Clement Corridor." 1000 Clement Street at 11th Ave., 415-221-7111.

It ends up that Brandon Clements (from MECCA and doing front of house at Avenue G) will also be opening a place of his own (with one of the owners of Zebulon) called ~MERCURY~. It will be moving in to the divey Luau Bar & Grill on Lombard, and after a renovation, by September will hopefully be serving cocktails with some Asian flair and infusions, and Asian small plates (courtesy of chef Dominic Ainza of Betelnut). He promised me more news and details about the space once the paperwork gets finalized and construction is underway—for now, we sit tight. 1434 Lombard St. at Van Ness Ave.

The Greek restaurant, Yianni's, (in Noe Valley) will transform into ~PESCHERIA~ this fall. The project was formerly known as Joey & Eddy's Seafood, but after a trip up and down the coasts of Italy, and many many fish markets and stands later, Joseph Manzare (Globe, Zuppa, Tres Agaves) was inspired to rename it. The chef will be Robert Leva, who is a protégé of the tres-talented Richard Reddington, cooking under him while at Redd, Auberge, and Jardinière. Manzare and Leva are heading to Italy in a couple weeks to check out some fishing towns on the coast and get inspiration for the menu. The menu will include some seafood pastas, and the mesquite wood grill will surely yield some winning dishes. The restaurant will feature a raw bar, with oysters and possibly some crudos, served on a marble bar top with the raw bar sunken in. The staff working the bar will wear old-fashioned white fishmonger coats (cool!). Additionally, Pescheria will have a full bar. The space itself will have a Italian seaside feeling that's clean and slick, with white subway tile. There's room for about four four-tops out front under the awning, around 30 seats inside plus room for eight at the bar, and here's the best part: the patio. The landscape architect is currently transforming it into a hip and cool space (including crafting a trellis made of bound sticks)—it should have room for about 20 diners. Looks like Pescheria will hopefully be opening in time for Indian summer (August 31), so we'll have a chance to enjoy the outdoor seating and some fresh fish on a balmy night. 1708 Church St., at 29th St.

~AQUA~ is currently closed for a kitchen renovation until July 12. I also heard some rumblings of some serious staff turnover the past couple weeks, so we'll see how things shake out after the 12th (I didn't get a call back). And with C&L closed and on the move, sounds like there are some big changes in the works with the Aqua Development Group. I'll keep ya posted.

Speaking of zee French, prix-fixe standby ~LE CHARM~ in SoMa just finished a makeover courtesy of designer Michael Brennan (Cortez, Boca, Tartare). Expect a more intimate vibe, with cinnamon walls, suspended globe lighting, and a large custom copper chandelier, plus some sage curtains. In honor of the new look, some new dishes have also made their way onto the á la carte menu (not like I'll give up the chicken liver salad, however).