March 13, 2007

So the big buzz on the circuit is whether ~ROBBIE LEWIS~, formerly the executive chef at Jardinière, is the new executive chef at bacar. While he has been in the bacar kitchen since this past weekend, Lewis is still very much “in play.” A potential bacar contract is being discussed, but he actually has four or five other options in the mix, from consulting gigs to longer-term contracts. Stand by for news about when the ink is actually dry, whatever, wherever, and whenever that may be.

Another SOMA venue is making some changes: ~ROE~ is closing in mid-April, and will relaunch on May 1st with a new look and chef. Leading the kitchen will be Thai Tran, formerly a line cook at Boulevard and Ame. She’ll be steering the Southeast Asian menu, and adding some Vietnamese flair when the restaurant reopens. Margaret “Peg” O’Brien from Los Angeles will be redesigning the restaurant—she is behind LA projects like Minx, Republic, and Garden of Eden. The new look will be sleeker—more graphite and pearl, replacing the primary colors, gold, and animal prints. (Rawr.) Roe will reopen for dinner Tue.-Fri 5pm-10pm, Sat. 6pm-10pm (nightclub hours are a different animal), 651 Howard St. at Hawthorne Lane, 415-227-0288.

Over in North Beach, “the sisters” (Silvia and Christina Santucci) have sold ~STELLA PASTRY & CAFÉ~ (one is expecting a baby, and the other is potentially moving away). Stella has been around since 1942, and with the Santucci family since 1966. But fear not; the new owners are Susan Flaherty and Dino Belluomini of Victoria Pastry, literally just a few blocks away. Plans are to keep Stella as is (they appreciate the classically San Franciscan bohemian atmosphere of the bakery, and know it’s a different clientele than Victoria’s), so it’s not going to become “Victoria Pastry #2.” In fact, Dino used to bake at Stella—it was his first job, so he has a special soft spot for it. And the current baker at Stella, who has been turning out all the biscotti and cannoli and sfogliatelle and famous sacripantina for the past ten years will remain. Bene. The one change will be the potential to start ordering pastry treats through the Victoria Pastry website, soon. 446 Columbus Ave. at Vallejo St., 415 986-2914.

After making some concept changes, ~MEDICINE EATSTATION~ will be reopening next Monday, March 19, with bento boxes and seafood being added to the originally vegetarian-focused menu. The space will be streamlined for quick-service eat-in or take-out (you can even order lunch ahead of time on the website). There will also be a five-seat noodle bar. New hours will be for lunch only, Mon-Fri, 11am-3pm; take-out will still be available from 3pm-6pm. Another change: almost 100% of the ingredients will be now be organic.

The dining room area is also being altered, with one portion used for Eatstation, while the remainder of the space will morph into Medicine-Ryori in mid-October, offering elegant kaiseki cuisine for dinner. Co-Executive Chefs Ryuta Sakamoto and Bryan Waites are designing the multi-course kaiseki menu. The dining room will have 25 seats, plus a lounge, a five-seat chef’s bar, and a 14-seat private dining room. Janet Crane of San Francisco’s Freebairn-Smith & Crane, the original green architect and interior designer for the restaurant, is leading the remodel. 181 Sutter St., Crocker Galleria, 415-677-4405.

Over in the Castro, ~HARVEY’S~ has temporarily closed due to some drainage issues. The construction should be complete by the end of the month. 500 Castro St. at 18th St., 415-431-4278.

And what is rapidly becoming a seemingly cursed location, ~LIKEWISE CAFÉ~ has closed after a brief stint (formerly ZigZag café) just down the street. Next?! 476 Castro St. at 17th St., 415-863-2725.

Okay, now for a rather racy tidbit. (Mom and Dad, stop reading right now.) Not sure if many of you are aware of what’s going on this Wednesday, but let’s just say while the ladies have Valentine’s Day, there’s a micro-movement afoot for men to make March 14th all theirs. What exactly does that look like? Well, how about ~STEAK AND BJ DAY~? (Sounds about par for the course.) Google away—there are a number of sites to choose from—it’s real. I even received a “tip please” request for where to go this Wednesday for steak. Since I like to enable people to get what they are looking for (meal-wise, ahem), here are my top picks for some killer steak around town that are just right for the “occasion.” (I really can’t help you with the second part—that’s up to you to sort out.) I would love a restaurant to offer a special next year, can you imagine?

1-larkcreeksteak—I can’t stop thinking about the last steak I had here. Just thinking about it elicits seriously primal steak cravings. My top pick for some beauteous beef.

2-Harris’ Restaurant is a classic. Think large booth, martini with a little extra chilling in a mini barrel, and a behemoth 21-day dry-aged steak. Yes, it’s Midwestern, and corn-fed. And it’s not cheap. Oh, and don’t let the terrifying voice/website video scare you like it did me when the page loads. (You can’t turn it off. Like, annoying!)

3-Okay, the interior does far from thrill me. (I recall some scary clown hanging above the door.) And it’s on Lombard Street, not exactly a boulevard to inspire culinary hope. But damn, the steaks at Boboquivari’s/Bobo’s are really top-notch. Also corn-fed and dry-aged. Like buttah. Goes to show that whole book/cover thing.

4-For a more atmospheric vibe, thttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifhe steak and frites at both South Park Café and Florio totally rock me. Oh, Delfina does a gorg flatiron and fries too.

5-Hey, why not go totally old school and hit Original Joe’s in the TL? This joint has been keeping it real since 1937: they have the longest running mesquite grill in San Francisco, the meat is butchered in-house, and is basically too legit to quit. Cocktail, booth, beef: check, check, check. Your man will totally feel like the Mack.

6-Oh, and those craving some quality grass-fed options, there’s the delicious Acme Chophouse or you can go the South American route and hit up for some Uruguayan beef and lusty Malbec. (Don’t miss the sweetbreads either.)

Since we’re on steaks (that other part of the topic is now closed), ~SEASONS RESTAURANT~ at the Four Seasons is relaunching as Seasons Steak & Seafood, a refined steakhouse concept. The idea is to make the restaurant more approachable and comfortable, so there is a new wine list, new uniforms, a new approach to service, and no tablecloths. Well. And when you order steak or seafood from the grill, Chef Jeremy Emmerson is stepping away from the classic (and fat-laden) sides of scalloped potatoes and creamed spinach, and instead will offer roasted fingerling potatoes and local and organic ingredients like Swiss chard, fennel and mushroom gratin, and baked Iacopi butter beans. There will also be a Surf N’ Turf tasting menu, a three-part tasting menu that will offer diners two smaller portions of complementary dishes, all paired with 3 oz. pours of wine. Combos will include dishes like Tuna Tartare ‘n’ Beef Tartare followed by Maine Lobster ‘n’ Milk-Fed Veal Chop, with Grayson Cheese ‘n’ Profiteroles. The impetus for all these changes is Chef Emmerson’s leaner physique—he was previously cutting a bigger figure, and his revised eating habits are reflected in the new menu. (I should talk to him…) It’s not totally healthy per se, but not pure steakhouse evil either. 757 Market St., Four Seasons Hotel, 415-633-3838.

A couple changes around town: ~R&G LOUNGE~ has closed for remodeling until March 27, and will reopen on March 28. (You can get your salt and pepper crab at Lichee Garden in the meantime.)

And Tenderloin favorite, ~SULTAN~, will be moving into new digs just around the corner at some point this summer, just across from the Hilton. The restaurant will be almost doubling in size, from 50 to 85-90 seats. Sultan has been in its current location for almost five years, but is looking forward to creating a more contemporary space that will also be able to accommodate larger groups. They also plan on tweaking the menu, introducing some new dishes that reflect some of the dining innovations and trends happening in India. New location will be 340 O’Farrell St. between Taylor and Mason.

A significant loss in the wine world: ~ERNEST GALLO~ passed away last week at the ripe age of 97.

Check it out: starting in May, a ~BATTLE OF THE CHEFS SERIES~ is launching at the Macy’s Cellar. (Watch those knives!) Two local chefs will compete, whipping up their best dish with the featured ingredient, with room for fifty spectators to watch. There will be three judges and Marisa Churchill, from Bravo’s Top Chef and the former executive pastry chef for Restaurant LuLu and Ame, will be providing the “chop by chop” commentary. Admission to each Battle of the Chefs event will be $10 and includes food samples, a recipe card, and a $10 Macy’s gift card. The bell sounds at 6:30pm on fight nights and space is limited. Visit the site for more info. Here’s the line-up:

Monday – May 14th, 2007: Far East Aptitude meets East Coast Attitude

Kunhiro Kinda (Hime) vs. Joseph Manzare (Pescheria, Globe, Zuppa, Tres Agaves)
Chef Kinda’s traditional Japanese style will go head-to-head with Chef Manzare’s Bronx-Italian flair when the Far East battles the East Coast.

Monday – June 18th, 2007: “New York, New York”
Erik Hopfinger (CIRCA) vs. Noah Tucker (Brick)
Executive Chef Hopfinger pits his innovative American classics against Executive Chef Tucker’s internationally influenced style in this battle of chefs who previously worked in top New York kitchens.

Monday – July 23rd, 2007: Seeing Stars
Tim Luym (Poleng Lounge) vs. Bruce Hill (Picco, Bix)
2007 “San Francisco Chronicle Rising Star Chef” and just nominated for the “2007 Rising Star Chef Award” by the James Beard Foundation, Luym brings 3-star pan-Asian street food up against one-time “Wine Spectator Chef of the Year” Hill’s 3-star American fare.

Attention industry folk: are you familiar with the incredible edibles from the local businesses that comprise ~LA COCINA~? If you have a café, a store, a bar, a restaurant, a winery, or you are a distributor, you really should come on by to the ExpoCocina this Wednesday. It’s an intimate trade show for industry professionals (writers are invited too), and an opportunity to taste the food from the 15 local businesses and meet the fantastic people behind them. I went last year and was blown away with the authenticity of the offerings. Check it out at 2948 Folsom St., between 25th and 26th Streets. Wednesday, March 14th, 2pm-7pm. Please RSVP to Caleb Zigas at caleb [at] lacocinasf [dot] org.