May 9, 2006

So you already know what a fan I am of ~DESTINO~. And now James Schenk is going to start Sunday brunch, because he's smart like that. The whole thing kicks in on Mother's Day, which is Sunday, May 14th (you didn't forget, did you?). They'll have items like a caprese empanada, filled with basil, tomato, and mozzarella cheese, and crepes de dulce de leche, stuffed with berries and crème, plus new cocktails custom-made for brunch (although it would be hard for me to turn down one of their Ramos Fizzes). Brunch is on Sundays, 11:30am-2pm.

~CAMPTON PLACE~ now has a pastry chef to be mighty proud of: Boris Portnoy from Winterland. I've been impressed with his creations since the very beginning at Winterland when I tried his French toast and olive oil ice cream, and look forward to the magic he'll create at Campton Place. Portnoy originally worked with Winterland's chef, Vernon Morales, at Salt in Philadelphia, and then went to Spain to work in a restaurant outside of San Sebastian, Restaurant Mugaritz, under renowned chef Andoni Anduliz. He then returned to the U.S., went to New York to be the opening pastry chef at Cru, with chef Shea Gallante, and then was reunited with Morales here in SF. He was named a Rising Star Pastry Chef by StarChefs.com in 2005.

The Mission continues to crank: on May 22, ~SENSES RESTAURANT~ will open in the former Watercress Restaurant space. The same owners of Watercress (and Bistro Annex), Teo Kridech and his wife Melanie, have partnered up with Bruno Dennis, the bar manager of Plouf for five years. This new neighborhood spot will be serving contemporary cuisine with French influences and seasonal ingredients, with fancy apps like lobster cassoulette or a mascarpone soufflé, and entrées like filet of sole roulade and chicken jambonet (not to be confused with JonBenet), stuffed with truffle and endive puree. I know, rather upscale for the Mission. And for dessert, you can indulge in a trio of soufflé glace or blanc manger lavender, a rather old-school dish I am surprised to see. Color me curious. There will also be a tasting menu. (Can you think of any offered in the Mission? I couldn't.) So just who will be cranking out these creations? The executive chef is 29-year-old Sophiane Benouda, who has trained and worked with the renowned chef Paul Bocuse for three years, and was a chef at the Michelin-rated French restaurant, Chez Alain. Sous chef Laurent Guillaume and pastry chef Nicolas DeLaroque will also be in the kitchen. Yes, some serious Frenchie chops. Décor is courtesy of Dava Guntmiller, who has also designed Limon and Circolo. The space will be chic yet comfortable, and will include palm, coconut, and bamboo wood accents, dark sand-colored cork flooring, and for that Mission flair, work by local artists will be displayed on the walls. 1152 Valencia Street, between 22nd and 23rd Streets. Dinner nightly, Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm, and Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm. www.sfsenses.com (eventually), 415-648-6000.

At last, I was able to track down SOME news about the long-dark ~BRUNO'S~: it ends up the folks from Harry's Bar on Fillmore (Rick Howard and George Karas) bought it a year ago, and are renovating the space and bringing it up to code. The vibe will be less retro (I heard the booths had to be taken out), but the loungey vibe will still prevail (the Cork Club remains). They've put in a fireplace, and the VIP room upstairs has been expanded. The focus will be more on the entertainment/live music and the bar, and less on formal dining. They'll offer a casual dining format that is moderately priced, with primarily American-style food with an Italian emphasis, and late-night dining will be offered. They are keen to rebuild the biz, and promised to let me know when an opening date has been set, and said they will then give me more details about the food, and the space. For now, this is all she wrote!

The Chron reported a couple weeks back that ~BISTRO 1689~ will be opening this month in the old Chinese Long Island Restaurant space in Noe Valley. The former chef of Bruno's, Chris Pastena, has actually been consulting on the recipes and the menu, but isn't the confirmed chef. Expect tasty French bistro options, like mussels with tarragon white wine, and some higher-end items, like foie gras pâté, a caviar plate, and filet with béarnaise. Apps will come in around $7-10, and entrées will hover around $18-20 (with a little more for the fancier items). The intimate space (45 seats) features a wine bar (heavy on the French) and will be open nightly for dinner. 1689 Church St.

I had a free hour a couple weeks back while I was downtown and decided to enjoy the sun at the new ~SAMOVAR TEA LOUNGE~ at Yerba Buena Gardens. I have to say, it's a rather unique view in the city—I loved sitting up that extra story (where the fountains are), just under the blooming wisteria. Great spot to meet up with a friend as the coming months warm up. A relaxing city escape for sure. Check it out.

Here's an update on a big project that's been brewing: opening May 17, in the old Max's Diner space on Third will be the elegant and enchanting ~BONG SU RESTAURANT & LOUNGE~. It will serve contemporary Vietnamese cuisine (bong su is Vietnamese for plumeria flower) and the cocktails are going to be infused and enhanced with Asian exotica ingredients. The space is going to be seriously gorg; muy chic and sleek, courtesy of Eric Engstrom of the Engstrom Group. There will be a special booth in the back with a private curtain for the high rollers (it runs at a $1,000 minimum). Spiffy designer Calvin Tran designed the waitstaff's uniforms. You might recognize the owners, Anne Le and Tammy Huyhn, from Tamarine in Palo Alto. Expect an emphasis on wine, with all kinds of unique pairing possibilities offered. Here's my favorite detail: in the men's room, Vietnamese pick-up lines will be playing. "Hey G.I., love you long time!?" (Sorry, that is so wrong. Sometimes I can't help myself.) Sign up on their mailing list (link is above) to keep posted on all their upcoming events and news. 311 3rd St. at Folsom Street, San Francisco, 415-536-5800.

A tablehopper reader gave me the heads up that the owners of El Metate, Francisco Hernandez and David Carreno, will be expanding to a closed liquor store next door and opening a sandwich shop and market in the next month or so. It will be called ~LA TIENDITA EL METATE~ and you'll be able to pick up tasty tortas, fresh produce, and some Mexican products. Many vegetarians adore El Metate's veggie burritos and tacos that feature veggies (carrot, broccoli, zucchini) sautéed to order, but their fish tacos are the biggest seller. El Metate is at 2406 Bryant St. at 22nd St., 415-641-7209.