October 16, 2007

There’s a new restaurant opening in the Mission, and shocker, it’s not yet another on 18th Street. Slated to open in late November will be ~CONDUIT~, part of a mixed-use project next to Pauline’s Pizza and the old Levi Strauss factory. The executive chef is Justin Deering, who has spent time in the kitchen at Boulevard (2 ½ years), Jeanty at Jack’s, Fifth Floor, Redwood Park, and Tra Vigne. The menu will be contemporary, local, and seasonal, shaped by classic French and Italian technique. Look for an appetizer-heavy selection (say, nine) and six entrées or so—Deering mentioned one idea of a butter-poached squab with a cacciatore-like sauce and risotto (he is really into game and poultry), or offering a classic tête de veau. He plans to make a lot of items in-house, as many as possible, including items like charcuterie. Joining him in the venture is sous Clinton Bertrand, formerly at A16 and most recently in Sonoma, and managing partner Brian Gavin of Citizen Thai and the Monkey, Roy’s (he was a managing partner), and Jeanty at Jack’s (GM). Gavin will also be assembling a wine list featuring some food-friendly choices like American pinot, some Burgundies, syrah, Rhone varietals, and Italian reds.

The modern restaurant will have 65–75 seats, plus a 12-seat private dining room with floor-to-ceiling refrigerated wine storage as part of the design, and a counter in front of the kitchen (10 seats), and a full bar (12 seats). Yes, you heard right: full bar. The bar will feature copper and aluminum pipes topped with 1/2-inch-thick glass and lit underneath (there will be other pipe and conduit motifs as well). The restaurant will have sleek design touches, along with dark wood custom tables, a combination of textured and granite flooring, some banquette seating, and a two-sided fireplace. You can peek at some of the plans on architect Stanley Saitowitz’s site—just click on “Conduit.” Hours will be 5:30pm–10:30pm (until 11pm on the weekends), with potentially later hours down the road. Two investors back the project; one is Brian Spiers, a noted builder who also owns Lucky 13 and the Bitter End. 280 Valencia St. between 14th and Duboce, 415-552-5200 (to be active later).

Co-executive chef Louis Maldonado of ~CORTEZ~ has departed after four years of working in the kitchen there—his last day was this past Saturday. He is taking this opportunity to stage at a couple places of note out here on the West Coast, and depending how that goes, he may or may not end up leaving for New York in November. Seth Bowden will now be the sole executive chef at Cortez. 550 Geary St. at Jones, 415-292-6360.

I was so sorry to hear the news about last week’s fire at ~ORIGINAL JOE’S~ in the TL. Some of my favorite steakhouse décor ever, and they just had their 70th anniversary. OJs was even the home of the longest-running mesquite broiler in San Francisco. Man. My friend and I have held numerous biz powwows here over a steak or burger and martini, and let’s not forget the Joe’s Special (I have my own twist and add a fried egg on top with hot sauce, I know, my poor heart). Fortunately no one was hurt in the fire, but the damage sounds pretty extensive. Will let you know once I hear about remodeling/reopening dates… sadly, it could be at least a couple months. Come back soon, OJs! 144 Taylor St. at Eddy, 415-775-0970.

Update on ~MINT PLAZA~: the latest dates I am hearing (subject to change, natch) are early November for Chez Papa Resto (November 5, maybe?), Sushi Groove Midtown in mid-December, and Blue Bottle by the end of December. Stand by.

Update on Fillmore Street Jazz District happenings: opening on October 25 in the Fillmore Heritage Center is ~1300 ON FILLMORE~, originally the Blue Mirror. I wrote this up a looooong time ago, so let’s recap completely. 1300 on Fillmore is a modern jazz-style restaurant and lounge, owned by chef David Lawrence, a Jamaican-British chef who cooked in several three-star English restaurants (Le Gavroche and The Waterside Inn) before moving to the U.S. While stateside, he was at 231 Ellsworth, Hilton’s Cityscape, and was the executive chef of the Carnelian Room. His business partner is also his wife, Monetta White. Cool factoid: her mother and grandmother lived in the Fillmore during the late 50s and 60s when it was a hopping jazz district.

The menu will be “Soulful American Cuisine,” offering dishes lighter than many Southern originals. Dishes include some freshwater shrimp hush puppies with a tempura-like light batter, tender bourbon-spiked pork belly (wait, I thought this menu was going to be lighter?); sautéed foie gras atop cinnamon French toast and served with a homemade huckleberry sauce (nope, guess not); a daily house-made sausage with herbed grits and homemade chutneys (sign me up); pan-roasted striped bass drizzled with a ham hock-red wine sauce (I’d like that, too); and roasted quail with cornbread, figs, apples, and pecans (delicious, but I’m full)—vegetarians will also find choices, including sides like chive-buttermilk whipped potatoes and sautéed corn and okra succotash. There will be a bar menu available nightly until 1am, plus classic cocktails and a wine list assembled by Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji, which will feature California wines almost exclusively. Pastry chef Phil Ogiela, assisted by Noriko Abe, has created a dessert menu that includes a sweet potato soufflé and a gingerbread napoleon. The general manager is David Ostrom, formerly a partner and operations manager of Left Coast Restaurants, and most recently, operations manager for Vintners Inn/John Ash & Co.

Décor is from MCCARTAN (they did the Hotel Vitale), who designed a casual jazz-era setting with modern and vintage accents, like club-style seating with wing chairs, leather Chesterfield couches, walnut brown floors, and chocolate walls. Look for the Heritage Wall, a photo gallery of 37 neighborhood portraits curated by Elizabeth Pepin and Lewis Watts, authors of Harlem of the West. There will also a private dining room that seats up to 25, and a VIP entrance in the back of the house. 1300 Fillmore St. at Eddy.

~YOSHI’S JAPANESE RESTAURANT AND JAZZ CLUB~ will then open its doors on November 28. Take a peek at the site for pics of the massive 28,000-square-foot restaurant and jazz club that will have a dining room that seats 200, a bar and lounge with room for 180, a mezzanine that seats 80, and the jazz club seats 420. I know, a lot of seats. But there will be some butts in those seats, partly due to the delish eats from executive chef Shotaro “Sho” Kamio. Chef Kamio had been cooking in the Bay Area for over eight years and cooks with the changing seasons as his foundation, but incorporates European techniques to develop his “own creation” style of cooking, or "sousaku" cuisine. His philosophy is all about "Seasonal, Simple, and Surprise." I like surprises. And I loved his food at Ozumo—it rocked, hard. Some highlights to come: abalone sashimi, omakase meals, fish flown in daily from Tokyo, a special wood burning oven, and they will also use Sumi charcoal (the same stuff they use at the robata bar at Ozumo). The restaurant will be open Mon–Thu 5:30pm–10pm, Fri–Sat 5:30pm–10:30pm, Sun 5pm–9pm. 1330 Fillmore St. at Eddy.

While we’re on fishy treats, the menu at has been shifted to include more of a sushi focus, partly due to the new hire of executive sushi chef, Akira Yoshizumi, from Japan. The much larger sushi menu includes more nigiri and/or sashimi, like suzuki/sea bass and masu/ocean trout, plus more rolls too, both traditional or special house rolls. 2909 Webster St. at Union, 415-346http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif-3431.

Whoops, sometimes things slip by under the radar, but I still want to mention a project that sounded interesting to me, even though it opened months ago, doh: ~WUNDER BREWING COMPANY, INC.~ It opened in the former Eldo’s Brewery space in the Sunset, and has beers crafted onsite, like pale ales, dark star, porter and brown beer, including a chili beer which I have to try: it’s a pale beer with habanero in it. Hotsie! According to the website, “Wunder Brewing Company was a San Francisco Brewery back from 1896 to 1909,” and now four SF locals decided to resuscitate it. The menu of pub fare looks downright beer-ready (Welsh rarebit anyone?) and should keep you from getting too hammered after drinking a growler (that’s 64 oz. of beer, folks, for $15)—a regular pint will put you back $4, and a pitcher for $11. My kind of pricing. Who has been? You like it? Would love to know! 1326 9th Ave. at Irving, 415-681-2337.

We got a cool import from the East Coast: at Michael Mina you’ll find pastry badass ~BILL CORBETT~, the former pastry chef of Anthos, Dona, and who was also a sous pastry chef under Sam Mason at wd-50. I think I need to hit the bar at Mina and order some dessert, stat. 335 Powell St., 415-397-9222.

Let’s do a line-up of “S” restaurant news. First, more changes over at ~SCOTT HOWARD~: he is having a special chef table installed by mid-November or so—guests will be able to reserve the table for the night (seating a maximum of eight) and will have a special chef’s choice multi-course meal prepared for them. Howard is also launching a catering company at the beginning of November, ideal for corporate and private events, from cocktail receptions to private dinners; he used to be a partner in a catering company in Florida. 500 Jackson St. at Montgomery, 415-956-7040.

Next, Slow Club’s second restaurant in Dogpatch will be called ~SERPENTINE~, named after the rock that most of the neighborhood was built on. The opening is slated for November 12, and will be open Monday–Friday for lunch, and Tuesday–Saturday for dinner. Monday dinner and Saturday and Sunday brunch will be added soon thereafter. Chris Kronner will be the executive chef of both the Slow Club and Serpentine, and the new chef de cuisine position at Slow Club will be filled by Matt Paul, a sous from Town Hall for the past three years. 2495 Third St. at 22nd.

Lastly, ~SOUTH~ has starting serving lunch Monday–Friday 11:30am–3pm and also brunch on Saturday from 10am-3pm. On the lunch menu is a Cervana Venison burger, a unique brand of venison from New Zealand—the deer are under three years old and must be grass-fed and farm-raised without steroids or hormones. And in true antipodean style, the burger is served with spiced beetroot chutney. 330 Townsend #101 at Fourth, 415-974-5599.

The new owners of ~PIZZELLE~ in North Beach are up and running after a remodel and some delays with the alarm company (uh, yeah, a good thing to have dialed in). The Italian-focused menu will continue but now will be served in larger portions, and look for some Brazilian specialties to be added in the coming months (the two business partners are from Central Brazil). Hours are 11am–11pm, with late-night pizza served until 2:30am Thu–Sun, sometimes later, for you drunken pizza-eating types. 314 Columbus Ave. at Broadway, 415-398-3555.

~BRICK~ has a new bar manager: Ryan Fitzgerald, of Bourbon and Branch. He started a couple months ago bartending, and now has a new role as manager and is adding some fab dranks, like Queen of Sheba, with Ketel One vodka, Tia Maria, and cardamom bitters, and this one sounds right up my alley: Elder Sour, with Bulleit Bourbon, fresh lemon, and St. Germain elderflower liqueur. 1085 Sutter St. at Larkin, 415-441-4232.

Also heard the opening GM of ~SOLSTICE~, Kieran Walsh, is leaving after working three years at the restaurant. He’s reportedly leaving the restaurant scene and going more into the wine and beverage side of things. 2801 California St. at Divisadero, 415-359-1222.

Shout-out to a performer and swell dame I adore: ~VERONICA KLAUS~ will be crooning some jazz, blues, and cabaret at Enrico’s on Tuesday evenings from 7pm–10pm. She’ll have Tammy L. Hall on piano, and bonus, no cover! While we’re at it, rest in peace Enrico Banducci, what a life. 504 Broadway at Kearny, 415-982-6223.

Another pal shout-out: my friend James and his wife Pia invited me to one of their fun ~COOKWITHJAMES~ supper club evenings they host in their cute apartment. I’m talking tasty multiple courses (he’s even learned some tricks and techniques from Michael Tusk at Quince, boo ya), dining and drinking with a lovely and interesting crowd, and we even had a prosecco sabrering to start off the evening! It was a late meal to be sure (it wrapped up around midnight) but a cool change from the usual kind of restaurant dining scenario. You can check out upcoming gatherings on the CookWithJames site. Grazie James e Pia!

Big congrats to LarkCreekSteak and Café Majestic for making it onto John Mariani’s list of Best New Restaurants for Esquire.

Boozehounds, tonight from 6pm–9pm swing by ~CANTINA~ for drinks with Nick Mautone, author of Raising the Bar and the Grey Goose Vodka Brand Ambassador, who will be behind-the-stick, as Duggan/Shotzi likes to say. The gents will be picking up some special ingredients from the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market and then mixin’ it up! 580 Sutter St. at Mason, 415-398-0195.

Italophiles, don’t miss these events, starting with ~UNA LEZIONE DI SAPORE~, a food and wine fundraiser/raffle/silent auction (with auction items such as two weeks at language schools in Rome and Todi, and apartments in Milan and Venice) for the Istituto Italiano Scuola, part of the Italian Cultural Institute. The event is this Sunday, October 21, at the SF Italian Athletic Club, 1630 Stockton Street on Washington Square Park, from 5pm–8pm. Cost is $40 in advance, rsvp [at] sfiis [dot] org, or $45 at the door for first, $35 for additional.

Also, ~LORENZA DE’MEDICI~ of Badia a Coltibuono is in town—she is a renowned Italian cookbook author and food professional, and will be the guest of honor during a week of events throughout the Bay Area. Lorenza is known as one of the pioneers in bringing Italian cuisine to the American table with her beautiful cookbooks and PBS cooking show, “The de'Medici Kitchen,” which aired in the 1980s. All proceeds will benefit Friends of FAI, dedicated to the preservation and restoration of some of Italy’s most significant works of art and architecture.

Here’s the schedule below. To purchase tickets to any of these events, contact Friends of FAI at 415-863-5213, or email friendsoffaisf [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Tuesday, October 16, 6pm–8pm
Wine Tasting with Lorenza de’Medici, $65
Ottimista Wine Bar, 1838 Union St., 415-674-8400
Come meet Lorenza de’ Medici while enjoying exclusive wines from her Tuscan winery, Badia a Coltibuono. Appetizer pairings created from de’Medici’s personal recipes will be prepared by Ottimista’s Executive Chef, Mark Young.

Wednesday, October 17, 6.30pm
20th Anniversary Dinner, $200
Vivande Porta Via, 2125 Fillmore St., 415-346-4430
An intimate dinner for San Francisco’s Italian food and wine lovers. Join chef, author and restaurateur, Carlo Middione as he celebrates 20 years of Italian cuisine and friendship.

Thursday, October 18, 11:15am
Taste of Tuscany: Master Cooking Demonstration and Luncheon, $100
California Culinary Academy, 625 Polk St.
Learn Italian cooking techniques from one of Italy’s finest culinary masters as she demonstrates one of her flavorful recipes. Enjoy a Tuscan-inspired lunch menu designed by de’Medici and prepared and presented by the chefs and students of the CCA.

Thursday, October 18, 6:30pm
Wine In Time With Lorenza de’Medici
Oliveto, 5655 College Avenue, Oakland, 510-547-5356
$50 donation plus á la carte dinner menu and wine costs
$250 to be seated at Lorenza’s table (includes wine and dinner costs)
Oliveto will host a dinner in honor of de’Medici, whom they credit with being “at the source of Oliveto.” The menu by Chef Paul Canales will be full of á la carte dishes from the Chianti area accompanied by older vintages of wines from Badia a Coltibuono.

Monday, October 22, 6:30pm
Dining with de’Medici and Carol Field: A Conversation
Cowell Theater Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
$25. $15 for groups of 10 or more, $11 for students
Lorenza de’ Medici will be joined by Carol Field, Bay Area food scholar and award winning Italian cookbook author, in a lecture on bringing Italian cuisine to America.

There are other events in San Jose, Hillsborough, and Napa—call FAI at 415-863-5213 for more.

Oh, and everyone be bright (har) and join in the ~LIGHTS OUT~ campaign this Sunday the 20th from 8pm–9pm. The entire city of San Francisco is asked to turn off all non-essential lighting for one hour. The Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Transamerica Pyramid will all turn off lights, and some restaurants around town will be hosting candlelight dinners, including Delfina, CAV Wine Bar, Medjool, The Blue Plate, MoMo's, Nova, and Pete's Tavern (for the list, click here).