October 3, 2006

Okay, the biggest hoopla on the industry's lips as of Monday morning was of course the release of the ~MICHELIN GUIDE'S~ ratings for San Francisco, which is scheduled to hit bookstores this Wednesday, 10/4 (check out the release event in the starlet). To recap, here are the ratings: the only three-star establishment is French Laundry, while Michael Mina, Aqua, Manresa (go 408!), and Cyrus (hurrah!) all got two stars. Now, for the one-stars in San Francisco: Fleur de Lys, Rubicon, Bushi-Tei, Quince, Range, Acquarello, La Folie, Masa's, Ritz-Carlton Dining Room, Gary Danko, and Fifth Floor. Other one-stars elsewhere in the area: Chez Panisse (Berkeley), Sushi-Ran (Sausalito), Chez TJ (Mountain View), Auberge du Soleil (Rutherford), Bistro Jeanty (Yountville), Bouchon (Yountville), La Toque (Rutherford), Terra (St. Helena), Dry Creek Kitchen (Healdsburg), Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant (Forestville), and K & L Bistro (Sebastopol).

My two cents: I'm really bummed the Ritz didn't get at least two stars, or Gary Danko—the cuisine and experience at both of those restaurants is mighty special. Some are expressing the same sentiment about Chez Panisse. And I really would have liked to see Aziza, Ame (too new?), Coi (also too new?), and Jardinière in there. While I'm very very very happy for Range, many are left asking why no Zuni, or A16, or Incanto? Delfina? Kokkari? And even though Slanted Door didn't earn a star, its popularity certainly won't be affected. Since it was the first release of the SF issue, it was definitely full of surprises, and omissions, for many of us local diners. "Discuss amongst yourselves."

Here's another whose cooking rates some stars in my book: ~SCOTT HOWARD~, one of the tastier places to eat around town, is celebrating their one-year anniversary. In honor of the occasion, a $31 prix-fixe menu will be offered Mon-Sat from 5:30pm-6:30pm, starting now until the end of the year. Gang, lemme tell ya, this meal will be one of the best deals in town! The special menu will highlight some Howard hits over the year, like the carrot soup, smoked trout with truffled egg salad, and pork shoulder with corn puree. As if the new menu with lower prices and bigger portions wasn't enough of a deal already. (And it is: mains like lamb loin or halibut are only $22.) Happy Birthday!

Some changes at another one of my faves, ~KOKKARI~: Jim Wimborough, the Chef de Cuisine, will be now working at Kokkari's sister restaurant, Evvia in Palo Alto, as Chef de Cuisine for the next six months or so, under the supervision of ~ERIK COSSELMON~, who will now be overseeing both kitchens and probably working down there 1-2 days a week. By the end of the year, Wimborough is being groomed to move into Evvia's Executive Chef position. In the meantime, taking Wimborough's place on the line at Kokkari will be Mario Ortega from Monterey, who was an Executive Sous Chef at Scala's for five years.

So the name change from Joey & Eddy's Seafood to ~PESCHERIA~ isn't the only change at Joseph Manzare's new seafood restaurant in Noe Valley: intended opening Chef Robert Leva left before the restaurant even opened. Manzare says, "He is a really talented guy, but wasn't an exact fit for what I saw for the food here." Manzare took an exhaustive tour of the seaside towns of Northern Italy, and has his eye on some simple and fresh seafood presentations. Manzare is currently holding it down—he also has a buddy, Andy Renggli, coming out from NYC next week to join him at the stoves for a bit. Renggli is Swiss trained, and the son of the famed Seppi Renggli, from the Four Seasons in New York and James Beard's fave chef. 1708 Church St., at 29th St., 415-647-3200.

Fans of ~SEAN CROWLEY~ (present company included) will be surprised to hear he is leaving Aqua after three-and-a-half years there as the Wine Director and Sommelier. His last day on the floor will be next Friday the 13th—while he doesn't have anything definitive lined up, he is interviewing at a few places (not restaurants—he wants to change things up a bit). It ends up Crowley was a competitive skater as a kid, but the extended time on the floor has been really hard on his hip—he hopes to travel a bit and take some time off. He is leaving on good terms, and will continue to work with Laurent Manrique, Charles Condy, and Emmanuel Kemiji on their wine project, ACVS (pronounced ah-cous). Go enjoy some Mai Tais, Sean!

Union Square's ~E&O TRADING COMPANY~ has experienced a chef switcheroo: Sharyl Seim (formerly of Kuleto's) was hired as the Executive Chef
at E&O Trading Company (Maui, Honolulu, San Jose, Larkspur and SF locations) in February, and as of last week has been replaced with Morgan Jacobsen, who was hired as a six-month consultant.

Lots of changes with the La Suite project on the Embarcadero, which is opening tomorrow, October 3. First it was Opium, then it was Tantra, then Lotus, and now it is ~SUTRA~, as in the Kama, baby. (I am sure there were some other names that were considered as well). The opening date was also pushed back four times (this is not entirely a new thing in the industry). But another change-up is that Chef Mike Yakura, who was wooed over from Le Colonial from Jocelyn Bulow's Maktub Group (Chez Papa, Baraka, Chez Maman, Couleur Café), won't be involved with Sutra past the New Year. Taking over for Yakura will be Yo Matsuzaki, a sous from the nearby Ozumo. Matsuzaki was working doubles all week, doing tastings for Sutra's new menu and working shifts at Ozumo—lucky for him his last day at Ozumo was Saturday. I took a look at the space last night, and most traces of the brasserie are long gone. The vibe is definitely loungey, with many pieces and lighting designed to cast a soft glow and an Asian-exotique style that's sexy and textured. 100 Brannan St., at Embarcadero.

Instead, you'll find Yakura over at ~AURA~, the former Chez Maman in Bernal Heights—the sign will be going up this week for those of you in Bernal who went in expecting a hamburger but discovered satays and spring rolls instead. Yakura is a partner in the space along with Olivier Setian (the front manager) and Jocelyn Bulow. I already mentioned this project a while ago, but here are more definitive details: AURA's concept is basically a French-Asian bistro; Yakura will be giving everyday Asian dishes a twist, like portobello wontons stuffed with shiitake mushroom duxelles, served with a spicy roasted pepper dipping sauce ($6), and monkfish and calamari clay pot with sweet onions, Fresno chilies, and lemongrass-ginger caramel sauce ($15). Some bright Hawaiian-style dishes will also make their way on the menu, like steamed Kahlua pork wrapped in banana leaf with glass noodles and shiitake mushrooms ($13).

Yakura plans to rotate the menu each month, and he wants to push the flavor profile past the ubiquitous tuna tartare with some flavored oil. The new interior from John Michaud of Find in Hayes Valley, who is also the designer behind the Sutra project, has put in charcoal slate tile, and an amber fabric wall with black piping that mimics a shoji screen style. The boxy space will feature a number of square elements, and a glowing atmosphere from all the amber touches. 803 Cortland, at Ellsworth, 415-824-2674.

Come October, Kelly's Mission Rock will be transformed into ~THE BAYOU~, a Cajun and Creole restaurant and jazz lounge from a new management team, 40 Green Acres. The space is getting a petite facelift, with new floors, furniture, and a fresh paintjob. The team is Deborah Theodule of Crescent City Catering (she also owned the restaurant Craves in Willow Glen) and Glenn Ladet. Theodule is known for her authentic Cajun and Creole cooking—her family is from New Orleans, and her husband is Creole, so she says her cooking is a mix of those two styles. She makes everything from scratch and uses only fresh ingredients; she says, "My food really has that home-cooked taste that touches people in the soul." Sounds good to me. The grand opening is slated for October 21, and will then be open for lunch during the week (11:30am-3pm) and dinner Mon-Thu (5pm-9pm) and Fri-Sat (5pm-10pm). After dinner service wraps up, the dance floor will be opened up for R&B, jazz, and some oldies. Theodule intends for the restaurant to be attractive for a mature and upscale crowd, since there aren't a ton of places for folks in their 40s and 50s to dine and enjoy some entertainment in the city. But with her gumbo and jambalaya, I suspect some 30-somethings will be making their way over as well. 817 China Basin St. at Illinois St., 415-626-5335.

Nearby Dogpatch continues to blow up: a new El Salvadorean and Mexican place has opened called ~THE NEW SPOT~ in the former Arturo's space. This first-time venture is from Gilbert Cab, who is cooking up home-style dishes from his native Yucatan like cochinita pibil, plus pupusas, and even burritos (served on a plate, not taqueria-style in foil). The most expensive item on the menu is $8.75. Word. (No beer is offered, at the moment.) Open Mon-Sat 7am-7pm, 632 20th St. at 3rd St., 415-558-0556.

Just up the hill, ~LINGBA LOUNGE~ has reportedly done some remodeling—they have replaced the overhead planter boxes with lattice and some striking wicker flower chandeliers, the bar is shorter, and there are now some booths in the bar area. The wine list has been expanded, but the menu remains the same. 1469 18th St.

Okay, North Beach shenanigans report. Since La Felce has closed, some Irish construction workers who were freshening up the building decided to throw up a sign for ~SHAG~, a restaurant and bar. After some uproar from the locals, the name was taken down. Hilarious. 1570 Stockton St.

BBQ alert: a Tablehopper reader inquired about a new place opening up on Geary at 2nd Avenue—I took a walk over this weekend to check it out and even before I could see it I could smell it. ~ROADSIDE BBQ~ is a casual eatery serving up all kinds of meat, like baby back ribs, Texas brisket that's smoked for over 15 hours, smoked chicken, and Memphis pulled pork sandwiches. There are also stuffed potatoes, hand-cut fries, made-from-scratch pecan pie, and other things to make you fat. The décor is Americana roadside stop (yes, it jives with the name) and will be an easy spot to hit after one too many at Rohan and Alpha, which are each just barely a block away. Open daily 11:30am-10pm. 3751 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave., 415-221-7427.

Okay, you coffee phreeks: ~RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS~ in the Mission has switched over from Stumptown coffee to their own roast. (As if the café didn't smell amazing enough already.) Ritual's plan was to roast their own beans from the beginning, but they just weren't totally ready when they opened, so they had the beans shipped from Stumptown in the interim. Jeremy, one of the owners, is apprenticing with the Stumptown roaster, learning how to roast and source beans to perfection. So not only is an espresso from Ritual extra-delicious, but now it's going to be extra-fresh to boot. Super. 1026 Valencia St., 415-641-1024.

And fans of the fabulous ~PHILZ COFFEE~ will soon be able to get a cup in SOMA, their third location in the City. Philz should be opening in a couple months into a new building at the corner of 4th St. and Berry. The address is 900 4th St. or 201 Berry, depending upon which door you walk through. There is also potentially a location in Oakland in the works—all I can say is buckle up.

Small delay with the second ~SELLERS MARKETS~ location (595 Market St.)—it's looking more like October 30, and not October 2 as originally hoped. And ~WEIRD FISH~ (2193 Mission St. at 18th St.) in the Mission should be opening in a couple weeks, for those of you tracking that one. And the restaurant formerly known as Cozmo's Corner Grill (what, you thought I was gonna say Prince?) is reopening this Friday as ~CIRCA~. It will be open seven nights a week for dinner, from 5:30pm-11:00pm (last seating is at 10pm). The bar is open nightly until 2am. 2001 Chestnut St. at Fillmore St., 415-351-0175.