October 31, 2006

I am very saddened to report that ~ENRICO'S SIDEWALK CAFÉ~ has closed as of last night, October 30. Lavay Smith was the last performer, a fitting finale since she has been performing at Enrico's for some time. I spoke with the GM, Al Russek, who explained they hadn't had a lease since January— the partners of Enrico's were hoping to remodel and re-launch in the coming year, but obviously couldn’t reinvest in the restaurant without knowing the terms of the new lease. After months of negotiations, the financial terms of the new lease just weren't going to work for both sides. While it's most definitely a sad closure and the end of an era (the restaurant has been around since 1958), the parting is amicable between the landlord and the partners behind Enrico's—it just didn't work out. Here's wishing the tight-knit staff at the restaurant sincere thanks for years of memories for many, many people. I know the closure of this restaurant is particularly poignant...

This past week I spoke with a very cool designer, Rich Hansen, about a couple of his upcoming restaurant projects. He designed the slick ~OSHA Thai~ on Valencia Street, and is currently working on another location for OSHA that is moving into the old Amici's East Coast Pizzeria space on Union. Hansen said it will be more upscale than the Valencia location, with seating for 90-100. This will be the fifth OSHA location in the city, and is slated to open in early 2007. 2033 Union St., between Buchanan and Webster.

Hansen's second design project is ~VISIT~, opening soon in the Lower Haight. (The space was formerly a Futon Shop—awwww, the '80s.) This Thai restaurant (no affiliation with OSHA) should hopefully be opening sometime in November—they have to make it through permit purgatory first. There's also the slight chance it might be an Italian restaurant instead of Thai (maybe), and they are trying to secure a beer and wine license; yes, things are a little in limbo at the moment. I will say I have never seen anything like it—the space is going to be quite unique. You cruise into the clean and contemporary restaurant via a sloping epoxy stone aggregate floor (a naturalistic material you tend to see poolside). Along the wall are these brightly colored fabricated trees made from MDF—they look like primary color lollipop trees (no licking allowed!). There's also a slat wood vertical divider that runs at a slight slant (it's clever). The design has some elements of 1970s fun but it's definitely contemporary. I felt like I was playing Candyland in Tokyo by way of Willy Wonka's factory—groovy, man. (That Kool-Aid I drank at lunch was some good stuff.) The restaurant will have 49 seats, and in case you were wondering about the name, the owner's name is Visit Teveethamcharoen (obviously easier to go with his first name for the restaurant's moniker). 518 Haight St. at Fillmore St.

I know I was just tooting about the badass BLTs at ~ABIGAIL'S BAKERY AND CAFÉ~—but dang, bummer news: they closed last week, and will probably just be serving coffee and baked goods from here on out (the costs of running a restaurant were more than the owners wanted to deal with). The sous chef went over to Ramblas, and Josh Bush, the talented Executive Chef, will actually be heading over to Vintage 415's project in the old Yoshida Ya space, working as Executive Sous Chef to Executive Chef Sam Josi. Speaking of, the izakaya-style restaurant/lounge now has a name: ~UMAMI~. Now that's something I can get behind; not only does it embrace the Japanese component of the restaurant concept, but the Vietnamese street food dishes as well (fish sauce, anyone?).

Things in Hayes Valley continue to percolate: moving into the old Blue Muse space on Gough will be ~BREEZY'S~, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant. A French chef will be at the helm, who also spent years living in Morocco. Owner Bawer Tekin (he formerly owned Terra Brazilis, where Modern Tea is now) wants to create an easy and casual atmosphere that will still feel upscale and contemporary. The bar area will have 12-15 seats, with 80 seats overall. They hope to open in the beginning of the year—depending, of course, upon licenses and permits and such. Lunch and dinner will be served daily, with brunch potentially soon thereafter. 409 Gough St. at Hayes St.

And just around the corner, Tekin has also taken over the Sage Chinese Restaurant on Hayes, and in its place will be opening ~HAYES AND KEBAB~, serving (you are so smart you) kebabs and gyros. This fast-casual restaurant will have salads, like Greek and Caesar, plus all kinds of options of sides, from hummus to baba ghannoush. The chef is coming from England, and will be preparing beef, chicken, and lamb kebabs, plus gyros made with beef and lamb. Mmmmm, gyros. The opening is slated for December. 406 Hayes St. at Gough St., 415-861-2977.

A number of you have asked what's going on with ~PRANA~—well, things have been on hold due to some tricky permit issues on the 70-year-old building, primarily an easement issue (CalTrans owns the land on the Natoma exit side of the building). The day they hoped to get their final sign-off (a couple months ago) is when the issue was raised of verifying easement—without totally boring you with nightmarish details, the unfortunate outcome is construction was halted and most of the staff had to be let go (including Executive Chef Jamie Lauren, Beverage Manager Alison Harper, the new pastry chef, servers, and others involved in the project) due to financial constraints. The folks behind the project are hoping to get this all squared away with the city soon, and since revenue is obviously their priority, the club, Temple, will be opening before the restaurant. More will be revealed in the coming months…

Some changes over at ~LE METRO CAFÉ~ in NoPa: a new partner was recently brought on, bringing a stronger focus on the food and wine at the restaurant. And with it comes a new Executive Chef, Nathan Foot, who has worked in numerous top-notch kitchens around town, like Campton Place, Elisabeth Daniel, the Four Seasons, One Market, Jardinière, and two years at Masa's. I stopped eating at Le Metro Café years ago, but after reading his resume, I am totally ready to give it another shot—especially since it's just blocks away, and has a cute patio in the back. Foot has already made some changes to the dinner menu (less classic bistro/more nouveau bistro) with dishes like a bread salad with roasted golden beets and arugula; braised escargots with parsley puree and wild roasted mushrooms; duck breast with polenta; wild salmon with melted leeks; and red wine-braised short ribs—and none of the current entrées are over $17.50. The killer three-course $16.50 prix-fixe menu continues (5:30pm-6:30pm Fri-Sat, and all night Sun-Thu)—you'll get something like a soup or house salad, a choice from a couple mains, and dessert. Brunch and dessert changes are forthcoming, and lunch will potentially kick off in January. 311 Divisadero St. at Page St., 415-552-0903.

Not sure what you're doing for Halloween tonight, but for you crazies heading to the Castro, you can kick things off at ~DESTINO~, which is celebrating its bar expansion (it has a little more room now, and its own designated area) with 2-for-1 cocktails all night long and some free bar bites too. From here on out, Destino will be doing a happy hour Mon-Thu 5pm-7pm with 2-for-1 drinks, can't beat that. Pisco sours, baby! 1815 Market St. at Octavia St., 415-552-4451.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, ~JOANNA KARLINSKY~ of The Meetinghouse fame, and currently the consulting chef at The Elite Café, will be opening a biscuit business! Yes, her addicitve "crack biscuits" will soon be available for retail sale and shipping all over the country. (Local delivery will also be in the works…) She's hoping to have the biscuit biz up and running by November 15, with the site launching next week. Karlinsky also mentioned she is considering starting up a line of products based on some old faves, like her fudge sauce and Meyer lemon curd, plus some flavored butters to use on the biscuits. She's also thinking about creating some different flavored biscuits down the road, and perhaps breads, cookies, brownies, and her delish mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwich, a signature from The Meetinghouse days! Her role at the Elite Café will be diminishing so that she will have time to focus on this endeavor. Bring on the biscuits!

Baked goods fanatics (I know you are out there) will also be happy to know ~KARA'S CUPCAKES~ opened up this weekend. Those frosted little buggers are made with local and organic ingredients, so you don't have to feel totally guilty about scarfing down that vanilla buttermilk number stuffed with passion fruit curd. Open Tue-Sat 10am–7pm, and Sun 10am–5pm; closed Mondays. 3429 Scott St. (between Chestnut and Lombard), 415-563-CAKE.

Correction time: I was misinformed about the opening date of the rotisserie chicken place I mentioned last week, ~REGALITO ROSTICERIA~. How about November 4? Yay. Check out their super-cute website here and wait until you see the menu! Pozole, grilled nopales salad, and an awesome weekend brunch too. Que bueno. 3481 18th St. at Valencia St., 415-503-0650.

And just up the street, ~BI-RITE~ will be opening their ice creamery on November 25. 3692 18th St., 415-626-5600.

Just down the street is ~WEIRD FISH~, officially opening tomorrow, November 1! They will be open for lunch and dinner, with brunch on the weekend, and breakfast during the week really soon! Regular hours will be Mon-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri 11am-midnight, Sat 9am-midnight, Sun 9am-5pm. 2193 Mission St. at 18th St., 415-863-4744.

Some folks might recognize ~KEITH REESE~ (formerly at Absinthe, and prior to that, Gary Danko) over at Poleng Lounge, who was just hired as consulting GM. The first-time restaurant owners of Poleng Lounge decided it was worth the investment to get some assistance on the floor—it's been tough on the service staff handling all the covers each night since their three-star review from the Chronicle. The food is good, and now the service will be right there too.

After giving dinner service a try at ~MYTH CAFÉ~, they have decided to return to their original format and just stick with breakfast and lunch. Since the BLTs are no more at Abigail's, at least Ryan Scott's BLT bodaciousness continues to remain in the hizzy. (And a shout-out to Mister Scott, who shares the same birthday as yours truly, tomorrow—Happy Birthday, man!)

Just next door, ~MYTH RESTAURANT~ has a new GM, Estelle Lacroix, who was classically trained in Switzerland, and has worked at Aqua (hostess) and The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco (four years doing special events) and as Assistant GM at Masa's for four years. Some might wonder about the last name: yes, she is the wife of Stephane Lacroix, the Director of Wine and Sommelier at The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco.