September 18, 2007

After a month or so of Patrick Robertson acting as executive chef at ~SCALA'S BISTRO/DRAKE RESTAURANTS~, presto change-o, he has departed. The official statement is as follows: “This is a mutual decision, made with the best interest of the restaurants in mind. Scala's has begun a new chef search with the goal of creating the best possible fit for the restaurant.” It’s like Cinderella! 432 Powell St. at Post, 415-395-8555.

After landing two and a half stars in a dining update from The Chronicle just a month ago, opening chef Noah Tucker has left ~BRICK RESTAURANT~ (his wife landed a job in Amsterdam). Taking over as executive chef is Alex Marsh, who was the executive chef of Solstice—Marsh will continue overseeing Solstice’s kitchen with the help of his sous chef, who has been there for two years. I spoke with one of Brick’s partners, Matt Strum, and he said Brick’s former molecular gastronomy angle is out the window (so say goodbye to the scrumptious Buffalo chicken wings with Gorgonzola foam—they just flew the coop) and guests can look for more accessible dishes, prices, and portions. The new menu should be intact by mid-October, but a few additions for now include 11-hour short ribs ($20), pancetta-wrapped whole quail ($17), and a beet and blue cheese lasagne with Swiss chard, roasted shiitakes, and herb salad ($15).

More changes at Brick: there will be a new pastry chef, Rikki Garcia, who is currently at Cafe 150 at the Google complex, and was previously at Michael Mina and Lark Creek Inn; the super-friendly GM, Leti Saucedo, has left (she’s taking a break from the biz)—a new GM should be announced shortly; and partner Chris Cronk is also stepping back for the next 18 months while he gets his MBA. That’s not all: look for the adjoining gallery space to have some changes by the end of the year as well: the plan is to launch a dine-in/take-out concept for neighborhood lunchers, while keeping the space open for private events in the evening. More on that soon. 1085 Sutter St. at Larkin, 415-441-4232.

It’s driving me crazy that I haven’t had time to swing by for brekkie or lunch at ~BRENDA’S FRENCH SOUL FOOD~ yet (the crawfish beignets are callllllling meeeeeee), but I now have one more day in the week to make it happen: brunch on Saturday has now kicked in! I know Sunday is the preferred day in this brunch-crazy town, but I dig Saturday brunch much more. So yay. Check out the menu(s) here. 652 Polk St. at Eddy, 415-345-8100.

~TABLESPOON~ on Upper Polk is the latest SF restaurant to join Madonna’s Re-Invention tour (like TWO, CIRCA, and COCO500). The restaurant has morphed into Bar Johnny (John Jasso is the owner), and can be added to the ranks of restaurants around town with a small plates format. Tablespoon’s contemporary American style will continue, but the menu will be divvied up into a “bites” section, with dishes like garlic truffle fries ($5), house-made charcuterie ($8), and grilled pizza ($11); plus “salads,” like melon and duck prosciutto ($8) and smoked tuna with butter beans ($9); and then there are dishes in the “more” section, like a flatiron steak and fries ($16), and fried chicken leg and house fries ($12). I’ve enjoyed the cocktails here since they got their liquor license, so now you can have a casual bite to go with the swell dranks. Dinner is served until 11pm, with a bar menu until 1am. 2209 Polk St. at Vallejo, 415-268-0140.

Cute new café alert: Andre and Jennifer Larzul, the owners of Revolution Café, Alamo Square Seafood Grill, and Blue Jay Café, have opened ~SOCHA~ in the Outer Mission. The name stands for “South of Cesar Chavez”—perhaps it will end up working like NOPA did and put the mini-neighborhood’s name on the map. Socha has an onsite baker churning out savories and sweets, like scallion or red pepper and Fontina rolls, focaccia, danishes, scones, and sandwiches. There are also some pizzas and flatbreads that will be making even more of an appearance in the late evening once the beer and wine license is approved, hopefully by the end of the month—which will mean later hours, too. Coffee is from Fabrice Moschetti in Santa Rosa. The space has groovy art (currently artwork from Leif Wold and Susan Matthews is up), and free WiFi too, with plans for acoustic music and films in the future. Hours are 8am–7pm daily. 3235 Mission St. at Valencia, 415-643-6848.

Over on 24th Street, ~ROOSEVELT’S TAMALE PARLOR~ has new owners: Hector Flores, who was in the kitchen at Don Pico’s in San Bruno for eight years, and his wife, who was at Pancho Villa for close to ten. The restaurant has been closed while becoming ADA compliant, and should be open in a couple weeks—by early October. The new menu will feature some seafood ceviches and a Don Pico’s-style menu, with a diminished focus on tamales. 2817 24th St. at York, 415-824-2600.

Meanwhile, a few doors over at ~LA TORTA GORDA~, there’s a new chef from Mexico City working there who is reportedly integrating more classical and regional dishes on the menu (don’t worry, Armando’s perfect tortas aren’t going anywhere). I was told there is some killer mole the chef brought back from Puebla right now, too. Oh, and the back patio should be open soon. 2833 24th St. at York, 415-642-9600.

There is a new pizza place under construction on Valencia, just next door to New Yorker’s Buffalo Wings, which is going to be called, surprise surprise, ~PIZZERIA~. The owner can’t reveal many details yet, but based on what I’ve heard and have been able to dig up, it’s slated to open next month, and will serve thin-crust pizzas and pasta. I also heard the brick oven was something like 6,000 pounds, and was installed with a forklift. I found a link to some construction pictures if you’re interested in looking at the space. I’ll let you know more when the owner can talk! 663 Valencia St. at 18th.

This closure really has me bothered. And I’m not alone. San Francisco has lost one of the best Mediterranean places in town: on Polk has suddenly closed. Like, what? WHAT? No more of their incomparable falafel, and chicken shwarma, and perfect hummus, and fluffy pitas, all served with a smile and warmth? I thought we all had the spirit? Heck. This totally sucks. Does anyone know what happened? I have no way to get in touch with Khalil and Lubna to find out—the number is disconnected. Insert unhappy face here. 1303 Polk St. at Bush.

Another closure: after 120 years and four generations of business in the Wharf, ~A. SABELLA’S~ is closing on November 3. General manager Antone Sabella is ready to move on (after 45 years in the restaurant, I would be too), and is looking forward to some travel, while sister Laureen is “really going to miss the food.” There are a lot of employees who have been working there for years, including a sauté cook who started in 1967 as a dishwasher, so it’s certainly a sad closure for many. As for the fate of the space, it seems there are a couple offers the family is presently negotiating, I’ll keep you posted. 2766 Taylor St., 3rd Floor, at Jefferson, 415-771-6775.

After eight years in Hayes Valley, ~FRJTZ~ has closed—the landlord wasn’t up for renewing the lease. A new Frjtz is slated to open by the holidays a few doors down, at 581 Hayes—the space was formerly the furniture store, Montauk. And there’s the new location that recently opened in the Mission.

~PERBACCO~ has promoted Sarah Ballard to pastry chef. She has been at the restaurant since its opening in October 2006, and was formerly at Frascati. 230 California St. at Battery, 415-955-0663.

Sometimes this world we live in is really lovely and magical, and other times it is just so disheartening and bleak. I was disgusted with the news that the former Top Chef contestant from season two, ~JOSIE SMITH-MALAVE~, was gay bashed with her friend, Emily Durwood, and sister, Julie Smith, in Sea Cliff, New York, over the Labor Day weekend. The Advocate has some details about the vicious incident and now one person has been arrested, details here. WTF, seriously.

Time for some corrections: I was misinformed about the winner of the cocktail competition at the ~CHEF'S COOK-OFF FOR AFTER SCHOOL~ event at Jack Falstaff—it should have been Zole Andahazy, the bar manager/bistro manager from Bernardus Lodge! Sorry about that. While we’re at it, it also ends up the antique cavatelli machine from Italy belonged to Nate Appleman of A16, not Craig Stoll. Double doh!

~MARIQUITA~ fans (and pumpkin heads), this Thursday you can pick up some produce at Pizzetta 211 from 5pm–7pm—ends up Mariquita is drowning in tomatoes and pumpkins and peppers. And basil. These produce drop-offs will be on an every-other week schedule, likely through the winter! From Mariquita: “We will have sugar pie pumpkins and the butternut-like Zucchettas. Sugar pies are $4/each or 4 pumpkins for $10. (we leave some good amount of stem on so they work well as carvers/decorations) Zucchettas (GREAT fall decorations!) are large: at least 2 feet long, most of them. They are $5/each or 3 for $10. Also: tomatoes are cheaper for this delivery: Andy said we have way too many! See the website for more details. Email julia [at] mariquita [dot] com with your orders by 9am on Wed. Sept. 19th.” Oh, and on Sunday Sept. 23 there will be a Upick day when you can score 50 cent a pound heirloom/San Marzano tomatoes! There’s a pumpkin patch, too.

Yup, fall is here...