Hardhats in action.
Chef Jason's new HQ.
Curious about what goes into opening a restaurant? Each month we'll be checking in on the build-out process of various bars and restaurants around the City, highlighting the unique coups and complications when opening a business in San Francisco. This section is written by Erin Archuleta, tablehopper intern and half of the talent behind local outfit Ichi Catering.
~RN74~ is different from the other restaurants chronicled in this column for a few reasons: (1) they're putting the finishing touches on the place, so there's not much conduit hanging or lumber lying around; (2) they're at the bottom of a skyscraper; and (3) they hired their executive chef a year before the project would be complete.
The space brings the surprising feel of a train station. New York design firm AvroKO (known for creating other fab restaurant spaces like Public and Social House) worked to create a modern version of a European train platform and station room, with locally sourced exposed brick and metals. Mina Group wine director Rajat Parr first conceptualized the wine bar and restaurant to reflect the experience of traveling through another locale and time, inspired after a trip to the Burgundy region of France. Raj has been the wine director with the Group since 2003, and he's developed the wine programs at Mina's other locations across the country. Raj had been waiting to launch a project featuring Burgundy wines, and it was perfect synchronicity when Tim Flowers, the former general manager of Mina's Stonehill Tavern, and Jason Berthold, a winemaker-chef, came together on this project.
Meeting up with the fellas, it was clear that they're in the home stretch, but need the work on the 60-story Millennium Tower building to be signed off on before they can finish the inspections on their own place. And they're looking pretty close to done, with hopes to throw open those doors and welcome guests the weekend of April 24th.
The finishing touches are playful, like the two large train "schedule" boards. The first board is a wine list that's designed to pair with the food menus. The second board is a little bit like wine Lotto, featuring an ever-changing selection of one-bottle-only options that will go to the first table or diner who requests it, immediately replaced on the list when the ordering system refreshes. These just-one-only bottles will reflect all price points, from a $20 bottle of something very special to a pricier bottle of something very spectacular. And when that wine disappears, a new one pops up with the sound of a train.
Raj assures that diners at every price level will have access to amazing wines, all kept at the perfect temperature. On display will be fancy enomatic machines at the bar, keeping each varietal at exactly the right temp, and the spacious cellar has storage for up to 6,000 bottles.
Tim and Jason are very excited about the layout of the restaurant, with wine service poised in the center of the dining room, and a communal dining table for sharing or large group reservations. Since the Mina Group hired Jason (a French Laundry alum) on the project even before the build-out started, his input on the kitchen supported the design of the space with consulting Oakland-based designer Mark Stech-Novak. The kitchen prep area is in a smaller, separate space from the line (which hosts four chefs: Jason, and his sous Rodney Wages, Jeremy Miller, and Ming Lee). This prep space will support lunch service while readying the restaurant for its dinner crowd.
The dish station is so sleek, I considered quitting my day job to work in its accommodating space, complete with task lighting (!). The ceilings are perfect for my 5'1" stature, but Tim (who is quite a bit taller) laughed and explained that the ceilings are low to accommodate the superb Halton hood and ventilation system that is so quiet even chef Jason had trouble detecting it.
In the next three weeks, occupancy, health, gas, and fire inspections will need to be passed, but by the looks of things, they'll be waiting to pull out a chair for you and your friends soon enough.