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the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews

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shindigs/feasts/festivals
  MARCH 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Hello gang. May "the chatterbox" help you recover from the boredom that was the Oscars this year. Nice to see so much going on in the City right now. Since there was a pile of news and gossip to report this week, I decided to only bust out one review for you, but it's downright timely. As you try to keep dry and toasty this week, all I can say is get thee to Bar Crudo for a bowl of their seafood chowder and you'll actually discover a certain charm about this kind of weather. More in "fresh meat" below.

Until next week,
~Marcia

 

MARCH 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO A new business is bravely moving into the ever-cursed corner of Divisadero and Bush, ~TORTILLA HEIGHTS~, the former location of the Greek establishment, Minerva Café. The soft opening is possibly next Mon, and it should be officially abierto on Tuesday the 14th. The partners are Diane Mulligan (one of the owners of Hobson's Choice in the Haight), Paul Owens (former owner of the neighboring Fish Bowl bar) and chef Erik Reese (Cypress Club, Aqua, Scala's, and chef-partner of local biz Asqew Grill). Expect a place that is planning to balance the magic combo of being a great spot for drinks and equally great for Mexican food (not unlike the attempts of recent newcomers Mamacita, Velvet Cantina, and Tres Agaves). There will be over 50 tequilas and a wide selection of bottled Mexican beers, which equates to a very strong possibility you will get your buzz on.

Apps include shrimp cocktail, a hot Tex-Mex queso you can order with chicken or chorizo, and a classic Tijuana Caesar salad (apps range from $5-$8), while entrées include fish tacos, chile rellenos, and blue corn enchiladas ($11-$14). Desserts bring churros or "plantains Foster." ($4). The casual space is styled to feel like a hacienda patio, with Mexican star lights overhead and palapas over two of the booths. Patrons looking for a place that's good for groups should be pleased, and all will be digging on the fact that the reasonably priced dishes are made with free-range and hormone-free meats, and no farmed fish. Here's another thing I'm fired up about: they will offer a taqueria-style menu, with burritos, tortas, tacos, quesadillas, and nachos, until 1:30am. ¡Fantastico! Open seven days a week, 11am-2am, with brunch Sat-Sun 11am-5pm. 1750 Divisadero St. at Bush, 415-346-4531.

On March 18, ~ABIGAIL'S BAKERY AND CAFÉ~ will be opening their Dutch doors in the former D Den Thai restaurant space in the Marina. It will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, with some killer coffee from Mr. Espresso. The chef is Josh Bush (Foreign Cinema) whose Cali-bistro menu will be straddling that zone between semi-refined yet casual, with a focus on organic ingredients. Think classic pastry or stone-ground oatmeal for breakfast; Champagne omelet with Fontina, fines herbes and fried potatoes for brunch; croques and skirt steak sandwiches for lunch; and for din din, dishes like roasted mustard-glazed chicken or jasmine-scented pork chop with pear and bacon stuffing, chanterelles, and braised bok choy. The space will feature a granite counter with an extensive pastry display, a dining area that seats 36, an open kitchen, and a back patio that will seat 15-20 (opening soon). If everything sticks on schedule, they'll be holding a neighborhood night the week of 3/23. 2120 Greenwich St. at Fillmore, 415-929-8889.

Another bit of news in the Marina: the owner of ~COZMO'S CORNER GRILL~, Mick Suverkrubbe, is bringing on some additional partners who hail from the club Dolce in North Beach. Some interior changes will occur, bringing a different vibe along with a new name. The bar area will be made more comfortable and truly loungey with some big booths and different lighting, while the dining room will also be swankified, with less booths and more tables. The mezzanine will transform into a cocktail party space, ideal for large groups or private parties. Cozmo's is probably closing for the remodel in June, with a reopening planned for July 1. Architecture TM (who did some finishing touches on Scott Kester’s recent project, Frisson) is overseeing the remodel. Executive chef Eric Hopfinger will stay on, and will be totally redesigning the menu to reflect more of his skill with a creative contemporary American style. Not sure if that means the fried chicken will be M.I.A.—I'll keep you posted.

I've received some inquiries about a couple up-and-coming places already covered by the Chron, but here's an update for you. First off, Daniel Patterson's new fine dining restaurant, ~COÍ~ (pronounced kwa) will be opening on April 4. The name is an archaic French word that means quiet or tranquil, and it's how the tone of the intimate 30-seat dining room will feel: warm, inviting, and cozy. Scott Kester is designing the space, who incidentally did almost all of the fantastic design of Patterson’s former location, Frisson. It's where the parallels stop, however: Patterson stated, "The food will be more focused on the delicious, rather than the challenging or new." Which I translate to mean less foam, more fromage blanc. We shall see! He is proud of his tight-knit and talented team that is small in numbers but high in caliber: John Marquez, Jeromy Sung, and James Syhabout (Manresa) will be in the kitchen, while Jake Godby will be whipping things up the pastry. Dinner only, Tue-Sat, 373 Broadway St., between Montgomery and Sansome, 415-393-9000.

Another eagerly awaited project is ~NOPA~, opening in early April in the North of the Panhandle (get it?) neighborhood. The former laundromat is being massively transformed into a hip dining destination that will seat 110, with high ceilings (try 19 feet), exposed rafters, a dark-stain concrete floor, warm colors on the walls, an open kitchen, a massive poured concrete bar that seats 17-18, a mezzanine that overlooks the bar and the kitchen, and a communal table that will seat 12-14. Whew. Quirky fact: it ends up the space was a bank in the ‘20s, and the vault is now going to be used as the wine room. Maybe it can double as a drunk tank.

NOPA's partners are Laurence Jossel (chef/hails from Chez Nous and all three Chow locations), Jeff Hanak (wine/former partner of Chow and Park Chow), and Allyson Woodman (service/managed Chow). The sous chef is the talented Marcella Lew, formerly of Andalu. The Southern-Mediterranean and organic ingredient-centric menu will be shaped as much by the seasons as by three pieces of my favorite kitchen equipment: a wood-fired grill, a wood-fired rotisserie, and a wood-fired pizza oven. (The neighborhood will be wafting.) Apps will hover around $10, entrées around $20, and $7 or so for desserts. They have a full liquor license (score) and plan on staying open late, like 1am. I will be beyond thrilled to have a non-Thai, non-diner, non-pizza late-night dining option in this side of town. 560 Divisadero St. at Hayes.

IN THE HOPPER: The word is after a successful run of something like seven years, ~SLOW CLUB'S~ chef, Sante Salvoni, has left. Rumor has it that he has something else, possibly of his own, in the works. Once I'm able to get in touch with him, I'll get the story.

Potentially opening this weekend (or next) in North Beach is ~FRISCO FISH AND CHIPS~, opposite from the Grant & Green, and just next door to Gino & Carlo. 532 Green St., between Grant and Columbus, 415-989-FISH.

SIGHTED: The Chinese restaurant next door to the Transfer bar (on 14th and Church) is now called ~WILL'S AUTHENTIC VIETNAMESE~ with "pho" broadcast on their awning. At last, some Vietnamese in the Castro.

 

Bar Crudo
603 Bush St.
at Stockton St.
San Francisco, CA 94108

415-956-0396
website

Apps/small plates $10-13
Shellfish $1.50 (mussels)
- $65 (platter)

Open daily for dinner

MARCH 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO You'd think I was obsessed about fish or something since I'm hitting you up with two seafood joints two weeks in a row. Well, in case you all haven't noticed, crudo is hot. Well, it's actually cold and raw. Like sashimi, you don't to even want to think about eating some marginal or inexpensive product, so it's wise to frequent places where you are quite sure the chef knows what the hell he's doing. For the record, chef/owner Mike Selvera knows his fish. He had stints at both Yabbie's Coastal Kitchen and Café Maritime=fish chops.

~BAR CRUDO~ is tucked in right next to the Tunnel Top bar on Bush, in a tiny two-level space where a crêperie used to be. You waltz in and odds are good you'll be greeted by the friendly Tim Selvera, Mike's twin, and partner in the business. Cool brothers, these two. The downstairs has some bar seating and ringside seats where you can watch Mike work his magic at the raw bar or while at his Easy-Bake/Holly Hobbie stove (fortunately he just upgraded to six burners). The walls feature sassy mermaid art by the fab Kelly Tunstall, who also designed Bar Crudo's sexy trucker mud flap-mermaid logo and menu. (You may recognize her art from A16.) The restaurant feels cozy and personal, in the way the best small venues often resonate. It's welcoming and warm, so it's a perfetto place for a date.

Upstairs on the small loft-like mezzanine, there are about seven candlelit tables with Bar Crudo slyly embossed in the metallic tops of each, accompanied by rustic wood chairs. The music is personal and eclectic, like what you'd hear hanging out at a friend's place who happens to work at an indie record store. Very High Fidelity. Servers are nice, people are having a good time, so why doncha join ‘em? Kick off with a bottle of the U Mes U Fan Tres Cava ($27) while pondering the menu of shellfish that includes a range of oysters ($2-$2.25) or how about half of a Dungeness crab ($12)? If you want to splurge on a seafood platter ($35-$65), this is the place to do it. It's time to get all Tony Danza and show your wallet who's the boss.

So, the crudos. If it's your first time here, go for the sampler ($18 for two people) so you can try all four unique little jewels of raw fish. Personally, I find the artic char to be the homecoming queen, slathered with creamy horseradish, a layer of tobiko (pop pop!), and dill, while the runner-up is the silky scallop accented with bright flavors of orange, fennel, mint, and olive. Green olive and scallop, who knew? Totally inspiring on the flavor scale. The other two offer equally clever flavor combos, although I recommend finishing with the tuna since the presence of the sriracha will blow your tastebuds out for a sec.

Next up, I hope you are SCUBA-certified and your tanks are ready, because it's time for full immersion into the chowder ($10). It's a creamy bowl of total badass-ness, including clams, cod, squid, potato, and hunks of smoky bacon. One night it wasn't quite warm enough, but the other time it was total perfection. Slurp. The lemongrass mussels ($12) are almost like a bowl of dreamy tom kha gai, without the chicken. See, not everything is raw.

A couple salads are on the menu ($11-$12), which also highlight Mike's skill with combining flavors. For a little touch of decadence, there's an artisan cheese plate ($11) and a sherry duck liver mousse ($10) that plays nicely with cornichons, caperberries, and hunks of bread with grill marks. It might be a little livery for some, but I'm down with my liver mousse tasting of liver, because after all, it is liver, yo.

Some folks may not be happy with just the chocolate truffles as the lone dessert option (for now). If you're on a date, you can repeat what my date and I did and cruise down a block and a half to Café Claude (7 Claude Lane, 415-392-3505) for some warm chocolate love, a glass of Sauternes, and some live jazz if you time it right (7:30pm-10:30pm). Or just go next door to the Tunnel Top and do a chocolate cake shot and you're all set.

A couple more details to note: first off, Bar Crudo's beer list is just straight-up fab. Belgium is seriously in the house—the bottle of Fantome, Pissenlit Dandelion ($14) (please refrain from jokes about the name, come ON) practically begs for a double date with you and your mussels. Secondly, this is not the place to go to if you're in a rush. They're not neglecting you; things just take a little longer. So cool your jets. And lastly, the total score is the parking rate drops at the Sutter Stockton garage after 6pm, which is just on the other side of the tunnel. Totally in the pocket. Which actually sums up the entire experience of dining at the diminutive Bar Crudo.

 

A16
2355 Chestnut St.
at Scott St.
San Francisco, CA 94123

415-771-2216
website

Wednesday, March 8
Dinner 5pm-10pm


MARCH 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO You'd think I was Italian or something with all these Italian events for this week. (You might as well get used to it.) This Wednesday, March 8, A16 will be celebrating "La Festa Della Donna," which is International Women's Day. In Italy, all you see are yellow mimosa flowers everywhere to commemorate the day—women have the sunny yellow flowers in their hair and carry bouquets proudly through the streets. It's pretty gorgeous. A16 will be celebrating that night with all of its female chefs doing their magic in the kitchen, adding specials to the regular menu that showcase each chef's personal passions. Expect delicioso dishes like a crudo appetizer, ricotta gnocchi and a chocolate budino. Wine Director Shelly Lindgren will highlight wines produced by female winemakers, and a portion of the evening's proceeds will be donated to one of my favorite causes, La Cocina, a nonprofit organization in the Mission District that helps low-income women entrepreneurs develop food-related businesses. Mimosas (the flower, silly) will be in effect. Consider honoring the ladies in your life and bring them to dinner. Nothing says I love you like burrata.

Ottimista Enoteca-Café
1838 Union Street
between Laguna and Octavia
San Francisco, CA
94123

415-674-8400
website

Saturday, March 11
3pm-4:15pm
Wines of Alto Adige
$35 per person

Tuesday, March 14
6pm-7:15pm
Amarone and Cheese
$45 per person

Sundays 3pm-4:15pm
Italian Lessons & Vino
March 5–Making friends
March 12–Ordering at a restaurant
March 19–Hotel and Transportation logistics

$45 per person
includes lesson, wine flight and small bites


MARCH 7, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO This appeals to my Italian blood for obvious reasons: Ottimista Enoteca, the wine bar and eatery on Union Street, is hosting classes on regional Italian wines led by Jerad Ruhl, Ottimista's co-owner and wine director. You'll be kicking it on the heated patio while tasting some primo vinos, along with some small bites provided by the kitchen. You'll also get 10% off any wine bottle purchases the day of the event. Coming up: Saturday, March 11, will be a tasting and seminar of the wines of Alto Adige, while Tuesday, March 14, will be a wine pairing of Amarone and cheese (one of my favorite wines, like, ever).

And here's another chance to sing, "Robert De Niro's waiting, talking Italian:" Sunday afternoons are Italian lessons and vino! Timothy Morzenti, a native of Bergamo (that would be in Lombardia) will host a 30-minute lecture on topics like making friends or most importantly, how to order in a restaurant, and then you have 45 minutes of conversation practice, which will only get easier over the wine. Benissimo.

To sign up, email Melissa Gisler at Melissa [at] ottimistasf [dot] com or call 415-674-8400. Credit card required for class registration. Cancellations may be made 72 hours in advance.