table of contents   This week's tablehopper: gossip-a-rama.
the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the regular
it's about time we met
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals

 

APRIL 04, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I wanted to let you know about a mistake, a clarification, and a couple tech issues. First up, I reported the new sous at Bar Tartine as Kimmy Walker, but her name is actually spelled Kimi, doh. Next, a reservation for the CUESA breakfast mentioned in last week's tablehopper can be scheduled at any time from 8:30am-11:30am. You don't have to be there at 8:30am—that would be cruel.

We had some issues with Comcast accounts last week, so none of you Comcast folks got the 3/28 issue of tablehopper—you can catch up here. Hotmail accounts also continue to have intermittent problems, either with delays or straight-up bounces, so please consider swapping your email address with another one if you'd like to consistently receive tablehopper. Okay, enough of this tech business, let's get to the news!

Ciao and meow,
~Marcia
 

APRIL 04, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Indian is what's happening in the Mission, and it's not just DOSA-hubbub—Rasoi is under new ownership and is presently closed for some remodeling and freshening up. In the next week or so it will reopen as ~ASLAM'S RASOI~. The chef/owner is Mohammed Aslam, of Indian Oven on Fillmore and Roti Indian Bistro in West Portal and Burlingame. Don't get me wrong, I can hang with Pakwan and Al-Hamra for some boo-jay tikka masala, but let's hope this place will crank out some quality Indian and get some bodies in there—it was always embarrassingly empty.

A long-vacant Chinese restaurant on Valencia is opening April 7 as ~CHA-YA~, an offshoot of a Berkeley restaurant known for its vegetarian and vegan Japanese cuisine. This style of food is known as Shojin cuisine, with roots in Zen Buddhist temple cuisine. It's similar to what you find at the local (and delicious) newcomer Medicine. (Cha-Ya's owner, Atsushi Katsumata, is reportedly a former Zen monk.) There will be over 60 dishes, with vegan variations of sushi and I'm sure tofu and veggie rolls will be holding it down. If it's like their 510 location, there should also be some udon/soba dishes too. You'll be able to sit in one of their 44 seats for dinner from Tue-Sun, 5pm-10pm. 762 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-252-7825.

A lot of folks, myself included, have been wondering what the heck is going into the former Anna's Danish Cookies space on "EuroTrash Boulevard" AKA 18th Street. Let's pull back that plastic curtain and peek behind the plywood, because here's the scoop: come October or November, that fab location will be opening as ~FARINA—FOCACCIA AND CUCINA ITALIANA~. The project is from Luca Minna and Laura Garrone of Genova, so you can expect some Ligurian favorites to be highlighted on the menu, like pesto, and I'm really hoping for farinata, a chickpea crepe that is traditional Genovese street food and served piping hot. (Are dosas the new burrito?) They did mention cheese-stuffed focaccia. Hello. The owners are applying for a liquor license, and intend to be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They'll actually be moving the façade of the building back a little to accommodate outside tables, which is lucky for us because it's on the sunny side of the street. I'll be looking over the plans with them in a couple weeks, so I'll be able to give you additional news about the actual space soon. 3560 18th St. at Dearborn.

Found out the popular ~OSHA THAI~ will be opening a fourth location this summer in Four Embarcadero Center, hopefully in August, but at the latest in October. The street-level location brings outdoor seating, with probably 100 or so seats total. The modern Thai look will parallel the Second St. location's décor—in fact, the owners are in Thailand sourcing furniture right now. (Wood elephants, anyone?) The restaurant will be serving lunch and dinner daily, with hopefully some delivery for you Embarcadero working stiffs later in the game.

Vegetarians in Bernal Heights (and beyond) will be sad to learn after two years, ~GERANIUM~ just closed on March 31. Owners Lorraine Garrison and James Allison have a nine-month old baby to attend to, and it ends up James already has a full-time job, so they decided to close shop. They're moving to Sacramento since this city is just too darned expensive (hear ye, hear ye)—I wish them well. By late April, after seven or eight years in their present home, Moki's Sushi & Pacific Grill will be moving in and taking over the location. 615 Cortland St.

So what exactly is going to be in SoMa's ~WESTFIELD SF CENTRE~? (Yes, that would be a Brit spelling, people.) Will it become our own Time Warner Center? (Not sure how I feel about that, actually.) Here are the details I do know: come September 28, 1.5 million square feet will house Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom, plus 170 specialty stores and boutiques; a restaurant collection; The Food Emporium, a gourmet market and 15 fast casual gourmet eateries; some Class A office space; a signature day spa; and a nine-screen, state-of-the-art Century Theatres and CinéArts. Mega, man.

But this is tablehopper, which means we're here to talk about the food. The Food Emporium will house a 30,000-square-foot gourmet market featuring deluxe charcuterie, patisserie, international wine varietals, seafood, and produce, plus gourmet coffee and teas. The 15 fast casual gourmet eateries are going to offer more of an upscale dining environment. No Hot Dog on a Stick or Orange Julius, folks—food will be served on real china with real cutlery (no sporks), so don't call it a food court, ha ha. Up on the fourth floor there will be a lounge under the restored glass Emporium dome, and some leading restaurateurs will be offering a full-service dining experience.

Which restaurateurs, you ask? As reported in Northside last month, Bradley Ogden will be one of those fourth-floor tenants, with ~LARK CREEK STEAK~, a higher-end destination for steak and fish. During a recent conversation with Ogden, he mentioned that he wanted to focus on simple yet creative presentations, and sourcing is tantamount. He added that sides will shine, and ladies who lunch will be pleased with the lighter menu offered during the day (and the fact that the restaurant will be kitty corner to Bloomie's). There will be an open kitchen with ringside seats, and over 100 seats in all. Architecture & Light will be overseeing the space, who also worked with Ogden on his Walnut Creek Café, his Yankee Pier locations, and some remodels.

Speaking of ~YANKEE PIER~, San Francisco will finally have one of Ogden's trademark casual seafood establishments on the bottom level of the "centre" (ahem). The menu will highlight 8-10 items with some East Coast/West Coast flair. Hope for tasties like fish and chips, a clam roll, steamed mussels and clams, chowder, and his Yankee salad of Fuji apples and blue cheese.

Another tenant keeping Ogden company on the fourth floor will be Chris Yeo's ~STRAIT'S CAFÉ~. He'll be moving locations, and therefore his restaurant on Geary Street is up for sale. The sleek and contemporary look will reference his Santana Row Strait's Café, with room for 120 diners. There will be a full bar, a lounge area with DJs, and the Singaporean menu will continue to highlight the Pan-Asian influences of Malaysian/Indonesian, Chinese, Indian, and Nonya cuisines.

A little bird also told me ~CHARLES PHAN~ of Slanted Door MIGHT be doing something downstairs in the Food Emporium. Maybe. Looking at the success of his "Out the Door" takeout offshoot at the Ferry Building, that would be my guess. Will report more once I hear something official. I also just saw this on Chowhound: "The owners of Slanted Door appear to be in the early stages of attempting to open another Slanted Door restaurant at 2232 Bush Street, near Fillmore. This week, they received a positive vote from the Board of Appeals regarding a zoning issue." Well. Look who's busy busy.

Here are some groovy deals around town I've heard about: first up, the ever-darling ~LUELLA~ will be hosting an industry night on Mondays for those who work in the restaurant/hotel/bar industry. You'll get 20% off their already affordable and tasty vittles and wine (uh, and let's not forget dessert, like those crack-laced orange and sweet ricotta fritters). Be sure you mention who you are, where you work, or who you know. Aw, they're friendly like that. Don't pretend to be me, however. You'll get in trouble.

And then the day after, you can scoot on over to ~2223 MARKET~ for their "12 Buck Tuesdays" promotion. Each Tuesday there's a special menu featuring some $4 apps (like wild mushroom bisque or asparagus tempura roll) and $12 entrées, like classic meatloaf, Southern-fried chicken, or butternut squash ravioli. Talk about low-impact prices. I'll apply the excess funds to my drinking budget.

NOW OPEN: As reported previously in the chatterbox, these establishments are now ready to feed you: Abigail's Bakery and Café, and Modern Tea. Also, Terzo in Cow Hollow just opened on Saturday, and Coí is opening this coming Friday, April 7th.

 

Ottimista Enoteca-Café
1838 Union St.
Cross: Octavia St.
San Francisco, CA 94123

415-674-8400
website

Tue-Thu 11:30am-11pm
Fri 11:30am-2am
Sat 10am-2am
Sun 10am-10pm

Apps/small plates $5-$16
Larger plates $9-$14
Desserts $5-$10

APRIL 04, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, I have a guilty secret that is about to get outed here: I occasionally eat in the Marina. And now that ~OTTIMISTA ENOTECA-CAFÉ~ has opened in the old Rica's space (yes, it's on Union Street for crissakes) I decided I might as well come clean so you could think about checking it out. (Maybe you're sneaking around the Marina too?)

Co-owner Melissa Gisler has assembled a warm and rustic space, with mismatched vintage chairs, nicely worn wood tables, a marble-topped bar with a back-bar lined with grappa bottles, peachy walls decorated with vintage family photos, and a chalkboard listing everything from bubbles to Italian whites to powerful reds—it kind of reminds me of the comfy feeling I get from Kokkari. There's also an outdoor patio in the front, with pillows and heat lamps.

Ottimista is an enoteca, which is a delightful Italian concept I really miss: a casual place to drink wine and graze on smaller dishes. I was there for lunch, so I only partook in some Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Bisol, "Crede" 2004 ($8). But I could easily see myself swinging by for an early evening hangout with a pal over a couple glasses of wine that then boozily eases into dinner.

The executive chef/co-owner, Mark Young, has worked at the Lark Creek Inn, Slanted Door, and most recently under Slow Club's former chef, Sante Salvoni. The daytime menu includes the signature green olives baked in an Asiago pastry crust ($5). Totally illegal—they are coated with a biscuit-like dough, with a touch of pimentón. What's not to love? There is a selection of antipasti, like a salumi plate ($9 small/$15 large) and a cheese plate ($10 small/$16 large). I dug into a trio of crostini topped with truffled white bean puree, eggplant caponata, and grappa-cured salmon with a chive mascarpone spread ($6). I found the bread cut a little too thick and crispy (there went the roof of my mouth), but the toppings were scrumptious. FYI, they have a focus on organic, local, and sustainable ingredients, but they don't name-check every producer on the menu.

Since they're smart, they also offer a pizza of the day ($11). Ours was a cheese-fest of mascarpone, ricotta, smoked mozzarella, and Montasio cheese, a new one for me. (It's a DOC aged cow's milk cheese from the Friuli, and it had a savory piquancy.) The pizza also had wild mushrooms and sautéed leeks on top, with a crispy crust. Great flavor. I was ready to curl up in it.

I also enjoyed a salad of arugula, frisee, and radicchio, with a poached egg and pancetta—the vinaigrette was spot-on, and counterbalanced the egg like a champ. The lunch menu also lists some grilled panini ($9), a couple more salads, and a pasta. For dessert, the ricotta doughnuts in nutmeg sugar ($6) were wicked little sugar balls of bad for you. Mmmmm, doughnuts. I also liked the array of well-worn or mismatched vintage dishes that the food is served on—it's a nice touch.

For dinnertime, word on the street is people are nutty for the larger plates of Soave-braised pork with polenta ($14) and their rotating pasta dishes. Ottimista also serves brunch on the weekend. I've been told the place is a madhouse on Friday and Saturday nights, so you won't find me there then—too many chicks poured into their True Religions. But for those of you on the hunt for Marina folk packing a horny wine buzz on, this may be for you. (There's also a full bar, so you can really test your wine and hard liquor blending tolerance.) My mellow mid-week lunch was much more my speed.

Ottimista hosts wine tasting events and Italian lessons (with a wine paring, natch); you can read about events here. The wine director/co-owner, Jerad Ruhl, has worked with Booth McKinney (while at Zibbibo and Azie) and was sommelier and wine director for Rose Pistola. The wine list reflects his love of smaller Italian family-run producers, and they will pour anything from a 2 oz. size to a full glass, in addition to some flights. Like that other restaurant known for their Italian wines in the Marina, Ottimista is trying to take the mystery and fear out of Italian vinos. Let's all just lighten up, really now. The glass should be half full, and if it's not, you're in the right place to rectify the situation.

 

Mi Lindo Yucatán
401 Valencia St.
Cross: 15th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

415-861-4935

Mon-Sat 11am-11pm
Sun 11am-10pm

Apps $1.95-$6.50
Entrées $8.75-$12.95
Desserts $2.25-$2.75

APRIL 04, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO This weather just sucks. Everyone's talking about how sucky it is. Since all the complaining in the world won't change it, you just gotta suck it up. A few weeks back I was sick, it was rainy (of course), and it was Monday night. A three-fer of total lameness. I was fortunately meeting up with some ladeez for dinner at ~MI LINDO YUCATÁN~ in the Mission, and it quite simply couldn't have been a better night for some Southern Mexican home cooking. We're talking Mayan roots, folks, which in my book makes for a serious historical precedence of home cooking.

We started off with some tasty tacos de cochinita ($2.50), which is a traditional recipe of roasted pork served with achiote sauce and pickled red onions on homemade corn tortillas. Why is it I can never turn down tacos? Munch munch. We also attacked a couple fried empanadas ($1.95) stuffed with ground beef and topped with tomato sauce—not the best empanadas I've ever had, but they still hit the spot. We also tried a panucho ($1.95), which is a fried tortilla stuffed with black beans, your choice of grilled chicken or turkey (there's a LOT of turkey on the menu, and yes, lots of fried things as well), cabbage, some out-of-season tomato, and avocado. Toss some salsa on and you're set. (Sidebar: panucho feels like a good word to call someone who's being a chump. Try it.)

I totally dug the sassily named chilindrina ($2.50), which was like a Mexican Hot Pocket, a crisp brick stuffed to the gills with hard-boiled egg and spinach, topped with some tomato sauce and a crumbling of cheese. It was dense and delicious, but beware the chilindrina if you live with someone. My friend and I admitted that thing fully attacked later. Someone open a window.

Okay, so on to a more pleasant topic: have you noted these prices? Exactly. The place is dirt-cheap. But not that dirty, which is nice. The walls are brightly colored, in yellow, purple, and red, and the place draws hungry guys just off of work and Mission couples who have a hankering to commune with authentic bowls of stew (and hopefully not too many chilindrinas). On the weekend Mi Lindo Yucatán offers some traditional weekend stew-y specials (all around $9.50), like pozole, mondongo (made with tripe), and one called puchero (another good candidate for name-calling). It was Monday, but lucky me, I was able to order some pozole. You toss tortilla chips and iceberg lettuce into the large bowl (well, I did) of spicy chicken, pork, and hominy soup, and you are healed. And you get a nice face steaming in the process. Ahhh, you can breathe.

We also ordered the cochinita pibil because that sole cochinita taco earlier on wasn't enough. What comes is a big bowl of pork marinated in a savory achiote sauce and wrapped in a banana leaf. You place hunks of it in a taco, along with the pickled red onion and some salsa. It's hearty for sure. Now, I've heard that El Yucateco on Geary has some seriously knock-your-socks-off cochinita pibil, but we're not there tonight, we're getting all pretty with Mi Lindo Yucatán. Actually, it's not on the prettiest corner, or the prettiest food, but you can eat like a little porker and get out of there for less than $20. It's humble food, it's hearty food, and is a nice break from the taqueria. Everyone who works there is friendly and warm. Like the food, which seems to be getting all the more popular lately. Behold, the new Peruvian. Check out some Yucatecan food and be ahead of the curve.

I didn't make it to dessert—I was definitely set after my pozole. For those who wish to investigate, the menu has four choices, including some omnipresent flan ($2.25) or arroz con leche ($2.25).

A couple notes: first off, beware the thermonuclear small ramekin of hot salsa. Hot is not even remotely strong enough of a word for it. The regular stuff they offer is fine, but you even dare to scoop more than a dollop of the hot stuff and suddenly your face is on fire like a Kuwaiti oil well. Seriously. Now, put a little of this in the bowl of the milder salsa and it becomes your friend.

There is also a second location in Noe Valley, at 4042 24th Street that is supposed to be a little spiffier décor-wise. I haven't been, so I can't say if the prices are higher, which I imagine they would be, or if the food is different, which is possible. People seem to like it.

 

bacar
448 Brannan St.
San Francisco, CA 94107

415-904-4100
website

Sunday, April 23rd
Starts at 6pm

$125—includes dinner, wine, tax and gratuity
Books are sold separately

APRIL 04, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Calling all oenophiles: on Sunday, April 23, bacar will host internationally renowned wine writer, Hugh Johnson. Bacar will be holding a five-course dinner paired with wines to celebrate Hugh's autobiography, "A Life Uncorked." Books will be on sale that evening and Hugh will be available to sign them. He will speak throughout the dinner, not only about wine, but he will share his anecdotes and memories of the world of wine. Menu details will be posted soon to bacar's website.

For those who can't afford the dinner but just want to hang with Hugh, he'll be at a book signing the night before (on Saturday, April 22) at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.


Photo courtesy of Fifth Floor

Fifth Floor/ Lounge on Five
In the Hotel Palomar
12 Fourth St.
Cross: Market St.
San Francisco, CA

415-348-1555
website

Starts Wednesday, April 19
6pm-7pm (or so)

$35 per class or
$150 for the five-class series


APRIL 04, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO You'd think I was a boozehound with all these wine events. (Well, now you know.) The sommelier at Fifth Floor, Emily Wines (I know, that last name is just ridiculous—like, how does that happen?) is introducing a public version of her popular private wine course, "Sommelier Secrets," with a series of relatively affordable weekly classes. This new series is "Wines on Wine" and it's designed to be a casual and educational program about the art of wine tasting for any level of enthusiast.

Wines and her team of sommeliers will teach the class every Wednesday for five consecutive weeks, starting April 19 at 6pm in the Lounge on Five, adjacent to the Fifth Floor restaurant. You can attend just one ($35 each), or all five for $150—the classes will last for about an hour, so you won't get totally toasted. Here's the breakdown on the classes:

Sensory Evaluation – Wednesday, April 19
Viva La France! – Wednesday, April 26
Vino California – Wednesday, May 3
Wine and Cheese 101 – Wednesday, May 10
The Joy of Bubbly – Wednesday, May 17