table of contents   This week's tablehopper: DOSA, and drinking (surprise!)
the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals

 

APRIL 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO So whaddya know, it's week two of some issues with Comcast accounts; none of you Comcast folks got the 3/28 or 4/4 issues of tablehopper—you can catch up here. Let's hope week three is clear!

Also, feel free to write in with tips about places you see opening, or closing, or are just curious about—I can’t be everywhere! (Although I certainly try.)

Ciao, darlings,
~Marcia
 

APRIL 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO FiDi workers will be fired up on a new lunch destination opening on April 18, ~MIXT GREENS~. The project comes from executive chef Andrew Swallow, a former manager of Restaurant Gary Danko, who also did a stint in the kitchen of Gramercy Tavern in NYC. The restaurant will be offering ten tossed-to-order, gourmet, organic salads, like "The Bachelor," with dirty socks (kidding), herb-encrusted flat iron steak, roasted fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, balsamic onion marmalade, Point Reyes blue cheese, and topped with frizzled leeks. Most salads will put you back $6.95-$10.95. An additional green thing to note: all their take-away packaging is 100% compostable, and the space itself followed green building practices: the use of formaldehyde-free plywood, FSC certified wood, zero VOC paint, recycled and renewable materials, and energy-efficient lighting and appliances. They'll even have some vino, online ordering, and pre-packaged take-away salads. Sign up on their mailing list for some special offers. 120 Sansome St. between Pine and Bush, 415-433-6498.

Many of you already heard the announcement that San Francisco and the wine country will be covered by the prestigious ~MICHELIN GUIDE~ in 2007, but just in case you didn't... The battle of the stars with the big frogs (La Folie, Fleur de Lys, etc.) and the big guns (the Ritz, Michael Mina, Gary Danko, Masa's) should be interesting to say the least. I don't think you'll find La Taqueria listed, ha ha. The anonymous inspectors have been visiting the city for some time—let's hope they trek south and include Manresa in the mix. It should hit the shelves by October.

I spoke with Kurt Abney of Dottie's True Blue Café about his new offshoot, ~DOTTIE'S~, which was originally slated to open in springtime in Hayes Valley at 330 Fell St. (near Gough St.). Unfortunately, the process and permits have proven to be a bear, and optimistically the soonest we could hope to munch on his heavenly pancakes and delicious cornbread with chipotle jam in the new Dottie's will be the end of 2006. Meow.

Starting this Wednesday, you will now have another reason to visit the Laurel Village Shopping Center: ~CHARLES CHOCOLATES~ (you know the ones, in the cute little boxes, chock-full of organic herbs and nuts, with organic cream and butter from Straus Dairy) will be opening a "test" retail store in the old Home Chef space for the next two months. See, now you know where to get their P.M.S. assortment (no joke!). They'll also feature products you can't get anywhere else. I can only imagine. Open 10am-7pm daily, 3527 California St.

So about the other Charles, as in Mister Phan of ~SLANTED DOOR~. I've received some questions about the long-vacant Valencia Street space, so here's an update, of sorts: he still owns it, but it will unfortunately be an expensive build-out, so that's why nothing is happening just yet. The concept hasn't been totally nailed down, but we can plan on seeing something in 2007, whatever fabulous thing that may be.

According to the Marina Times, Chestnut Street should be getting its own ~SQUAT & GOBBLE CAFÉ & CREPERY~ [sic] this weekend in the former Lux location. You can expect to find their hearty omelettes, crepes, sandwiches, and salads, seven days a week. 2263 Chestnut St., 415-441-2200.

Food & Wine has announced their Best New Chefs for 2006, and I was very happy to see Douglas Keane of ~CYRUS~ up in Healdsburg on it. Helps soften their omission in the James Beard Awards. Go Douglas.

This sounds like fun: chef Mike Yakura of ~LE COLONIAL~ (who many of you saw recently on Top Chef) was inspired on a trip to Vietnam and has launched a pho bar in the lounge—you just select the ingredients you want from a checklist card. He has also placed some traditional Vietnamese street food specialties, like banh xao tom (rice flour and mung bean crepes filled with prawns and sprouts) on the lounge menu. Sounds perfect for early evening munching—I'll be sure to check it out soon enough and let you know. The street food menu and pho bar are available in the upstairs lounge Tue-Fri, starting at 4:30pm.

Ends up there's a new executive chef at the ~CARNELIAN ROOM~, Alfonso Valledor. He's a native of Argentina, which should help him deal with the altitude of working on the 52nd floor of the B of A building.

Found out from Mister Daniel Patterson that ~COÍ'S~ opening delay is due to PG&E moving a little slowly—surprise surprise. They are hoping to open this Thursday, the 13th. 373 Broadway St., between Montgomery and Sansome Streets, 415-393-9000.

Also, everyone is wondering, "What's up with ~BEARD PAPA~? I want cream puffs!" Yeah, yeah, me too. But we have to sit tight until May. I'll let you know when the cream puffs are ready for consumption, I promise! 99 Yerba Buena Ln., between Mission and Market Street near the Four Seasons hotel, across from the Yerba Buena Gardens.

 

DOSA
995 Valencia St.
Cross: 21st St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

415-642-3672
website

Tue-Thu & Sun 5pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm
And soon, lunch! (tentatively Tue-Fri 11am-3pm)

Apps $6-$8
Dosas $7-$10
Curries $13-$16
Dessert $5-$6

APRIL 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I think by now all of the local papers have written up ~DOSA~. A pile of hipsters has already eaten there, three times over. Not like DOSA needs any more buzz, but since I keep getting questions about what I think about it, here's my take on this restaurant that is the current Jessica Alba of our local restaurant scene.

First off, I'm happy to see SF finally landing a South Indian restaurant. Anjan and Emily Mitra, the owners, noticed the big black void. We have a bazaar's worth of Northern Indian places here, a veritable tandoori-a-rama, but if you want Southern Indian, you either need to cross that pesky bridge to Udupi Palace or Vik's, or get your authentic groove on and trek south to Fremont or Sunnyvale. Yeah, right. That wouldn't be me—visiting the 408 is a once-every-two-years-or-so event. So I'm happy to now have a local place I can even ride my bike to.

Some have wailed "DOSA isn't authentic!" or "how can they charge $10 for a dosa?! It's street food!" That's like shrieking over Charles Phan's spring rolls for $7.50. It's street food that moved into a nice three-bedroom house and now has a 401k plan. Moving on up, baby. DOSA isn't your local Indian hole-in-the-wall serving samosas for $1.50—it's a completely different scene, with a nicely appointed post modern-meets-ethnic interior, beach house/mystic electronica playing, a hip crowd, soju cocktails with ingredients like mango in them, and a wine list assembled by Mark Bright, a sommelier at Michael Mina. Nope, there's no all-you-can-eat lunch buffet here, and you won't be ordering your dishes by number.

The place will be bumping, be forewarned. There will be people waiting outside like they're in line for concert tickets for the Black Eyed Peas, people waiting inside, and a definite din. Diners lament the long wait times, sometimes lasting an hour. But the owners are quite nice and sympathetic to your plight, so at least you're not being ignored. The no reservations policy for parties under five is tough, but I think it's worth getting five pals together and making reservations on Open Table. Otherwise, try to get there between 5pm-6:30pm and the wait is slim to nonexistent. Or get toasted at the Latin American Club and then cruise over around 9:15 for a late dinner (they're open 'till 10pm on weekdays and 10:30pm on weekends)—you'll get full service as long as you walk in before closing time. More advice: two-tops tend to get seated more quickly than larger parties, and I recommend holding out for a table instead of eating at the bar if it looks slammed, otherwise you'll have a lot of drinks and jostling around you (bad combo). But here's the big news: they are going to open for lunch Tue-Fri. Soon. Genius.

Okay, wiggle your nose and snap your fingers, you're now seated on a wooden bench with some ethnic pillows strewn about. You're checking out the persimmon walls and soft glowing pendant lamps overhead, and sneaking peeks at your neighbor's food, which isn't hard to do because the tables are definitely quite close. "Uh, hi, mind if I try a bite of your chennai chicken?"

After waiting around in the chilly/foggy/rainy outside, warm up with a bowl of the rasam ($4), a thin broth of tomato, tamarind, and lentil, with bright and spicy and sour flavors all hitting at once, a total palate smacker. Whooosh. Another starter we tried is the onion pakora ($7), meaty ribbons of onion fried in chickpea batter with cilantro, curry leaves, and a kick. Tasty with a squeeze of lemon on top. Who needs calamari? (But there are some on the menu if you are craving tentacles).

We tasted the channa salad ($8), good ole chickpeas with a light lemony dressing—it was refreshing, but not really why I'm at DOSA. Release the crepes! For those of you who are popping your dosa cherry and having your very first one, then you should consider the benchmark of all dosas, the masala dosa ($9.50). What arrives is a thin savory crepe, stuffed with mashed potato, onion, and cashews—you tear off sections of it and do a one-two dunk; first into the accompanying sambar, a spiced lentil soup of sorts, then into one of the two sauce-like chutneys, a coconut or tomato version. We opted for the chatni masala ($10), a masala dosa with a ridge gourd chutney that had an earthy, deep heat. Hubba. Your dosa will soon be torn apart like a hapless victim in "When Animals Attack."

We deemed our paneer and peas uttapam ($9.50) a version of an Indian quesadilla. This open-faced dosa is made with farmer's cheese—loved the crispy sides. Dunk dunk. While the menu is predominantly vegetarian, the inner carnivore in me wanted to try the lamb curry ($16); it had a hearty and savory sauce of fennel, spices, caramelized onion, and tomato, amongst other ingredients. Made a nice couple with the basmati rice. Mind you, with all this food we had enough leftovers for an army.

Okay, dessert. So, it may be authentic, but the gulab jamoon ($5), a pair of fried milk balls soaking in a cardamom sugar syrup totally made my teeth hurt. My molars cried. I definitely preferred the rasmalai ($6), a fragrant dessert of sweet cheese patties in a cool cream. Rosy. Vegans will be happy with the coconut sorbet ($5). Happy vegan, is that an oxymoron? Kidding! I know some very happy vegans. Well, a couple. Anyway.

Here's the breakdown on the wine list: I enjoyed dinner over a couple of the Rieslings available by the glass ($8-$9 a glass); and there's also a Chenin Blanc from an Indian vintner, Sula, I'd like to check out. But sometimes there's nothing quite like a beer with a savory or spicy dish, so you have that option too. Servers are nice, and knowledgeable about the menu, which does take a little handholding since this style of cuisine is unfamiliar to many. The food at DOSA is fun to eat and share, it's made with good ingredients (organic/sustainable when possible), and the flavors are for the most part pleasing and uncommon. You can also ask them to crank up the spice, but I recommend trying the food at their level if it’s your first time. Enjoy exploring the menu, and good luck getting a table. If you want something cheap and "authentic," then I guess it's time for someone to get down to the 408.

 

Champagne Flight
Ritz-Carlton Bar
600 Stockton St.
Cross: California St.

415-773-6198
website

Wednesday evenings
6pm-9:30pm

$39 per person
(exclusive of tax and gratuity)

APRIL 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Anyone who knows me knows my love affair with bubbly. So when I heard the Ritz-Carlton was hosting a sparkling wine flight on Wednesday evenings in the ~RITZ BAR~ (formerly the Cigar Bar), I was all over it like a straight guy watching two chicks make out. It's a kustom (with a k) spot for a date—you and your sweetie can cozy up in one of the leather chairs in the intimate seating areas and enjoy having most of the bar to yourself (unless there's a group of conventioneers or Japanese businessmen getting buzzed in there). We had a sampling of three fantastic bubblies, including the slightly tropical Domaine Carneros by Taittinger, Le Reve, Carneros, 1999; Gosset, Grand Rose, Champagne, Brut, NV; and my favorite, the yeasty Henriot, Cuvee des Enchanteleurs, Champagne, Brut, 1995. Yup, I was feeling goooooooood.

But check this out: you get to keep your champers company with a rotating trio of amuse bouches from the Dining Room's Ron Siegel, like sea urchin pannacotta with lobster, avocado, and Tahitian vanilla oil, in addition to a trio of dessert bites, like the scrumptious chocolate Manjari caramel cake with milk chocolate ice cream, five-spice foam, hazelnut dentelle, and Maldon salt. Uh, heaven. It reminded me of my favorite fleur de sel chocolate caramel at Michael Recchiuti. The whole experience was classy and rather decadent, all for $39.

William Cross Wine Merchants
2253 Polk St.
Cross: Green St.

415-346-1314
Join the mailing list

Wednesdays, 6pm-9pm

Tastings $15

APRIL 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Another Wednesday boozy higher education option is at the friendly ~WILLIAM CROSS WINE MERCHANT~ on upper Polk Street. Every Wednesday evening, from 6pm-9pm, Steve Sherman enthusiastically leads a group of winos on a tasting through a country, a region, a style, or a single winery. I happily checked it out on an evening when he was showcasing wines he discovered during his most recent trip to Italy, mamma mia.

The tastings hover around $15, and I recommend you get there at 6pm sharp if you want to snag a seat at the bar, otherwise you get to mill around with fellow wine drinkers on your feet. The tastings last until 9pm or so. Then you can wobble down the street for a bite to eat at Tablespoon, or the new Nicky's Pizzeria. There's also Yabbie's right next door.

Coming up: this Wednesday, April 12, is Spanish wines; Wednesday, April 19, is Oregon wines.

 

Gourmet Dating
Sunday, April 23
6pm-8:30pm

Sur La Table
77 Maiden Lane
(off Union Square)
San Francisco

$75 per person

For more info

To purchase a ticket

APRIL 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Hello singles with good taste—it's time to potentially meet your next hottie while chopping up some spicy tomatillo salsa. ¡Sabrocito! ~GOURMET DATING~ is the latest from Parties That Cook, and is an upscale culinary event where singles learn cooking techniques, eat together, and meet other (hopefully cute and fun) singles. It's hands-on (that bodes well)—everyone is placed in coed cooking teams who work on a small plates menu together while drinking some vino. (That should help loosen things up.) Then you get to sit down and dine; after the event, copies of the recipes, digital photos, and e-mail address aliases are sent to the group.

You don't need cooking experience to attend. They ask that you bring a bottle of wine to share with your group, which comes out to a nice bottle per head if everyone brings one—just be careful with that Santoku knife. As an added bonus, you'll receive a 10% discount at the Sur La Table kitchen store.

Dining Out for Life
Thursday, April 27, 2006
website

Indigo Restaurant
678 McAllister
Cross: Gough St.

415-673-9353
website

5pm–9pm
Reservations recommended


APRIL 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO A good friend of mine just alerted me that ~DINING OUT FOR LIFE~ is at the end of this month, an annual fundraising event supporting the Stop AIDS Project. Through the generosity of participating restaurants and diners, the Stop AIDS Project receives 25% of total food sales on Thursday, April 27. Some establishments, such as Indigo Restaurant, have further chosen to donate 25% of alcohol sales on the 27th.

That evening, Indigo has put together "The Ultimate Wine Dinner," giving diners their choice of any appetizer, entrée, and dessert, and, all the wine you can drink (from a menu of 10 wine selections) for $49, plus tax and gratuity. (Specials can be included in the Ultimate Wine Dinner for $54 plus tax and gratuity.)

If you can't make it to Indigo, please don't let that stop you from participating in Dining Out for Life. You can search for participating restaurants in your area at the Dining Out for Life website. Dining Out for Life runs all day on the 27th, so if you're eating out for breakfast or lunch, pick a participating restaurant and support the Stop AIDS Project with your purchase. Stop AIDS Project uses these donations to support their mission of preventing the spread of HIV among gay, bisexual, and transgender men in San Francisco.

Meals on Wheels Gala
Sunday, May 21, 2006
5pm-11pm
Piers 30 and 32

website

$300 per person
($250 tax deductible)

Black tie optional

For tickets/info, call
415-920-1111 ext. 221, or email

APRIL 11, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO One of the Bay Area's coolest non-profits, Meals on Wheels, is known for delivering food to homebound seniors, and is holding their 19th annual ~STAR CHEFS AND VINTNERS GALA~ on Sunday, May 21, 2006. (Last year they delivered over 640,000 meals.) The event starts with champers, wine, and hors d' oeuvres from over 13 restaurants, and guests are then seated in a grand tent at Piers 30 and 32 for a special three-course dinner prepared by 24 chefs from the Bay Area. Restaurants include A16, Ame, Americano, Boulevard, The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, and Rubicon. Celebrated vintners include Paradigm, Rombauer, Grgich Hills Cellar, and Viader. There is a live auction over dinner, and then dessert and dancing afterwards. All proceeds benefit Meals On Wheels.

Here's how you can help if you can't afford to attend: you can volunteer. They need help with everything from event organization to staffing on the night of the event. Opportunities will include guest registration, staffing the silent and live auctions, and pouring dessert wines. If you are interested in volunteering, please send an email and they will give you the scoop on how to register for the Gala volunteer spots!