tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: count to three.
the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the starlet
no photos please

 

MAY 9 , 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO The tablehopper is back, nicely tanned and already looking forward to a return trip to Palm Springs. Thanks to all of you who wrote in tips about where to go! Expect a "resort report" one of these days… for now, I need to get you caught up on some local gossip and new places to go around town.

Ciao,
~Marcia
 

the chatterbox

MAY 9, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO So you already know what a fan I am of ~DESTINO~. And now James Schenk is going to start Sunday brunch, because he's smart like that. The whole thing kicks in on Mother's Day, which is Sunday, May 14th (you didn't forget, did you?). They'll have items like a caprese empanada, filled with basil, tomato, and mozzarella cheese, and crepes de dulce de leche, stuffed with berries and crème, plus new cocktails custom-made for brunch (although it would be hard for me to turn down one of their Ramos Fizzes). Brunch is on Sundays, 11:30am-2pm.

~CAMPTON PLACE~ now has a pastry chef to be mighty proud of: Boris Portnoy from Winterland. I've been impressed with his creations since the very beginning at Winterland when I tried his French toast and olive oil ice cream, and look forward to the magic he'll create at Campton Place. Portnoy originally worked with Winterland's chef, Vernon Morales, at Salt in Philadelphia, and then went to Spain to work in a restaurant outside of San Sebastian, Restaurant Mugaritz, under renowned chef Andoni Anduliz. He then returned to the U.S., went to New York to be the opening pastry chef at Cru, with chef Shea Gallante, and then was reunited with Morales here in SF. He was named a Rising Star Pastry Chef by StarChefs.com in 2005.

The Mission continues to crank: on May 22, ~SENSES RESTAURANT~ will open in the former Watercress Restaurant space. The same owners of Watercress (and Bistro Annex), Teo Kridech and his wife Melanie, have partnered up with Bruno Dennis, the bar manager of Plouf for five years. This new neighborhood spot will be serving contemporary cuisine with French influences and seasonal ingredients, with fancy apps like lobster cassoulette or a mascarpone soufflé, and entrées like filet of sole roulade and chicken jambonet (not to be confused with JonBenet), stuffed with truffle and endive puree. I know, rather upscale for the Mission. And for dessert, you can indulge in a trio of soufflé glace or blanc manger lavender, a rather old-school dish I am surprised to see. Color me curious. There will also be a tasting menu. (Can you think of any offered in the Mission? I couldn't.) So just who will be cranking out these creations? The executive chef is 29-year-old Sophiane Benouda, who has trained and worked with the renowned chef Paul Bocuse for three years, and was a chef at the Michelin-rated French restaurant, Chez Alain. Sous chef Laurent Guillaume and pastry chef Nicolas DeLaroque will also be in the kitchen. Yes, some serious Frenchie chops. Décor is courtesy of Dava Guntmiller, who has also designed Limon and Circolo. The space will be chic yet comfortable, and will include palm, coconut, and bamboo wood accents, dark sand-colored cork flooring, and for that Mission flair, work by local artists will be displayed on the walls. 1152 Valencia Street, between 22nd and 23rd Streets. Dinner nightly, Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm, and Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm. www.sfsenses.com (eventually), 415-648-6000.

At last, I was able to track down SOME news about the long-dark ~BRUNO'S~: it ends up the folks from Harry's Bar on Fillmore (Rick Howard and George Karas) bought it a year ago, and are renovating the space and bringing it up to code. The vibe will be less retro (I heard the booths had to be taken out), but the loungey vibe will still prevail (the Cork Club remains). They've put in a fireplace, and the VIP room upstairs has been expanded. The focus will be more on the entertainment/live music and the bar, and less on formal dining. They'll offer a casual dining format that is moderately priced, with primarily American-style food with an Italian emphasis, and late-night dining will be offered. They are keen to rebuild the biz, and promised to let me know when an opening date has been set, and said they will then give me more details about the food, and the space. For now, this is all she wrote!

The Chron reported a couple weeks back that ~BISTRO 1689~ will be opening this month in the old Chinese Long Island Restaurant space in Noe Valley. The former chef of Bruno's, Chris Pastena, has actually been consulting on the recipes and the menu, but isn't the confirmed chef. Expect tasty French bistro options, like mussels with tarragon white wine, and some higher-end items, like foie gras pâté, a caviar plate, and filet with béarnaise. Apps will come in around $7-10, and entrées will hover around $18-20 (with a little more for the fancier items). The intimate space (45 seats) features a wine bar (heavy on the French) and will be open nightly for dinner. 1689 Church St.

I had a free hour a couple weeks back while I was downtown and decided to enjoy the sun at the new ~SAMOVAR TEA LOUNGE~ at Yerba Buena Gardens. I have to say, it's a rather unique view in the city—I loved sitting up that extra story (where the fountains are), just under the blooming wisteria. Great spot to meet up with a friend as the coming months warm up. A relaxing city escape for sure. Check it out.

Here's an update on a big project that's been brewing: opening May 17, in the old Max's Diner space on Third will be the elegant and enchanting ~BONG SU RESTAURANT & LOUNGE~. It will serve contemporary Vietnamese cuisine (bong su is Vietnamese for plumeria flower) and the cocktails are going to be infused and enhanced with Asian exotica ingredients. The space is going to be seriously gorg; muy chic and sleek, courtesy of Eric Engstrom of the Engstrom Group. There will be a special booth in the back with a private curtain for the high rollers (it runs at a $1,000 minimum). Spiffy designer Calvin Tran designed the waitstaff's uniforms. You might recognize the owners, Anne Le and Tammy Huyhn, from Tamarine in Palo Alto. Expect an emphasis on wine, with all kinds of unique pairing possibilities offered. Here's my favorite detail: in the men's room, Vietnamese pick-up lines will be playing. "Hey G.I., love you long time!?" (Sorry, that is so wrong. Sometimes I can't help myself.) Sign up on their mailing list (link is above) to keep posted on all their upcoming events and news. 311 3rd St. at Folsom Street, San Francisco, 415-536-5800.

A tablehopper reader gave me the heads up that the owners of El Metate, Francisco Hernandez and David Carreno, will be expanding to a closed liquor store next door and opening a sandwich shop and market in the next month or so. It will be called ~LA TIENDITA EL METATE~ and you'll be able to pick up tasty tortas, fresh produce, and some Mexican products. Many vegetarians adore El Metate's veggie burritos and tacos that feature veggies (carrot, broccoli, zucchini) sautéed to order, but their fish tacos are the biggest seller. El Metate is at 2406 Bryant St. at 22nd St., 415-641-7209.

 
fresh meat

Terzo image

Terzo
3011 Steiner St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
Cross: Union St.

415-441-3200
website

Mon–Fri 5:30pm–11pm
Sat 5:30pm–midnight
Sun 5:30pm–11pm

Small plates $7-$13
Desserts $7.50

MAY 9, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I know, can you believe it? Another small plates restaurant. But I have to say, ~TERZO~ is really going to make some people happy. If you make enough moolah to afford the necessary 3-4 small plates per person, then you're really going to dig it. Even if you don't have enough cash for a full spread, you can still sit at the bar, order a plate or two of tasties over a glass of wine, and not feel like a broke-ass outsider watching everyone throw back flutes of Billecart-Salmon Rose while you drink tap water.

The name means third, and refers to the concept of the "third place"—it's not home, and it's not work: it's that place where you gather with friends and neighbors. (No, not a dive bar at 11am on a Wednesday.) I'd say the zinc bar area and the large communal table certainly promote that idea. And it's open pretty darned late for this town that likes to shut down at 10pm. I also think a lot of guys will be pleased with the female-to-male ratio. The night I went it was a chick-fest in there. The communal table was like a convention of thoroughbreds in True Religions.

When you first arrive, you'll see some tables out front, which are going to be coveted seats in the summer. Which will be October, love our city. Inside, local architect Cass Calder Smith has totally transformed the former Pane e Vino space: it's post-modern rustic hip, with tables that feature a groove on each side where the small tablecloth edges (or a large cloth napkin) can tuck in—totally an innovative touch. High-backed deep brown banquettes line the back wall, with trios of lights above (look for the threes in there—like the windows). The lighting is flattering, and the space has a nice smell of new furnishings and a fireplace. Downtempo-samba-electronica is on the soundsystem, and the crowd supplies the rest of the din. Some slightly tipsy folks will probably walk into themselves in the large mirror near the bar—don't let it happen to you.

Executive chef Mark Gordon's Cal-Med-Ital menu features about 16 small plates, with descriptions that are rarely more than five words, so you'll be seeing some ingredients you might not recognize. Like tesa. Or charmoula. Just ask—it's important for your education. The menu is a fun globetrot through the Mediterranean, with a few touches of Morocco here and Greece there. Overall, the food isn't necessarily the prettiest to look at, but in the end, it's about what's on the fork. It's like a girl "with a good personality."

Some favorites: oh jeez, the boudin blanc ($12) was the picture of sensuous and creamy and succulent. Spectacular, really. It's what happens when you sauté onions in butter, and then add some chicken, pork, bread, cream, coriander, nutmeg and pork fat and bind it all up like a sausage that has the delicacy of a quenelle. Ends up the chef's wife, Lori Podraza, makes it. Mad props. Also loved the hot steamed clams ($11), which were perfectly cooked (i.e. not little pieces of chewed gum stuck in a shell) with a nice smokiness of pimentón in a broth that begs for bread dunking long after the grilled toasts are done. Hey, wait a minute, where is the bread? I dunno. You'll have to ask your server.

Vegetarians will be fired up on the number of options, like the meaty roasted oyster mushrooms ($9) inspired by Sicily, with garlic, parsely, and olive oil. The ricotta and green garlic soufflé ($9) had a pleasing fluffy texture, but I couldn't really detect the green garlic. The flavors of the fennel a la Grecque ($8) were right up my alley: a hearty portion of soft fennel that had been slowly cooked for an hour or so, served with green and black olives and a soft-boiled egg, and a touch too much olive oil, delicious.

There's also the Sao Jorge ($8)—(in case you were wondering, it's a slightly tangy cow's milk cheese) thinly sliced and served with celery and Medjool dates. It's tasty, but you really have to get all three items together in a fandango on your fork for the flavor combo to really sing. Folks are reportedly loving the hummus ($7) with house made pita—I personally can't vouch for it since I didn't order it, but someone said there's a party somewhere.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled meat programming. Roasted marrowbones ($10). Bold thing to put on a Marina/Union Street menu. They come with a crostini tucked inside the top of the bone and a little bit of seasoned salt on the side. I'm normally into 'em (I love the version that was/is at La Suite) but these were a touch oily and seeped out on the plate. I wasn't quite thrilled. My dining partner loved them. I just can't imagine the neighborhood fillies getting all crazy for them, marrow spoons in hand, fighting over the last fatty scoop.

Now, the beautifully pink slices of roasted Niman Ranch beef ($13) draped on perfectly textured rosemary potatoes was worth the price tag—but the petite piece of halibut (also $13) didn't quite charm me. It was served on a bed of garbanzos that were under-seasoned and undercooked, and a romesco that was a touch too powerful for the fish. I was told the halibut is actually supposed to be served with favas once they're in season, so I'd give the fish another chance.

Don't be confused by the gnocchi alla romana ($10)—instead of gnocchi, what arrives is one big gnoccho (that would be singular) in an earthenware dish. It's like a fluffy polenta soufflé/cake, rich with parmesan cheese and milk and egg and butter resting in a hearty beef ragu with a tease of cinnamon. It was so delicious with the Beaujolais Fleurie, Trenel Fils "Clos des Moriers" 2004. Another slightly funky but tasty dish is the chicken spiedini ($10)—pieces of chicken that are deceivingly juicy arrive on two skewers with chunks of grilled bread. The charred bread and skewer action was initially a little odd to me, but the flavors totally won me over.

The wine list features some winners—not cheap, mind you. But a lot wines you'll want to dig into. I loved the Burgundy we ordered—the Saint Aubin, En Remilly, Chateau de Puligny, 2003. And for $75, that puppy delivered. I also tasted the Pinotage from Fort Ross, Sonoma Coast, 2002—it was peppery and powerful. $15 a glass, that one. Actually, a number are available by the glass (many at $10 and above) but like I said, this is not the best place for those trying to adhere to a budget, but fun for those who don't have to look too hard at what follows the dollar symbol.

Desserts are all $7.50, and range from a delightfully dense gateau Victoire (where was the raspberry? I think it was served with cherries instead, but I was getting a little tipsy by this point) with a nice dollop of crème chantilly. And I hate to say this, it sounds sooooo clichéd, but the tiramisu was totally delicious. I normally won't even go near the stuff, I have outlawed it years ago, oh, the horrible things so many restaurants have done to this dessert. But this version was fluffy and boozy and silky. Complimenti. Cheesehounds, attack the Brillat Savarin (it's from the Cheeseworks in Berkeley) and has a mighty fine rind. For the less decadent, the grapefruit sorbet and lime sorbet are nicely tangy. Now excuse me while I go walk up the damned hill and try to burn off that boudin blanc on my way back to the Western Addition.

 
the socialite

Charles Chocolates logo

Charles Chocolates
3527 California St.
cross: Locust

website

Open daily 10am-7pm

MAY 9, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Yo, chocoholics. Every Saturday from 10am-7pm you can taste some chocolates from ~CHARLES CHOCOLATES~, an artisan chocolatier who has opened up a temporary shop in Laurel Heights until May 27. They even have a PMS chocolates selection. All made with premium ingredients and by hand. They're as cute as they are delicious.

Fog City News image

Fog City News
455 Market St. (between First and Fremont)

415-543-7400
website

Mon–Fri 8am-6pm
Open first Saturdays 11am–5pm


MAY 9, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO And then did you know about the chocolate tastings at ~FOG CITY NEWS~? They'll be hosting some in-store visits by Bay Area chocolatiers Richard Donnelly of Donnelly Chocolates of Santa Cruz, Michael Mischer of Michael Mischer Chocolates of Oakland (Michael will be sampling his newest item chocolate-covered jalapeño potato chips!), and Lloyd Martin of Chocolate Visions in Scotts Valley (the Chocolate Visions flavors include the Omega which combines Santa Cruz olive oil, bittersweet chocolate and fleur de sel from Big Sur and the Maya which features unrefined Mexican sugar, cream, butter and dark rum—rhymes with yum). The chocolatiers will talk about the art of chocolate, answer questions, and offer samples of their creations. Their custom truffle collections specially created for Fog City News will be available for pre-order.

Richard Donnelly, Thursday May 4th, 12 noon–2pm
Donnelly Chocolates of Santa Cruz
Michael Mischer, Friday, May 5th, 12 noon–2pm
Michael Mischer Chocolates of Oakland
Lloyd Martin, Wednesday, May 10th, 12 noon–2pm
Chocolate Visions of Santa Cruz

Harry Denton's Starlight Room

Harry Denton's Starlight Room
Sir Francis Drake Hotel
450 Powell St.
21st floor

Reservations:
415-395-8595

Seatings are 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm

$30 buffet-style brunch (excludes beverages)

MAY 9, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Since I'm no longer throwing my oh-so-wrong Sunday brunch party, +Rehab+ with my pal Ryan, it's high time we see a new option for Sunday shenanigans. Ends up Harry Denton and Donna Sachet (the former "Miss Gay San Francisco" and "Empress of the City") are starting a weekly drag performance brunch at Harry Denton's Starlight Room called ~SUNDAY'S A DRAG~. So you can have some drag queen throw you some shade when you eat your eggs and steal your Bloody Mary when you're not looking. The drag mayhem, which means boas and wigs and disorderly behavior, begins on Sunday, May 21.

A salute to old-fashioned variety shows, Denton and Sachet are hoping their drag show brunch will revive the spirit of San Francisco's long-running and legendary Finocchio's, a nightclub known for its nightly drag shows. There will be a buffet and two seatings for the 45-minute performances, at 11am and then 2pm. The first seating at 11am will include a made-to-order omelet station and brioche French toast a la Denton while the second seating at 2pm features roasted prime rib carved to order and The Starlight Room Caesar salad. Each buffet will feature cedar-plank smoked fish, house-baked breads and fresh pastries, plus fresh juices, bagels, and seasonal fresh fruit.

 
the socialite

MAY 9, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Looks like Miss Husky Voice, aka Kathy Griffin, was at Asia de Cuba last week. And the aptly named Martin Short was also seen there. Not at the same time, however. That would be just waaaaaaaay too much star comedian power for SF to handle. Har.