table of contents   This week's tablehopper: be cool, man.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite
the starlet
no photos please


JULY 25, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I know, I know, hotsie totsie, sweaty sweaty. This ex-L.A. girl with a Mediterranean heart has been thrilled with the heat, but I know some of you just wanna hide in a bathtub of cool water sipping a pitcher of lemonade with a couple cuties fanning you and wiping the sweat from your brow (on second thought, I wouldn't mind that one bit).

During a heat wave, dinner for some locals becomes a serious dilemma: uh, pizza, maybe not. You start asking yourself (or me) who has an A/C, and you rack your brain about where you can actually snag a table outside. As for me, when it's sweltering and it's time to eat, I can't think of a better hot-weather food than Vietnamese. I relished my early-evening supper at Pagolac after the Sustainable Seafood Salon on Sunday eve, so I thought I should share. I also wrote up one more Vietnamese joint I like, Yummy Yummy, (and it is) for you in the regular.

Also, new stuff happening in the Mission right now, which I'll mention in the chatterbox. But I have to say, if one more fab business opens on the 18th Street corridor, I am seriously gonna pitch a fit. I'd like to see a couple more on Divisadero, please! Please?

Lastly, a friend of mine was an angel and edited down my appearance on the "Dining Around Show with Gene Burns" on KGO radio, when GraceAnn Walden invited me on as a guest a few weeks back. If you didn't get a chance to catch it, you can download it and listen in here. Yay, it's commercial free! (You can just call me the chuckler.)

Your friend in food,

the chatterbox

JULY 25, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Here's a friendly little joint that will be opening soon in the Mission: ~WEIRD FISH~, a concept that will offer eco-friendly fish & chips (think tilapia or fresh catch of the day in Anchor Steam beer batter, or even wheat-free cornmeal batter) and seafood sandwiches (can you say oyster or catfish po' boys and blackened catfish?!), plus fish tacos, seafood cocktails, ceviche, and some vegetarian fare as well, including a tasty spinach salad. The eatery will only feature fish from sustainable environments, and will try to source all their ingredients and products from local producers. The project is from Peter Hood (St. Francis Fountain) and Timothy Holt, and is moving into the former location of Red Tiger Discount Liquor, right on the corner. Sounds like a major improvement to me. They do plan on offering local beer on tap, like Anchor Steam and Speakeasy ale, and some Nor Cal wines. The preview menu also has yam fries (with fryer oil converted to bio-diesel fuel). Way to go on the local, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and healthy focus. Weird Fish will be open daily from 11am-10pm, offering eat-in or take-out. I'll let you know when I can confirm an actual opening date. 2193 Mission St. at 18th St.

It's a shame this place isn't open now, but as some of you already know, Bi-Rite will be opening the ~BI-RITE CREAMERY~ come September or October, just in time for Indian summer. The house-made ice cream will be made in small batches using Straus Family Creamery organic dairy, plus organic eggs, and organic sugar, and sorbets and granitas will be made from local organic fruits. They'll even be making ice cream sandwiches and popsicles/paletas! The flavors just made me drool onto my computer: try salted caramel, roasted banana, prune Armagnac, Meyer lemon, double ginger, or toasted almond with cherries, and even Pixie tangerine or pluot sorbet. I hope it opens up soon, like, lickety split! 3692 18th Street at Dolores St.

Chatted with Mike Yakura, formerly the Executive Chef of Le Colonial (for almost three years). He's been working with Jocelyn Bulow on the ~FORMER LA SUITE SPACE~ on the Embarcadero, which is morphing into a completely new concept for Bulow's Maktub portfolio: try Asian bistrot. (Quite a departure from the Chez Maman/Papa format.) Yakura stressed the restaurant is being designed to be versatile enough to really appeal to the neighborhood, from the workers by day to the residents by night. They are designing it to be lunch-friendly, and a destination for brunch on the weekends. The menu will feature an array of dishes built to share (none over $20), spanning Japanese and Vietnamese influences, with some hints of Chinese, Korean, and Thai. I used to work in that 'hood, and there really isn't much Asian in the area, truth be told. The space is also being drastically altered, with the brasserie styling and wainscoting being taken out, and the front dining area is being converted to a lounge area that will be a fun and friendly space to hang out, while the back area will be reserved for dining. The look will feature Asian sleek styling, with hardwood floors, and will be taking advantage of the wonderful alfresco outdoor space they have. Perhaps it'll be the third in the big patio players (MarketBar, Americano) on the Embarcadero. Expect a September 10 opening (with a name too, hopefully). It will be open continuously from 11am-11pm, and later on the weekends. 100 Brannan St. at the Embarcadero.

A couple new wine bars have popped up around town: first there's the petite ~VINOROSSO~ in Bernal Heights, an enoteca with Italian and some Cali wines and some tasty formaggi and other nibbles to match, plus a couple heartier dishes like pasta and some salads. (629 Cortland Ave. at Anderson St., 415-647-1268.) And yes, whaddya know, another new place in the Mission: ~PAREA WINE BAR~, which moved into the old Oxygen Sushi Bar space on Valencia. I was whizzing by on my bike and saw bright shades of blue, red, and yellow—muy Andalucia. But the eats are actually going to be Greek-focused (one of the owners is Greek). Looks cute, check it out! 795 Valencia St., at 19th St. (I know, you thought I was gonna say 18th Street, but no, it's one block away.)

the regular

Pagolac image

655 Larkin St.
Cross: Ellis St.
San Francisco, CA 94109


Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm
Closed Monday

Apps $4.70
Entrées $5.95-$15.95
Dessert $2.25-$3.50

Cash only

JULY 25, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO About seven years ago, for about a year, a good friend of mine, her husband, and I embarked on a monthly "totally foreign food" outing, seeking out cuisines and dishes we'd never tried before. In our meanderings, we tried Cambodian, Taiwanese hot pot, Afghan, Ethiopian… and if it wasn't for ~PAGOLAC'S~ Bò 7 Mon ("Seven Flavors of Beef" dinner, a meal that is typically for special occasions), I probably wouldn't have discovered this gem of a restaurant in the "Little Saigon" stretch of Larkin in the TL.

It's been years since I've actually had Pagolac's Bò 7 Mon, which everyone should try at least once, special occasion or not—and it's not as heavy as it sounds. For $15 or so, you'll feast on beef salad, beef skewers, and have fun cooking thin slices of yes, beef, at your table in a little pot and on a grill, wrapping up the tender morsels in rice paper with an array of vegetables, and then dunking your self-made mini-Vietnamese burrito into a bowl of nuoc mam cham, the traditional dunking sauce of fish sauce, lemon, and pickled carrot.

I remember my preferred dish of the seven was the ground beef bundles wrapped in smoky wild pepper leaves and then grilled on a skewer. Lucky for all of us, you can order just the beef rolls: banh hoi bo la lot ($8), and eight plump little bundles resting on small piles of delicate vermicelli noodles will appear, topped with a scattering of scallion and ground peanuts, plus the classic accompanying plate piled high with lettuce, cucumber, mint, bean sprouts, daikon, carrot, and my favorite, rau rum (Vietnamese coriander). Plus there's no bottle of "the rooster" on the table—Pagolac makes their own house-style of sriracha. It is spicy, babies. Hubba.

Granted, a number of honkies (myself included) have caught on to Pagolac, so you'll see more than a few tables of folks making the messiest rice paper bundles ever. I am sure my technique is pretty abysmal as well, but here's what I've learned: first briefly dip one sheet of round rice paper into the bowl of warm water (once your water cools off, they'll replace it with more hot water). Just place a small amount of veggies and meat and noodles in the middle (don't forget the hot sauce), and then you can wrap it up nicely on all four sides. When wrapping up your bundle, don't treat the rice paper like a taco, treat it like a burrito. (I am sure you've seen one wrapped before.) You can then wrap it further with a piece of lettuce, and then dunk it into the bowl of nuoc mam cham, and then go chomp chomp. Or you can forgo the rice wrapper and just wrap the goodies up in the lettuce leaves, almost Korean-style. Or rice wrapper and no lettuce. Whatever, it's your food—go wild. I even made some vegetarian rolls at the table. Kuh-razy!

Speaking of crazy, I swear, I just get all nut-bar for Vietnamese food. I love it long time. So fresh, so flavorful. And you get stinky fingers that you'll forget about until later on in the evening when you go to rub your nose or brush your teeth and you'll be like "huh wah?" "Oh, yeah. Fish sauce." And just in case beef is not your thing, the shrimp balls with sugarcane are another winning filling. ($8.95) You can thank me later.

It's easy to get sidetracked with the multitude of items on the menu—my favorite cheap dinner is the bun cha gio ($5.95), crispy imperial rolls served over a bowl of vermicelli noodles with chopped lettuce, cucumber, sprouts, mint, Vietnamese coriander, and the nuoc cham mam. So refreshing—it's such a delightfully simple dinner. Or you can also bust out and get a combo of imperial rolls plus BBQ pork, or chicken, or beef, or shrimp, for only $6.25. I could eat this dish four nights a week, I swear. Pork on Tuesday, chicken on Wednesday… you get the idea.

My dinner on this past balmy Sunday evening was divine: I was eating an early supper, sitting by the front door catching the beginnings of the evening breeze, with mellow downtempo playing in the background. The servers are the nicest people ever—they will totally charm you. Not only is it great service, but they have a real sense of hospitality.

Not too long ago, Pagolac was suddenly closed for a while. I freaked out—I was like, what the hell, don't leave me! I was having serious abandonment issues. But the reason behind the closure is quite sad: it ends up the sweet mother who I'd see making spring rolls in the kitchen was in a tragic accident, and passed on. So her children and their cousins closed up shop for a while, and then decided to remodel the place a bit (it's been open since 1991) and keep the business going.

When Pagolac reopened, it had a whole new look, updated with cinnabar Chinese-style wooden chairs, glass-topped wood tables, two-tone walls, and bamboo touches. Since the sons already have day jobs, they are only open for dinner—it's totally a family affair. So while I miss the restaurant being open during the day, I'm just grateful they're keeping the family business going. There are a few other Vietnamese places I'm really into on Larkin, but this one definitely has heart.

Yummy Yummy image

Yummy Yummy
1015 Irving St.
Cross: 11th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122

Wed-Mon 10am-9:30pm
Closed Tuesday

Apps $6.50-$8.75
Entrées $6.25-$17.95

JULY 25, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO So a while back, when I was chatting with Sante Salvoni about his departure from the Slow Club, we got to talking about our favorite restaurants in the City. (It happens.) I have him to thank for turning me on to the quirky ~YUMMY YUMMY~ for Vietnamese food out in the Avenues. You will seriously feast here, and for total peanuts. Don't let the crazy fuchsia color scheme and odd décor deter you—and if it does, then you have no sense of humor.

So let's get you started. It's hard to say no to imperial rolls ($5.50), and these definitely passed my very exacting crispy/savory/scrumptious test. They come with lettuce, vermicelli, and good ole fish sauce, hello. I've been told the pho here is a little disappointing, and others seem to dig it; as for me, I only go to Turtle Tower for pho (or maybe PPQ Pho Phu Quoc Vietnamese out near 19th if I'm way out in those parts)—I just get disappointed anywhere else.

The dish Yummy x 2 totally rocks is the goi bo ($6.50), the raw sliced beef salad with mint, onion, and peanuts, plus a sprinkling of crispy onion bits. You can squirt a little lemon on top, but I prefer the fish sauce drizzle (a patented move, that). Or add both, make it a party.

We also dug into the com ga quay chao (five-spice chicken) ($6.50), which comes pounded flat. Take THAT. It's one of their specialties, so if you're into chicken, have at it. You can also order it with a fried egg on top. We decided to ignore the garnish of pathetically out-of-season tomato. It makes me wonder, why even bother to put it on the plate? Oh wait, I said we ignored it, and here I am, talking about it.

So here's where the serious danger of the massive array of all this cheap food comes in: order overload. We also tucked into some mon an banh hoi, DIY grilled meat/rice paper/vermicelli/veggie wraps. We opted for the pork ($11.25), which was fine, but next time I'm gonna get a posse to return with me and go for the combo grilled plate ($17.95), with chicken, pork, beef, and the sugarcane shrimp and discover which meat they really do best.

Servers are sweet (like, really super sweet) and swift, the place is packed (although not as much as the delicious San Tung next door—more on that joint another day) and you get out of there for a song (not even an expensive pop song, perhaps more like a bootleg). You'll also probably leave with a pile of leftovers, even after stuffing yourself like a little piggy. I have barely even scratched the surface of the rather extensive menu (eel anyone?), so if any of you make it out there (or is a regular), please report back on what roxx you! I'd love to know what are their other golden children on the menu. (I don't literally mean children, of course.)

the lush

Naughty toile image

1108 Market St.
Cross: 7th St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

JULY 25, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO A couple chaps (Brandon McKee and Neej Gore) from Element Lounge will be opening ~ETIQUETTE~ by December or January, 2007, in the Renoir Hotel on Market St. The former hotel bar, plus an ice cream shop and barbershop had their walls knocked down and are being converted into a lounge space that will have room for 175 or so. The focus will be on happy hour (I've been guilty of that myself), plus creative cocktails, seven nights a week. The plan is to have an international music format since the Renoir is one of the most international hotels in the city, and then to really pump up the jams Thursday-Saturday, with more of a hip-hop/mash-up format like what they're doing at Element Lounge.

So, about that name—the concept is to play upon the duality (and tension) between how you should act, versus what happens after you have a couple cocktails, and instinct seems to take over… you all know what I'm talking about: beer goggles, or as I prefer, Champagne spectacles. The look will have a baroque/rococo fussy influence at first glance, but open closer inspection, expect to find some suggestive undertones. Goodness. The decay of social order is what they're going to be playing with—what that will translate to visually be revealed once they open. The first thing that came to mind for me was this naughty toile. I guess we'll have to wait and see. The space is being overseen by Triphora Design who also designed and constructed everything by hand at Element Lounge. There will also be bottle service and VIP rooms for the high(er) rollers. Let the shenanigans begin.

the socialite

Frisson image

First Thursday
August 3, 2006


Anniversary Dinner/
Little Black Dress

Friday, August 4

$85 per person

244 Jackson St.
b/w Battery and Front
San Francisco, CA 94111


JULY 25, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO SF's sexiest restaurant, ~FRISSON~, (well, in my book—I can always send visiting Manhattanites there and not feel like our city is completely provincial) is continuing their First Thursday series on August 3, while Thursday, August 4, commemorates the restaurant's 2nd anniversary (happy birfday). Here are the deets of the double play:

featuring a new art installation on the first Thursday
of every month
August Installation: "de-SERVING ARTISTS"

Two art installations by local bartender Michael Krouse and server extraordinaire Carolynn Haybu

Complimentary "staff meal," PBR and Fernet Branca in the lounge

Frisson's 2nd Anniversary Party

~ Featuring ~
a Champagne reception
Five-course menu with spirit pairings

Guests of Frisson's Fling are invited to
the after party starting at 10 pm

Reservations required
Cocktail attire


Saturday, July 29, 2006
Wine Tasting Basics

1666 Market St.
Cross: Gough St.
San Francisco, CA



To sign up, email CAV

JULY 25, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, so how much have you been boozing it up at ~CAV~? Hopefully quite a bit. For those of you who are perhaps a little intimidated by the monster list there (you shouldn't be—everyone is rather helpful), perhaps a wine tasting basics class is what you need? You'll definitely be in good hands. Here's the write-up from their monthly wine classes and tastings newsletter:

Wine Tasting: basics, basics, basics - What are the differences between acid and tannin, fruity and sweet, old world and new world? What does full-bodied mean? This class will cover all the basic precepts of wine tasting and what you need to know in order to be able to figure out what you like and how to describe a wine. No experience required. (This class will be taught by General Manager, Tadd Cortell.)

the starlet

JULY 25, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Funny, I got TWO Barry Bonds sightings this week. Looks like someone was out on the town as much as yours truly. Bonds was having a good time with some friends at Harry Denton's Starlight Room last week—this was the night BEFORE his potential indictment, mind you. He seemed to be having a great time—no word if one of their "Million Dollar Cocktails" was responsible. And then Bonds was at Myth on Saturday after the Giants game, drinking some DuMOL Syrah, and hanging out with a couple bodyguards and old high school pals, from Serra High.