tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: seeing red.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the wino
in vino veritas
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals
the starlet
no photos please

 

OCTOBER 3, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Well then! Are we all tired of discussing the Michelin Guide yet? Last night's party was a swirl of our finest—there's David Kinch, oh look, there's Douglas Keane, and the ever-gracious Tusks, and Ravi from Boulevard, and… it was totally ADD theatre. Congrats to all the winners—I know many of you are happy the anticipation and the game of "spot the Michelin reviewer" are all finally over. I thought I should blow you all a kiss—so to that end, and in honor of national seafood month, this week I have included a write-up of Kiss Seafood in the regular. Or feel free to celebrate with a gin martini in the wino.

Party on,
~Marcia

the chatterbox

OCTOBER 3, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, the biggest hoopla on the industry's lips as of Monday morning was of course the release of the ~MICHELIN GUIDE'S~ ratings for San Francisco, which is scheduled to hit bookstores this Wednesday, 10/4 (check out the release event in the starlet). To recap, here are the ratings: the only three-star establishment is French Laundry, while Michael Mina, Aqua, Manresa (go 408!), and Cyrus (hurrah!) all got two stars. Now, for the one-stars in San Francisco: Fleur de Lys, Rubicon, Bushi-Tei, Quince, Range, Acquarello, La Folie, Masa's, Ritz-Carlton Dining Room, Gary Danko, and Fifth Floor. Other one-stars elsewhere in the area: Chez Panisse (Berkeley), Sushi-Ran (Sausalito), Chez TJ (Mountain View), Auberge du Soleil (Rutherford), Bistro Jeanty (Yountville), Bouchon (Yountville), La Toque (Rutherford), Terra (St. Helena), Dry Creek Kitchen (Healdsburg), Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant (Forestville), and K & L Bistro (Sebastopol).

My two cents: I'm really bummed the Ritz didn't get at least two stars, or Gary Danko—the cuisine and experience at both of those restaurants is mighty special. Some are expressing the same sentiment about Chez Panisse. And I really would have liked to see Aziza, Ame (too new?), Coi (also too new?), and Jardinière in there. While I'm very very very happy for Range, many are left asking why no Zuni, or A16, or Incanto? Delfina? Kokkari? And even though Slanted Door didn't earn a star, its popularity certainly won't be affected. Since it was the first release of the SF issue, it was definitely full of surprises, and omissions, for many of us local diners. "Discuss amongst yourselves."

Here's another whose cooking rates some stars in my book: ~SCOTT HOWARD~, one of the tastier places to eat around town, is celebrating their one-year anniversary. In honor of the occasion, a $31 prix-fixe menu will be offered Mon-Sat from 5:30pm-6:30pm, starting now until the end of the year. Gang, lemme tell ya, this meal will be one of the best deals in town! The special menu will highlight some Howard hits over the year, like the carrot soup, smoked trout with truffled egg salad, and pork shoulder with corn puree. As if the new menu with lower prices and bigger portions wasn't enough of a deal already. (And it is: mains like lamb loin or halibut are only $22.) Happy Birthday!

Some changes at another one of my faves, ~KOKKARI~: Jim Wimborough, the Chef de Cuisine, will be now working at Kokkari's sister restaurant, Evvia in Palo Alto, as Chef de Cuisine for the next six months or so, under the supervision of ~ERIK COSSELMON~, who will now be overseeing both kitchens and probably working down there 1-2 days a week. By the end of the year, Wimborough is being groomed to move into Evvia's Executive Chef position. In the meantime, taking Wimborough's place on the line at Kokkari will be Mario Ortega from Monterey, who was an Executive Sous Chef at Scala's for five years.

So the name change from Joey & Eddy's Seafood to ~PESCHERIA~ isn't the only change at Joseph Manzare's new seafood restaurant in Noe Valley: intended opening Chef Robert Leva left before the restaurant even opened. Manzare says, "He is a really talented guy, but wasn't an exact fit for what I saw for the food here." Manzare took an exhaustive tour of the seaside towns of Northern Italy, and has his eye on some simple and fresh seafood presentations. Manzare is currently holding it down—he also has a buddy, Andy Renggli, coming out from NYC next week to join him at the stoves for a bit. Renggli is Swiss trained, and the son of the famed Seppi Renggli, from the Four Seasons in New York and James Beard's fave chef. 1708 Church St., at 29th St., 415-647-3200.

Fans of ~SEAN CROWLEY~ (present company included) will be surprised to hear he is leaving Aqua after three-and-a-half years there as the Wine Director and Sommelier. His last day on the floor will be next Friday the 13th—while he doesn't have anything definitive lined up, he is interviewing at a few places (not restaurants—he wants to change things up a bit). It ends up Crowley was a competitive skater as a kid, but the extended time on the floor has been really hard on his hip—he hopes to travel a bit and take some time off. He is leaving on good terms, and will continue to work with Laurent Manrique, Charles Condy, and Emmanuel Kemiji on their wine project, ACVS (pronounced ah-cous). Go enjoy some Mai Tais, Sean!

Union Square's ~E&O TRADING COMPANY~ has experienced a chef switcheroo: Sharyl Seim (formerly of Kuleto's) was hired as the Executive Chef at E&O Trading Company (Maui, Honolulu, San Jose, Larkspur and SF locations) in February, and as of last week has been replaced with Morgan Jacobsen, who was hired as a six-month consultant.

Lots of changes with the La Suite project on the Embarcadero, which is opening tomorrow, October 3. First it was Opium, then it was Tantra, then Lotus, and now it is ~SUTRA~, as in the Kama, baby. (I am sure there were some other names that were considered as well). The opening date was also pushed back four times (this is not entirely a new thing in the industry). But another change-up is that Chef Mike Yakura, who was wooed over from Le Colonial from Jocelyn Bulow's Maktub Group (Chez Papa, Baraka, Chez Maman, Couleur Café), won't be involved with Sutra past the New Year. Taking over for Yakura will be Yo Matsuzaki, a sous from the nearby Ozumo. Matsuzaki was working doubles all week, doing tastings for Sutra's new menu and working shifts at Ozumo—lucky for him his last day at Ozumo was Saturday. I took a look at the space last night, and most traces of the brasserie are long gone. The vibe is definitely loungey, with many pieces and lighting designed to cast a soft glow and an Asian-exotique style that's sexy and textured. 100 Brannan St., at Embarcadero.

Instead, you'll find Yakura over at ~AURA~, the former Chez Maman in Bernal Heights—the sign will be going up this week for those of you in Bernal who went in expecting a hamburger but discovered satays and spring rolls instead. Yakura is a partner in the space along with Olivier Setian (the front manager) and Jocelyn Bulow. I already mentioned this project a while ago, but here are more definitive details: AURA's concept is basically a French-Asian bistro; Yakura will be giving everyday Asian dishes a twist, like portobello wontons stuffed with shiitake mushroom duxelles, served with a spicy roasted pepper dipping sauce ($6), and monkfish and calamari clay pot with sweet onions, Fresno chilies, and lemongrass-ginger caramel sauce ($15). Some bright Hawaiian-style dishes will also make their way on the menu, like steamed Kahlua pork wrapped in banana leaf with glass noodles and shiitake mushrooms ($13).

Yakura plans to rotate the menu each month, and he wants to push the flavor profile past the ubiquitous tuna tartare with some flavored oil. The new interior from John Michaud of Find in Hayes Valley, who is also the designer behind the Sutra project, has put in charcoal slate tile, and an amber fabric wall with black piping that mimics a shoji screen style. The boxy space will feature a number of square elements, and a glowing atmosphere from all the amber touches. 803 Cortland, at Ellsworth, 415-824-2674.

Come October, Kelly's Mission Rock will be transformed into ~THE BAYOU~, a Cajun and Creole restaurant and jazz lounge from a new management team, 40 Green Acres. The space is getting a petite facelift, with new floors, furniture, and a fresh paintjob. The team is Deborah Theodule of Crescent City Catering (she also owned the restaurant Craves in Willow Glen) and Glenn Ladet. Theodule is known for her authentic Cajun and Creole cooking—her family is from New Orleans, and her husband is Creole, so she says her cooking is a mix of those two styles. She makes everything from scratch and uses only fresh ingredients; she says, "My food really has that home-cooked taste that touches people in the soul." Sounds good to me. The grand opening is slated for October 21, and will then be open for lunch during the week (11:30am-3pm) and dinner Mon-Thu (5pm-9pm) and Fri-Sat (5pm-10pm). After dinner service wraps up, the dance floor will be opened up for R&B, jazz, and some oldies. Theodule intends for the restaurant to be attractive for a mature and upscale crowd, since there aren't a ton of places for folks in their 40s and 50s to dine and enjoy some entertainment in the city. But with her gumbo and jambalaya, I suspect some 30-somethings will be making their way over as well. 817 China Basin St. at Illinois St., 415-626-5335.

Nearby Dogpatch continues to blow up: a new El Salvadorean and Mexican place has opened called ~THE NEW SPOT~ in the former Arturo's space. This first-time venture is from Gilbert Cab, who is cooking up home-style dishes from his native Yucatan like cochinita pibil, plus pupusas, and even burritos (served on a plate, not taqueria-style in foil). The most expensive item on the menu is $8.75. Word. (No beer is offered, at the moment.) Open Mon-Sat 7am-7pm, 632 20th St. at 3rd St., 415-558-0556.

Just up the hill, ~LINGBA LOUNGE~ has reportedly done some remodeling—they have replaced the overhead planter boxes with lattice and some striking wicker flower chandeliers, the bar is shorter, and there are now some booths in the bar area. The wine list has been expanded, but the menu remains the same. 1469 18th St.

Okay, North Beach shenanigans report. Since La Felce has closed, some Irish construction workers who were freshening up the building decided to throw up a sign for ~SHAG~, a restaurant and bar. After some uproar from the locals, the name was taken down. Hilarious. 1570 Stockton St.

BBQ alert: a Tablehopper reader inquired about a new place opening up on Geary at 2nd Avenue—I took a walk over this weekend to check it out and even before I could see it I could smell it. ~ROADSIDE BBQ~ is a casual eatery serving up all kinds of meat, like baby back ribs, Texas brisket that's smoked for over 15 hours, smoked chicken, and Memphis pulled pork sandwiches. There are also stuffed potatoes, hand-cut fries, made-from-scratch pecan pie, and other things to make you fat. The décor is Americana roadside stop (yes, it jives with the name) and will be an easy spot to hit after one too many at Rohan and Alpha, which are each just barely a block away. Open daily 11:30am-10pm. 3751 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave., 415-221-7427.

Okay, you coffee phreeks: ~RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS~ in the Mission has switched over from Stumptown coffee to their own roast. (As if the café didn't smell amazing enough already.) Ritual's plan was to roast their own beans from the beginning, but they just weren't totally ready when they opened, so they had the beans shipped from Stumptown in the interim. Jeremy, one of the owners, is apprenticing with the Stumptown roaster, learning how to roast and source beans to perfection. So not only is an espresso from Ritual extra-delicious, but now it's going to be extra-fresh to boot. Super. 1026 Valencia St., 415-641-1024.

And fans of the fabulous ~PHILZ COFFEE~ will soon be able to get a cup in SOMA, their third location in the City. Philz should be opening in a couple months into a new building at the corner of 4th St. and Berry. The address is 900 4th St. or 201 Berry, depending upon which door you walk through. There is also potentially a location in Oakland in the works—all I can say is buckle up.

Small delay with the second ~SELLERS MARKETS~ location (595 Market St.)—it's looking more like October 30, and not October 2 as originally hoped. And ~WEIRD FISH~ (2193 Mission St. at 18th St.) in the Mission should be opening in a couple weeks, for those of you tracking that one. And the restaurant formerly known as Cozmo's Corner Grill (what, you thought I was gonna say Prince?) is reopening this Friday as ~CIRCA~. It will be open seven nights a week for dinner, from 5:30pm-11:00pm (last seating is at 10pm). The bar is open nightly until 2am. 2001 Chestnut St. at Fillmore St., 415-351-0175.

 
the regular

Kiss image

Kiss Seafood
1700 Laguna St.
Cross: Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 94115

415-474-2866

Tue-Sat 5:30pm-9:30pm
(Note: closed the first Sunday of each month.)

Omakase Menu $42 or $60

A la carte is available

 

OCTOBER 3, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO We all have restaurants we have been meaning to dine at foh-evah, but haven't quite gotten around to (I'll share a couple currently on my list: Café Jacqueline, Tommy Toy's [I wanna try the Executive Lunch!], and Manka's in Inverness). And up until a couple weeks ago, ~KISS SEAFOOD~ was at the top of my list. For someone who adores Japanese food as much as I do, I was a bit ashamed of how long it took for me to get around to dining at this establishment that is so locally beloved.

Kiss is situated on a sleepy corner that's a little bit removed from the Japantown hubbub, a corner where you'd expect to find a liquor store, or a dry cleaner, or some other little residential business, and not this Japanese jewel box. A pal reserved our table for five practically a month in advance; you really shouldn't try to "swing on by" because you'll just go home mad—this joint will most likely be all booked up, and it is tiny, like downright Lilliputian. Try thirteen seats: five at the sushi bar, and the remainder are at the three tables (two two-tops, and one with room for four). Next time, I am definitely going to park myself at the petite sushi bar, but for our little gathering, the table made much better sense.

The room is minimalist and almost Zen-spa soothing: white walls, a sushi counter and chairs in blonde wood, white tablecloths at the tables (nice soft tablecloths at that), quiet music (although no weird Kitaro-like strummings, thank God), and a lovely ikebana display of flowers near the entrance.

We opted for the omakase (chef's choice) dinner ($42 or $60), although you can also order a la carte. For your first time here, many would recommend placing yourself in the chef's caring hands—I'm glad we did.

One caveat for this particular write-up: while I did take some notes, ask questions, and snapped a couple pictures (say hokkigai!), this dinner was primarily about enjoying our table's conversation and the overall experience, so there are definitely some details amiss—I never even looked at the a la carte menu. I actually debated about writing this one up, but since I loved it, and everyone's experience will be different here anyway, I figured what the heck. I know some regulars out there have tried to keep this restaurant a secret, but after a recent review in the SF Weekly and the 75 reviews on Yelp, I'd say the secret is kind of out.

Naka-san (who is from Sapporo) started us off with a refreshing and textured root salad, and we then proceeded to a trio of seafood, served in a sectioned ceramic dish: a subtle tofu and uni dish seasoned with dashi, vinegar, and soy; smoky salmon eggs that popped sensationally in your mouth; and a third dish that escapes me: I recall tofu, apple, and sesame paste. I know, I'm fired, but all my attention was on the smoky ikura. It just thrilled me—I could have eaten piggy spoonfuls of it. It was satisfying the way popping bubble wrap is satisfying—this was an adult culinary version of that.

The glistening sashimi spread was a study in gradual shades of pink and cream, and included Thai snapper, baby striped bass (delightful), giant clam (a chewy presentation that I've never had before), toro (what's not to love), sweet prawn (amaebi), amberjack, and halibut (hirame). While the pieces of sashimi did not exhibit the most exacting cuts, everything tasted quite fresh. (For the record, Naka-san also has fresh-grated wasabi instead of the usual green paste, check it out.)

The layered custard of Napa cabbage, sweet onion, monkfish, and ginger was dense and mild—it came resting in a bowl of white miso sauce that was so lip-smackingly and deeply delicious we all were left desiring a spoon to finish it off, but alas, no waitress at that moment. So, hey, it's guilty secret time: we each took turns slurping it off the edge of the bowl when no one was looking—we each "blocked" each other while someone went in for a slurp. Yes, it was a sauce to drive you to poor table manners. Sorry Mom!

At this point we sent chef over his favorite beverage, a bottle of Asahi Black, a dark lager that I have never had before and am now a convert. Hallelujah. Praise be.

The custard-fest continued with a silky chawan mushi—a piping hot (and I mean hot, like hot as hell—I had to let that little puppy rest for at least five minutes) ceramic bowl of custardy delight, hiding surprises like ginkgo nuts and Thai snapper inside, and garnished with fresh Manila clams on top. Naka-san's dashi is really a delight.

The sushi arrived, a luxurious and tidy line-up of halibut, marinated tuna (in soy) that was superb, clam, wild salmon, and hamachi. We were definitely feeling good after our taste tests of some sakes (my favorite was the Kaiun, $6.50; the Essyu, $9.50, and the warm Takaisami, $6.50, also came recommended). The server is actually Naka-san's wife—while the language barrier can be a little daunting, she was charming and kind, and the timing of the entire meal was spot-on.

We finished with a woodsy mushroom miso soup, and then some (slightly overripe) cantaloupe cut into little bites was offered for dessert. While you won't waddle out of there, we were definitely sated—for the record, I was with a pack of four gents. Mind you, they were gay boys with good appetites, but not exactly hockey player appetites—if that was the case, they would probably have needed to follow up with a drive-thru somewhere. So if you're dining with someone whose alias is "The Pit," he might be left wanting a touch more sustenance.

The food was elegant, subtle, and personal—Naka-san does everything himself, which is downright impressive. While not cheap, it's a unique and thoughtful dining experience that merits the tariff. We savored the quiet and intimate room—it was a treat to be able to talk without shouting; this place would be a perfect location for an adventurous date. If you've had Kiss on your "must visit" list for some time, I say indulge the curiosity.

UPDATE:
From a tablehopper reader: FYI-- the waitress is not the chef's wife, although common misperception. Also, Naka-san is a shortened familiar name (Japanese formality and all--his full name is Nakagawa-san). Also, he loves Anchor Steam beer--even better than the Asahi black but he stopped stocking it because he says he drinks it too fast.

 

 
the starlet

Jacques Bezuidenhout

OCTOBER 3, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Jacques Bezuidenhout hails from South Africa, but has been working in San Francisco since 1988. While at The Irish Bank, Jacques created what many believe to be the most extensive Scotch Whisky selection in the Bay Area. He has been the opening consultant for multiple bars and restaurants, and has also served as Brand Ambassador for Plymouth Gin. He has been instrumental in organizing the San Francisco chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild, and is the current chairman. He is also the bar manager at Tres Agaves and Harry Denton's Starlight Room.

GIN

Gin, that great English tipple that either makes your mouth water thinking of a dry martini, or makes you shiver thinking of your old man's liquor cabinet. However you feel about gin, it has a rich history steeped in war, an epidemic, and royalty. And yes, it's making a comeback.

Gin, or genever as it was first known, came about in Holland as a medicine in the mid-1500s. Juniper berries were used to cure kidney ailments by infusing the berries with alcohol. Soon people discovered that this was not only an effective cure, but it had some very special side effects when consumed! They soon developed a taste for this fiery spirit and genever started to be commercially produced. It was nothing like the gin we know today, and like other spirits produced during this era, it was fiery and harsh.

English soldiers fighting in the 30-Year War in the Low Countries soon developed a taste for this genever, or gin as they called it. Learning from the Dutch, the English soldiers would have a little gin before going into battle to give them courage, so that's how we got the term "Dutch Courage."

It wasn't until England appointed a Dutch king to the throne that gin finally started to become popular. King William of Orange encouraged local distillation, and so the gin craze took off. Around the mid-1700s, England was in the midst of what you could call a gin epidemic. At the height of the epidemic, 11 million gallons of gin were being produced per year, and a lot of it was being consumed, to say the least. Finally, legislation brought the whole drunken mess to a sober halt. Slowly, the producers with a taste for quality started focusing on making drinkable gin, and at this time was the birth of gin as we know it today.

Gin is basically a neutral grain spirit (vodka) that is infused with juniper berries and various other botanicals, like lemon and orange peel, coriander, Angelica root and some more obscure ones, like cucumber and saffron. There aren't any restrictions on the selection of botanicals, except that the juniper berry has to be the predominant botanical.

There are four different styles of gin today: Dutch Gin, London Dry, Plymouth, and the new style gins. London Dry is the style that we are all most familiar with, and the brands we recognize with that style are Tanqueray, Bombay, and Beefeater. They tend to have a predominant juniper and citrusy flavor. Plymouth is a style in its own right—it has to be made in the town of Plymouth, England. It has a style that isn't so juniper-dominant and has some lovely citrus, spice, and floral characters. The new style gins are the ones with those funky characters coming into play, like cucumber and pear. The brands you may have seen in this style are Hendrick's and Beefeater Wet.

So where is gin today? It has certainly taken a back seat to vodka for the last 60-odd years. In its glory days, gin was the tipple of choice before, during, and after Prohibition. It was the heart and lifeblood of one of the most popular cocktails of all time, the martini. We even drank it in our Bloody Marys before vodka came along. (Vodka didn't get popular until the late fifties.) Thankfully today more bartenders are focusing on gin for their cocktails of choice. The consumer's palate is growing up, and they are looking for a little more flavor and complexity in their cocktails.

All this talk of gin has made me thirsty. The martini is still one of the best cocktails that has stood the test of time. Try it at home since it really is quite simple to make:

Gin Martini

Chill down a cocktail glass in your freezer. Take a pitcher or a mixing glass and add about 2-1/2 oz. of dry vermouth. (This is a little more than usual, but trust me, it works and it's delicious.) Then add about 2-1/2 oz. to 3 oz. of gin, depending upon the size of your cocktail glass. Fill with ice and stir for a good 30 seconds. Strain into the chilled cocktail glass. Take a lemon and peel a strip of the peel with a lemon peeler. Twist that lemon peel over the martini and watch those flavorful oils coat the top of your briskly cold martini. Enjoy a plate of olives on the side and watch your day become a whole lot better.

If you're a creative type, you can go to your local grocer or the farmer's market and pick up some seasonal fruit like watermelon, peaches, berries, mint, or whatever captures your fancy. Try integrating it with your gin of choice—you may be surprised at the delicious and refreshing outcome.

Cheers!

Jacques Bezuidenhout
Spirits Sangoma

 
the starlet

Michelin image

Michelin Guide Panel Discussion
Wed., October 4, 2006

Williams-Sonoma
Union Square
340 Post St.
3rd Floor
San Francisco

415-362-9450
website

6pm-8:30pm

free

OCTOBER 3, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO There will be a ~PANEL DISCUSSION AND BOOK SIGNING~ at Williams-Sonoma to celebrate the launch of the San Francisco Michelin Guide. Jean-Luc Naret, Director of the Michelin Guides, will be there for a discussion about the Michelin Guide 2007 San Francisco, Bay Area & Wine Country and insight into the history of the Guides, the star rating system and the latest trends in restaurants and food. Jean-Luc, as well as special guests (Sara Deseran, 7x7 Magazine Editor and Cookbook Author; Patricia Unterman, Restaurant Critic & Guidebook Author; Tori Ritchie. Culinary Correspondent & Cookbook Author; and Jan Newberry, San Francisco Magazine Food & Wine Editor) will be available after the discussion to sign copies of the Guide.

While this event is free, space is limited so arrive early to ensure admittance. The first 100 Williams-Sonoma customers to purchase a Michelin Guide will have a reserved seat for the panel discussion.

 
the starlet

OCTOBER 3, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Ben Stiller was in town filming his new movie at luella this week—he was reportedly very friendly to everyone, and was quite charmed by Rachel and Ben de Vries' 3 1/2-year-old daughter. Stiller spent much of his downtime playing "superheroes" and "dinner party" with her, building forts at the hostess stand and twirling on the sidewalk with her. Looks like little miss told Stiller she wanted to speak to the director about being in the movie, and landed a scene, awwwww. (Hey, if you want something, you just gotta ask, right?) Stiller even came by after the day of shooting to introduce the luella team to his dad, Jerry.

Giada De Laurentiis from the Food Network was sighted filming a segment at the Ferry Building Marketplace.

Tablehopper reader Brent was pleasantly surprised to be buying shallots alongside Tracy Chapman at Bi-Rite this past week.

Now, this is some serious regal action: the King of Sweden was at the Redwood Room last weekend.

A reader spaced on telling me, but suddenly remembered seeing Ted Allen from "Queer Eye" a couple weeks ago at the Sky Lounge at Medjool.