tablehopper
table of contents   This week's tablehopper: the aftermath.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the socialite
shindigs/feasts/festivals

the starlet
no photos please


 

NOVEMBER 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Oh man, guess who had too much bourbon last night? And what is up with these bourbon Mondays? It's gotta stop.

So, unlike your faithful tablehopper, this week's column is a little leaner than usual. I was up in Washington for five days, enjoying smoked turkey, sweet potato soufflé, Aunt Patti's fab pumpkin pie (especially good after a night of drinking with the cousins), and Uncle Jerry's cheesecake without compare. My dad even made some homemade pasta one night. Oh yeah, and my groovy grandma made her killer Eggs Benedict for everyone one morning. Like, 22 people. Yup, it's how we roll in my family. Literally.

Cheers,
~Marcia

the chatterbox

NOVEMBER 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I reported a couple weeks back that Frisco Fish & Chips in North Beach bit the (saw)dust… well, check out who is moving in! How about the ~NORTH BEACH LOBSTER SHACK~? Yup, you 650-savvy folks will note this is a second location for the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City. The partners, Russell Deutsch and Ed Rounds, who have incidentally been best friends since seventh grade, are making the space more "shackadelic" over the next few weeks, which means adding picnic tables from Maine, some buoys, and installing a 110-gallon lobster tank. The 38 seats will be filled within a couple weeks with folks happily munching on lobster rolls, Crab Louie salads, and other fab seafood bounty (take a peek at the Old Port menu here to thoroughly whet your appetite). 532 Green St. (between Grant and Columbus), 415-989-FISH (3474).

At some point around the New Year, another groovy coffee lounge will be open and in effect: ~SUGAR CAFÉ: COFFEE BAR AND LOUNGE~. It's opening right above the Cellar (near Union Square) and is from the same owner, Keith Goodman. The café will open early in the morning, serving baked goods and coffee that is roasted on-premise, while lunch will bring sandwiches and salads. The evening will transition into more of a lounge vibe, with DJs and a full bar that will be open until 2am, plus bottle service will be offered. The space is being designed by Craige Walters, who was also behind some of the funkier spots around town, like Lime and Sneaky Tiki. Scot Peterson of D Fab is doing the lighting; he also did the lights at Fluid, Jet, and worked with Craige on the lighting at Lime (they are currently working together on the remodel happening over at 1015). Sugar Café will have a nine-foot striped granite fireplace, hardwood floors, banquettes, a custom seven-foot chandelier from David Weeks, chocolate brown walls with hits of aqua, and an upstairs VIP lounge with porthole windows that look down on the bar. Sweet. Intended hours will be 7am-2am, daily. 679 Sutter St. at Taylor St. Any inquiries can be made with the Cellar, at 415-441-5678.

That ~SNEAKY TIKI~ is coming back on the scene—expect for it to reopen in a couple weeks. It originally closed because it was being sold, but that deal fell through, so Greg Bronstein and Craige Walters talked about it and decided to reopen. (This location seriously has a weird curse, I swear—maybe the tiki vibe will finally shake it.) 1582 Folsom St., 415-701-TIKI.

Random tidbit for the week (hey I like to keep up on what's happening on Sixth Street!): Mirch Masala is morphing into ~ALI BABA'S CAVE~, serving a terrifying combination of Indian food, pasta, hot dogs, and fish. Uh, okay. What, no donuts? 35 6th St., 415-348-1652.

Just around the corner, ~BOCA~, The Bar of Contemporary Art, has closed the 414 Jessie Street location as of this last weekend. The Blasthaus folks promise there is a bigger and better location in store for 2007. Stand by.

Here's an opening I missed earlier this month, and thought I would mention anyway: ~B RESTAURANT & BAR~ has opened at Yerba Buena Gardens, right next door to Samovar Tea Lounge on the upper terrace. The same folks behind boxed foods company and B Restaurant & Bar in Oakland opened this contemporary California restaurant a few weeks ago. B has a seasonal menu crafted by Aaron Webb (Campton Place, Lark Creek Inn) who is committed to using ingredients from within 100 miles. There is a wine list of over 300 selections focused on small production wineries, plus cocktails too. Lunch hours are from 11:30am-3pm Mon-Fri, dinner hours are 5:30pm-10pm Mon-Thu and until 11pm Fri-Sat. Brunch is served Sat-Sun 10:30am-3pm. Happy Hour is Mon-Fri 4pm-7pm and the bar remains open until last call. 720 Howard St., Yerba Buena Gardens upper terrace, 415-495-9800.

Okay you (fellow) ~MYSTIPIES~ fans: Yumna McCann has just started selling her South African meat and vegetarian pies at the Saturday Alemany Farmers' Market, along with chicken and vegetarian curry over rice that you can enjoy there or warm up at home. Yay! In the coming weeks, she will begin taking advanced orders for meals...

Yo, are there any talented and unhappy sous chefs out there? Our boy Sean O'Brien over at ~MYTH~ is looking for a professional and creative candidate to join the kitchen since his sous, Brian Lockwood, is leaving at the end of December. Email Sean at seanobrien [at] mythsf [dot] com or drop off your resume between 1pm-4pm, Tue-Sat at 470 Pacific Ave.

 
the regular

Azie

Azie
826 Folsom St.
Cross: 4th St.
San Francisco, CA 94107

415-538-9444
website

Dinner Mon-Sat 5:30pm-10pm

Small plates $9-$18
Large plates $16-$26
Desserts $8-$9

NOVEMBER 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO There are some restaurants you never manage to try, and ~AZIE~ has been on my list for a long time. I was actually supposed to dine there with a couple friends on the night of September 11th, but for obvious reasons that reservation got cancelled. (Wow, how's that for a Debbie Downer opening to a review?) I never quite rescheduled, and I guess it doesn't matter because there's a new chef there, Shawn Applin, who started in July. (He was previously at Scala's and Fog City Diner.) This guy cooks in a way that makes you say, "Bring on the Asian fusion!" Well, it's not really Asian fusion. Pan-Asian? Cal-Asian? How about upscale Asian? I'm in a neologist mood—since everyone is terrified of the FUSION word, how about Glam-Asian? Feel free to use at will.

The menu is divided up into small and large plates, and is well geared for the groups that seem to like dining here. I'm sure the proximity to Moscone Center means a steady stream of convention-goers, but the night we were there I noted plenty of hip and stylee customers—definitely a youthful vibe.

We started with some small plates, like the iron skillet spicy prawns ($14), served on an elevated skillet the way sister restaurant Lulu down the street serves their trademark mussels. These plump little buggers came with chilies, scallions, and a veritable garden of cilantro (which needed to be taken off the stem—it was a little lazy to send it out like that). For the price, I would have wanted to see a few more prawns, but I was primarily pleased with how juicy they were.

The trio of tartare ($18) brought a threesome of ahi, hamachi, and scallop preparations with house-made taro chips—I found the executions to be a little overwhelmed by their dressings, like the ahi that was overtaken with soy and jalapeño, and the hamachi lost to the sambal. Kind of a slutty threesome, if you ask me.

I'm sure the male power broker business types can't resist the hoisin-glazed ribs ($13), but whaddya know, we couldn't either. These sticky-sweet numbers were definitely meaty, and I liked the pickled watermelon in the accompanying watercress salad. The watercress was a little unruly, as watercress can be—it's kind of the bronco of the greens world. It would be easier to eat with the stems trimmed down a little.

I'm nuts for grilled octopus, and let's just say Azie's ($11) did not come close to dethroning my favorite, from Kokkari. The tentacles (served whole) were seriously tough—the kitchen needs to work this one out. I will say the bright salad of mizuna and tatsoi and a sprinkling of enoki mushrooms (so cute, those guys, I heart them) dressed in a yuzu vinaigrette was totally fabulous, however.

Now, at this moment I was like, uh, okay. Hmmm, appetizers (or as Eric Cartman would say, apppppetiiiiiiizers), are classically my favorite dishes, but these were just not rocking me really hard. But then, hello larger plates—things definitely perked up. I guess it was all Freaky Friday for me here.

Our table attacked the slow-cooked pork "bacon" ($21)—a total steal, actually. Thick slices of Japanese Kurobuta pork belly come with a crispy and caramelized exterior, thanks to the slow roasting for six hours at 250 degrees (yes, I asked). Porky perfection. I really liked the tang of the apple-soy broth, which included pieces of gai lan (Chinese broccoli) lurking within, and the thin matchsticks of crisp green apple on top of the pork.

Ahi lovers (yes, there seem to be a lot of you out there) will be pleased with the soy-glazed ahi ($26), with daikon sprouts, baby bok choy that wasn't at all slimy, addictive Japanese eggplant spears glazed in ponzu, and a drizzle of some feisty wasabi cream to accompany the bites of ahi. Artful presentation as well.

I was impressed with the crispy whole tai snapper ($26), something I'd expect to see in more of an hole-in-the-wall place than a hipster SOMA restaurant. It actually came with the head and tail on. Yes, a WHOLE tai snapper. Groovy. Hello, Mister Fish, I am going to eat you now. It came with wedges of lime, and a pile of rice paper so you could wrap up pieces of fish with your top picks from the pile of herbs, like mint and basil. There was also some spicy pineapple dipping sauce that had hints of fish sauce, citrus, anchovy, and sambal in it, totally delish.

You didn't think we were going to pass up the barbecued beef short ribs ($25), did you? Hell no. Great for a group of people to share—tender and delightfully melt-in-your-mouth meaty, with a sweet chili sauce and crunchy peanuts on top. There was also some betel leaf, which I have never had before, and some red grapes that played nicely with the spicy and sweet sauce. Score.

These are definitely dishes that are meant to be shared, so unless you want to selfishly keep the entire snapper to yourself, you need to reach a consensus with the table about what you want to order. Family-style dining teaches people all kinds of good life skills: sharing, negotiating, and why it's not cool to be a total greedy pig.

Desserts included a series of trios, which are the trademark of Tobias the pastry chef. The apple trio ($8) brought an upside down cake, apple spring rolls, and a green apple sorbet. Although the apple sorbet fit the theme, it didn't quite work with the other two items—I would have been happy with some plain old vanilla ice cream, or even better, caramel ice cream! Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate (Tora! Tora Tora! ha ha) offered enough of a medley to please most chocoholics. Malted chocolate custard, yum.

The space was designed by local darling Cass Calder Smith (huh, I guess this is my second CCS-designed restaurant write up, two weeks in a row) and there's an upstairs "dining pagoda" for those who want to be a bit removed from the action. (It's also a prime space to rent out for private parties.) I'm always a sucker for a booth, and downstairs there is a row of three of them; they even have their own curtains and a dimmer switch on an abacus light (you can use the abacus to add up your drinks). To borrow a phrase from the architect, the overall look is a "modernist interpretation of the Pacific Rim," and I'd say that's on the money, with elements like big lantern light boxes suspended from the tall ceiling, and a long mahogany bar.

I must admit I thought I was about to walk into a gay sex club on my way to the bathroom—there's a heavy black rubbery curtain you have to pull aside, and I was preparing myself to be all "Uh, hi guys, excuse me, just on my way to the ladies room, pardon me, excuse me, whoa, nice technique there!"

So when would you go here? (The restaurant, silly, not the sex club bathroom.) It's definitely spot-on for business dining, and group dinners/birthdays would work well. Fun for couples, but I'd say expect to have some tasty leftovers for lunch the next day. (Unless your boyfriend is a total pit and eats everything so leftovers are a rarity.)

This is one of those places that's been around a little while, so you can probably score a table when other newer/hotter places are all booked up. The lounge is also a cool area to hang out—you could come in for a few cocktails and an order of their signature calamari (I have to say, they were spicy and quite delish—and all tentacles, yay!).

Speaking of booze (I wouldn't be me if I didn't mention it), there are some house-made infusions at the bar, like a lychee and pineapple infused vodka, or vanilla-infused orange vodka (like an adult 50/50 bar). You'll see the infusions in a few of the cocktails, definitely try them. (All the specialty cocktails are $9.)

The wine list is also a pleasure because there are 40 wines under $40, ranging from some food-friendly rieslings and pinot gris to some gamays and some hearty reds. Thank you, beverage director, for being cool like that. You can also get a 2 oz. taste, a 6 oz., or 9 oz. pour with the wines by the glass, so have fun exploring (mmmm, wine exploration, the best kind!).

 
the starlet

Hip Tastes Bubble Primer

HIP TASTES Bubble Primer
Sat., Dec. 2, 2006

Vino Venue
686 Mission St.
Cross: 3rd St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

2pm-4pm

Sign up here

$40

NOVEMBER 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I was already happy with Cheese School, and now there's ~HIP TASTES SATURDAY SCHOOL~! Courtney Cochran of HIP TASTES is putting together a Bubble Primer for this Saturday at Vino Venue, and more classes will be coming in 2007.

Here's more from HIP TASTES:

It never fails: the holidays arrive yet again and you still have no idea how to tell your Prosecco from your Cava. When to serve vintage versus non-vintage Champagne? You're clueless. Make this the year you resolve to do something about it and start the New Year in style: as an expert on all things bubbly, from service temps to stemware to the good stuff itself. We'll taste five bubblies and discuss their regions of origin, key food pairings and flavor and aroma profiles.

We'll wrap with a taste-off between teams to stir up a little friendly interaction in this class you definitely don't want to skip. No apples here: all students leave with a very cool free gift.

Only 12 spots are available!

Tamalada Navideña

Tamalada
Navideña

Sat., Dec. 16 and
Sun., Dec. 17, 2006

Encantada Gallery of Fine Arts
908 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

Reservations:
415-642-3939

11am-2:30pm

$70 per person

NOVEMBER 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO This is seriously cool: Encantada Gallery of Fine Arts is hosting a ~TAMALADA NAVIDEÑA: THE ART OF THE TAMALE~. Here's more on this hands-on Mexican holiday cooking class:

In Latino communities, the Christmas Tamalada is a time for sharing chismes, family stories, recipes and preparations for the Holidays. From the traditional red chile pork tamales to unique gourmet tamales made with organic masa and seasonal ingredients, learn how to let your imagination drive your tamales wild! This hands-on cooking class will also include recipes for Christmas Ponche and tips on where to shop and dine in San Francisco's Mission District. Feast your other senses as well at Encantada's fabulous Bazaar Navideño where you can find Folk Art to decorate your tree, fine art from local artists for gifting and unique Mexican ceramics and textiles to set your Holiday table.

Classes are taught by Laurie Mackenzie a chef and a passionate scholar of Latin American Cuisines. She travels frequently to Mexico, lived in Nicaragua and studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. Locally, she worked at the Hayes Street Grill, Restaurant Carta, was the chef at the Headland's Center for the Arts in Marin and most recently helped to launch La Cocina Community Kitchen. In her classes, Laurie teaches the art of using local, seasonal and sustainably grown products in Mexican cooking.

Class size is limited. Advance registration required.

 
the starlet

NOVEMBER 28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Lady Miss Kier from Deee-lite was spotted having dinner at Aqua.

Tracy Chapman had dinner at 2223 last week.

George Lucas had lunch at Mel's Diner across from the Metreon. according to a tablehopper reader, "What's funny is that there's a big-ass photo of him on the way to the men's bathroom."

Seems Danielle Steel is also a fan of Nicky's Pizzeria Rustica on Polk.