5, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO I’ve
always has a soft spot for Buca Giovanni in North Beach—it
was the site of one of my earlier childhood dining memories, and
I tasted rabbit for the very first time there. (No Thumper trauma
here.) Anyway, I was very excited to find out that by mid-July,
it will be opening as ~LA
named after a Dutch
and the only Trappist beer produced outside of Belgium. That hopefully
gave you a hint about what is going to be going on here. Let’s
just say that beer will be served, Belgian and Trappist beers to
be exact, with pub-style food sporting some continental flair and
designed to pair with the brews, like coq au vin cooked with wine
and Belgian ale; braise of short ribs with cherry Belgian beer
reduction, served with potato cakes and vegetable du jour; mussels
and fries with a variety of sauces, like butter, wine, and garlic,
or curried with lemongrass, or with a tomato-based bouillabaisse
sauce, plus hand-cut fries with dipping sauces. The chef is Darrell
Simon, who has cooked in NYC, Baltimore, and Louisiana—look
for some touches of old-style Creole on a few dishes.
in the venture are Mike Azzalini, whose family has owned the
building since his great-grandfather bought it in 1928, and John
Lawton. (Three generations of Azzalinis have also worked at Liguria
Bakery—how’s that for some SF provenance?)
For those who can recall the Buca Giovanni space, the upstairs
will now have windows on the Mason Street side, and will feel really
open, with lots of seating and an Art Nouveau look. Downstairs
will have a fountain, and the curved ceiling will be dramatically
lit. Groups will be able to plunk themselves into a pew (which
will be the seating at the larger tables) and there will be a loungier
vibe, with hopes for acoustic music and DJs down the road. La Trappe
will be open for evenings to start, but eventually the plan is
to be open continuously from 7am-10pm, and until midnight on the
weekends. Breakfast, brunch, and lunch will be coming, with smoked
meats, fish, crepes, and Belgian waffles on the brunch tip, and
all-day pub grub like fish ‘n’ chips, curries, BIG
burgers, sandwiches, and artisanal pizzas for lunch. 800 Greenwich
at Mason, San Francisco.
few blocks away, the now-shuttered ~AVENUE G~ space
is now on the sales
with $350k as the asking price. 1570 Stockton St. at Union.
now for a round up of changes to existing places around town:
classic “neighborhoodie” ~REX CAFÉ~ just
reopened last Friday after a ten-day remodel, and has a new chef
on board: executive chef John Pauley, who hails from the fancy
La Folie across the street—he was there for more than eight
years, starting as a sous and then worked his way up to chef de
cuisine. Pauley is taking a break from four-style style, and is
having fun with the menu he has crafted for Rex Café, whose
style he is currently calling San Francisco contemporary cuisine.
The menu is designed to be easy to pick and choose from, with
many smaller plates, and is arranged from lighter to heavier dishes,
starting with beet carpaccio ($7) and an Asian-inspired tuna tartare
($10), and then in the fun camp (or should I say fat camp?), you’ll
find a catfish corndog ($8) and a twist on chicken and waffles:
Southern-fried poussin with a Belgian waffle ($12). There are dishes
like rock shrimp linguine ($11) with a fresh pea tarragon sauce
and Parmesan, while the most expensive dish is baked scallop ($18)
in puff pastry. The winning brunch, however, is staying exactly
the same. The remodel included refinishing the floor and fresh
paint on the ceiling and walls. Banquettes were added throughout,
the bar was gutted and enlarged, and the top of the bar was refinished—overall
the restaurant now feels more open and welcoming. 2323 Polk St.,
at Green, 415-441-2244.
There have been some major changes to the menu at ~JACK
FALSTAFF~—executive chef Jonnatan Leiva has
constructed an appealing new menu that is sure to make a number
of people happy (and hungry). Overall, the style is a lot more
laid-back and graze-friendly, with Leiva adding some raw and
charcuterie selections, like Pacific halibut with ruby red grapefruit,
mint, horseradish, chives, and local Delta asparagus; and house-cured
duck breast with pickled wild ramps and baby arugula. There are
also some pasta options in half or full portions, and some wicked-sounding
sides, like duck fat fries, and braised kale with guanciale.
Mains include cassoulet with duck leg confit, butter beans, pork
belly, and a poached egg (meowza!), and there’s even an ahi dish I’d
consider ordering: pan-roasted with Catalan-style spinach, sweet
peas, and saffron soubise. Leiva’s focus on seasonality
is still front and center, but the menu has broken out of the
standard “choose one appetizer and your main course” format. Definitely
one to check out. 598 Second St. at Brannan, 415-836-9239.
Over in lower Potrero/China Basin, ~THEE PARKSIDE~ recently
got a new owner, Malia Spanyol of Pops Bar in the Mission, and
now has a new chef: Cynthia Morrison, who was at Universal Café for two-plus years.
Morrison is totally revamping the menu, adding a local/fresh/organic
approach with some American and Southern flair. The new menu just
started last week, with offerings like hand-dredged buttermilk
fried chicken with house-made pickles, and smoky pulled pork quesadilla.
There is a curry cauliflower fritter that is part samosa and part
pakora, with a cilantro verde sauce, and it’s both vegetarian
and vegan-friendly—Morrison says there will always be a few
vegetarian and vegan options. There are also nightly bar menu specials,
with grilled items like chicken and burgers. Charcuterie is in
the works, and they even use local meats, and butcher in-house.
The “It’s a Free Country Sunday” all-you-can-eat
BBQ (it ranges from $6-$10, depending on what’s being served)
is going strong, with quality meats to go along the free music.
Come July, Thee Parkside will be open for lunch, with a to-go window
for local businesses. (They are hiring for all kinds of positions
if you’re interested.) 1600 17th St. at Wisconsin, 415-252-1330.
those wondering what Nick Fasanella (previously of Nick’s
Crispy Tacos and Nicky’s Pizzeria Rustica) has been up to,
he’s been a consulting GM at ~TORTILLA HEIGHTS~.
He’s made some good changes, too: the kitchen is now using
Niman Ranch meats (makes for some killer carne asada) and Fulton
Valley Ranch chicken, the margaritas are now made with fresh-squeezed
lime (no mix here), and there’s almost an entirely new (and
well-trained) staff. I had a chance to swing by last week, and
was happy to see crispy tacos “Nick’s Way,” plus
his awesome Baja-style tacos are on the menu (three for $12.50).
There’s also the “street treat” with mango, orange,
and jicama with chile and lime. Perfect spot if you’re looking
for a place for groups of 12 or more—they have some generous
fiesta menus ($15-$21 per person). I’ll be back for “heads
or tails Tuesday,” when you flip for your meal. The buckets
of beers are also pretty spiffy. 1750 Divisadero St. at Bush, 415-346-4531.
unexpected changes are happening at ~MECCA~,
which had a kitchen fire towards the end of service on Sunday
night. The fire department responded extremely quickly, but let’s
just say the dining room’s velvets
and leathers are not quite going to be the same. So the restaurant
is taking this opportunity to close, renovate and redesign, and
plans on a grand reopening in hopefully a couple weeks. I’ll
have more details in next week’s installment. 2029 Market
St. at Dolores, 415-621-7000
Some news in Maktub land: chef ~DAVID BAZIRGAN~,
who has been at Baraka for a bit, will be the opening chef for
Jocelyn Bulow’s new Chez Papa Downtown, which is gunning
for a Labor Day opening. It made me wonder how this is affecting
the gastropub project, Baz, that he was slated to be doing with
Sean and Isabel Manchester (of WISH Bar and Mighty). Ends up the
western SoMa location the Manchesters were hoping would be the
site of the restaurant unfortunately fell through. So while they
keep scouting for a location, Bazirgan will continue working with
the Maktub Group. Will let you know what develops, naturally!
As for ~BARAKA~,
it seems it’s no longer for sale. In fact, Maktub just hired
a new chef, Chad Newton—he is formerly from Boston, where
he was at Spire with the Kimpton Group, and at Postrio while in
SF. He just started a couple weeks ago—I will keep you posted
on any menu changes. 288 Connecticut St. at 18th St., 415-255-0387.
One Maktub spot that does seem to be up for sale is ~SUTRA
RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE~, unless I am totally reading
listing wrong, which is possible.
ever-growing empire is Charles Phan’s—he will
be opening another ~OUT THE DOOR~ concept in the
Fillmore neighborhood by early fall, right across from the Unitarian
church for those of you who pay attention to details like that.
The space was formerly a silk flower store, and was originally
a firehouse—it’s supposed to be quite stunning. The
current status of the space is “in the middle of permit hell,” but
it may end up having 50 seats, or perhaps a little more. The Vietnamese
menu is still in development, but an interesting component of this
specific project will be what to pair with the dishes—it
looks like the Slanted Door’s precedent of having no Californian
wines on the list may now expand to include some local wines, as
long as they make the flavor-profile cut. Another potential offering
is the range of take-home cooking kits may be expanded (Have you
ever tried them? The daikon rice cakes rock. Hard.) and takeout
will also be readily available. 2232 Bush St. at Fillmore.
Opening this Wednesday for lunch and dinner is the long awaited ~FARINA~ on
18th Street. This Genovese/Ligurian restaurant under executive
chef Paolo Laboa is downright snazzy, with room for 90 guests and
a private dining room on the second floor, and outdoor seating
to boot. However, they won’t be accepting reservations until
the 18th—they are trying to start things off slowly. Release
the focaccia. 3562 18th Street at Dearborn, between Valencia and
I just noticed Bar Crudo and Globe are now on ~OPENTABLE.COM~.
some of you have expressed curiosity about the ~TASTE3~ conference
I attended last month up at COPIA. Ends up some of the amazing
20-minute talks have been posted on the
Take a peek and see what interests you—the ones from Ben
Roche of Moto in Chicago, the honeybee expert, and the wine fraud
expert, David Molyneux-Berry, were three of my faves.
folks, the ~WHITE
an awesome group of New Orleans-area sustainable shrimpers, is
coming to the Bay Area this week and doing demos all
can try the brown shrimp at various Kimpton
restaurants, and the brigade will be at Williams Sonoma
AND the Golden Glass on Saturday. Definitely try to catch one
of their demos.
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