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This week's tablehopper: groundhoggin'.

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It may not look pretty, but this was one of my favorite dishes of the week: kaima idly at Saravana Bhavan (deep-fried mini idly sautéed in regional spices served with raita). WOW, so much texture and flavor. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Howdy! Things sure are busy in SF, and it’s kind of funny to not be there for Super Bowl 50, and Lunar New Year, and Mardi Gras! I guess I’m celebrating Groundhog Day over here in New York, and feeling pretty damn lucky to see a high of 52 today, and 59 tomorrow, thanks, Punxsutawney Phil!

I’ve had a busy week writing for Time Out (let’s talk about advanced espresso drinks and Barbie and Facebook Live, shall we?) and doing a bunch of city exploring—I love being in a city of fellow fast walkers, YES.

I’m excited to announce I have kicked off my #justvisiting series on Instagram, featuring the wonderful people I’m being introduced to here in New York via my SF posse. I hope you enjoy meeting them with me as they share some NYC secrets with us!

Last week I attended an engaging class on Aussie wines with Gordon Little at Astor Center, and I’m so glad I went downstairs after the class into Astor Wines to make use of my 20 percent discount on the featured wines (the elegant 2012 Moorooduc pinot noir definitely needed to come home with me). And bless, Astor Wines delivers, because I haven’t found a good wine shop in my neighborhood—yet.

More wine: had a fantastic experience at The Four Horsemen in Brooklyn (their “French nachos” with Camembert, housemade potato chips, and black truffle was all kinds of wrong but so right), and the wine list is going to keep me coming back, a lot.

Sunday night was the one-year anniversary party at the stylish The Finch in Clinton Hill, which also turned my crank with their wine pairings. The food was so creative and fun, with tasty touches like a pine nut brittle in the beet salad, and the lightly smoked beef zabuton was so beeftastic—it’s a tender cut of Wagyu, the flap under the eye of chuck. Yup, you learn something every day.

I also hit up some amazing pizza, and dosa, and a panino too—you can follow my culinary and cocktail meandering on Instagram!

Am looking forward to Slow Wine tomorrow (if any of you had some can’t-miss favorites from the SF tasting, let me know!).

Have fun this weekend and good luck making your way around the SB50 madness.
Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)
Feb 2, 2016

Leo's Oyster Bar Now Open and Serving Some Glamour to the FiDi

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Custom floral wallpaper at Leo’s. Photo via Leo’s Instagram.

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Selection from the raw bar. Photo: Aubrie Pick.

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The bar and banquette seating. Photo: Aubrie Pick.

Now open in the former Wexler’s space is ~LEO’S OYSTER BAR~ from the Big Night Restaurant Group (Park Tavern, The Cavalier, Marlowe), and it’s a looker, which is what happens when Ken Fulk is your group’s design director (he worked with Jon de la Cruz on the space). The custom floral wallpaper, hanging ferns, gilt scallop shell sconces, and bamboo-caned barstools lend an air of sultry, tropical glamour.

As you make your way past the “conservatory,” you’ll note the hand-waxed mahogany paneling, a hammered brass raw bar, banquettes, and uplit onyx cocktail bar. The 40-seat space will also be gaining a Champagne bar, due to open on Valentine’s Day.

The menu is heavily focused on seafood, with executive chef Jenn Puccio assembling a list of oysters (raw or hot, including a “carbonara” version with pancetta), crudos, and toasts topped with fried shrimp and bacon (a spin on the classic Chinese shrimp toast) or urchin. Housemade tater tots, gougères, and a couple of variations of french fries (don’t miss the burger fries, topped with cheddar cheese sauce, aioli, bacon, caramelized onions, and crisp shredded lettuce), all so properly built for Champagne. Louie salad with rock shrimp, crab, or a combo of the two, check.

Warm plates include seafood bisque, clam chowder, and larger plates like a lobster roll and mussels en papillote. And for those who aren’t leaning toward a seafood entrée can go for the braised short ribs. You can finish the night with desserts by pastry chef Emily Luchetti served in vintage glassware.

You can come by for afternoon cocktails (many are low alcohol) and bites starting at 3pm, and then make your way into the evening menu at dinner service. The list of Champagnes is extensive and deep, plus some local and international sparklers are available too. As for the name, it’s an homage to partners Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas’s adorable son, Leo.

Hours (for now) are Mon-Wed 3pm-10pm, Thu-Fri 3pm-11pm, and Sat 5:30pm-11pm; lunch will be added soon. 568 Sacramento St. at Sansome, 415-872-9982.

Fénix Rising from the Ashes of TBD Restaurant, Sababa Coming to the FiDi

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TBD’s dining area (on the main floor). Photo: Nathan Ziebell.

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A preview of Sababa’s falafel pita sandwich at 2015’s Outside Lands. Photo via Facebook.

After ~TBD~ in SoMa closed after a nasty fire more than a year ago (insurance claims are a tedious thing), Inside Scoop reveals what’s opening next in the space: ~ FÉNIX~.

And here’s the surprise twist: Mercer Restaurant Group owner Matt Semmelhack and chef-owner Mark Liberman (AQ) have decided it’s going to be a Mexican restaurant. Look for a menu of small plates, shareable dishes, and sangria (it’s just beer and wine).

Semmelhack tells me the service style will have some similarities to a classic Korean barbecue joint (but without the grill in the center of the table). Diners will choose a couple main courses (probably 2-3 for a party of 2), and then a bunch of little bites and sides will come out automatically and quickly (like banchan), think 10-15 ramekins of salsas, plates of warm, housemade tortillas, beans, queso, etc. Mains will feature larger portions of meats and vegetables, many slow-roasted or from the plancha, and are designed to be shared.

They are working toward an April opening, with more details to emerge in the coming months. 1077 Mission St. at 7th St.

Another project coming from the Mercer Restaurant Group: after running a few pop-ups of ~SABABA~—the fast casual/Middle Eastern street food project from Israeli-born Guy Eshel (a cook from AQ)—he will be opening a brick-and-mortar location in the former Paladar in the FiDi. Eater reports the menu will have a healthy slant. The focus is on flavor, but the food is inherently healthy and includes many vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.

We checked in with Eshel, who tells us the menu can be enjoyed three different ways. First you select from these options: pita sandwich, bowl with selection of mezzo salads (like roasted beet salad with sheep’s milk lebne and za’atar), or a hummus plate. Next you choose your protein: falafel (their signature item), sabik (fried eggplant and slow-baked egg), shawarma-spiced chicken, and more. There are going to be extra toppings to customize your meal with such as olives, feta, toasted almonds, or avocado. There is also a self-serve and complimentary pickle bar with housemade hot sauces too.

They’re trying to source as much local and organic produce and meats as possible, and making everything from scratch. They will be baking pitas in a Wood Stone oven, a beautiful stone hearth that is gas-fired. It’s going to be primarily a take-out situation, with just 14 seats inside. Look for an opening later this spring—it’s a big remodel. 329 Kearny St. at Bush.

New Japanese Restaurants Include Ijji Sushi, Izakaya Umai, and More

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The Ijji Sushi crew. Photo via Facebook.

A few quick opening updates for you, starting with ~IJJI SUSHI~, which we mentioned was coming to the Divisadero Corridor and is having its grand opening tonight (February 2nd). To recap, this is a traditional nigiri sushi bar (served piece by piece, although you can request omakase, which starts with eight pieces), with seafood sourced primarily from Japan. There are only 16 seats (8 at the counter and 8 table seats), and it’s from the chef-owner of Saru in Noe Valley, Billy Kong, and the chef-owner of Seiya in San Carlos, Kuo Hwa Chuang, and Amanda Tsung. Ijji is open for dinner only, Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm. 252 Divisadero St. at Haight, 415-658-7388.

Meanwhile, over in Japantown, the Ramen Underground location has closed (Kearny remains open), and ~IZAKAYA UMAI~ is taking its place (the 65-seat restaurant is due to open Wednesday February 10th). The menu will include sushi, sashimi, maki, yakitori, donburi, shioyaki, bento boxes, ramen, udon, soba, and appetizers. It will be open for lunch and dinner. 22 Peace Plaza #530, 415-658-7196.

As for other Japanese places on the horizon, the hotly anticipated ~MENSHO RAMEN~ could possibly open within the week (more from me next Tuesday on this place). I also hear ~MOSU~ is now targeting a couple of weeks out for its opening on Fillmore (more here), and ~JU-NI~ coming to Fulton Street should be close too.

Cawfee Tawk: Steep Opens in SoMa, Front on the Move, More

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Some of the different lattes available at Steep: matcha, taro, and traditional. Yelp photo by Alvin Y.

There’s a new coffee, tea, and boba shop in the former Twofish Baking on Ritch Street in SoMa: ~STEEP~. They are offering espresso drinks, pour-over coffee from Equator, and a variety of tea drinks, from regular steeped tea to milk tea with boba (not something so easy to find in this part of town) to Thai iced tea. You’ll also find some acai bowls, baked goods, and more, like taro and matcha lattes. Open Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. 240 Ritch St. at Brannan.

Potrero Hill coffee fans will be sad to hear that ~FRONT~ has closed up shop after three years at their original location (150 Mississippi St.) and will be moving to the Mission. While the location has not been revealed, we’ll let you know when we hear the address!

The former Philz Coffee in the Castro is going to have Noe Valley’s ~BERNIE’S COFFEE~ move in to the space, their third location. Hoodline says there will also be baked goods from Raison D’Être and Nucha Empanadas. The opening should be happening very soon, they’re just waiting on an inspection from the Health Department. 4023 18th St. at Noe.

the socialite

Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)
Feb 2, 2016

A Few Last-Minute Valentine's Day Ideas for You, Mwah!

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Nothing says “I love you” like a big meatball. Photo from Little Italy, © tablehopper.com.

Event Info

Sunday Feb 14, 2016

Valentine’s Day dinner offers are usually a slew of expensive tasting menus (red rose included!), but here are a few that caught my eye for offering something different (or aren’t just cray-expensive).

~MINA TEST KITCHEN~ is holding the last night of chef Adam Sobel’s Little Italy. I managed to visit before leaving for NYC, and the hearty Italian-American food with a touch of soigné was all kinds of delicious, the Sunday Supper of your inner fat kid’s dreams. It’s also a cozy space that will feel just right for date night. The five-course menu is $65, and comes with spaghetti you can share with your sweetie à la Lady and the Tramp.

Also on the Italian tip is Spaghetti Sunday at ~CAPO’S~, which is quite the deal: a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs (again, shared like Lady and the Tramp), a Caesar salad, and garlic bread for two, plus two glasses of red wine and a sweet chocolate finish for $49.

Since Valentine’s falls on a Sunday this year, don’t rule out a nice brunch with your sweetie at ~FOREIGN CINEMA~, or you can stick around for their $95, three-course dinner, which is a “Gentle Love Letter” to David Bowie (you know the music will be great) and the film Basquiat will be playing.

On Saturday February 13th, ~JUHU BEACH CLUB~ over in Oakland is offering dinner for two for $70 (tax and tip not included), which includes cocktails, starters (pani puri), a main (biryani, with chicken or beef), and dessert. And if you add on an order of Black Dal ($9), $1 will go to Bay Area Black Lives Matter. Reservations here.

And if you absolutely need to weave some aphrodisiacs into your day, check out this early evening event at the ~CONSERVATORY OF FLOWERS~ in Golden Gate Park that’s about the libido-enhancing power of plants from 5:30pm-8pm (and you get a free glass of bubbles with admission). $20 per person, two for $35 in advance (all tickets $20 at the door). Conservatory of Flowers, 100 John F. Kennedy Dr., Golden Gate Park.

the matchmaker

Classifieds (let's get it on)
Feb 2, 2016

(Matchmaker): The Whole Cart Hiring Supervisors

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Do you have a passion for cooking, but are tired of the normal kitchen environment? Looking to work for a company that sets their staff up for success instead of failure?​ ​The Whole Cart is redefining corporate catering through the innovative use of mobile food experiences. We don’t shy away from flavor and we’re proud to feature responsibly sourced, high-quality ingredients with deep connections to the local Bay Area food scene. Above all, we believe happy, empowered employees make more delicious food.

Check out the full job description and apply here.

(Matchmaker): The Olympic Club Seeks Catering Events Manager

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The catering events manager will assist the senior catering sales manager to ensure the success of all functions overseen by the Catering Department. This position primarily provides support overseeing events while working directly with both staff and members. Additionally, approximately 25 percent of the time will be devoted to administrative functions such as creating banquet event orders, ensuring proper billing and correspondence, and offering assistance with all organizational needs.

For more details and to apply, click here.

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