September 16, 2008

September 16, 2008

Is all my news about businesses that are on corners this week? Pretty much. As I mentioned ages ago, Rob Lam of Butterfly was taking over ~EASTSIDE WEST~ for some ch- ch- changes, and so it finally closed for its redux. Jacques Bezuidenhout is a managing partner, and will be creating some spiffy cocktails along with Tequila maestro Julio Bermejo, so the bar is definitely taking a step up. Dino Vasquez is the chef/partner and will be focusing on regional American fare made with quality ingredients, and Kurt Niver is the GM. I took a look at the menu, and there’s lots of seafood, like fritto misto for $10, raw bar items plus Bloody Mary oyster shooters ($3), a variety of salads like wild arugula or a chopped Greek salad, plus comfort classics like a cheeseburger, buttermilk-fried Rocky Jr. chicken, mac and four cheeses with peas and mushrooms, and a grilled Berkshire pork chop. There will also be a Sunday roast special of horseradish-crusted rib eye, with scallion popovers, spinach soufflé, and au jus for $25, or baked lasagne night on Wednesdays! Brunch will also be in effect, with eggs Chesapeake (poached eggs, crab Louis, toasted English muffin, and hollandaise for $14), scrambles, omelettes, and more.

As for changes to the space, they took down a partition, so the front room will feel more open, with a now spacious bar area. There’s also a new paint job, new tables, and banquettes, too. The back room will be available for private dining and parties, but it’s also going to double as a game room, with shuffleboard, a pool table, a couple flat-screen TVs, plus high bar tables, darts, and a portable back bar (the fish tank swam away). Look for a reopening sometime mid next week. Brunch will be served on the weekends, dinner nightly, and the popular happy hour will continue Mon–Fri from 4pm­–7pm. 3154 Fillmore St. at Greenwich, 415-885-4000.

Another corner spot: ~MERCURY LOUNGE~ has completed its move from lonely Lombard Street to SoMa, and is now in the more spacious and former Sneaky Tiki digs. The menu has many Southeast Asian flavors, ranging from Filipino to Vietnamese and Thai, and there are even some Korean dishes, too; they’re still tweaking things as they go along. Local workers will be happy to know about the lunch menu that includes a quick rice plate lunch for $8.50, with soup of the day, a cucumber salad, and a choice from various steamed rice dishes, like chicken adobo. There’s also a weekly $8 rice plate special (Thursdays mean Filipino oxtail stew), and dishes like Vietnamese-style sandwiches, one-plate dishes like pad Thai and pho, and salads—not much even hits the $10 mark. Dinner brings an even wider range of eats, from lumpia to sisig to rolls to dumplings and more. Open Mon–Fri for lunch 11am–2pm, and dinner 5pm–10pm. 1582 Folsom St. at 12th St., 415-551-1582.

Over in the Mission on the corner of Church and 18th Street, the former home of the skanky Shukri's Scrumptious Deli, will soon be ~LILAH BELLE’S~. The focus is on healthy take-out dishes made with organic and seasonal ingredients by chef Traci Higgins (the menu will rotate weekly, but you can check out a menu here). Now, that’s a nice switch from what the place was! Most dishes will be low fat, low sodium, and served in single or family-sized portions. Saturday OCTOBER 4th is the grand opening, with free food samples of sandwiches, salads, beverages, dessert, and eco-friendly bags, from 11am until 2pm. All entrées will only be $5 for the first three hours as well. The grand opening hours are 11am–7pm, and then the regular hours are Mon–Fri 8am–2pm, and 4pm–7pm, and Sat–Sun 11am–6pm. Park-goers will appreciate the “while you shop” tie-up stations outside for their pooches with water bowls and treats. 3801 18th St. at Church, 415-255-9473.

Then the Ebb Tide Café has morphed into, you guessed it, ~MY CORNER CAFÉ~. All-day breakfast is served, plus salads and sandwiches. Open daily from 7am–5pm. 1500 S. Van Ness Ave. at 26th St., 415-550-2382.

Even more corner news: Alice Cravens’ ~MODERN TEA~ in Hayes Valley is shifting its focus from being a café, and is dedicating energy to Modern Cooks, a non-profit educational program for local youth. Want to help out, or learn more? Be sure to check out the site. You tea freaks can still get your fix for retail and wholesale purchases by appointment or through the Modern Tea online shopping cart. As for your weekend waffles on the Civil War irons, I guess you’re out of luck. 602 Hayes St. at Laguna, 415-626-5406.

While out on one of my “attempt to burn off the wages of sin walks,” I noticed the Laurel Heights neighborhood corner joint ~CAFÉ LO CUBANO~ is closed. 3401 California St. at Laurel.

And now, a break from the corner action. ~JEN BIESTY~, previously of COCO500 and cheftestant on the most recent season of Top Chef has been named the executive chef of Scala’s Bistro over at the Sir Francis Drake. She starts at Scala’s on October 15th, and is excited to integrate more artisan products into the menu, like house-made ricotta, sausage, salumi, and pastas, and really help deliver on the Kimpton Group’s promise of greening their businesses, using quality local and organic products. 432 Powell St. at Post, 415-395-8555.

More details on the ~JCC PROJECT~ from Joanna Karlinsky and her business partner, Victoria Smiser, who will open the food court in the former deli on the ground floor of the JCCSF. Featured will be JO-JO-TO-GO, selling cold and hot gourmet prepared foods for either dine-in or carry-out service; CONFECTIONS, a full-service bakery offering a daily selection of freshly prepared baked goods, cakes, pies, cookies, and always chocolate; LUCKY DAWG, an upscale ice cream and frozen yogurt bar; LULU DRINKS, pouring fresh juices, coffee, espresso drinks, and wine and beer; PRESSED, hot pressed sandwiches to order using local artisanal cheeses; and EMMA PEEL’S PIZZA PIE, providing on-site or delivery gourmet pizzas with upscale add-ons. THE MEETINGHOUSE name will be kept alive through full service catering and the online Meetinghouse Biscuits catalogue will continue to ship biscuits nationwide. The projected opening date is November 15th. 3200 California St. at Presidio.

The former Senses space on Valencia is now home to ~JANITZI~, a Pan-Latin restaurant, with the bright and snazzy colors to prove it. The food spans from Mexico to Argentina, and the three partners are from Mexico and Puerto Rico. The menu includes a bunch of seafood and meat dishes, from ceviches to fish tacos to enchiladas to mole, and a lot of side dishes, like cassava fries, nopales, and arepas. Most main dishes are around $12, and about double that for any steak dishes, which come with a choice of sauces, like chimichurri. The restaurant is named after a princess of the Michoacan tribe, for you folks who like to know ”what does it all mean?” Open for lunch and dinner 10am–10pm daily. 1152 Valencia St. at 22nd St., 415-821-2310.

And now, a few downtown tidbits: ~CHILL~, a 24-seat specialty dessert café is opening in mid October from Trang Nguyen. The menu includes items made with all natural and exotic flavors, many with Asian and tropical influences. There will be shaved ice desserts, nonfat frozen yogurt and vanilla custard with unique toppings like Valrhona chocolate rice pearls, crispy dessert crepes (sugar or coconut) filled with fresh fruit, sweet rooibos red tea drinks, fair trade coffees, floats, frosted hot chocolate, house-made sodas like ginger lemongrass, and artisan cupcakes. Antioxidant ingredients like açai and goji berries will also be making appearances. Hours will be Mon–Fri 11am­–7pm, Sat 12pm–5pm, closed Sun. 125 Kearny St. at Post, 415-433-1233.

A tablehopper reader let me know that a third location of ~SAUSALITO ESPRESSO~ is opening in the old SF-New York Deli spot in Embarcadero #5. The Mediterranean menu reportedly looks the same as the other two locations (think falafel, gyros, etc.).

Arren Caccamo is no longer the chef at ~LEVENDE LOUNGE~ (he is now in New York to start a family with his new wife). The new executive chef is Sean Randall, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, who has also worked at Balthazar, Essex House (Randall rose to chef de partie under Alain Ducasse), plus positions at La Grenouille, La Gouloue, and was the sous chef at The Core Club, headed by Tom Colicchio. His new menu of “urban California cuisine” at Levende is focused on seasonal and local ingredients, from sake and miso-marinated halibut, plus some comfort dishes like skirt steak, and mac and cheese. Open Wed–Sat for cocktails, dinner, and entertainment from 5pm–2am, with dinner served nightly until 11pm, and brunch on Sundays 11am–3pm. 1710 Mission St. at Duboce, 415-864-5585.

Things are moving along for the ~MOSS ROOM~ (nicer sit-down dining) and the ~ACADEMY CAFÉ~ (the quick service portion) at the California Academy of Sciences under Charles Phan and Loretta Keller (COCO500). The Academy’s grand opening is scheduled for September 27th, and both The Moss Room and the Academy Café will open for lunch service that day, but The Moss Room doesn’t begin dinner service until October 7th.

Executive chef Justin Simoneaux (previously of COCO5OO) will be overseeing The Moss Room, and the dinner menu includes appetizers like Malpeque oyster and chorizo beignets with tarragon and mustard aioli ($12), and country-style pork terrine with house-made pickles, fruit mostarda, and frisée ($11), while entrées include house-made pasta with red wine braised duck sugo and pecorino ($19), and oven-roasted whole fish with aromatics, lemon, sea salt, and olive oil ($29). Yeah, there has to be some seafood on the menu there, huh. Lunch has some of the same menu items plus more salads, but only one dish tips the $20 scale (a bavette steak).

The executive pastry chef is Rachel Leising, formerly of Petite Patisserie in Potrero Hill. Leising has been making pastries professionally for 22 years, baking bread and pastries at Fran Gage’s Patisserie Francaise for seven years, plus Citizen Cake for over seven years, and was the pastry chef instructor at Tante Marie’s Cooking School for two years before entering the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. A peek at her preliminary Moss Room dessert menu includes raspberry upside-down cake with cardamom anglaise and malted milk chocolate cream, Dagoba Mexican chocolate pot de crème tart, and almond cake with honey-steeped fresh blueberry compote, lemon yogurt ice cream, and honeycomb nougatine. There will also be a variety of grab-and-go sweet treats for the Academy Cafe, from crème brûlée coffee cake to cookies to some different pot de crème flavors in a jar, like caramel and tapioca. Lunch will be daily 11:30am–2:30pm, and dinner 5:30pm–10pm. 55 Music Concourse Drive, 415-876-6121.

The Academy Café has a range of savory items, like Vietnamese soups and spring rolls, panini, some slow-cooked and noodle dishes, steamed buns, and a few Mexican-inspired dishes too, like tacos, tamales, and quesadillas (good for the kiddies). Open daily 8am–5pm, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. 55 Music Concourse Drive, 415-876-6124.

And now, a few more places where you get your brunch on: ~PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB~ has started weekend brunch, offering Sloe Gin Fizzes and Ramos Fizzes, and actual sustenance in the form of chilaquiles, rum-soaked challah French toast, a daily frittata, biscuits and gravy, and more. Mmmm, brioche beignets. Sat–Sun 10am–2pm. 563 Ruger St., Building 563 near Lombard Gate, 415-885-1888.

More brunch-age: ~SERPENTINE~ is serving brunch Sat–Sun from 10am–2:30pm. Some menu items include red flannel hash with braised beef brisket and poached eggs, summer vegetable succotash with baked eggs, whole-grain pancakes with fresh berries, savory bread pudding, and their Prather Ranch hamburger and fries. Breakfast cocktails are also in effect. Parties of six or more can make reservations. 2495 Third St. at 22nd St., 415-252-2000.

The Stanford Court Hotel on Nob Hill, which is undergoing a $35 million renewal, has announced that ~AUREA~, its new restaurant and lounge, will open in October. Aurea will be located on the lobby level of the hotel, and some design elements include a Tiffany-style dome, plus sculptures, chandeliers, and a glass-encased, floor-to-ceiling “wall of wine.” The restaurant can seat up to 130, with “cocktail cubbies” that function as work areas (yup, they are wired) or as dining nooks, plus there are communal tables, and there’s an alfresco dining area in the courtyard.

The chef is Jeffery Surprise, who was the hotel’s sous chef in 2007, and also worked at Quince and a couple Ritz-Carlton locations. Surprise’s menu is taking on Fish & Farm, and is actually sourcing the majority of produce and meats from within a 50-mile radius of the hotel. The wine list will focus on organic and California wines, featuring 40 wines by the glass, plus handcrafted cocktails made with fresh ingredients and locally produced small-batch spirits. The hotel is scheduled for completion in November 2008. There’s also reportedly a nightly sabering (“swording”) of a Champagne bottle in the hotel’s courtyard to signal the transformation from day to evening service in Aurea. Goodness. 905 California St. at Powell, 415-989-3500.

Good news in the Ferry Building: after the original bummer announcement that ~MISTRAL ROTISSERIE~ was leaving, it looks like now it’s going to be staying put for another year. Owner Betty Marcon wrote in to say, “We are now in the process of working out some sort of agreement with Equity Office Partners which would have us staying for at least another year. We will need to find another business partner... Many kudos to you [aw shucks], and to your readers. Everyone has stood by us and has been rooting for us and we feel the love!” Stand by for more.

Even East Bay businesses aren’t immune to corner-related news! The downstairs café at ~OLIVETO~ has been in the midst of remodeling, and new highlights include a Berkel slicer and salumi display cases, an expanded menu thanks to the new ovens to bake in (think pastas and roasts), a panini grill, and a refurbished Faema E61 espresso machine. They are phasing in all the changes, and things should be close to complete by next week. 5655 College Ave., Oakland, 510-547-5356.

~LITQUAKE~ is coming up, and I’ll be emceeing the “Now We’re Cooking” hour on the opening weekend, on Saturday October 4th. Guests reading from books about food and drink will be Elizabeth Falkner, Bryant Terry, Beau Timken, Tara Duggan, Julia Flynn Siler, Brian Yaeger, and Eric Gower. And it’s FREE! (Let’s see if a cranky local food writer shows up and graces us all with another novella-length recap of the event.) You can read the full schedule of events at This reading will be from 3pm–4pm at the San Francisco Public Library’s Koret Auditorium, Main Branch, 100 Larkin St. at Grove.

What’s not to love about a $40 wine dinner (plus gratuity)? Raphael Knapp, owner of International Vineyards, is hosting a three-course ~SOUTH OF FRANCE WINE DINNER~ this Thursday September 18th at Cote Sud Restaurant. You can read the menu here. Call the restaurant to make a reservation (from 6pm–10pm). 4238 18th St. at Collingwood, 415-255-6565.

A few folks were asking me about the upcoming ~DEMOLICIOUS~ event, you can read the revised event info in the socialite.

Mooo. On Monday September 29th at Café Rouge in the East Bay is ~THE PROVENANCE OF BEEF~, an interactive steak tasting and panel discussion. Co-hosted by The Artisan Beef Institute, the evening will begin with an interactive expert panel discussing how top ranchers, butchers, and chefs influence taste and texture to create their own signature styles of beef. From there you’ll go on to taste four different styles of beef, each from a different ranch and butcher team specializing in a specific breed, diet, husbandry, and aging technique in a blind taste test. The evening will run from 6pm–8:30pm. $70 per person will include a four-course meal with paired wines. For information and reservations, call 510-525-1440. 1782 Fourth St., Berkeley.

On Sunday October 5th, you can take a ~TOUR OF MARIN SUN FARMS~. It includes a walking tour of the Historic "H" Ranch within the Point Reyes National Seashore (it starts at 10am). View and discuss Marin Sun Farms production of chickens for meat and eggs, cattle for beef, goats for meat, pasture management, food system sustainability, animal slaughter, and more. Includes a delicious lunch. For details and to sign up, please click here.

If you don’t win a ticket to the chocolatey Sur La Table event I’m hosting this week, at least you can swing by Fog City News this Friday September 19th to meet ~CHLOE DOUTRE-ROUSEL~ who will answer all your questions about chocolate, talk about and demonstrate her chocolate evaluation methods, and sign copies of her book The Chocolate Connoisseur ($12.95 paperback). The event is free. Noon–2pm. 455 Market St. at First St., 415-543-7400.

While SF has Christopher Elbow, the East Bay now has artisan chocolatier Chris Blue, who just opened ~CHOCOLATIER BLUE~ in central Berkeley. Blue is the only chocolatier in the United States licensed to use Amedei chocolate, and the cream he uses comes from a farm called Clover Clove in Nebraska, where all the cows are grass-fed and free graze on land that has not been fertilized in over 30 years. Oh, and the Five Star brand organic butter he uses has the highest fat content of any butter in the world (don’t say I didn’t warn you). Beginning in October of this year, and running through January 2009, customers can enjoy lemon, peppermint, pumpkin, tangerine, caramel, hazelnut, pistachio, passion fruit caramel, palet d’or, espresso, cinnamon and chili, apple cider, and eggnog fillings. In addition, the peppermint, hazelnut, tangerine, apple cider and palet d’or flavors are also available in a vegan formulation. Open Wed–Thu noon–7pm, Fri–Sat noon–9pm, Sun 1pm–6pm. 1964 University Ave. at Milvia, Berkeley, 510-705-8800.

A tablehopper reader wrote in to tell me the outside of ~MARITIME EAST~ was suddenly changed to just Maritime, and then shortly thereafter I was told the restaurant has closed. Mark Mitcheltree was no longer involved in the project, hence the dropping of the “East.” We’ll see who moves into the space. 2826 Telegraph Ave. at Oregon.