Now open in Union Square’s Hotel G in the former 398 Brasserie space is AYALA, a seafood-focused restaurant with chef-partner Bill Montagne, executive chef Melissa Perfit (Bar Crudo, Hard Water), GM Essam Kardosh (Del Popolo), wine director Nick Tilly (who will also be working with Essam), and bar director Julian Cox (Tartine).
As I mentioned in a previous piece, the menu highlights California seafood designed to be shared. You’ll be able to start with selections from the raw bar—with oysters, and seasonal picks like Dungeness crab, and Santa Barbara uni (with shiso, cucumber and yuzu tobiko)—plus crudos, seafood “charcuterie” (including black cod with kombu and chartreuse), cioppino verde, nori spaghettini with Dungeness crab and white miso, and meaty dishes as well, like Full Tilt Farms roasted chicken with glazed trumpets and maitake mushroom stuffing.
The wine program was curated by Nick Tilly and Essam Kardosh, highlighting both old and new world coastal vineyards, primarily organic, biodynamic, or natural wines from smaller producers. The cocktail and martini program by bar director Julian Cox pairs spirits by boutique and unique producers with seasonal ingredients from local farms to showcase a rotating, nautical-themed list, including large-format drinks.
The style of the 1,400-square-foot restaurant (with 94 seats) is designed to feel fun and neighborhood-y, and the way it’s laid out makes it easy to swing by for bubbles and oysters, or a full meal. There are three areas: the Oysterette (a loungey extension of the bar, flanking the street, with a velvet banquette and marble-topped tables), the Dining Room (which is a little more private, with ash tables and navy banquettes), and the Raw Bar, with a standing communal bar under an arched ceiling.
Open nightly for dinner 5:30pm-10pm, with Martini Hour Mon-Thu 4:30pm-5:30pm and Fri-Sat 4pm-5:30pm. 398 Geary St. at Mason, 415-374-7971.
Ayala’s dining room. Photo: Grace Sager.