Recently, a dear friend and I were wondering aloud about the whereabouts of chef Loretta Keller and how she was doing as we all slowly make our way out of bunkers. It’s like the universe must have heard us, because I just received an email from her business partner Clay Reynolds, announcing the opening of their latest project together, UCCELLO LOUNGE. Chirp chirp! (Uccello means “bird” in Italian.)
The restaurant and lounge is on the ground floor of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s new building, the Bowes Center, which is just across from Davies Symphony Hall. (Perhaps you have noticed the recitals happening in the top floor? Looks so cool.) It ends up the building now houses Conservatory students, and they needed to be fed (all 450 of them!), so chef Keller was approached to help create an in-house food program. (For the past 10 years, she has run a restaurant and café with Reynolds at The Exploratorium, the Seismic Joint Café and Seaglass Restaurant in the Bay Observatory.) The concept for the lounge and restaurant on the ground floor was added as another component, and now the team is juggling the student food program and opening a restaurant—it’s quite the undertaking (any restaurant that cooked for SF New Deal during the pandemic understands the double-duty demands).
Uccello Lounge has 55 seats, offering seating at both a horseshoe bar and at tables. Take a look at Keller’s peak season menu here, which includes upscale bar snacks like steak tartare ($22) with nasturtium leaves and puffed rice; the pictured potato straw mats and caviar ($35) with trout roe caviar, crème fraîche, and dill; and former COCO500 fans will be happy to see the return of the flatbread, a truffled mushroom flatbread ($17) with crème fraîche, Parmesan, and sea salt.
There are also small and large dishes, like buckwheat and ricotta cavatelli, chilled Delta asparagus with sauce gribiche and a seven-minute farm egg, and lamb shoulder Saint-Menehould with roasted artichokes, Niçoise olives, wild fennel, spring onions, and green garlic. It all sounds so delicious. Reynolds has assembled a list of wines by the glass, both from California as well as some Old World selections. You’ll also see a cocktail list, with three zero-proof options as well.
Here’s the extra-fun part: every evening, starting at 8pm, there’s live music from SFCM students and graduates, from trios to classical strings and contemporary pieces, too. Pretty fabulous, no? Hours for now are Thu-Sat 5pm-11pm, making it an ideal stop before or after nearby performances, with plans to extend to Wednesday evenings in time. Reservations are available. 200 Van Ness Ave. at Hayes.
The new Uccello Lounge in Civic Center. Photo courtesy of Uccello Lounge.