Great news for neighbors and fans of the former Hillside Supper Club: a couple is going to breathe new life into the space, Serena Chow Fisher and her husband David Fisher, opening MARLENA RESTAURANT. Serena will head pastry and front of house, while David is the chef. His background in New York includes Jean Georges and Kat and Theo, and he met Serena while they were both cooking together at Pearl and Ash. They relocated to the Bay Area about two years ago, and David was the chef de cuisines at at Bird Dog in Palo Alto and Sorrel. Serena worked at many places in New York City, including Eleven Madison Park, and locally was pastry chef and director of culinary projects at Bird Dog, and took over as bakery manager and as a lead of the pastry team of Backhaus in San Mateo, where she is still working.
They know it’s an absolutely insane moment to be opening a restaurant, but they are excited to share their dream and are up for the challenge, innovating creative solutions for these unpredictable times. Since they’re right by Precita Park, they’re going to offer two kinds of picnics: you can swing by for a picnic basket all packed and ready to go, and return it when you’re done—no fuss, no lugging. One will include their housemade charcuterie, including rillettes and pâté with accoutrements, while the other option will be more of a full spread, with roasted chicken sandwiches, new potato salad, wax bean and pattypan salad, and a stone fruit hand pie. They’re hoping to start offering this in mid-August—just in time for our Fogust summer.
The next stage will be offering affordable and easy meal kits, with dishes like smoked lamb ribs, or glazed short-ribs with potato purée, plus some fun holiday meals, like a Labor Day picnic. They also plan to offer some pantry and larder items, like cured bacon. They’ll be making many things in house, from cheeses to butter to salumi.
Right now, they’re making some updates to the 100-year-old building and doing a bit of a face lift, but they really love the space—it has great bones, a perfect location, and they fortunately have a good deal on rent (it ends up an investor bought the building and needed an operator for the space).
They’re applying for a parklet and outdoor seating, and when they can serve outside, we’ll see a three-course, prix-fixe, market-driven menu that highlights local and sustainable ingredients, and old school cooking techniques meets modern day minimalism. They want a place that feels simultaneously comfortable for the neighborhood, but special enough for date night or other occasions. For dessert, Serena will be working on ice creams, and loves sundaes, pavlova, and panna cotta.
I’ll keep you updated on the various stages of their opening, but for now, you can follow along on @marlenarestaurant. 300 Precita Ave. at Folsom.
Serena Chow Fisher and David Fisher of Marlena. All photos: Stephane Kiss.