Just before I left town, I was invited to a preview dinner at COMMONS CLUB, the new restaurant inside of the new Virgin Hotels San Francisco in the Yerba Buena District in SoMa (the second to open, the first was in Chicago). The space is pretty shag-tastic—there’s The Shag Room, for a loungey vibe with your cocktails (which all nod to Virgin’s musical origins) and a busy bar. There’s a spacious dining room, with an easygoing, low-slung look: it has a very living room-meets-dining room style, with clubby, mid-century-esque tobacco leather chairs and round tables surrounded with dining tables and banquettes around the perimeter (it makes for a unique kind of seating arrangement). A rooftop bar is opening soon as well.
There’s a daytime (7am-10:30am and 11:30am-2pm)—a good spot for any morning or lunch meetings—and dinner menu, served 5:30pm-10pm (until 10:30pm Fri-Sat); there’s also a bar menu 2pm-10pm. Chef Adrian Garcia was most recently chef de cuisine at Quince, and fortunately some of his stuffed pasta prowess is on display here, with dishes like striped tortelloni (from cocoa powder and egg yolk) with wild mushroom and Swiss chard ($23), and plump duck confit agnolotti, with notes of orange, grana padano, sage, and fried duck skin crumble on top ($26).
Appetizers like crudités ($15) sound boring, but don’t be deceived: a cloud of buttermilk topped with almond and dill oil arrives with an array of gorgeous vegetables, and fish and chips ($20) is actually a hamachi crudo you scoop up with chips made of dehydrated fish skin (plus squid ink). Parker House rolls, always a crowd pleaser. Mains include roasted cauliflower and Israeli couscous ($22) with the ability to add a supplement of Don Watson lamb ($20), plus there’s black seabass with fish fumé ($27), and I loved the pairing of Thai iced tea with the chocolate and espresso ganache tart for dessert. I’ll be posting more pics on @tablehopper later today! There is quite the squad of talent in the kitchen here, so don’t write it off as “just a hotel restaurant.” (Although I do think their wine list could use some better curation.) 250 4th St. at Folsom.
A second, 70-seat location of Eric Lilavois and Dave Cruz’s LITTLE GEM has opened in Cow Hollow in the former Umami Burger. The menu is similar to their Hayes Valley spot, with a couple new dishes (including their oft-requested, gluten-free fried chicken). They’re opening tonight (April 2nd) with dinner service only (full service, not fast-casual/order at the counter), but ramping up quickly for breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch soon. The menu is designed for omnivores, herbivores, and keto, paleo, vegan, and gluten-free diets—so, basically, anyone is welcome. Wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages are also available.
Check out their Little Gem Pantry, a retail section that features packaged versions of ingredients the kitchen uses, including bacon-coconut crumble, cashew butter, and seasonal jam. Open Tue-Thu 5pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm to start. 2184 Union St. at Fillmore.
After opening a few weeks ago and then experiencing a brief closure, BURMA CLUB officially reopens tonight (April 2nd) in Mint Plaza. To recap, it’s the latest restaurant from co-owner Desmond Tan’s Burma Superstar group, in the long-shuttered Oro space at Mint Plaza. They haven’t posted hours or a menu on their site, but they are open nightly for dinner (possibly starting at 5pm, if an older post is correct). No reservations. 8 Mint Plaza at Jessie.
Well, this is good news. At the end of last year, I reported that the owner of the Ethiopian Moya in SoMa, Fana Alemayehu, was closing the restaurant after almost eight years in business and moving to a catering-business only model. It looks like there was a change of heart, because she has now opened MOMMA’S KITCHEN in its place. The menu still includes a few Ethiopian dishes (with spices from her grandmother’s garden in Ethiopia), but it looks like she has pivoted to serve the lunchtime needs of the neighborhood, adding traditional deli sandwiches and vegan plates. You’ll see falafel and hummus bowls, vegan bowls, sandwiches like pastrami with housemade spicy mayo, as well as a doro wot (pulled chicken) sandwich, or get it in a bowl over rice. Pay momma a visit! Open Mon-Fri 11am-3pm. 121 9th St . at Minna, 415-431-5544.
I mentioned this project earlier, but you should know that EL LOPO is now open on Polk, a Spanish-inspired, food-forward wine bar (through a California lens), with dishes like Galician-style empanadas with romanesco and smoked ham and springtime tacos (to start—things will be ramping up in coming weeks). Hours are Sun-Thu 4pm-12am and Fri-Sat 4pm-2am, with the food menu running from 5pm-10pm. 1327 Polk St. at Bush, 415-237-3072.
There’s a new drive-thru hot dog spot, and it looks pretty good! Take a peek at GREM’S GOOD DOG, which opened in the parking lot of Smart Foodservice Warehouse, right by Discount Builders. You’ll find a Coney Island-style hot dog, Polish, jalapeño cheddarwurst, and more, all $8 and under. Open daily 11am-11pm. 170A S. Van Ness Ave. at Plum.
The loungey style of the dining room at Commons Club. Photo: © tablehopper.com.