Here’s a super-quiet hot tip for you: chef-owner Val Cantu has softly opened reservations in April for the new SoMa location of his Michelin-starred restaurant, CALIFORNIOS. They are just serving on the former Bar Agricole’s heated and updated outdoor patio for now, but it’s still a white tablecloth experience, with a two-hour tasting menu ($223) and wine pairings from Charlotte Randolph (and candlelight). I will be running a full feature in the next tablehopper about this latest iteration of Val’s menu and concept and more, but wanted to give you a heads up about reservations now so you can snag them! Open Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm. 355 11th St. at Harrison.
Congrats to chef-owner Brandon Rice of ERNEST, who has been running his new restaurant concept as a pop-up during the pandemic, and has now opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant in the former Coffee Bar space in the Mission.
He was previously chef de cuisine of Rich Table, and his market-driven menu continues with a freestyle global style, reflecting his love of Asian ingredients and his Southern upbringing, including beef tartare with sushi rice, ikura, and toasted nori; lo mein sea urchin “carbonara” with Olivier’s bacon; and BBQ short rib, salt and pepper onion rings, and serranos. There are also a couple large-format dishes to share, like Liberty Farms duck with ginger-scallion sauce and confit salad. Save a little room for the Basque cheesecake, he’s the one who really started the trend locally. The entire menu looks so appetizing, and there are cocktails to enjoy as well.
Limited indoor seating is available in the two-level space (by architect Charles Hemminger), plus outdoor seating on the sidewalk and patio; takeout has been suspended for now. Open for dinner Wed-Sun. 1890 Bryant St. at Mariposa.
Back in December, I wrote about RED WINDOW, the modern Spanish aperitivo/tapas spot opening in North Beach in the former Caffe Delucchi. It’s from Adam Rosenblum (Causwells) and Elmer Mejicanos (Tony’s, Capo’s), and opening this Friday March 26th! 500 Columbus Ave. at Stockton.
Newly open on Polk Street is HOI AN, a new Vietnamese restaurant from the family behind the former Green Papaya at the Fifth and Mission Garage, which closed after 10 years of business last year (perhaps you read the infuriating story about how the landlord, the City (!), expected owner Thai Van to start paying rent in July, when the majority of his business was contingent upon convention-goers at nearby (and extremely closed) Moscone Center. [head shaking]
At least there is a silver lining to all this: the family has opened this new location in the former Ella’s American Kitchen/Rangoon Ruby Burmese Cuisine on Polk in Nob Hill—it has a spacious and updated interior, with lots of rustic wood, contemporary chairs, and a bar where you can dine solo (take a peek at all the pics on their site). The menu includes pho and bun bo Hue to warm you up, with a variety of entrées, ranging from lemongrass beef (or chicken) to yellow curry to caramelized clay pot fish (they also offer vegetarian and vegan versions of some of their dishes). Hoi An (which is named after a city on Vietnam’s central coast) just opened for outdoor dining, limited indoor seating, and takeout. Open Mon-Thu 11am-8pm and Fri-Sun 11am-9pm. 1608 Polk St. at Sacramento.
Chef-owner Val M. Cantu in the open kitchen (and dining counter) at Californios on 22nd Street. Photo: Jim Sullivan.