table of contents   This week's tablehopper: devilishly good news and eats.
the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite


JUNE 6, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO How meow, the press just doesn't stop—here's an interview with the tablehopper (uh, yeah, me) on SFist. Let's just say my "tip please" requests have gone through the roof the past few weeks—yikes. Speaking of which, some of you who have tried the service have not written me back about your dining experience at the places I have recommended. (You know who you are, LOL.) As an extra incentive to give me your feedback, I am giving away two passes to next Monday's "Taste of Western Australia" wine event. Here's the deal: you have to have already used the tip please service (the cut-off was June 1) and you have to have written me back with feedback—you have until 11:59pm of this Thursday (June 8) to do so. I'll hold the drawing on this Friday (June 9) and will let the winner know that day. Sound good?

I know some of you (myself included) love good restaurant deals, and even better, specials on booze. (Woo hoo!) A fab pal of mine, Kevin Blum, has put together a weekly email called "The City Dish" that's chock-full of special dining deals and happy hours at hotspots around town. It's a fun one to read (he is one hilarious mofo), and yay, it's free. So while I write the reviews on where you should go, he'll actually help you save money once you get there. What a lamb. You can subscribe here.

This week in the chatterbox, I decided to follow up on some ongoing projects and give you an update on 'em, plus highlight a few that just opened. But wait until you read about the new bar opening in the lush—it's brilliant.

Lastly, yes, it's the big ole 06-06-06 today, and you know what? The only thing evil about it is if you don't vote. So please do. And in honor of this day of politics, I decided to review PlumpJack Cafe, one of the restaurants our mayor founded, in the regular. To continue on the 666 theme, it also seems like the appropriate time for me to try this bottle of 6th Sense Syrah over dinner tonight. Now, where is that steak?

In vino veritas,

the chatterbox

JUNE 6, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Sandwiched right in between Aqua and Tadich Grill will be ~PERBACCO~, a restaurant project from Staffan Terje, the former executive chef at Scala's (he was there for eight years), and Umberto Gibin, a former director of operations at Grand Café, Masa's, and Fifth Floor (from 1999-2004), who also worked for Larry Mindel while at Il Fornaio and the fab Poggio in Sausalito. Demolition started in November, and they just got approval to move ahead with construction only a couple weeks ago. The 6,000-square-foot restaurant was formerly the home of the Gold Coast restaurant, and is known as the historic 1912 Hind Building. Cass Calder Smith (Azie, LuLu, Rose Pistola, Terzo) is currently transforming the long, narrow space. The restaurant will have two levels, including a curing room in the basement for salumi like their house-made prosciutto. In fact, one of the first things you'll notice upon entering Perbacco will be a cherry-red Berkel slicer gracing the bar. Those Berkels are like parking an Alfa Romeo on the bar—totally gorgeous.

The seasonal menu will be focused primarily on the northern Piedmontese region, a mountainous area of Italy that integrates numerous French influences in its luxurious cuisine, which is often embellished with truffles and porcini mushrooms. It's also the region known for two of the biggest wine beasts, Barolo and Barbaresco. The menu will also include dishes from Liguria and Savoy. Appetizers will feature some crudos (this is where the menu will depart a little from the Piedmontese area), homemade stuffed pastas like ravioli and angolotti, and classic regional dishes like brasato (braised beef in Barolo) and bollito misto (a boiled medley of meat). The restaurant will have a hip urban look while still keeping a foot planted in the Old World, with touches like an original brick wall that was retained, marble, plus a carpeted floor (it will help diminish noise). There will be a bar area with room for 40 in booths and at the bar, while the dining area can seat 100-110, including the mezzanine. There will also be room for 40 in the private dining area, plus an open kitchen in the back. For those wondering about the name, it's an Italian expression, Per Bacco!, which is simultaneously a positive affirmation, and a salute to the beloved Bacchus. The plan is for a September 1 opening, serving lunch Mon-Fri, and dinner Mon-Sat. 230 California St., at Battery St.

Another big one slated to open in late September will be ~SPRUCE~ from the Bacchus Management Group. Bacchus is made up of five partners: three from the Village Pub in Woodside (Tim Stannard, Mark Sullivan, Andrew Green), in addition to Gordon Drysdale (Pizza Antica and the former Gordon's House of Fine Eats) and Brannin Beal of Postino in Lafayette and Tomatina. They have taken over the former La Table space, in a building that originally housed a car garage in the '30s-'40s. The architect/designer is Greg Klosowski of Ellipsis a+d, who worked with Jim Zack of zack/devito on Manresa and Gordon's House of Fine Eats. Spruce's soaring ceiling features a glass skylight that runs through the center and is dramatic to say the least (you can take a peek at the project here). There will also be 30-foot antique brick walls, white Carrera-marble countertops, plus chocolate brown mohair and ebonized walnut. There will even be a dedicated aging room in the kitchen that is temperature-controlled for charcuterie and cheeses.

Mark Sullivan, from the Village Pub, will be the Executive Chef. Expect a menu of contemporary American/Californian cuisine, with the requisite Mediterranean flair. There will be an array of charcuterie, from salumi to pâté to headcheese, and ingredients will feature produce from SMIP Ranch, the restaurant's 17-acre organic farm on an estate in Woodside. Expect a continued commitment to incredible wine service—every waiter of the Village Pub is certified through the introductory level course through the Court of Master Sommeliers—and they will continue to do so at Spruce. They will also have about 1,000-plus wine selections, all stored at varying temperatures appropriate for the wine. 3640 Sacramento St., at Spruce St.

There is also another ~BIG PROJECT~ in the works for SF through Bacchus Management Group, but all I can say is the word is mum for a little bit longer until things are tightened up. I'll keep ya posted. (Naturally!)

After barely two months of service, the restaurant that moved into the Habana space on Van Ness, ~LA JOYA~, has closed.

On a brighter note, I was pedaling my bike by the ~WOODHOUSE FISH COMPANY~ last week and am happy to report it's open! It looks like a classic East Coast fish shack/diner, and the succinct menu (check it out on their website) looks beyond fish-a-licious, with fried oysters and Ipswich clams (!), seafood cocktail, stuffed artichoke or avocado, seafood salads, chowder, cracked crab and lobster, and Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada on tap. I'll let you know once I've checked it out. The owner is Dylan Woodhouse MacNiven, the son of Jamis MacNiven of the cult-like Buck's of Woodside. Open for dinner nightly, and hopefully lunch soon. 2073 Market St., at 14th St., 415-437-2722.

The former home of Watergate and Le Bistrot on Nob Hill is now ~SPARROW~ from Steve Javellana. The space was remodeled and opened a little over a week ago, serving contemporary cuisine with French-Asian influences. The executive chef is Terry Lynch, and I have to say, the menu looks rather tasty and is posted on the mighty-cute website. Open nightly for dinner. Valet parking is $9 at the Gramercy Towers parking lot (on Jones Street). 1177 California St., at Jones St., 415-474-2000.

This Monday was ~CAFFE TRIESTE'S~ first day open in their new location on Market Street, and this year marks their 50th year in business! The café features a seaside mural, a long espresso bar, and indoor seating. It will be open all day, offering traditional café fare like breakfast treats, quiches, soup, salads, panini, and the like. (And, of course, their delicious coffee.) They should have their outdoor seating set up in a couple weeks. Mon-Fri, opening at 6:30am, and Sat-Sun at 7am. Open until 10pm Sun-Thu, and 11pm Fri-Sat. 1667 Market St., at Gough St., 415-551-1000.

In the Marina, Cozmo's Corner Grill is closing (potentially at the end of June) and getting a massive facelift from the talented designer Michael Brennan (Boca, Cortez, Tartare), reopening as ~CIRCA~ in August or so. Executive Chef Erik Hopfinger (Butterfly, Backflip, Spoon) is building a menu of small and shared plates that will offer a modern interpretation of classic dishes, and will highlight more of his classic French training. Dishes will range from $4-$19, and will include numbers like Dungeness Crab Tater Tots and Moroccan Spiced "Lolly Chops." Mark Bright will be the consulting sommelier (past consultations include DOSA and Oola), crafting a wine list that will spotlight unique wines and small producers not easily found elsewhere, with a strong Cali presence. The 112-seat space includes a bar, lounge, and dining area, and will be significantly swankified, with cushioned walls, long chandeliers, plush booths, and light boxes. 2001 Chestnut St., at Fillmore St., 415-351-0175.

And now, for the big daddy: the ~WESTFIELD SAN FRANCISCO CENTRE~, opening September 28. I wrote up some of the initial restaurants moving in there a few weeks back, but here's the official list of the seven full-service restaurants that will comprise the signature Restaurant Collection:

Bradley Ogden and restaurateur Michael Dellar, principals of the Lark Creek Restaurant Group are opening ~LARK CREEK STEAK~, featuring steaks, chops, and seafood on the Centre's fourth floor, under the famed Dome that was formerly in the Emporium.

Big hurrah, Tom Colicchio will be importing ~'WICHCRAFT~ from NYC. We're talking sandwiches from heaven, people, made with ingredients from small producers and greenmarkets, and antibiotic- and hormone-free meats. You'll be able to eat-in, or take-out, plus there will be delivery (ruh roh) and catering options.

There will be an outpost of Charles Phan's ~OUT THE DOOR~ from Slanted Door.

There will be another import from the East Coast: Jeffrey Kalt's ~GOGLOBAL~, with foods prepared a la minute, exhibition style, as the guest looks on. There will be individual serving stations with foods from around the world, along with salads and sandwiches.

The folks behind Colibri Mexican Bistro, Sylvia and Eduardo Rallo, along with their group's executive chef, Alex Padilla and Chef Rocio Gomez (the former Mexican Presidential chef), will present ~ZAZIL~, an upscale Coastal Mexican restaurant serving seafood specialties in a stylish environment.

Chris Yeo will be moving his Singaporean/fusion ~STRAITS RESTAURANT~ from Geary Street, and reopening it in the Centre, with a raw oyster bar, and a full bar with premium sake and a selective wine list. The Geary Street location closes in July.

Last but not least, ~COCOLA BAKERY~, "the Gucci of French patisserie," will be opening its first San Francisco location. The authentic French bakery and café is famed for its homemade breads, high-end pastries, and soups.

There will also be the ~DOME CAFÉ~, situated beneath the historic dome and rotunda. Then there's the ~FOOD EMPORIUM~, which includes the gourmet market Bristol Farms, and an additional 15 fast-casual gourmet eateries in an upscale dining environment: food is served on real china with real cutlery. Bloomingdale's is coming, plus the flagship Century Theatres, with nine wall-to-wall screens and stadium seating, and a Burke Williams Day Spa and Massage Center. Whew. I'm tired.

fresh meat

Plumpjack Café

PlumpJack Cafe
3127 Fillmore St.
Cross: Filbert St.
San Francisco, CA 94123


Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm
Dinner nightly 5:30pm-10pm

Apps $9-$15
Entrées $18-$29
Desserts $8.50

JUNE 6, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Your parents are in town (or even better, your in-laws!), and you need a nice place to take them where they won't complain about the noise, the food has to be spot-on (would I send you to a crappy place? Never!), the menu has to have something for everyone and be representative of our fair city, and an impressive wine list would be a bonus. You don't want your server to have an eyebrow piercing or tattoos on their knuckles that say "DON'T MESS." No vertical food, foams, or experimental fusion. One sure bet in the dining safety zone is ~PLUMPJACK CAFE~ in the Marina.

You won't find any hen parties, a raucous bar, or mariachis, but you will be greeted kindly and seated in an approachable room done up in muted hues of sea green, taupe, and putty. How soothing, you'll feel better already—even if your mother-in-law is on your last nerve, and you've only known her for ten minutes. There's a coat of arms/shield motif that you'll find on the backs of the chairs and above the wall doubling as a wine rack. (Servers are sans shield.)

The floor is plushly carpeted, with tables looking out onto the street, plus some slightly obscured tables with banquette seating in the back. The room strikes a comfortable stance of being proper without feeling stuffy, and calm while still registering as slightly energized. People are definitely chattering, just not yelling. On the night I went, there was a good mix of blue-hairs with businessmen, well-coiffed Marina couples and even a prissy aunt-like figure with a table of well-behaved young ladies, all ordering a brigade of salads.

The menu, by Chef de Cuisine Jeff Smock, is upscale Californian cuisine with a smattering of Italian and French influence, with a strong seasonal focus. In fact, he writes a new menu each month. One constant that remains is the trademark tuna cone appetizer ($13). Three sesame cones arrive in a special little metal contraption, holding a winning combo of yellowfin tuna tartare, with apple, avocado, and topped with yuzu crème fraîche and ginger tobiko. There's a reason the cones are on every table: they rock. The funny part is watching everyone's different techniques as they try to eat them—some try to daintily nibble from the side (one of the well-behaved girls), while others practically pop the whole thing in their mouth at once and chomp it (one of the businessmen). I say attack, otherwise you'll just make a mess, but do it with two bites.

When I went in early spring, the menu featured spring pea soup ($9) with mint pesto and pine nuts. It was a little under-salted and heavy for me—blame it on the potato that it was thickened with. However, it gave me a chance to try one of the trio of different salts sitting on the table. Each table has a clever little tower of salts in undulating stacking holders, including a ruddy Kauai salt, a pink Australian Murray River salt, and a Normandy stone-ground salt. Go nuts.

I was much more enamored with my Dungeness crab cakes ($12), a meaty cake crusted in panko crumbs, with a dollop of citrus aioli on top. The accompanying salad of shaved fennel, brightened with tangerine rind (and essence) and micro greens added a nice counterpoint of acidity and tanginess. Was paired with a fab Riesling–what it was, I cannot tell you because my handwriting was atrocious on that particular entry in my little notebook. Doh.

Sidebar here: our waiter, David, was one of the most attentive servers I've had in a long time. In fact, the entire room is run by a bunch of hawk-eyes. Invisible hands, swift service. Anyway, this guy has been there for some time, and knew the wine list like he wrote it. I also watched one of the other servers and noted the same qualities. Gotta love a tight ship.

The springtime bounty continued with a risotto ($18) of spring peas, favas, green garlic, and white and red spring onions. Loved the dollops of goat cheese and the spray of fried leeks on top. A vegetarian would be beyond thrilled with this dish. As a carnivore, I adored it. Then again, Smock might have used chicken stock for the risotto. Well, I imagine not, since it was the sole vegetarian entrée. I didn't confirm. I am now fired by the vegetarians.

Now I'm really gonna be fired by the vegetarians, because I am about to extol the virtues of the duck "duet" ($27) and the free-range veal chop ($28) on the menu. The hands-down winner of the evening was the sliced duck breast served with an excellently crispy yet succulent confit of the leg and thigh (so I'd actually consider the dish a trio). The duck came with sautéed broccoli rabe (one of my favorites) and a carrot and shitake sformato, all topped with a very au courant huckleberry-duck jus. Why au courant? Maybe you should take a peek at Michael Bauer's blog, because he beat me to my intended little missive about the trendy berry that seems to be making appearances on menus everywhere these days.

What is funny about this berry is that it should come with a warning label: my dining partner and I both had serious dining-foul incidents with it. Mine: whilst cutting my duck, my knife pricked a berry and it sprayed out its dark juice onto the white tablecloth. Great. Real classy. The table looks so nice now. But then my poor dining partner topped my little run-in, and managed to get one that sprayed the front of her white sweater. Berries on a rampage, seriously. It felt like a rendition of the blueberry pie-spewing scene in "Stand By Me." (Well, not really.) Moral of the story: watch out for that huckleberry. "My huckleberry friend?" Uh, no. Just Moon River and me. Well, and an '03 C & L Pinot Noir.

Sorry, musical digression.

Back to the meat. I don't normally go for veal, but this preparation was gorgeous. The chop is initially pan-braised, and then a brandy reduction is brought into the picture, and the chop is then simmered in the oven with caramelized cippolini onions that are later draped upon the slices of veal once it's plated. My glass of John Anthony '03 Cab only made the entire thing all the more luxurious. Man, what an exceptional wine. So elegant.

Okay, to the desserts. While having the cutest name ever, the strawberry patch ($8.50) was like the three bears: granted, the milkshake was tasty, but what isn't there to love about a strawberry milkshake? And the tartlet was just kind of boring, like something you'd find at a prix-fixe brunch buffet, while the pannacotta was just right. The butterscotch crème brûlée ($8.50) had a layer of sugar on top that was so thick I could have ice skated on it. So where should you steer your dessert spoon? To the El Rey molten chocolate caramel cake ($8.50), darling. Drizzled in caramel, with lavender ice cream hanging on its arm. Seriously one of the tastiest chocolate desserts I've had in some time. Deeeeelish.

A couple cool things to note about PlumpJack Café:

  • you can get valet parking at Greenwich and Fillmore Streets in front of the Balboa Café.
  • each Wednesday, you'll find a special farmer's market spring tasting menu.
  • on Mondays, PlumpJack Cafe offers free corkage on screwcap wines. They promise no one will look at you funny. Except your mother-in-law, perhaps.
the lush

Bourbon & Branch

Bourbon & Branch
Corner of O'Farrell and Jones
San Francisco, CA


JUNE 6, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO All-righty then, you bar-savvy folks: those of you familiar with Milk & Honey, the private and reservations-only bar in NYC (and London) are going to be downright thrilled with the soon-to-open ~BOURBON & BRANCH~ in the TL. Dahi Donnelly and Brian Sheehy from Swig and Anu have brought on Todd Smith, the former and longtime bar manager of Cortez, and are opening a reservations-only bar in the old 501 Club space (or should I say dive?) on the corner of O'Farrell and Jones. The vibe will be 1920s-inspired, offering a relaxed environment for those who want to avoid the crowds and mayhem that crowd most city bars, especially Thu-Sat. It's not about being all VIP and paying a membership fee, like Otis. You just have to reserve your spot in advance, done.

It's under construction right now, but expect whitewashed brick walls, wallpaper, dark woods for the floor, trim, and bar, and candlelit booths. There will be three rooms, including a mezzanine, and a private area with a separate entrance. It should seat about 65 folks total, or thereabouts. They're looking at opening late June/early July. I'll keep you posted when it's getting close.

About the name: branch is an old Southern term for river water, which is what you'd sprinkle in your bourbon. Nowadays a number of folks drink their bourbon on the rocks, which is basically "branch" by the time it melts. (I tend to finish my drink before that happens.)

Space Gallery

Space Gallery
1141 Polk St.
Cross: Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94109


JUNE 6, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Did you know the former hair salon and boutique, Space Projekt, on Polk Street is now ~SPACE GALLERY~? Been hearing about some fun parties and art shows—check out their calendar here. Since they're serving beer and wine, you have to be 21-and-over to attend. This Friday is the reception and fashion show for their t-shirt show that went up on Monday, from 7pm-midnight.

Gordon Biersch

Gordon Biersch

JUNE 6, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, springtime is in effect, summer is close, and just in time, there's a new bottled Hefeweizen on the market. ~GORDON BIERSCH~ has just released their crisp and unfiltered Hefeweizen in bottles, so you don't have to go the restaurant to get a pint of it—you can get a six-pack at Whole Foods, Safeway, Albertsons, Andronico's, Whole Foods, and BevMo. I am drinking one right now, so please excuse any typos that may follow.

the socialite


Schloss Wallhausen Winemaker Dinner
Friday, June 9, 2006

2209 Polk St.
Cross: Vallejo St.
San Francisco, CA 94109



$64 per person

JUNE 6, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO On Friday June 9, 2006, the oft-experimental (and ever-delightful) ~TABLESPOON~ on Polk will host a winemaker dinner highlighting the Rielsings of Schloss Wallhausen from the Nahe region of Germany. The four-course dinner, crafted by chef Rob Riescher, will feature four pairings with the following dishes:

first course: Dungeness Crab Salad with English Pea Coulis

second course: Seared Scallops with Roast Corn

third course: Roast Organic Guinea Hen with Morels and Fava Beans

dessert: Stone Fruit Tart


Vinos de España
Tuesday, June 13, 2006

550 Geary St.
Cross: Jones St.
San Francisco, CA 94102


6:30pm reception
7pm dinner

$95 per person
not inclusive of tax or gratuity

JUNE 6, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Next Tuesday, June 13, ~CORTEZ~ will be hosting a five-course tasting menu paired with Spanish wines from Jorge Ordonez Selections. The evening, Vinos de España, will be a chance to savor the culinary talents of Co-Executive Chefs Louis Maldonado and Seth Bowden.