table of contents   This week's tablehopper: silk stalkings.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular
it's about time we met
the socialite
the starlet
no photos please


SEPTEMBER 19, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO So how many of you hit the beach on Sunday? Were you fighting over the patio at Blue Plate and the tables outside Pizzeria Delfina? When you get this, I'll actually be in Paso Robles wrapping up a couple days touring some farms (helllllllo abalone)—I'll be sure to report on it soon, most likely in "the jetsetter."

It's fall, and things are definitely kicking up around the city—I have a bunch of leads I'm tracking down, but for now, I hope you enjoy this week's installment of the chatterbox. True to my name, last week I hit the opening parties for Prana (lots of white), the new Slide (lots of booths), and Weird Fish (totally effen cute: robin's egg blue walls, very personal and eclectic style, and tasty fish tacos). This week I'll be scoping out the new larger plates at Cortez—more on that soon!

And hello dear users—ends up tablehopper was blocked last week, so sorry you didn't receive last week's issue! You can read it here.

Rock on,

the chatterbox

SEPTEMBER 19, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Folks in the Dogpatch area are gonna be stoked about this news, and pizza lovers just might make the trek cross-town for this one: a tiny pizza place will be opening (optimistically) by the beginning of November called ~PICCINO~ (it's an endearing Italian diminutive of the word "little," picco). Not only is the 700-square-foot space small (there will be four tables inside, max, plus some outdoor seating), but the menu will also be small—and so are the owners, who barely clock in 5'2". Awww! Piccino will be open daily in the morning, serving Blue Bottle coffee and baked goods (plus organic hard-boiled eggs with flavored salts for those on the go), and come early afternoon, the gas oven will be fired up for pizzas. Panini, soup, and salads will also be on the menu, all made with local and organic ingredients. Plus beer and wine, check! This first-time venture comes from a Pizzetta 211 alum (for 1 1/2 years), Sheryl Rogat, so you know she knows her pizza! Her business partner is Margherita Stewart, a fellow pizza and coffee-phile (she had an import business, and her husband is the owner of the building that houses the Blue Bottle kiosk on Linden). Just kitty corner to Just for You, the petite space is in an historical building that was a market in the '40s, and most recently a computer media company. Everyone in the neighborhood has been really supportive of the project (no surprise there). It'll be open daily for coffee in the mornings and lunch five days a week (for now)—evenings potentially later. 801 22nd St. at Tennessee.

~JAMES "SEAMUS" MULHALL~, a captain at Gary Danko since it opened in 1999, will be leaving the restaurant at the end of the month to start preparing for his next gig: GM of Nick's Cove & Cottages in Tomales Bay. This is the waterfront project from Pat Kuleto, Mark Franz, and Richard Miyashiro that finally got underway in February after years of languishing in permit hell (something like 39 permits had to be secured for this doozy of a project) and serious construction, like putting in a new pier and retaining walls. Ugh. Seamus will be at Nick's Cove with his wife Shelley, who is also leaving her job as a manager at Chez Panisse. I'm sure many people wish them well, and we can all look forward to checking out the (soon-to-be upscale) cottages and slurping some shucked oysters at the seafood "shack" come 2007. And you know service and operations will be spot-on—in addition to his years at Gary Danko, Seamus was a waiter at La Folie for five years, Masa's for 2 1/2 years (when Julian Serrano was there), and Farallon. Cheers Seamus!

Another big Kuleto project that just broke ground a little over a week ago (after three years in the works) is the historic Rincon Park Restaurant Project. The park is situated between Harrison and Howard Streets, right at the base of Folsom and along The Embarcadero. It will include open lawns and landscaped areas, just next to the hulking Oldenburg and van Bruggen Cupid's Span sculpture. There are two restaurants in the works that are slated to open in late 2007: first is ~EPIC~, a contemporary roast house that will have Jan Birnbaum at the helm (as chef and co-owner). Birnbaum has some serious chops (har) that includes time in New Orleans, New York, and locally, Campton Place and the former Catahoula in Calistoga. There will be a custom-built wood-fired grill, with a menu that will include a globetrotting variety of meat and steaks, plus some finned and feathered friends. The restaurant will be at the north end of a large outdoor piazza in the park; both restaurants will share this piazza for outdoor seating for lunch, dinner, and cocktails, and will be open daily. 369 Embarcadero.

On the south end of Rincon Park will be the seafood-centric ~WATERBAR~, headed up by Chef Mark Franz (the chef and a co-owner of Farallon), a partner in the project. The high-end restaurant will feature floor-to-ceiling aquariums with live fish, plus fresh fish flown in from around the world, and spectacular bay views. Kuleto is describing the look as "the Monterey Bay Aquarium meets Tadich Grill." See, you will be able to eat the fish instead of just watch them. 399 Embarcadero.

After the departure of Karen Taylor from ~ROOSEVELT'S TAMALE PARLOR~, and subsequent less-than-stellar reports, it seems things have evened out and improved over there according to some posts on Chowhound.

I heard the Thursday prix fixe dinners at ~WINTERLAND~ have ended, so we'll just have to sit tight for now and see where Vernon Morales ends up. It's the million dollar question. Well, in my book it is.

Quick updates for you ever-curious types: ~SALT HOUSE~, the upcoming project from the Town Hall gents, is looking like an early October opening (ditto for ~PERBACCO~, the Piedmontese Italian restaurant opening on California next to Aqua and Tadich Grill). ~LITTLE STAR~ on Valencia will hopefully be opening late next week—that's what they're going for. Went to an opening party at ~PRANA~ last week—it's getting close! You can check out their website (with menus) here.

I heard through the proverbial grapevine that ~MEDJOOL~ is going to be potentially changing some dishes, like 10-15, come late October. More on this as it takes shape.

Since fall is here, it's the perfect time for cassoulet! Just think, a nice big bowl of white beans with duck confit, lamb confit, boudin blanc, and Toulouse sausage (garlic and pork) on a chilly night, huzzah. Hungry? Cassoulet is back on the menu at ~RUE ST. JACQUES~, and they have a 2003 Vacqueyras that reportedly pairs nicely with it. Good thing they're on a hill so you can try to walk some of it off after dinner.

~ANZU~ is running a "Locals Only" wine special in the restaurant. All bottles of wine will be available at 50% off list, now through the end of September. Be sure to mention the wine special should you choose to take advantage of it.

And finally, not sure how many of you are familiar with the ~SAVORY~ website in NYC, but I wanted to let you know they are launching an SF version tomorrow, which will feature short video profiles of local favorite restaurants (think Zuni, NOPA, Incanto, etc.) that are added each week, plus useful listing information and links to some reviews. They are most welcome to the 415!

the regular

Silks image

222 Sansome
in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Cross: Pine St.
San Francisco, CA 94104


Dinner Tue-Sat 6pm-9pm

Tasting Menu $75
Apps $15-$28
Entrées $22-$40
Desserts $11



SEPTEMBER 19, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I have a friend and colleague who is crazy for Joel Huff's cooking. Like, if Huff had a fan club, she'd be a charter member. Susan has been singing his praises since her first meal at ~SILKS~, calling him the best new chef of San Francisco, and so I was thrilled when she offered to treat me to dinner there recently. I am willing to wager very few of you have eaten at Silks, or have even thought about it. Well, like Susan, I'm here to tell you that you should. (Come on, drink the Kool-Aid!)

Restaurants in hotels can sometimes have a tough time, and especially when they're not even visible from the street—Silks is tucked away on the second floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Financial District. I can't vouch for how busy the room will be or not, but I'd say the odds are good that it'll be mellow. See, not enough people know how downright delicious the food is here. I'm happy to help my friend with her crusade to turn more people on to Huff's unique and excellent dishes that integrate Asian flavors and influences, French technique, and his own je ne sais quoi add up to a totally fresh approach.

This was the first Mandarin Hotel to open in the U.S., so it's modeled after the Silks in Hong Kong. Large panels of silk robes line the wood-paneled walls, plus tiered and hand-painted lampshades with tassels and a stenciled trim heighten the exotic design touches. The floor is also lushly patterned. The dining room has some booths upholstered in Prussian blue mohair that are situated along one wall (request one of these if you can), but the dark wood armchairs with padded arms and backs in the center of the room are still lovely, and comfortable, seats. The room feels sophisticated (well, except for the bizarre display of bottles of Veuve and some wines on a table covered with a black tablecloth like it's a tradeshow setup) and you can actually carry on a conversation with your guests without having to sign to each other. (Read: great place to bring the 'rents, have a romantic dinner, or just "stop the insanity.")

Okay, it's not cheap. Let's just get that out of the way. We're talking along the lines of the other big guys in town, like Masa's and Michael Mina and the gang. You can do the tasting route ($75 for three courses, $85 for four) or order a la carte. Either way, get that credit card or drug dealer wad of cash ready. And let the edible art show begin.

My friend and I opted for the four-course dinner (naturally) with the suggested wine pairing ($45—it would be $35 for the three course). We started with a ridiculously delicious and artful amuse of an oyster topped with sea urchin, thinly sliced sea grape and one edamame bean—a lovely kick off. It was followed by the glistening jewels of yellow fin tuna ($15) dolloped with feta foam (I know, cheese and fish (!), but it was scrumptious), partnered with petite yuzu jelly cubes, a ponzu truffle vinaigrette, and a little surprise crunch of roasted garlic chips. Oh, and there was some fried caper, and basil in there too. I mean look at the pic, and yes, it tasted as good as it was pretty to look at. Daring combo of flavors, and it sang. Not Top 40, mind you—this was a definite indie track.

My all-time favorite, and I know I am not alone in this, is his decadent rendition of eggs, bacon, and toast ($18). One of the biggest duck eggs I have ever seen is tempura fried, and rests on a slice of brioche and is blanketed with some speck foam (speck is a smoked prosciutto—you should try it in a sandwich sometime). You break the egg yolk and it runs into the crispy swath of suckling pig that looks like pork belly, but it's not. It is actually a center cut of pressed and then braised pork. Delightful textured layers of crispy and fatty succulence, with full-on porky flavor. In this dish, what would be your home fries are actually truffled potatoes, with a drizzle of Pinot Noir reduction on the plate (our 2004 Willakenzie Pinot Noir was a perfect match for this dish, and it's not just because it's the same Pinot he uses for the reduction). It all looks quite Kandinsky on the plate. Some people would be slayed with the richness of this dish, but I'm a total pig for anything with egg and/or pork, so I was in literal hog heaven. It was my dream trough.

I was enraptured with the concurrent simplicity and depth of the Japanese hot pot dish ($30), a steaming cast-iron bowl that comes resting on its own little block of wood. Within was a treasure of tender Alaskan black cod braised in sake, and then brushed with miso. I adore mushrooms, so the medley of enokis, shimejis, and oyster mushrooms was a shroom extravaganza, coupled with esoteric bursts of flavor from the sea beans. There was also bok choy, carrot cut into tiny leaf shapes, and edible fern. Oh, and let's not forget the tender rock shrimp gyoza, all resting in the chicken dashi consommé. My cravings for nabeyaki are suddenly pale, if not gone—THIS is the dish to crave.

I found the hand-cut tom yum noodles with a sparkling-fresh Maine lobster tail, mussels, and clams ($40), while lovingly executed (and interestingly so as well—it all arrives wrapped in parchment paper that is ceremoniously cut open by your server—you get an aromatic spa-like face steaming), was too familiar in its flavors to really make me ever desire it again—especially when compared to the uniqueness of the other dishes, and its steep price. Ingredients like Kaffir lime, lemongrass, Thai basil pesto, and crushed cashews were harmonious, but didn't really strike me as sigh-worthy.

Desserts continued the theme of beautiful presentation, but it was the plainest presentation that I liked best (a Cinderella finale, you could say). After trying the stacked dominos of chocolate marquise ($11) (I savored the surprise of the white pepper sorbet) and the banana split ($11) that came with a tasty vanilla malt shot, it was the complimentary coupling of a teacup full of rich hot chocolate and a shot of bock that totally wowed me. Yes, chocolate and beer, truly bittersweet. I wonder if someone out there could (and would) try making this into an ice cream flavor. Hey, I'd buy a pint.

So, are you curious? I hope so. Huff is a young and talented chef—read my friend's article for more on his interesting background, which includes Ventura, Australia, Denmark, and New York. The easy street parking in the evening or the complimentary valet parking for three hours is a nice bonus, and the efficient service and thoughtful wine pairings all make for one heck of a memorable dining experience. Don't let the empty room scare you—you just happen to be in on a secret that really should be common knowledge. And don't forget your wallet.

the starlet

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant image

Vino and Chocolate
Thursday, October 5th

Recchiuti Kitchen
2565 3rd St.
Suite 225
San Francisco



Vino and Cheese
Thursday, October 12th

Ferry Building
Port Commission Hearing Room
Second Floor
San Francisco



Info: 415-288-0470

SEPTEMBER 19, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Wine, cheese, and thou. Wait, it's bread, wine, and thou. Well, thanks to the ~FERRY PLAZA WINE MERCHANT~, it's gonna be wine, cheese, and chocolate! (Pitter patter.) On Thursday October 5, you will be able to visit the Michael Recchiuti kitchen and learn about the art of pairing chocolate and vino from Peter Granoff, MS, and both Michael and Jacky Recchiuti. Suffice to say, it's not gonna be about Cabs, baby!

There will also be a cheese and wine pairing class taught on Thursday, October 12, at the Ferry Building with Peter Granoff, MS, and Peggy Smith, co-founder of Cowgirl Creamery. Mmmmmm, cheese.

the starlet

SEPTEMBER 19, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Giiiiiiirl, as many of you know, SJP (yes, Ms. Sarah Jessica Parker) was on the loose! She reportedly dined at the R&G Lounge (I KNOW, how quirky is that? Love it. She supposedly loves Chinese food and total hole-in-the-wall joints) but she did step it up the next night and hit Quince. The girl's got good taste, I have to hand it to her.