table of contents   This week's tablehopper: Bolly'hood

the chatterbox
the word on the street
the regular

it's about time we met
the socialite


OCTOBER 17, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Well, it's a Pakistani-Indian shimmy and shakedown in this week's chatterbox and in the regular, and one could say I'm hell-bent on getting you fattened up for the winter with the two events listed in the socialite—one of them is the Gourmet Wine Cellar, where tablehopper readers get $10 off, meow. Who loves ya?

Yours truly,

the chatterbox

OCTOBER 17, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO The "best of" and "top-rated" flurry of activity continues: this month is Esquire's annual issue with John Mariani's picks for the "Best New Restaurants in the U.S." NorCal landed four winners: Ame; Bong Su; Junnoon, Palo Alto; and Redd, Yountville. Congrats to the winners! I was especially happy about Redd—Richard Reddington kicks culinary butt. You can check out the entire list here.

Continuing on the trail Slanted Door and Bong Su are busy blazing is a new contemporary Vietnamese restaurant called ~HUE L'AMOUR~ that has opened in the old Habana space on Van Ness. I can imagine the former colonial/exotica look-and-feel of the space was rather seamlessly integrated, plus there are some new additions, like a bar that looks like a boat in the spacious bar and lounge area that seats 30, and murals depicting scenes of Vietnamese life. The partners in the venture are Dao Diep and her husband, chef Doanh Huynh—they also own a restaurant in Oakland, Vietnamese Huynh. I spoke with the chef the other day, and I just have to say, he is so gosh-darned nice. He is quite keen on recreating the dishes he remembers from his childhood, and the entire project is very personal to him.

I took a look at the menu, and it includes some tasty-looking dishes like Nem Hue (pickled sour pork sausage with pork, pork skin, garlic, and spicy chili wrapped in banana leaf, $6.50); spicy beef salad with celery, carrots, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, and mint leaves, $9; sizzling sea bass with black mushrooms, vermicelli, onions, spices, coconut milk, and a sprinkling of mint leaves, $23; and chef's favorite, the Saigon Chicken with specially-marinated chicken, onion, and a spicy homemade sauce, $17. And check this out: you can park for free in a lot across Van Ness Sun-Wed after 5pm—on other nights valet parking is offered. Open for dinner Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. Lunch begins at the end of October, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm. 2080 Van Ness Ave. at Pacific, 415-567-1700.

A new wine bar and lounge serving small plates will be opening by the end of October on Polk Street. It's called ~AMELIE~, after one of the partner's daughters. Samie Didda, the owner of Chouchou and a pastry shop in Paris called "Les Petits Mitrons" is partnering up with Germain Michel, who has managed the floor staff of Chouchou for over two years. (Ends up they also play soccer together.) The menu will rotate daily, featuring an array of appetizing dishes like adobo-marinated seared beef carpaccio (or you can order it as a tartare); Chinese black beans with pork spareribs; roasted bone marrow with garlic, ginger, and chimichurri sauce; and classics like charcuterie and oysters on the half shell. The wine list will have around 150 wines (ranging from $20-$150) with 25 available by the glass and 10 by the half-bottle, with a focus primarily on Rhone Valley wines. The modern space will feature a variety of woods and will seat 40, with room for 15 at the bar. 1754 Polk St. at Washington St., 415-292-6916

Anne Gingrass (of Desiree Café and Hawthorne Lane) is back on the scene with ~ESSENCIA~, a contemporary Peruvian restaurant moving into the former Pendragon space in Hayes Valley. Gingrass was originally hired as a consulting chef, but is now partnering with the husband-and-wife team of Juan and Carmen Cespedes, who hail from Lima, Peru. Gingrass said the SF-friendly menu will include authentic favorites, like ceviche, octopus, and anticuchos, along with some complex dishes making their way into the mix as well. Carmen Cespedes, who has an importer's license, will be assisting in the importation of olives, pickles, coffee, fish, cheese, and even the uniforms for the restaurant. The 45-seat space will have a rich color palette of red, gold, and a deep chocolate-eggplant hue, and there will be a pisco bottle collection on display. An art instructor is currently welding a sign for the exterior—check out the logo on the site to get an idea (and to sign up for their mailing list). The look will be contemporary gaucho, with some elements that elicit the ocean, forest, and tropical elements of Peru. The plan is to open the second week of December, and they hope to eventually add outdoor seating as well. Essencia will be open for lunch Mon-Fri, and dinner Mon-Sat. 401 Gough St. at Hayes St., 415-552-8485.

This news totally bummed me out: the sweet chef, Kamar U. Barbhuyan, and his wife Nimmie who were at my favorite Indian place, ~LITTLE DELHI~ have left due to issues with their business partner. Like, dang. So they are currently seeking a space to set up shop yet again—will let you know as soon as they land somewhere. Please note it won't be under the Little Delhi name since they lost it when they left the partnership...

Folks in Potrero Hill have been following this news quite closely: after being in the same location since 1979, ~KLEIN'S DELI~ will be closing its doors on December 15. Avery McGinn, the current owner since 1990, decided not to renew her lease since the new terms were going to be too economically challenging for the business (the profit margin of a deli can be pretty slim, no surprise). Reportedly a new venture from the building’s owner, an organic wine bar and deli called Jay's, will be moving into the location. While talking to McGinn, she was very clear about not wanting to stir the pot o' controversy brewing around the closure of Klein's, so I'll just leave it at that. McGinn is very loyal to the neighborhood and her clientele, so she is looking for a new commercial space to buy in Potrero Hill. For now, she is seeking a shared community kitchen where she can do her prep for her two Klein's locations at SFO. McGinn will be holding a big community party on December 16, the day after Klein's Deli closes, so be sure to come by and say farewell, hopefully for only a short time. 501 Connecticut St. at 20th St., 415-821-9149.

A couple readers asked me what was up with ~BYBLOS~, the Mediterranean restaurant moving into the former VXN space on the corner of Broadway and Columbus. They just had their soft opening this past weekend, and should be running on all cylinders by this coming weekend (the 21st). 270 Columbus Ave. at Broadway, 364-0082.

Some sad news rocked the food world this last week: ~CHARLES CONDY~, the man behind local powerhouse Aqua, unexpectedly passed away last Wednesday from pneumonia (he was in the hospital for about a week). He was only 69. Condy's other projects under the Aqua Development Corp. umbrella included Café de la Presse, Pisces in Burlingame, and the now-closed Charles Nob Hill/C&L Steakhouse and Redwood Park. You can read more about his background on SFGate. His memorial service was held this morning in San Anselmo, and friends and family are gathering after the service at Café de la Presse, which closed during lunch in order to host today’s memorial reception. There are many people in the City, and beyond, who send their condolences to the family.

I was heading over to the ~OWL TREE~ for a drink a couple weeks ago and discovered it oddly closed. Just last week it all became clear when I found this notice about ~ROBERT "BOBBY" COOK~, the owl-loving and feisty barkeep, who sadly passed away from cancer this September. A really big piece of San Francisco folklore is now lost… rest in peace, Bobby. I guess it's all up to Carl at the Ha-Ra to hold the torch as SF's crankiest bartender.

the regular

Lahore Karahi image

Lahore Karahi
612 O' Farrell St.
Cross: Leavenworth St.
San Francisco, CA 94109


Daily 11am-11pm

Apps $1-$3.50
Entrées $6-$10.95
Dessert $2-$4

OCTOBER 17, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Since the talented cook is no longer at the helm at my favorite Indian joint, Little Delhi, I figured it was time to write up ~LAHORE KARAHI~, a strong contender to the throne of best Pakistani-Indian in the Tandooriloin (it's been around for a couple years). It's right smack at the corner of crack and wack, so don't be shocked with the hustle and hookin' as you make your way to the front door. (Whoa, looks like Jerri Blank is back on a bender!)

Like the nearby Tajine, it's a one-man show in the kitchen, giving the food a soulful and personal quality that can really be tasted. Chef "Guddu" is Mister Personality, and totally knows how to rock the karahi (wok). Since he insists on doing everything himself, the food can take a little time coming out of the kitchen. I'm not saying you'll be finished with "War and Peace" by the time your dal masala is served, but if you're totally hangry (hungry + angry), the minutes can definitely crawl. My advice: order some apps like the aloo tikki potato patties ($3) or the blistered vegetable samosas ($3) stuffed with nicely cooked peas and some potatoes that are almost like hash browns—odds are good those will come out relatively quickly. There, there… feel better now?

Since the joint is BYOB, one strategy is to place your order and then go on a beer run. Hint: the closest liquor stores oddly don't have beer—hit the one that's practically kitty corner to the restaurant. More advice for you: since Guddu has a way with spice, don't skimp on your beer purchase.

Speaking of spices, when the stone-faced server takes your order, designate how you really want it, and not how you think it will be served. Spicy is freaking spicy, so I usually stick within the medium range because I like to taste the nuances of the ingredients. You also get squeeze bottles of cool raita and tamarind chutney so you can accessorize to your heart's content.

The menu has some total winners, like the chicken korma ($5—yes, a paltry $5), with hunks of tender chicken in a deeply flavorful curry, or the karahi chicken ($6) with onion, tomato, and bell pepper. Sounds kind of "meh" but it's totally meow. I've had tikka masala I prefer elsewhere, but the bright saag gosht ($6.50) is a champ dish here, with savory herbs and spices.

Guddu is known for his tandoori fish ($10.95), a piping-hot plate laden with chunks of charred onion, plus lettuce draped on top of the fish and wedges of lemon nestled in. Okay, first off, this thing was so freaking hot it was splattering juice and oil all over the place. My dining partner and I totally had to hold up our napkins as splatter guards for at least two minutes, no joke. Now I see why the adjoining table had their fish sitting away on another table until they were ready to eat it. They were wise to the ways of the splatter-fest, and now you are too.

The fish itself was delicious—juicy, zingy, tender. But here's where things get complicated: we asked what kind of fish it was, and our surly waiter informed us that it's Chilean Sea Bass. Oh yeah, you mean the over-fished and endangered Patagonian toothfish that also has some less-than-lovely mercury levels, right? Here's hoping Guddu considers finding an alternate, like striped bass, or Pacific halibut. Next time I'm in there I'm gonna leave him a subtle "Seafood Watch" pocket guide—do you have one of these? You should. They're easy to carry in your wallet. So the next time you're at {insert fancy restaurant name here} and wondering if you should order the monkfish or not, you'll know exactly what to do.

Vegetarians don't have these issues, although they often have to deal with minimal menu choices. Not here! Veggie munchers will be stoked with the array of dishes—try twelve! Hands down, the star of that section for me is the aloo gobi ($6.50), an action-packed dish of tender cauliflower and potato, plus chunks of sautéed onion. The dish was saucy and silky but not all mashed to hell like you're a toddler eating Gerber baby food.

Don't miss a side of the basmati rice ($1.25), which has a special brown hue to it due to Guddu's special spice mix instead of the typical saffron yellow. His naans also have a really homemade taste and touch, like the plain naan ($1), which is satisfyingly chewy but a touch floury and dense for me. Maybe consider trying the whole-wheat roti ($1) instead. There are also the usual suspects, like onion kulcha ($2) or garlic naan ($2), plus an Afghani naan ($3), stuffed with raisins, nuts, cheese, and cherries.

The atmosphere is definitely bare bones: perhaps the most prominent feature will be a loud vintage Bollywood flick blaring from the TV set. Lahore Karahi draws a good mix of folks, from slumming gourmands to lucky neighborhood denizens to group dinners of Pakistani men.

One small note: the servers can be a bit bizarre. There's one in particular who is soooooo crotchety—one night he had a look on his face like he was ready to knife us. We ended up nicknaming him the water pusher: after every two or three sips of water he was back again, asking if we wanted more, while the dirty dishes continued to pile up higher and higher. No big deal—besides, the sweet chef is what the place is really all about. How sweet? He might even send out dessert to you, like kulfi (Indian ice cream) served with toothpicks ($4, or perhaps free if you're a friendly regular). Welcome to the family.


the starlet

Gourmet Wine Cellar logo

Gourmet Wine Cellar San Francisco
Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006

The Ferry Building
The Grand Hall
Second floor


$90 per person prior to October 31, $100 after.

$10 off for tablehopper readers: enter promo code MT

Purchase tickets here or call 1-877-490-3337

OCTOBER 17, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Here's an event where the food won't suck. In fact, it's one of the better annual food events in the City. ~THE GOURMET WINE CELLAR SAN FRANCISCO~, presented by Gourmet magazine, returns to the Ferry Building. The event brings together San Francisco's top chefs along with local winemakers, farmers, and artisan food purveyors. The event will benefit CUESA: Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, manager of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

And checkity-check it: Tablehopper readers get $10 off the ticket price: just enter the promo code MT.

The evening will include seminars with winemakers, sommeliers (like Stephane Lacroix from the Ritz Carlton SF and Raj Parr, the Wine Director for the Michael Mina Group), and tastings from San Francisco's top chefs (a few of the dishes I've heard about are a Lobster Croque Monsieur and Lobster Cappuccino with Orange Vanilla Cream from Roland Passot, and Scott Howard will be serving his incomparable Carrot Soup with Chervil Sabayon Truffle Oil, purr). Admission includes a special cooking demonstration and book signing by Sara Moulton, Gourmet Executive Chef, as well as an educational and entertaining Wine Lab, hosted by Gourmet Wine & Spirits Consultant Michael Green.

Check out the line-up of local chefs that will be rocking it:

  • Paul Arenstam, Executive Chef, Americano
  • Arnold Eric Wong, Executive Chef, Bacar and EOS Restaurant & Wine Bar
  • Bruce Hill, Executive Chef, Bix
  • Douglas Keane, Executive Chef, Cyrus
  • Roland Passot, Executive Chef, La Folie
  • Mark Dommen, Chef, One Market
  • Scott Howard, Executive Chef, Scott Howard
  • Ron Siegal, Executive Chef, The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton
  • Mitch and Steven Rosenthal, Executive Chefs, Town Hall

And more to come… see you there?!

Cortez logo

Joseph Phelps Winemaker Dinner
Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006

in the Hotel Adagio
560 Geary St.
Cross: Jones St.
San Francisco, CA 94102


6:30pm reception
7pm dinner

$100 per person
not inclusive of tax or gratuity

OCTOBER 17, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO After making your mouth water with last week's write-up of Cortez, perhaps you'll want to check out next Tuesday's winemaker dinner featuring Joseph Phelps. Executive Chefs Louis Maldonado and Seth Bowden will be preparing a six-course menu with dishes like cauliflower velouté with black truffle mousse, preserved lemon, and slivered almond salad (paired with Phelps's 2001 Syrah), and crispy poached organic squab with vanilla-glazed baby turnips and sunchoke, paired with the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon. I'd make sure you have a driver or plan on calling a taxi after this one.