table of contents   This week's tablehopper: small plates strike again.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the lush
put it on my tab
the socialite

the starlet
no photos please


OCTOBER 24, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Oh yeah baby, I had an epic weekend that was in full effecty wecty—I hope you can say the same. Friday and Saturday I was hanging out in Half Moon Bay, checked out the new Sam's Chowder House (I'll actually be back down in HMB this coming weekend for the Inside the Kitchen event—it's gonna be swell) and Saturday was spent sipping at the K&L Wines Fête du Champagne—boutique bubbles, purr. Did anyone attend the Wine Spectator California Wine Experience? If you encountered any especially sleepy sommeliers last week, now you know why.

And I want to put this out there for you (fellow) food-lovin' single folks: I attended a singles cooking class Sunday night through Parties That Cook!, and I gotta say, it was totally fun and not at all humiliating or depressing. So if you want to meet some nice folks in a relaxed setting, you should do it. Next one is November 12! With hilarious dishes like "Define the Relationship Tartlets," why resist?

And finally, I wanted to give you a heads up on a new project I'm helping a client launch over the next few months: It's a specialty email sent to subscribers twice a week, about off-the-beaten-path (and usually artisanal) food (think goat's milk ice cream), beverages (micro-brewed watermelon wheat beer, anyone?), books, food-focused blogs, and culinary travel experiences around the world. Imagine Daily Candy-meets-Saveur, and you'll be on the right track. The site officially launches this Friday, on October 27—but you can sign up now at

One could say my goal in life is to make sure everyone is well-fed. I'll cop to it.

Eat up,

the chatterbox

OCTOBER 24, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO A slew of openings this week—exciting times, gang. First, and right on schedule I'd like to note, ~EUREKA RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE~ (the project from the chaps at Chenery Park) opened on Saturday in the old Red Grill space in the Castro. Open Tue-Sun for dinner, starting at 6pm. 4063 18th St. at Hartford St., 415-431-6000.

And ~PERBACCO~ just opened yesterday at 230 California St., at Battery St. Open Mon-Thu 11:30am-10pm, Fri 11:30am-11pm; and Sat 5:30pm-11pm, closed on Sunday. 415-955-0663.

And the winner of the funniest opening website, the ~SALT HOUSE~ opens tonight! Hello potpie with duck confit. And you can enjoy it at midnight! Mon–Fri 11:30 am-1am, Dinner: Sat 5pm-1am and Sun 5pm-12am. 545 Mission St., 415-543-8900.

Okay, why does 18th Street continue to blow up with gourmet goodness? I swear, I'm getting super jealous of my friend who lives there. Anyway, the shady Rica's Pupusas is no more, and moving into its place is ~REGALITO ROSTICERÍA~. It's basically going to be a Mexican rotisserie, with free-range chicken (yay!), and other slow-roasted meats and veggies, regional Mexican specialties, plus handmade tortillas and salsas. Chef Thomas Pena is committed to using sustainable and local ingredients whenever possible, cool. We just have to sit tight until the summer. 3481 18th St. at Valencia St.

And just down the street, the folks at ~WEIRD FISH~ have confirmed a November 1 opening date, huzzah. 2193 Mission St. at 18th St.

A few other changes around town: starting November 20, you won't be able to get breakfast during the week at ~CANTEEN~ (you can still get their awesome corned beef hash during brunch on the weekend, however), and ~MEMPHIS MINNIE'S~ will no longer be serving weekend brunch. But I do have some good news for you: ~UNIVERSAL CAFÉ~ has extended their fab Friday lunch to now include Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays! You can dig in from 11:30am-2:30pm, 2814 19th St. at Bryant, 415-821-4608.

Wine lovers, get your Screwpull at the ready: opening on Upper Polk is ~BIONDIVINO~, a specialty Italian wine boutique that will feature unusual varieties and even some releases you can't even get in California (yeah, the owner, Ceri Smith, has "connections"—it's how Italians roll, yo). Her family name is Biondi, but when followed with "vino" it becomes "Blonde Wine" (although for the record, she's a brunette). The boutique will occasionally host tastings with visiting winemakers, plus some guest speakers and classes, but overall it's designed to be a place to learn about and buy Italian wine. The interior is going to be modern and slick but warm and inviting—I loved the twig-like chandelier that will be going up. There's also a bright orange awning, which feels extra-appropriate since Smith is gunning for a Halloween opening. 1415 Green St. at Polk St., 415-673-2320.

Opening this November will be another ~CAFFE TRIESTE~ location, this time it's SOMA workers who can get wired. 199 New Montgomery St. at Howard St.

Here's a unique project from the active mind of Sam Josi of the Vintage 415 crew (he's the chef at Mamacita): opening next year in the former Cybelle's Pizza place will be ~OAK HILL FARM~, a take-out establishment for home-cooked lunch and dinner items made with seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients. Expect fresh salads, sandwiches, and some nurturing dinner set-ups that will span California comfort food, with perhaps Latin America touches, Asian influences, and beyond. There will be a few seats inside, but the format is definitely geared to be take-home. This has been a long-standing idea for Josi, a local boy from Kentfield, whose visionary step-grandmother is behind Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen, a 700-acre sustainable farm that is part of the Sonoma Land Trust. (If the name seems familiar, the family also has a flower stand called Oak Hill Farm in the Ferry Building Marketplace.) Josi is planning for a spring opening. 2105 Chestnut St. at Steiner St.

Update on some projects happening in the Presidio: first is ~LA TERRACE~, a project from Laurent Katgely of Chez Spencer. This rustic French bistro will be open all day, offering breakfast (more like a French-style breakfast with pastries, instead of egg-based dishes), lunch (including a variety of pizzas, like a smoked salmon version), and a limited afternoon menu. Dinner will become a bit more upscale ($22-mid-$30s for entrées) plus a tasting menu will be offered as well (expect $60 and upwards). The wood-burning oven was formerly at Cozmo's (now Circa), and will be cooking up some tasty bites for sure. Michael Brennan is designing the A-frame ceiling space, and true to the name, there will be a patio, plus a bar too (they have a full liquor license, yay). Open Mon-Sat 7am-10pm, Sun 7am-4pm. 215 Lincoln Ave.

Opening late November in Building D of the Letterman Digital Arts Center will be ~PRES A VIS—GLOBAL CUISINE AND WINE BAR~, a 415 variation of the popular Va de Vi in Walnut Creek (AKA the 925). The project comes from Executive Chef Kelly Degala, Dale Raaen, John Walz and Stan Raaen, and will feature a similar globally-influenced small plates format (expect 20-30 dishes) and their trademark wine flights. Dishes will include international numbers like Manila clams, pork belly, lumpia, Peking duck buns, and hamachi carpaccio. There will be room for 200, with a communal table that will seat 22 and overlooks the exhibition kitchen. There will also be a large bar and cocktail lounge (with a piano, interesting), plus an outdoor patio lounge area with a view of the park and the Bay. An underground parking garage and valet are both offered. Parking, how novel. Open Sun-Wed 11:30am-11pm, Thu-Sat 11:30am-midnight; bar open until 1am, Thu-Sat, with bar bites offered. One Letterman Drive, near the corner of Chestnut and Lyon Streets.

Well, this place didn't stay open for too long: after a couple months of business, ~AVENUE G~ has closed, and the business that was originally in the location, Pho Tu Do, is back. Confusing, I know. 1000 Clement St., 415-221-7111.

the starlet

Poleng Lounge

Poleng Lounge
1751 Fulton St.
Cross: Masonic St.
San Francisco, CA 94117


Open Tue-Sun 4pm-2am

Small plates $6-$12
Dessert $5-$7

OCTOBER 24, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Okay, I'll admit it: I was a bit skeptical about ~POLENG LOUNGE~ when I initially heard about it. Let's just say the transformation from the 1751 Social Club (o' troublemakers) into a tea lounge and Asian street food hotspot made me arch at least one of my eyebrows. And tea is just popping up everywhere, from the second Samovar location, to Modern Tea, to Fierro en Guerra. Tea tea tea. It sounded like T for trendy.

I didn't exactly harbor the highest hopes for the food. But I am here to testify: the food here is quite good, and certainly unique when compared to what's out there. Just wait until you see the über-affordable price point most dishes hover at (like $8)—for about the same price you could be eating some greasy Chinese food loaded with MSG or oil slick Indian from a buffet. You choose.

So let's just dive into the food first, because that's primarily why we go out, right? (Oh, and to drink to forget, but that's another matter.) The menu is full of small plates to share, like 20 in all, plus some killer sides, like sweet potato fries ($3) with banana catsup (a first for me, and definitely not my last). The fries were thinly cut (not quite regulation McDonalds size, but whatever), but definitely weren't the usual fat spears you see elsewhere that end up feeling soggy or mealy. These came out piping hot, crispy, and perfectly salty. Bring it on.

The deep-fried adobo chicken wings ($7) were just plain sick. You could tell this recipe took some work to perfect it, and the talented chef confirmed my hunch. (Sidebar: Chef Timothy Luym, formerly of Fifth Floor, is totally Mr. Nice Guy—and he grew up in the Philippines, so you'll see all kinds of Filipino touches on the menu.) So, where were we? Oh yes, the crack wings. They are sticky, sweet, juicy, and totally scrumptious, with a blistered crust that does justice to their deep-fried provenance. Just writing about them makes me crave another hit. GIVE ME ANOTHER HIT, MAN! I also liked the accompanying pile of achara, thin shreds of lightly pickled papaya seasoned with ginger, and a slight kick of heat. Yup, we're two for two on fried items.

Now, let's segue to pan-fried: had to try the Buddha's treasures ($6.50) that seem to have their own publicist there's so much buzz about them. They were almost like pot stickers that are folded more artistically (they looked like food flowers!), and instead of pork have minced veggies inside; you dunk them into a bowl of black sesame and ponzu sauce. So, how were they? They were totally fine—I mean, what's not to love about dumplings? Well, true, sometimes dumplings can get a little greasy, but these were just right. Okay, tried the dumplings, check. Next.

The garlic and crab pan-fried egg noodles ($10) come with chunks of Dungeness crab mixed in and scattered on top—of course I wanted more crab, but for $10, I can't ask for too much. The noodles packed a little spice, which I liked, and weren't so garlicky that you come out of there smelling like an Italian. (Trust me, I finally got used to it.) It's a good substantial dish to mix in with the other small plates, but I think there are definitely other dishes that are more interesting on the menu.

How about four skewers of braised pork belly and pineapple ($7.50)? Uh, yeah! The grilling added a unique dimension to the dish, which struck a delectable balance of salty and sweet and yes, fatty. (A few bites were just fat, which is a little indulgent, or just plain nasty for some. I'm totally down with fat. I better be, because I seem to have some of my own.) This dish also came with a little side of tender bean sprouts with sesame—I could eat an entire bowl of 'em.

The stir-fried snake beans ($6) are probably not for everyone because of the tangy shrimp paste that lends a deep, fermented undertone to the dish. If you are down with fish sauce, then you are good to go. If you're even remotely squeamish about "fishy" then order it vegetarian. I couldn't eat enough of these tender little buggers. The tomatoes were a bit out of season, however. Whatever, this dish was totally tasty.

One aesthetic detail that is really pleasing: most of the food arrives thoughtfully presented on wooden plates and bowls. Many have a nice grain, undulating edges, and other little ethnic touches, and the dipping sauces arrive in small celadon ceramic bowls. It's nice to see small plates that are artfully handled, and not just dumped on a plate. I also found the flavors of most dishes quite balanced: just enough of everything good (spicy, sweet, tangy, salty) without one aspect dominating an entire dish. Bravo.

Finish the Southeast Asian feast with desserts like a rich coconut bread pudding ($6.50) drizzled with hazelnut caramel and topped with ribbons of coconut, or my fave, the vanilla bean coconut tapioca ($5), a smooth soup-like tapioca with soy and coconut milk, and Thai basil seeds and toasted coconut sprinkled on top. We also ordered up a pot of the velvet rooibos tea ($5.50) which comes with the grooviest tea steeping timer I've ever seen: it's a little contraption with three hourglasses holding different colored pastel sands in each—your server tells you which ones to watch to insure the perfect timing for your tea. Pay attention, you.

So, boozehounds, take your pick from a variety of shochus (also available by the bottle), whiskies, sakes, or do one of the three sake flights offered ($14 each). The wine list felt a bit lean to me (I wanted a riesling in there), but most folks are drinking cocktails, many infused with tea. I didn't really care for my drinks: the mint julep ($8) was too thick with mint, like a mint salad, and I could have done without the tea in it—it watered it down. Just give me my bourbon. Hic. I also thought the $9 price point on the "Po' my leng" was really spendy considering the paltry amount that was served. But they do make a number of dranks with fresh-squeezed juices, so that's notable.

Walking in, the first thing I noticed was the very tropical vibe, read: serious humidity, and the club in the far back wasn't even going yet. Let's just say there are some ventilation challenges. The space is dimly lit and has an island exotica feel, like poles that are covered in batik, a "weeping water wall" made of hand-broken limestone, exposed wood beams overhead, dark wood tables plus loungey seating with driftwood tables and a very long piece of driftwood (the mack driftwood daddy) suspended over the bar, Balinese doors as decoration, and even a fireplace. There are some elements that reveal a high-end restaurant designer didn't design the space, but it is charming nonetheless, and the owners did a good job transforming it, that's for sure.

The vibe is casual, easygoing, and has a nice buzz. Good for groups. The three-star review in the Chronicle definitely ended up skewing the demographic of their initial clientele—on a recent night there were tables of middle-aged folks that I imagine wouldn't otherwise be dining there, but they certainly were digging the food. The rest of the crowd was a mix of 20-something neighborhoodied hipsters, 30-something fashionista fillies, plus some b-boys and b-girls.

And at 10pm, WHAM!, the hip-hop bomb went OFF. The light in the dining room was suddenly dialed way down, so they seriously need some candles or ambient lighting in the restaurant area—it was too dramatically dark. Wait, where's my purse? (Kidding.) The separate club area in the back fills up quickly with hedz there to enjoy good lineup of dub, hip-hop, or whatever beats are on tap that night (which includes Pabst). Check out the calendar for the 411 on who's on the 1s and 2s. Word.

the regular

Vintage 415

The Ambassador
693 Geary St.
Cross: Leavenworth St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

OCTOBER 24, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO The boys from Vintage 415 continue to take over and hippify the city, one place at a time: this time it's the King Henry VII, a bar sitting just across from Rye on Geary St. It will morph into ~THE AMBASSADOR~ by December. Expect a 1950's Rat Pack vibe, with button-tufted leather couches, and a touch of Vegas with some chandeliers, plus some old school Hollywood thrown in for good measure. It's a two-level space, but will only be open on the ground level for now, with room for 100-125. Since there's a kitchen, some specialized desserts will be served up with cocktails as well. Swanky, baby.


Icon Ultra Lounge

Icon Ultra Lounge
1192 Folsom St.
Cross: 8th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103


OCTOBER 24, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO Just this weekend, ~ICON ULTRA LOUNGE~ opened in the former Luna Lounge space in SOMA. Three born-in-SF residents are behind the project; the upscale lounge atmosphere was designed by Charles Doell AKA Mr. Important (he was formerly of FUN! Display—think Backflip, Red Room, etc.) and includes a bar made of glass, a new dance floor with large drum-style lights overhead lit with LED, ultra suede walls, a round VIP room with mirrored walls (it's pretty slick), and another back room with a separate bar and a groovy oversized banquette along the wall for lounging. Dinner (tapas) will start in a couple weeks, with Executive Chef Brian Bauman (formerly of Left at Albuquerque) at the helm. Icon is open for happy hour Tue-Wed at 6pm, and will have dancing and DJs Thu-Sat (Thu: '70s, '80s, pop and soul, Fri: mashups, Sat: various promoters).


the starlet

Breast Cancer Fund Benefit

Breast Cancer Fund Benefit
Thursday, Oct 26, 2006

Mani Pedi

1447 20th St.
Cross: Missouri St.
San Francisco, CA 94107


website [pdf]


$50 per person
Call to make a reservation

OCTOBER 24, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO A pamper-iffic event benefiting the ~BREAST CANCER FUND~ will be held at Mani Pedi this Thursday: enjoy a mani and a pedi, get extra-relaxed drinking some delish Mount Tamalpais Vineyards wines, and nibble on some hors d'oeuvres, all for $50 per person, with proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Fund. In some fun back story, Kelly Hensley of Mani Pedi and Susan Pey of Mt. Tamalpais used to work together years ago at Spectrum Foods (Prego, MacArthur Park, etc.).

Raffle tickets will also be sold that evening (1 for $5 each or 20 for $1 each); the drawing will be held at the event, but you don't need to be present to win prizes like one night at the Nikko Hotel, some Mani + Pedi gift certificates, and of course, some Mount Tamalpais Wine.

Gourmet Wine Cellar logo

Outstanding in the Field
Canvas Ranch Dinner
Sunday, Nov. 5, 2006


2:30 pm

$150 per person, all inclusive, five courses with wine

Make reservations online
or call 831-247-1041

OCTOBER 24, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO You all know what a big fan I am of ~OUTSTANDING IN THE FIELD~ events (my favorite meal of 2006, and it's not like I don't eat out a lot). Well, the OITF folks are back from their U.S. road trip and are hosting a couple more alfresco dinners before it gets too wet and cold out. Coming up on November 5 is a harvest feast event at Canvas Ranch (in the Two Rock Valley west of Petaluma) with farmer Deborah Walton, and guest chef Duskie Estes of the Zazu and Bovolo restaurants in Healdsburg. After a tour of the farm, guests will sit down for Chef Estes' harvest meal of hearty Tuscan comfort foods, sharing the table with other local farmers providing ingredients for the meal. The five-course dinner will be paired with wines from Chateau St. Jean.

A portion of the dinner proceeds will benefit North Coast Grown, a farm-to-school program working to get fresh, local fruits and vegetables into schools and connect children to their food through school gardens and hands-on experiences with growing, harvesting, and cooking.

And coming up on December 3 is the Santa Cruz Mountains Foraging Dinner, with host farmer Eliseo Ranch, in Bonny Doon (guest chef: TBA).

the starlet

OCTOBER 24, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO I loved this one: Ben Fong Torres of Rolling Stone fame (my fave character in Almost Famous) was spotted dining at Scott Howard last week.

And in a culinary version of Where's Waldo?, let's play Where's Mario! (He was in town for the Wine Spectator Wine Experience Event.) The Restaurant Whore reported a sighting of the big guy at COCO500, and Sam of Becks and Posh even got a bona fide pic with him. Go ladies.

Another big gun in town for the event was Emeril, who was spotted at Lulu. No word of any "bams."