table of contents   This week's tablehopper: whining and dining.

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

the sponsor
this round is on me

Meatpaper Magazine


MARCH 6, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Some friends pointed out I often make excuses in my intro about my booze consumption (Bourbon Mondays, Suds Sundays, etc.) to caveat or deflect any mess that might ensue in my column the following day. Guilty as charged. Guess what? It’s 2am and I am tipsy and proofreading. Someone needs to move industry night to Wednesday—me and this column will be in much better shape.

Oh, let’s not talk about shape. Moving on: it’s lecture time of another sort. Those of you who have taken my advice but not turned in your tip please responses are therefore overdue. Just because I went away on vacation doesn’t mean I was going to forget, so please send me an email about your experience—don’t make me get all evil librarian on you.

Hic. To the news!

the chatterbox

Meatpaper MagazineMARCH 6, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO The changes continue at ~BACAR~: after two years in the kitchen, Executive Chef Adam Timney is no longer there, and the new executive chef will be announced this Saturday the 10th when he/she begins. Supposedly not even the staff knows who the new chef is going to be—all will be revealed on Saturday? Timney, meanwhile, is going to enjoy the much-needed break and is taking off for his first trip to Italy for three whole weeks. He’ll be hitting Genoa (he has a friend who is a chef there), Firenze, Bologna, and will be learning about and eating plenty of salumi with some fellow meat phreeks. Buon viaggio, Adam.

The ever-buzzing ~ABSINTHE’S~ ten-year anniversary is coming up, and with it comes an impending change in the kitchen: they are currently seeking an executive chef to guide the restaurant into its next decade, to put a unique stamp on the menu and drive Absinthe’s culinary vision forward. Last fall, Eduardo “Eddie” Arriaga (Mandrake to his pals) was promoted to executive chef when Ross Browne left to go to Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, and will continue to be a guiding force and integral part of the restaurant. Arriaga has been with the restaurant since it opened, working his way up the ranks for the past nine years. For now things will remain status quo, and even with an impending new chef coming into the kitchen, the restaurant is committed to the classics remaining firmly entrenched on the menu. Stay tuned for news on the new someone.

Just around the corner, you’ll be seeing a new face: Thad Vogler has trucked over from the newly opened Presidio Social Club and is now overseeing the bar at ~JARDINIÈRE~ for at least the next three months. Jardinière is another one coming up on their ten-year anniversary, so they are making some tweaks and updates…

So, the Kimpton chef count is temporarily raised: the ~GRAND CAFÉ~ has brought on Mauro (Rob) Pando as the interim chef—he starts today. They are still conducting a national search for an executive chef, but Mauro will be holding it down in the meantime. He was recently at Bistro Don Giovanni, and was the executive chef of Red Star Tavern and Roast House in Portland.

After almost 14 years at Masa’s, ~PASTRY CHEF KEITH JEANMINETTE~ has left, and is now at the Marriott in SoMa on Fourth Street. He was looking for a new challenge and opportunity for growth, and the wider scope of dealing with everything from room service to banquets to special events was more of what he was looking for. He will be missed at Masa’s—hello, he was the man behind the dream mignardise cart! A new pastry chef should be announced soon...

More changes in haute dining land: at ~CAMPTON PLACE~, Michael Scaffidi has accepted the position as Wine Director/Sommelier, replacing Shana Dilworth who is off to London. He was most recently at The French Laundry, where he was responsible for the staff wine education, and previously at Bacara in Santa Barbara. His wife is Annie Clemons, who is the pastry chef at Cyrus.

After months of construction on the old Nouvelle Patisserie space in Cow Hollow, ~JOVINO~, a “Coffee House Wine Café,” has moved in and opened its doors. It’s a friendly space that’s open morning until night, and was designed to be a casual spot where people can hang outside of their apartment or home, or just swing by for a cuppa or a sando. Most will want to linger, with the big windows affording natural light, outdoor seating, high ceilings with wood beams, and there’s even a big 1900’s French Provincial communal farmhouse table. Yes, there’s also free WiFi, plus some magazines and newspapers for those who still read the printed word. For breakfast, you’ll find baked goods like muffins and scones, breakfast burritos, and granola, while lunch brings choices like a ham and Brie melt, a Sonoma chicken club, or an ahi salad. There will also be dishes like a cheese platter, a Mediterranean plate, and an egg white frittata with vegetables, plus a couple hot dishes for dinner. So about the name: the Jo, as in a cup of joe (hello Mr. Espresso), and the vino, well, c’mon—you can drink it on-site, or take a bottle home, too. The concept is from Ken Lowe of Ace Wasabi and Tokyo Go Go, but since Joanna Karlinsky did some consulting, don’t be surprised when you see Meetinghouse biscuits on the menu (with house-made Meyer lemon curd, delish). Daily 7:30am–10:30pm. 2184 Union St. at Fillmore St., 415-563-1853.

At last, there will hopefully be some decent pho and Vietnamese food in the Castro. (Don’t get me wrong, Will’s House on 14th is okay, but I don’t like being the only person in there.) ~ZADIN~ will be opening at the end of March in the former Malacca space on 18th Street (the name is a phonetic spelling of the Vietnamese word for family). First-time restaurant owners Truc Tran and Bao Phan are cousins and best friends—Tran’s family has a Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose, so Tran and Phan will be featuring a number of authentic family recipes. Those in the gluten-free community, take note: they are trying to make the menu as gluten-free as possible (healthy too). Dishes will include a variety of phos, ($9), salads ($9), and dinner items like noodle dishes, clay pot catfish, and lemongrass pork skewers ($8–$14), along with a number of rolls/goi cuon ($7). The folks at Swirl on Castro are helping with the wine list, and some Belgian beers and soju cocktails will also be offered. Open Tue-Sun, lunch 11am-3pm and dinner 5pm-10pm. 4039 18th St. (between Castro and Noe), 415-626-2260.

For those following the mysterious and sudden closing of ~YUM~ on Market Street, here’s more from Paul, one of the owners, on Chowhound.

Swung by the opening party of ~NUA~ in North Beach last night—cute space, vittles and wine look good, and it opens this Wednesday. It should be a welcome addition to the ‘hood, and there’s valet parking so don’t hesitate about driving across town to check it out. (Things next door with Soto Mare seem to be coming along too…) 550 Green St. at Jasper Place (near Columbus), 415-433-4000.

Folks have been wondering what is up with ~SPRUCE~, the project from the Bacchus Management Group opening in the former 1930’s auto house in Presidio Heights. Yes, we’re all antsy. The opening is now slated for June. For reals. As a reminder, Mark Sullivan, the chef of the Village Pub in Woodside will be the chef at Spruce, and they are describing themselves as “a two-star Michelin restaurant dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt.” Sounds like someone I’d like to meet. It’s going to rock, with dishes like butter-poached lobster to a gourmet twist on the classic burger, plus a salumi-a-rama, and an international wine list that will make people purr. There’s even going to be a gourmet takeaway program, and a cozy lounge with a fireplace and wingback chairs—personally I think it will be too packed for people to play the provided backgammon and chess games, but it’s a nice idea.

After surviving the landslide in North Beach, ~HELMAND~ is going to remained closed for a couple more weeks—they hope to reopen soon. Fortunately, they did not have damage to the interior—just a lot of rubble around the building. I’ll let you know when the buffet is back up and open for biz. 430 Broadway at Kearny St., 415-362-0641.

An update on the Noe Valley Chef benefit dinner for the ~KIM FAMILY FUND~: 100 people attended, and over $20,000 was raised! Awesome. The KFF is a cash fund to be given to Kati Kim and her daughters. For those who couldn’t attend and would like more information or to make a donation via Pay Pal go to the KFF site.

After a long renovation, ~TART TO TART~ in the Sunset has reopened. 641 Irving St. at 7th Ave., 415-504-7068.

A tablehopper reader pointed out ~NARAI THAI~ is now closed in the Richmond—according to their outgoing message, they are in the process of looking for a new space. I’ll let you know when I hear where that is. A Japanese restaurant is taking its place. 2229 Clement St. at 23rd Ave.

Over in the Cannery, the ~OAKVILLE GROCERY~ closed on Feb 14th. The company was sold to new owners, including Leslie Rudd, who is the owner of Dean & Deluca, Press, and Rudd Vineyards.

Executive Chef ~TIM LUYM~ of Poleng Lounge is kicking off a new monthly cocktail pairing series, Industry Nights, at the Macy’s Cellar. This Thursday, March 8 at 6:30pm, Luym (who was just nominated for the 2007 Rising Star Chef Award by the James Beard Foundation) and Bar Manager Brian Masterson will do a demo of pan-Asian cuisine paired with one of their unique tea-based cocktails. Events are held in the Macy’s Union Square Cellar. $10 admission includes the chef demo and recipe, a sample of the food and cocktail pairing, and a $10 Macy’s Gift Card. For tickets and more information, please visit this site.

Also, I finally got a pack of my ~COZMOCARDS~ for 2007—they’re a good deal to have for yourself, and I like to keep a few on hand as gifts for food phreek friends. All you have to do is spend $40 and when you present that restaurant's Cozmo Card you get $15 off your bill. The individual decks are $30 each, and tablehopper readers get 10% off! (You can also customize your 52-card deck and take your pick of just your favorites, i.e. you can pick multiples of just one place, like ten Deep Sushi cards, for $65.) Just be sure to use the code "tablehopper" when purchasing your deck, and if you're opting for the custom option, simply specify which restaurants and the quantity of each in the comment box of the order form to complete your order. There are definitely some fun/hip restaurants in there, like Tsunami, El Raigon, and Destino. Check it out.

Got a hot tip? You know I’d love it (and you). Just reply to this email!

fresh meat


1754 Polk St.
Cross: Washington St.
San Francisco, CA 94109


Mon 5:30pm-1am
Tue-Sat 5:30pm-1:30am
Sun 5:30pm-12am

Food: 5:30pm-11pm
Limited menu until 1am

Small plates $8-$15
Desserts $ AQ

MARCH 6, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO The onslaught of wine bar openings continues. It’s relentless. It’s almost like the era of frozen yogurt—a shop on every corner. But, being a big fan of the grape and its many permutations, it makes me wonder… Perhaps we really do need a wine bar (caveat: a good one) in every neighborhood so the few decent ones around town who know what the hell they are doing aren’t always overrun with people who “aren’t from your side of town.” I am still thinking on this.

But for now, ~AMÉLIE~ is one of the slicker-looking additions to the scene—nary a wine barrel in site. Instead, the shotgun space glows like it’s Bacchus’s bordello in the Red Light District, if he was a hooker (with a Dutch designer for a pimp).

The project is a venture from Samie Didda, the owner of Chouchou, and the fresh-faced German Michel, who managed the floor staff of Chouchou for over two years. The lanky German (no, he is French, and it is not Germain) reportedly makes a number of the ladies swoon. For the record, he has a girlfriend. (Yes, it’s important for the tablehopper to inform you of these kinds of details.) Oh, and the place was not named after the movie—that would be so pathetic and lame. It’s actually named after one of the owner’s daughters, so don’t expect any accordion music or arrows pointing you to a booth with a cutie waiting for you with a bottle of bubbly and waving your photo booth picture.

You’ll probably see some folks lounging and smoking out front in theater seats (the first hint of Frenchie presence), or perhaps you’ll hear some Frenchie snippets of conversation from those perched at the slick lipstick-red bar that’s the shape of a super-elongated banana board. The interior has some mod stylistic touches, like the jaunty and bright red wine bottles that are backlit along the wall and a large “chandelier” made of personal notes and quotes suspended overhead (I think I saw my friend’s phone number up there promising a good time). While not the most cutting-edge design per se, it is fun, and notable for the neighborhood.

Perhaps my favorite element was the music—there was a brilliant and supa-slow remix of “Hey Ya” that made me feel like someone sprinkled some heroin on my flatbread pizza. Shaaaaaake it, shaaaaaaaaaak it, like a Poooolarooooooid pictuuuuuure. Obscure and impossible to get, I was informed. Also loved the boss nova remixes of well-known 20-year-old tracks (it’s a fun way to play name that tune). Good musical vibe that wasn’t like every other flimsy lite-house easy-lounge Wallpaper*-magazine approved soundtrack you hear around town.

There’s a tight menu of small plates that definitely leans on the heavier side of things, like a nicely presented but obviously Daddy Warbucks rich foie gras torchon ($13), some escargot gratinée ($8), and warmed Camembert that comes wrapped like an “I’m gonna get you fat” present in phyllo dough served atop a poached apple ($8). Can I get a month-trial gym membership at Gorilla with that? Thanks.

There are a few salads and the requisite charcuterie and cheese plates ($14 and $10), but I’d like to see a few lighter options that aren’t full-tilt executions of butter and cheese and liver, but aren’t just mixed greens either. We started with one of the few lighter dishes, the mache and Dungeness crab salad ($9) with blood orange segments and a swatch of avocado puree—most guys would protest the “chick in low waist jeans on a diet” portion, but it was refreshing nonetheless. Mache was fresh but a little gritty—one extra washing would fix it.

The flatbread with oxtail ($8), roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, watercress, and black truffle oil with little shavings of Parmesan was surprisingly lighter than the heavyweight beast I expected to arrive. It just needed to be a touch crisper—otherwise, it was a man-pleasing portion and certainly wine-friendly. I’ll ignore the salacious presence of the truffle oil, my own personal pet peeve.

The specialty of the house, and for good reason, is the raviole du Royans—you can’t get these anywhere in town, and in fact, they have them sent from France each week. If you are going to order anything off the menu, this is it. They are totally diminutive ravioli, sublimely supple and delicate and creamy and strike that perfect “bad for you” note, served piping hot in a ceramic gratin dish. ($12, or $15 for the mushroom version.) We’re talking a high-class French tickler. I don’t care if you are lactose intolerant—pop that pill and grab a fork.

Dessert rotates each night, usually a tart of some kind. (Fits the red theme.) Ask what’s in the house if your sweet tooth needs servicing.

Now, for the wine. There are a number of international wines available by the glass, and affordable ones to boot (most hover around $8-$9 by the glass). Those with wanton proclivities, take note: on weekdays you can do a flight of three for $10.

A few issues: first, both of the wines I ordered were served at the wrong temp. My Crémant de Bourgogne was served far too warm—I should have sent it back. Ditto on my Grenache, which did zero favors to the already challenged wine. It’s not a cool room by any stretch. And when it’s a feeding frenzy weekend with little ventilation, you do the math. One friend reportedly had to add ice to his red on a recent visit to render it drinkable.

The list also reads a little haphazardly and doesn’t have a clear focus—with some attention and a nice brushing, it could actually be more engaging and easier to read, with some more interesting choices. I am going to try to ignore the Freixenet on the list.

Amelie is proud about the industry crowd they are capturing late night—but if they hope to retain them, the wine issues will need to be ironed out right quick. This town is tough—there are only so many 20-somethings content to sip $7 soju cocktails and flirt with the French bar staff who you can pack your bar with.

Weekends are supposed to be just crazy-I can’t move-hey bartender-help-what is that touching my butt-can you pass me my glass of wine please. I also can’t imagine the line to the single stall bathroom. Okay, not solely to take Amelie to task, but I am going to start a policy of noting places around town that don’t offer toilet-seat covers for women in their bathrooms. I am so over this. The gauntlet is tossed down here, right now. Any resto or wine bar that doesn’t have toilet-seat covers from here on out is getting called out; I am sorry if the stainless steel holder clashes with your design scheme.

Unless you are out for some big game hunting, I’d opt for early in the week to check it out so you can score a seat at the bar and just kick it. There is also a smattering of proper tables with banquettes and a larger booth in the back that are a little removed from the action.

So, the scene: it’s a mixed bag, and good for catching up with some friends, a night of flirting with strangers, or a second or third date (the red theme and the opportunity to misconstrue the name are just too quaint-deluxe for a first date).

the sponsor

Meatpaper Magazine

INTRODUCING: Meatpaper! A brand-new print magazine of art and ideas about meat.

You are invited to join us as we celebrate the release of Meatpaper Issue Zero with the first ever Meatpaper Meat & Greet.

Meat & Greet Zero: March 27, 2007 (7-10 p.m.)
Read all about it: a side of beef versus the island of Manhattan! Incanto's head chef and offal enthusiast, drawing the line somewhere! The Shameless Carnivore confronting the Shameful Hypocrite! Spam maps and ham flowers and more!

sugarlump coffee lounge
2862 24th Street at Bryant, San Francisco

It's a fundraiser, to help get Meatpaper on the shelves. $5-$15 suggested donation.

Find out more at

the lush


1900 Folsom St.
Cross: 15th St.
San Francisco, CA 94101


4pm-2am nightly

MARCH 6, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Ya gotta love it when three bartenders get together and open a bar. After 3 ½ years of planning and saving, ~TRUCK~ has opened in the former Wilde Oscars space (yes, the bar where a truck ran into it, but that wasn’t the inspiration for the name). Partners in the venture are Mary Lemos from Moby Dick’s, Jon Araudi from Red Grill, and Paul Miller from Daddy’s/440—a veritable Castro pileup. The theme has an automotive/masculine vibe, with license plates and chrome as décor elements, a pool table, pinball machine…

They are serving a limited menu of food you can hold in one hand so you can hang onto your drink. Brill. Think burgers made from scratch (with a secret ingredient), spicy pulled chicken sandwiches, some vegetarian wraps, three different meat pies (one is veggie) or sausage options, onion rings, fries… it might get messy. Reportedly most of the savories are going to have some kind of kick or spice to them. There will also be some dessert items like donut holes with dipping sauces and hot apple wedges.

Since Truck will eventually be open during the day for brunch and lunch (say, three months or so), people in the neighborhood will be able to swing by for a bite to eat. (A bit similar to the Mars Bar concept—it works well.) The DJ booth is still under construction, and they are hoping for some outdoor sidewalk seating come summer. Honk!

the socialite

Taste of Asia

Taste of Asia

March 23-25, 2007
200 Larkin St.
Cross: Fulton St.
San Francisco, CA


Tickets 415-581-3788

Grand tasting gala $115*
Sat-Sun seminars $40*
($35 for museum members)

*for tablehopper readers

MARCH 6, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Tablehopper readers will get a special discount at this premiere event: Grand Tasting tickets are $115 instead of $125, and for non-museum members, culinary seminar tickets are $40 rather than $45. Just mention tablehopper when ordering tickets on the phone.

For the first time in its forty-year history, the Asian Art Museum will host ~TASTE OF ASIA~, a three-day culinary event that celebrates the cuisine of San Francisco. Martin Yan will serve as Honorary Chair for the event. Friday night's Grand Tasting (March 23) begins the weekend with signature dishes from nearly twenty restaurants including Anzu, Asia de Cuba, Betelnut, Bong Su, Citizen Thai & The Monkey, Maharani, New Delhi Restaurant, Poleng Lounge, Roy's, Slanted Door, Straits, Yank Sing, and many more. Green tea, sake, beer and wine will also be offered. Performances including live music and dancing will take place throughout the museum.

The Culinary Seminars on Saturday and Sunday (March 24 and 25) will offer a chance for guests to explore tastings, samples, and demonstrations from Martin Yan, Alexander Ong and Michael Recchiuti.

Saturday, March 24

10:30am   “Art of the Knife: Martin Yan’s Clever Cleaver,” where Chef Yan will showcase his many culinary skills. Seminar includes a tasting from his favorite recipes.
12:15pm “East Meets West: Asian Influence in Chocolate,” with Michael Recchiuti. Includes samples of his signature chocolates.
2:00pm “My India,” for a Spicy Affair: A Culinary Passage to India with Ranjan Dey. Learn and sample how each spice enhances recipes of today.
3:45pm Betelnut’s Alexander Ong leads a “Tour of Southeast Asian Street Food.” This seminar is in partnership with the Asia Society Northern California.

Sunday, March 25

10:30am  Master healer, Ming Yi Wang of SenSpa shares the “Secrets to the Culinary Fountain of Youth” about how certain foods and herbs can lead to a healthy life. Sample some of his key ingredients.
12:15pm “The Breakaway Cook” author Eric Gower shows how to “Break Away From Boring Foods” by using “global flavor blasts” in exciting new ways. Sample some of his unique recipe creations.
2:00pm  WILLIAMS-SONOMA authors: Eric Gower, “The Breakaway Cook;” Joyce Jue, “Savoring Southeast Asia:” Lachu Moorjani, “Ajanta-Regional Feasts of India” and Farina Wong Kinsley, “Food Made Fast – Asian” meet and greet guests and offer special giveaways.

A Burger for a Pint

A Burger for a Pint
Thu., March 29th, 2007

Balboa Cafe
3199 Fillmore St.
Cross: Greenwich St.
San Francisco, CA 94123



MARCH 6, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Hey, donate a pint (no, this is not about drinking pints) and you score a delicious Balboa Burger:

~BALBOA CAFÉ~ is hosting a blood drive to increase blood drive donations and boost critically low blood supplies in the Bay Area. Each summer, blood banks deal with a drastic change in the blood supply around the country, as travel takes people away from school and work, where they often participate in blood drives.  

However, this year, blood bank officials are reporting that this is the longest running shortage in 10 years. To increase donations, each person who donates blood aboard Blood Center of the Pacific’s (BCP) bloodmobile parked outside the Balboa Cafe will receive a free ‘Balboa Burger.’  

To donate blood, one must be healthy, at least 17 years old and weigh 110 pounds or more.

To schedule an appointment time, please contact: Amanda Botelho, a_botelho [at] plumpjack [dot] com or 415-346-5712. Walk-in donors will also be accepted.

Blood Centers of the Pacific is a nonprofit, community-based organization that provides blood and blood components to hospitals, physicians and patients throughout Northern California, including all San Francisco hospitals, and conducts medical research to improve blood safety and patient care. Thousands of lives are sustained, even saved through blood transfusions and research that come from Blood Centers of the Pacific.

the starlet

MARCH 6, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO Lauren Hutton has become quite the regular Farmers’ Market patron—she has been spotted twice this past month.

Mandy Moore and DJ AM hit Kara’s Cupcakes in the Marina: she had banana and he had buttery buttermilk vanilla. 

And just in case you were wondering what rockers drink for breakfast, Tommy Lee and his Supernova band mates drink beer with their eggs. They were spotted at XYZ Restaurant dining on eggs Benedict washed down with Amstel Light and Heineken. (Brunch of champions?)