This week's tablehopper: outside lambs.
Plancha bread with pickled plums, Mt. Tam cheese, and arugula at Rich Table. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
You ready for a sunny weekend? All of us attending Outside Lands, clap your hands and say yeah! While I’m fired up for Stevie Wonder (seriously, wow), it’s the presence of Beer Lands, Choco Lands, Wine Lands, the brilliantly named Outside Lambs, and the monster list of local food purveyors that totally have my head spinning. Way to turn a music festival into a gourmet par-tay. San Francisco is cracking me up right now with its food-obsessive ways. (I know, I am one to talk.)
Last night was a thought-provoking INFORUM panel at the Commonwealth Club called Climbing the SF Food Chain, with Craig Stoll of Delfina, Pizzeria Delfina, and Locanda; Richie Nakano of Hapa Ramen; Iso Rabins of ForageSF; and Anthony Myint of Mission Street Food and Mission Chinese. It was moderated by Valerie Luu of Rice Paper Scissors. They all shared stories and insight about how they each are forging their very different paths in the San Francisco culinary scene—in case you missed it, you can listen in later on the podcast.
The panel was followed by dinner at Foodlab, sponsored by graffEats and featuring dishes from some of the panelists. I lucked out with an interesting table of folks to sit with. Speaking of tables, I can’t believe the buzz about Rich Table in Hayes Valley. I went by for dinner after the San Francisco Bay Guardian Best of the Bay party on Wednesday evening (for evidence, click here) and at 8:15pm the place looked like a busy Friday night at Nopa. Seriously, wow, good for them. That place is poppin’ (and crazy delicious).
More deliciousness: today I have a review of Troya Fillmore for you and some 707 scout updates.
Have a swell and summery weekend.
This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
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Keep your eyes peeled for LevelUp at hundreds of hot spots around San Francisco. Local favorites like Wise Sons Deli, Galette 88, Ike’s Place, Show Dogs, Nick’s Crispy Tacos, and Bistro Burger all accept LevelUp. Translation: mealtime just got a whole lot cooler. (And $5 cheaper.)
New Restaurant Reviews (I'm looking for somewhere new to eat)
There is nothing like returning from an international trip and wondering if the food of that country is forever ruined for you once you’re back home. I remember when my sister and I came back from India and we were hesitant to eat Indian for a while—we didn’t want to be disappointed after a month of eating otherworldly flavors and spices. So after my vacation last year to Turkey—three weeks of eating some of the freshest and most vibrant food—I was feeling the same hesitation before dining at the new TROYA FILLMORE. But then I remembered how much I loved their manti (dumplings) at their original Clement Street location and decided it was time to dive in.
Owners Berk Kinalilar and Brigitte Cullen did up the former Citizen Cake space in warmer shades of amber and wood, but it still has a spare and contemporary look (and the friendly staff will soon warm things up for you). And while the layout is mostly the same, there’s a wood communal table/bar in the front—solo diners and folks who just want a glass of wine and a bite can also post up at the bar. Another new addition here: Philip Busacco (previously chef de cuisine at Terzo for the last six years) is the chef—he’s adding some California touches, and using quality ingredients.
The menu has a long list of meze, some more traditionally Turkish, while others veer into a modern Mediterranean style. As soon as the round, sesame-studded, and freshly baked Turkish bread (pide) hit the table, I got excited. One bite and I was ready to rumble (they have an in-house Turkish baker who also makes the pastas, so the flavors and preparations are truly authentic). Get the bread with the trio ($5/$14) of hummus, haydari (a yogurt dip with garlic and dill—my favorite), and muhammara (a dip with walnuts, peppers, and bread crumbs). I also enjoyed the Persian cucumber salad ($7) with radish, fennel, kalamata olives, and dill dressing—simple but so good.
The golden brown zucchini fritters ($7) with mint and yogurt are delicate and delicious, and for those craving some spice, the Turkish-spiced green beans ($8) and roasted cauliflower with spring onions and urfa ($8) both pack some heat (the kitchen served our table some shot glasses of ayran, the ubiquitous yogurt drink in Turkey, to tame the spice).
Did you notice how all these dishes are vegetarian? Troya is an ideal spot when you have a mixed crowd of carnivores and vegetarians—everyone wins. My meat-eating friend and I went in on the braised lamb dolmas ($9)—four juicy bundles are served on a bed of tahini, with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses (nar eksisi), an acidic flavor I grew to love during my travels.
And did you take note of these prices? Let me tell you, this place is one of the better deals in town. Portions are rather ample. You can make a feast of meze on your table, so try to come in a group of four if you can. The wine list also has some affordable picks (especially by the bottle), and the staff is happy to give you a taste if you’re hesitant about committing to a glass of Turkish wine (which was better here than anything I drank in Turkey). And then there’s Turkish Efes, a light pilsner, along with three local beers on draft.
There are three picks in the “Anatolian flatbreads” (all $11)—I was happy to have lahmacun (say “lah-ma-joon”) back in my life, spread with a spiced and minced beef on top, while the roasted eggplant and ricotta pleased my vegetarian pal.
The larger plates ($15) include the can’t-miss Turkish beef dumplings (manti) that come topped with a drizzle of yogurt and paprika butter, and the moussaka, a bubbling cauldron of nicely seasoned eggplant, braised beef, and the creamy kicker: béchamel. (It’s a heavy dish, so don’t attempt it alone.) The kebabs (lamb or grilled vegetables) pale in comparison to the rest of the dishes—there’s nothing particularly memorable about them. Well, except the creamy eggplant purée that came with the lamb kebab.
Dessert is all about the flaky baklava or cheese-filled künefe (try it!), but my favorite part was the Turkish coffee service, made with coffee from Kurukahvecisi Mehmet Efendi in Istanbul. (I actually brought a can of that finely ground gunpowder home with me from my trip. As soon as I smell that coffee, it takes me right back to one of my favorite Turkish rituals—I think I was drinking Türk kahvesi about five times a day when I was there. Yes, the hopper was hopped up.)
Troya Fillmore is a welcome addition to the neighborhood and is open for lunch and dinner, plus weekend brunch. It’s one of those comfortable and easy spots you don’t need to think too much about, and is very come as you are, whether you have the parents in tow or you’re on a first date.
Troya Fillmore - 2125 Fillmore St. San Francisco - 415-563-1000
Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Ubuntu Still Seeks Sale, The Thomas Opens, Spinster Sisters, and Hard Cider at the Apple Fair
By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.
Owners of Napa’s Michelin-starred UBUNTU are continuing to look for a sale after negotiations between Terra’s Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone broke down last month. The deal breaker: terms of the lease with the building’s landlord, which insiders acknowledge was steep even by Napa standards. A new notice about the restaurant has gone out offering a “New Lease Available Direct from Landlord at Market Rates,” fishing for another nibble on the restaurant. The $2 million renovation to the 1140 Main Street location, sporting 30-foot ceilings, custom woodwork, and “excellent feng shui” may be better suited to a lessee with deep corporate pockets and higher profit margins than most restaurateurs can offer. Then again, there seem to be no shortage of big names eager to put their mark on the expanding Napa dining scene.
To wit: THE THOMAS AND FAGIANI’S AT THE THOMAS, the stunning new AvroKO bar and restaurant that opened Thursday in downtown Napa. The New York-based hospitality group has done a major renovation of the long-shuttered Fagiani’s bar building and brought in executive chef Brad Farmerie to create a stellar menu that highlights the region’s produce. Recently announced was the addition of chef de cuisine Jason Kupper (Dry Creek Kitchen, Bouchon); Cory Colton as pastry chef overseeing the dessert and daily bread program; and longtime Napa Valley resident Bradley Wasserman (recently of Solage) as sommelier.
On the menu: an extensive raw bar and iced seafood platters; wild mushroom mousse with whiskey jelly ($10); a plate of pickled, raw, and blanched vegetables with black truffle baba ghanoush ($13); chilled corn soup with huitlacoche croutons ($9); halibut with chorizo and tomato caper stew ($29); and the Thomas burger ($15), a house blend of dry-aged Angus and Kobe beef on a brioche bun. The bar is expected to open tonight (after some construction snafus) and will offer Negronis on tap, boozy lavender lemonade, frozen pisco sours, and … sorry, you had me at lavender lemonade. If you’re still not sold, the wine list seals the deal with Wasserman offering a variety of plain old delicious by-the-glass pours and heavy-hitting bottles. Open for dinner and cocktails, brunch begins later this month, and lunch in September. The kitchen is open daily until midnight and the bar is open until 12am Sunday - Thursday, and till 2am Friday and Saturday. See a slideshow of the media preview dinner, which included many of these dishes at BiteClub.
THE SPINSTER SISTERS, the much anticipated community-focused restaurant in Santa Rosa, opens tonight. One of the backers is a founding partner of Prune restaurant in New York City, and former Santi chef, Liza Hinman (who cut her chops at Delfina), is in the kitchen. Dishes are slated to include Thai-style crunchy peanuts and cashews and kimchee and bacon deviled eggs to start; cheese and charcuterie plates; small plates of crispy Berkshire pork belly with watermelon, spicy lamb sausage, and ricotta gnocchi ($9-12); larger plates of grilled hangar steak and salmon ($13-15); and sides of French beans with brown butter, Kennebec fries, and mixed local lettuces ($4-6). 401 S. A St. at Mill St., Santa Rosa, 707-528-7100.
Meanwhile, plenty of buzz on restaurants still in development around Sonoma County, including the forthcoming SOCIAL CLUB in Petaluma, a project from the team behind San Francisco’s Circa, the Cosmopolitan, and Parlor Bar, which is in the midst of hiring staff but likely won’t open until September.
This cider house rules: Featured at this weekend’s GRAVENSTEIN APPLE FAIR in Sebastopol is microcidery TILTED SHED. The owners spent months searching out bittersweet cider apples planted by long-ago orchardists. Mostly forgotten in favor of sweeter Gravensteins or plowed under for vineyards, they’re part of West County’s past, brought to life again in a handful of cases of Lost Orchard Dry Cider released this fall. Without much residual sugar and a lightly tannic finish, it has more in common with sparkling wine than the treacly booze juice that passes as cider in many bar taps. They’re also working on a smoked apple cider that incorporates, well, smoked apples.