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Sep 9, 2013 28 min read

September 10, 2013 - This week's newsletter: gypsy hotline.

September 10, 2013 - This week's newsletter: gypsy hotline.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: gypsy hotline.                    

Nombe’s Japanese summer salad with stunning vegetables and tofu noodles. Photo: ©

Greetings from Lake Tahoe, where I am sad to prepare for departure tomorrow. Early September is pretty ideal up here, with minimal people at the beach, and it’s still sunny and warm. (I am also convinced the lake warms up a few degrees by now.) So you can bet as soon as I hit “send” on this thing, I am pedaling to my favorite little beach for one last dip.

As you may know, Thursday is the tablehopper gay male singles event at MKT Restaurant—Bar at the Four Seasons. We just confirmed Boisset is going to be providing some bubbles to pair with the smashing uni and scrambled egg course, yay. In case you’ve been on the fence about going, you will be well fed, overserved (heh), and hopefully well matched too, so get your ticket and come check it out. The event is designed to be fun and far from awkward! See you!

So someone may need to call the gypsy hotline about me, because, er, I am leaving town again in two weeks. To Italy, to be exact. Mamma mia! I know, someone handcuff me to my desk. Ends up my father is going for a last-minute trip to see his family in Calabria, and to visit the farm where he was born. We haven’t been in Calabria together since our trip in 2001, and this was not an experience I felt right about missing. No siree. I was lucky to find a pretty decently priced ticket, and was happy to cash in a hefty ticket voucher I had that was expiring soon. Boom. Crazy how things work out.

We’ll have 24 hours in Rome together, and will then be heading down to Calabria, with a possible visit to dreamy Lipari (part of the Aeolian Islands) off Sicily—I was there when I was 19, but my father has never been and has always wanted to go. (Am happy to oblige on that request!) At the end of our trip, he’s going to head north to visit his winemaker buddy Lucio Gomiero in Padova while I am going to veer to Chianti to stay at the stunning Il Paluffo for a few nights (that was not an invitation I wanted to decline). Two weeks in paradise, I can’t wait to return to the Bel Paese, and with my father, so special. I know, I am one lucky bitch!

One more thing: I hope you enjoy today’s fresh meat review of 1601 Bar & Kitchen—last Friday’s image snafu got sorted, so here it is.

Okay, it’s time to pack up my beach rucksack and hop on my bike because I have spent way too much time at this computer the past few days. The gypsy must ride! I’ll see you again on Friday, ciao!

Marcia Gagliardi

(aka “la zingara”)

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

This Thursday Is the Tablehopper Singles Event! Calling All Gay Gents!


Deeee-licious uni and fluffy scrambled egg. Photo: ©


Hello, my fellow singles who love food and wine. This week is round two of the tablehopper singles events! This time it’s for the gents, specifically gay men of all ages, as long as you are over 21 (we removed the previous age range). The event is going on Thursday September 12th at 7pm at the recently remodeled MKT RESTAURANT—BAR at the Four Seasons (oooh, swanky!) in their clubby Private Den (and since we’re on the fifth floor, it has some great views—and I’m not just talking about the hot crowd).

We have room for 40 (fabulous, hello!) gay men (tickets are selling fast!), and you will have an opportunity to meet everyone at this sit-down event, which is a bit like a mash-up of speed dating and a wine tasting and a partay. You’ll have fun tablehopping—the last one we held was a blast.

Thanks to Graton, CA-based Purple Wine Company, we are going to be enjoying five wines from their portfolio (and learning about each of them from Executive Vice President Lisa Ehrlich). There will also be a beguiling welcome cocktail, courtesy of Charbay, plus one of their dessert elixirs at the end, and it wouldn’t be a tablehopper event without some bubbly in there too (generously provided by Boisset!). Pop!

Executive chef Mark Richardson and restaurant chef Chris Aguirre are going to be preparing a variety of delicious bites, so you will have plenty to taste throughout the evening. Here’s the evening’s menu (warning, you are about to get hungry): during the welcome reception, there will be a Charbay cocktail with hand-passed appetizers like seasonal soup shots, gougères, and a margherita pizza. During the tablehop event, you will have sparkling wine with MKT’s fantastic uni and soft-scrambled egg; 2011 Four Vines Naked Chardonnay and heirloom tomatoes with burrata; the 2011 BEX Nahe Riesling with fried green tomatoes; the newly released 2011 Alto Cinco Old-Vines Spanish garnacha with MKT’s superlative steak tartare (it’s really really good); the 2010 Maverick Amador County zinfandel with the MKT duck fat burger (uh-huh); the 2011 Avalon California cabernet with the BBQ prime beef short rib and Brentwood corn; oh yes, and Charbay’s lush Pomegranate Dessert Wine with the rhubarb, raspberry, and cardamom cheesecake. Hubba! (If you have some dietary restrictions, please let us know in advance—there is also a vegetarian option available.)

You can get your tickets here (tickets are $95). PLEASE NOTE: There are no ticket refunds if you can’t make it to the event (unless we can fill your place, but there are no guarantees about being able to do so). This event is 21 and over only, please. The event will run from 7pm-9:45pm or so.

Once you buy your ticket, we are going to request that you email us a headshot/snapshot of you—we’ll need them post-event when we do our matchmaking, so please start thinking about which image you want to send us.

We really look forward to seeing you there!

This is the second in a series of tablehopper singles events. Look for more in the coming months, for different age groups and sexual orientations, so if you don’t fit the parameters of this one, please sit tight!

               Thursday Sep 12, 2013 7pm–9:45pm $95 more info

Café Claude Marina Opening September 18th


The dramatic interior at Café Claude in the Marina. Photo by Aubrie Pick Photography.


The bar. Photo by Aubrie Pick Photography.

As previously mentioned in tablehopper, Franck LeClerc is opening a Marina location of CAFÉ CLAUDE, and we have word that the doors will open officially on Wednesday September 18th. The space is definitely opulent and over the top, with damask wallpaper, gilded mirrors, burgundy leather, and shiny dark wood surfaces. Our piece from July included lots details on the design from Elmer Lin (Consortium). There is seating at the bar (where you can enjoy a bar menu), in the dining room, or at a secluded (and rather romantic) booth in the private dining room. Ooh la la, indeed. On nice days, there will be six tables outside, too, plus windowed doors that open to let in the fresh air.

On the bar menu, look for apertifs like the Bitter Grin with Bonal, lemon juice, and soda, and bites like charcuterie and cheese plates, escargot, and a brandade; take a first look at the bar menu here. On the regular menu, from chef Doug Degeeter, you’ll find a daily rotating special, including short ribs on Sunday and loup de mer on Friday. The menu is classic bistro fare, with small plates like a smoked trout salad and steak tartare. Larger dishes include a burger, roasted chicken, and Niçoise salad; take a look at the dinner menu here. Hours will be Tue-Sun 4:30pm-11pm, Sat-Sun brunch and lunch will launch four to six weeks after the opening, with an aperitif hour from 4:30pm-6:30pm. Look for weekday lunch further out. 2120 Greenwich St. at Fillmore, 415-375-9550.

Beer Levels Rising: First Look at Cellarmaker Brewing Company, Hopwater Distribution, and Blueprint Coming Soon


The bar and taps at Cellarmaker Brewing Company. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©


Interior at Cellarmaker. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©

A report by Dana Massey-Todd. As previously mentioned in tablehopper, SoMa is getting a new brewery soon. CELLARMAKER BREWING COMPANY comes from partners Connor Casey (of Marin Brewing and City Beer Store, plus Fritz Winery and Press Club) and brewer Tim Sciascia (previously Marin Brewing, and Samuel Adams before that). Rather than having house recipes that are always available, they’re planning to have a constantly changing selection of things they like and want to experiment with. They’ll be brewing big flavors, like stouts aged in bourbon barrels, hoppy IPAs, sour beers with seasonal fruit, and saisons. They have 12 taps, and will keep their production small, so that they can continuously try new things. There isn’t a kitchen; instead, they’re planning to host a different food truck in front of the taproom each evening. This all keeps with their small, local focus, as well as their ever-changing approach.

The space used to be a garage, and they’ve kept the quintessentially SoMa exposed brick, high ceilings, and roll-up garage door in front. The L-shaped walnut bar seats 14, and high tables of wood and natural steel accommodate an additional 35 people. All the woodworking was custom-done by local folks, and the space feels warm and comfortable. In the back, the brewing equipment is brand-new and shiny, and visible through a glass wall. The idea is that brew fiends can see the space and check out the process, but it keeps the bar area from feeling too much like a factory. They’ve also got a large piece from Los Angeles-based artist Eliot Saarinen made of wood and pint glasses.

They are hoping to get their permit squared away any day now, and then they can start brewing. They can brew four batches at a time; the first four will be a porter, an IPA, a pale ale, and a sour ale with seasonal fruit. If everything goes according to plan, they hope to be opening the second week of October; for updates, check out their Facebook page and Twitter feed. Hours will be Tue-Wed 3pm-11pm, Thu-Fri 3pm-12am, Sat 12pm-12am, Sun 12pm-6pm. 1150 Howard St. at 7th St., 415-863-3940 (phone should be hooked up in the next couple of weeks).

Grub Street reported back in February that Nob Hill is getting a new place for the suds too. HOPWATER DISTRIBUTION is the newest project from Sky Wegman, Chris Barry (both of Dogpatch Saloon, 83 Proof), and Jon Guinea (of Wood Tavern in Oakland). The new spot will have 32 beers on tap, all from California, and a list of California wines as well. Bruce Paton is consulting on the menu of inventive comfort food, which will include small bites for sharing in the evenings, and brunch on the weekends. They’re hoping to do lots of special events with a beer focus, including food and beer pairing dinners and hosting visiting brewers. The space is still under construction, but when completed will include a patio for warm days, exposed brick, and skylights. Right now, they are hoping to open in November, but that is pending construction and final inspections. 850 Bush St. at Taylor.

Then, down in the Design District is BLUEPRINT TAP ROOM, which we reported on a few weeks ago and is opening this Thursday September 12th, according to a Facebook post (though we weren’t able to get confirmation). To recap, Chris Wong, previously of Social Kitchen & Brewery and Luella, is running the kitchen. You’ll find comfortable pub food, like crisp black-eyed peas, a chopped salad, barbecued chicken thighs, and a burger; check out the menu here. They’ll have 20 beers on tap, including choices from Anchor, Drake’s, and Social, plus a small selection of wine. They’ll also be open in the afternoons serving Blue Bottle coffee and dessert. Hours are Mon-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri 11am-10pm, and Sat 12pm-10pm, closed Sunday. 680 8th St. #170 at Brannan, 415-796-2493.

Rumor Confirmed: Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga Partnering to Open Pabu and Ramen Market


Sushi at Pabu, Baltimore. Photo via Facebook.

Back in August, 707 scout writer Heather Irwin broke the news that Ken Tominaga of Rohnert Park’s Hana was partnering with Michael Mina on a project in San Francisco (I also had heard the duo was moving into 101 California). The Mina team has stayed mum despite my queries about the gossip for months, but released the story to the Scoop last week.

Coming in spring 2014 will be the second location of PABU and the launch of RAMEN MARKET, both into 101 California (a Platinum LEED-certified green building with a glass and atrium area focused on plants). There’s 10,000 square feet to work with, so there will be plenty of room. Pabu is the modern izakaya concept the duo launched at the Four Seasons in Baltimore—this iteration will include a sushi bar (with local seafood and fish sourced via Japan’s Tsukiji Market), izakaya dishes, a robata grill, shabu-shabu, noodle, and soup dishes. Look for premium and super-premium sakes, Japanese beers, and boutique wines. Japanese whisky will feature prominently in the cocktail program.

Ramen Market will be open all day (breakfast through dinner), with the busy Financial District customer in mind (who can do takeout or dine-in). Breakfast will include coffee and tea from LA’s Lamill Coffee, and the ramen menu will allow guests to choose from five different kinds or make their own bowl, selecting from five or six broths, proteins like duck confit, plus a variety of vegetables (there will also be gluten-free Japanese sweet potato noodles and low-carb vegetable noodles). Many of the greens, vegetables, and herbs will be grown in the residents’ garden (remember, there’s that atrium). There will also be a retail market, selling teas and other items. 101 California at Front.

Hog Island Oyster Co. Expanding


The (often crowded) patio at Hog Island Oyster Bar. Photo by Ed Anderson Photography, courtesy Hog Island Oyster Co.

Turns out that rumor from a couple of weeks ago was true: HOG ISLAND OYSTER BAR will indeed be expanding into the Ferry Plaza Seafood location next door. The move will more than double the current size of the restaurant, which will definitely be a welcome change for their many oyster-slurping fans. Construction will begin in January 2014 (Cass Calder Smith is behind the design); look for a full bar, expanded menu, communal tables, and, of course, a killer view. 1 Ferry Building.

Chef Moves: Kim Alter to Plum, Chris Johnson to Haven, Adam Hinojosa Back to Noir


The interior of Plum, now Ume. Photo by Scott Kester.

Some news in the Daniel Patterson Group: chef Kim Alter (Haven) will be moving over to PLUM, replacing Manfred Wrembel, and taking Alter’s place at HAVEN will be Chris Johnson, a sous at Coi for the past two years. Plum is also closed until Monday September 16th for a kitchen equipment update. When it reopens, Alter’s menu will be in place, and she is going to be adding a five-course tasting menu ($65). (Via Scoop.)

One more item of note: Nick Muncy is the new pastry chef at COI while Matt Tinder has been promoted to corporate pastry chef (both of them have been with DPG since 2011). Tinder will continue to be involved with Coi, while also overseeing breads and desserts at Plum, Plum Bar, Haven, and the forthcoming Alta CA.

Chef Adam Hinojosa—who you may recall was the original consulting chef at NOIR but did not stay on for the opening of the restaurant in order to continue working at Per Diem and Brickhouse—has now returned to Noir, this time as head chef. He has brought Sarah Shirley (Per Diem’s pastry chef) with him. The pair are cranking out American comfort classics at both dinner and brunch, to go along with the wine selection. At dinner, you can try brisket poutine, chicken and waffles, and lobster empanadas. At brunch, you can try a version of the poutine with pork sausage gravy and egg (goodness, breakfast poutine). Also look for savory and sweet crêpes, a frittata, and egg dishes at brunch. 581 Hayes St. at Laguna, 415-431-6647.

Plum            - 2214 Broadway Oakland - 510-444-7586

Tidbits: Champa Garden in SF, New Café in the Castro, Le Dix-Sept at Dandelion, Una Pizza Back from Vacation, More


The Champa sampler. Yelp photo by Norey Lee N.


Cannelés chocolat from Le Dix-Sept Pâtisserie. Photo by Kristine Hernandez.


The Off the Grid pod at McCoppin. Photo from Facebook.

As previously mentioned on tablehopper, Oakland’s Laotian crowd-pleasing CHAMPA GARDEN is opening a San Francisco location near City College. The location is now open daily from 11am-3pm for lunch and 5pm-9pm for dinner (hat tip to Chowhound for catching the news), and the menu is the same as at the Oakland location. 613 Faxon Ave. at Ocean, 415-349-4186.

The Bay Area Reporter has news that the Castro is getting a new café, EUREKA! The new spot comes from business partners Bill Singleton and Patrick Batt (who also owns vintage porn shop Auto Erotica). The spot formerly housed Gelateria Naia and a Ben & Jerry’s, and the pair plans to serve Blue Bottle coffee, pastries from Crepes & Brioche, and ice cream from a still-unnamed local producer. 451 Castro St. at Market.

The folks behind UNA PIZZA NAPOLETANA are returning from their summer vacation on Wednesday September 11th, so go ahead and get your Napoletana crust fix.

Get your waistline ready for yet another fabulous guest chef pop-up at DANDELION CHOCOLATE, this time from Le Dix-Sept Pâtisserie. This is their second time at Dandelion, in case you didn’t catch their fab tarts, chocolate canelés, and other treats the first time around. They’ll be there Wed September 11th-Sat September 14th from 10am-9pm. 740 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-349-0942.

If you miss them at Dandelion, you’ll have another chance on Sunday September 15th at Four Barrel Alley, where they’ll be slinging tarts both sweet and savory, and quiche Lorraine from 9am-3pm. Caledonia at 15th St.

The OFF THE GRID pod on McCoppin Street in the Mission has been happening on Saturdays at lunch for more than two years, but no more. The pod will now be be trucking on Tuesday evenings from 5pm-9pm, starting September 10th (yup, that’s tonight), so plan accordingly. McCoppin St. at Valencia.

Una Pizza Napoletana            - 210 11th St. San Francisco - 415-861-3444

New Menus: Tasting Menu at Quince, Lunch at Prospect, Brunch at Jasper's


The Folsom Street side of the dining room at Prospect; photo by Mariko Reed.

There are a bunch of new ways to try out tasting menus at QUINCE this month, starting with a special dinner on Sunday September 15th. The dinner is a collaboration between Quince’s Michael Tusk and guest chef David Nayfeld, previously of Aqua and New York’s Eleven Madison Park. The six-course dinner is $125 per person, with wine pairings available for an additional $75.

In addition to the special dinner, you can order from a selection of seasonal tasting menus every night. The five-course “late summer menu” is all about summer’s bounty ($118 per person), while the nine-course “Quince menu” features luxurious ingredients and some of Quince’s signature dishes ($158 per person). The “garden menu” is a nine-course dinner, focused on vegetables and produce ($158 per person). All tasting menus are available with an optional wine pairing ($90 with the summer menu, $110 with the others), which can be ordered either traditional or “blind,” where you don’t know the wines until you’ve tasted them (Riedel’s black stemware will be in use!). Reservations for all dinners and events can be made by calling the restaurant.

Starting Tuesday September 17th, PROSPECT will be serving lunch Mon-Fri from 11:30am-2pm. The menu will include some staples from the evening and weekend menus, including the burger (duh), Moroccan meatballs with egg, and kabocha squash hummus, plus some new offerings, including a fried chicken sandwich, radicchio and kale salad, and corn soup with chanterelles. Every day, a different sandwich will be available to go too.

And for your weekend radar, check out the new Bad Ass Brunch at JASPER’S CORNER TAP from chef Mike Ransom. Starting Saturday September 14th, they’ll be serving lots of tasty dishes, including an egg sandwich on a biscuit; a poblano relleno with egg; a potato sausage with soft egg, king trumpet bacon, wild mushrooms, and parsley sauce; and a seasonally changing waffle. Take a look at the menu here. Along with the new dishes is a lineup of brunch cocktails, including several takes on the Bloody Mary, and a mint julep made with bubbly; check ‘em all out here. Brunch will be available Sat-Sun 11am-2:30pm.

Prospect            - 300 Spear St. San Francisco - 415-247-7770

510 News: Hog's Apothecary Now (Softly) Open, Kronner Burger Update, Nola Eats at Eli's Mile High Club


Bench seating at Hog’s Apothecary. Photo from Facebook.

The Oakland beer hall HOG’S APOTHECARY, from partners Bradford Earle and John Streit, is now softly open, according to their Facebook page. East Bay Express reported that Streit is the chef, and they’re serving classic bar food, including housemade pretzels, sausages, and sauerkraut, along with some more updated appetizers and salads. You’ll find anywhere from 7-12 sausage varieties, ranging from classics like bratwurst to more unusual choices like a house-smoked andouille. Prices are reasonable too: they’re reportedly keeping most dishes less than $10, and a few larger plates will hit the $15 mark. They’ve got 36 beers on tap, many local and some custom-brewed, and three taps for nonalcoholic choices, though no word on any specifics.

Unfortunately, the team is staying tight-lipped on any details, like a menu, beer list, and when the grand opening is, so there isn’t much else to say. But you may recall that Scoop reported that Sayre Piotrkowski is heading up the beer program (which will rock), and that the kitchen will be focused on whole-hog butchery. 375 40th St. at Opal, Oakland, 510-338-3847.

Was sorry to learn the Oakland location Chris Kronner of KRONNER BURGER was working on just fell through. So his search in the 510 (and SF!) for a permanent location continues. In the meantime, he wanted to let me know they are now grinding their 21-day dry-aged beef in-house—Taylor Boetticher over at Fatted Calf styled him with a grinder (thanks Taylor!). Yup, that burger keeps getting better. You can swing by the current Kronner Burger location (at Bruno’s) Sun, Tue-Wed 6pm-10pm, and Thu-Fri 6pm-11pm (closed Mon and Sat). 2379 Mission St. at 20th St.

A couple of other tidbits: fans of classic New Orleans po’boys, gumbo, and étouffée will reportedly find some at the divey ELI’S MILE HIGH CLUB in Oakland, according to the East Bay Express. Couyon Cajun & Po’Boys (chefs David Hledik and Louise Martin) are behind the new menu, which also includes some wicked-sounding pork cracklin’ steamed buns (whoa) and housemade charcuterie. Nothing is more than $10, and you can order your belly-filling feast from the counter from 12pm-10:30pm on weekdays, and until 12:30am Fri-Sat. 3629 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. at 37th St., Oakland, 510-808-7101.

Berkeleyside Nosh reports the old-school MERRITT BAKERY AND RESTAURANT is back in business after a fire closed it down in May. 203 E. 18th St. at Athol, Oakland, 510-444-6955.

510 Special Dinners: Brazilian Feast with Alex Atala at Camino, Pig Roast at Linden Street


Get your tickets now for this awesome event with Brazilian chef Alex Atala of Sao Paolo’s D.O.M. restaurant at CAMINO in Oakland on Monday October 21st at 6pm. The dinner is a party to celebrate the release of his new cookbook, D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients, which will also be available for purchase from Omnivore Books at the event.

The evening begins at 6pm with a book signing and caipirinha reception, along with snacks. Dinner begins around 7pm, and is a traditional, multicourse Brazilian chicken and rice feast called a galinhada, all cooked in the big Camino fireplace by chef Russ Moore. Tickets are $85, including caipirinhas and wine (but not tax and tip). 3917 Grand Ave. at Sunnyslope, Oakland, 510-547-5035.

On Sunday September 15th, chefs from Chop Bar, Tribune Tavern, Lungomare, and Brotzeit Lokal will come together at LINDEN STREET BREWERY for a Whole Pig Roast Cookoff from 4pm-8pm. Tickets are $20 at the door, and include not only a plate of pork, but also side dishes like potato salad, greens, and corn bread. At the end, you’ll get to vote on your favorite porky preparation too. There will be a jump house for kids, as well as a pizza truck for those not into pork. 95 Linden St. at 3rd St., Oakland, 510-251-8898.

               Monday Oct 21, 2013 6pm reception, 7pm dinner $85, including wine and caipirinhas but not tax and tip more info


the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)

(Sponsored): This Summer Is High Season for New Zealand Wine

It’s an exciting time for New Zealand in the San Francisco Bay Area. Emirates Team New Zealand is on the water for the America’s Cup and doing a fantastic job at showing how New Zealand is the leader in nautical design and sailing. It’s not just on the water that the Kiwis excel, but in the wine world too! Local restaurants are joining in the antipodean fun and serving up world-class New Zealand wine with superb food, so you can see and taste what all the fuss is about.

Vibrancy, purity, and balance are why New Zealand wines pair so well with food. More than 20 of San Francisco’s leading restaurants and wine bars are featuring New Zealand wines by the glass, in flights, and in pairings with menu items throughout the Louis Vuitton and America’s Cup competitions (available through September 30th). Many of the Bay Area’s leading retailers are also offering a wide selection of New Zealand wines. Email here to learn more—we’ll send you an email (just one!) with everything you need to know.

New Zealand is best known for distinctive and refreshing sauvignon blanc. But have you tried NZ riesling, pinot gris, and chardonnay? How about some of the world-class pinot noir, which comes from the cooler regions? Warmer regions excel in red blends and syrah. Make some of these discoveries of your own by ordering a glass of New Zealand wine in the participating restaurants throughout the summer of racing. Email us here so we can send you an email with details! Cheers and enjoy the summer of racing!

fresh meat

New Restaurant Reviews (I'm looking for somewhere new to eat)

1601 Bar & Kitchen


Halibut “ceviche” with compressed cucumber, coconut milk, serrano chiles. Photo: ©


Poached Portuguese octopus, smoked lime gelée, iced heirloom tomato chutney. Photo: ©


House-smoked salmon, burnt onion crème fraîche, turmeric gel. Photo: ©


Mulligatawny soup, chicken confit, pickled black mustard seeds. Photo: ©


Traditional hopper, soft-cooked Jidori egg, sambols. Photo: ©


Crispy okra, desiccated coconut, cashew nut curry. Photo: ©


Crispy skin pork belly, yellow corn mallum, tarragon. Photo: ©


The bar area, looking toward the dining room. Photo: Aubrie Pick.


The communal table in the front. Photo: Aubrie Pick.

There are some restaurants that make me want to be really sure everyone has tried it. I’m glad I have this column o’ mine, because I can tell you how much I am enjoying the food and vision at 1601 BAR & KITCHEN in SoMa.

Man, it’s a rough location—with very little food traffic at night—but bonus for you, because you’ll find Doris Day parking. As soon as you waltz into this corner restaurant, you’ll switch gears, entering a contemporary space with artistic touches and some whimsy too (love the brocade wallpaper in the back by the restrooms).

Designer Brent Kanbayashi placed a communal table in the front window (it should be the location of your next group dinner; with room for 10-12 guests, it’s almost like having your own room). Fortunately, there are plenty of two-tops in the back dining room, because it’s a great date place.

I also appreciate all the seats at the L-shaped bar, where I perched one evening when I was looking for a spur-of-the-moment bite. I ended up making friends with a couple who had the same idea. It’s the kind of food that will make you talk to your neighbor.

Chef-owner Brian Fernando has had some haute training (he worked at the well-regarded Le Papillon in San Jose), but this is his passion project. There is evidence of his elevated technique across the menu, which is a fascinating mix of (mostly) French with some Sri Lankan influences (Fernando’s father is Sri Lankan) and a California lightness. The menu is almost all small plates, so you’ll need to order at least a few dishes per person.

This is not a place for when you are stoned and famished and want to hork a double cheeseburger. But when you want to enjoy a meal and sink into some unique dishes and flavors, here’s your spot. I hate the word thoughtful when describing restaurants (“a thoughtful wine list”; trust, I had to strike it from my food writing vocab)—but the food here really is. You can sense that every component has been very considered.

The local halibut “ceviche” ($13)—which is more like a crudo—is an intriguing and silky start, bright with compressed cucumber and lime pickle that play against creamy coconut milk, plus some heat from thinly sliced serrano chile. It’s elegantly plated, and the flavors are very balanced. Or you can go for the poached octopus ($11), with smoked lime gelée that also gives a nice acidic slap to the palate—it’s not just a pretty plate, it has personality too.

Another dish that plays with the balance of acid and fat is the house-smoked salmon ($12), which Fernando marinates overnight and then smokes at a low temp. The tender, flaky fish comes with a crest—a little brick wall—of alternating pieces of compressed apple and celery, with the lightest vinegar pickling. Burnt onion crème fraîche is painted on the plate, but I wanted a touch more to make it worth being listed on the menu.

A must is the mulligatawny soup. (How many of us first learned about that soup because of Seinfeld? [Raises hand.]) It’s Fernando’s father’s recipe, but Frenchified. Chicken confit is crowned with pickled mustard seeds in the middle of the bowl, and there are elements of sherry and white wine in the deeply flavorful and peppery soup (and the whisper of cinnamon and turmeric), which is also rich with coconut milk. Damn tasty.

I had never had an egg hopper ($9), but you know I had to order it (egg + hopper = duh).  It’s a lacy crêpe-like bowl made from lightly fermented rice flour and coconut milk. Within the edible basket is a stunning, soft-cooked Jidori egg—wait until you cut into the deep orange yolk. Top it with the flavorful sambols that come on the side (the katta is spicy with Sri Lankan chile, the pol is made with coconut, and the seeni is stewed onion). Since the hopper is technically street food, is should be folded like a taco and eaten out of hand, but you can also make it a fork-and-knife affair (I have attacked it both ways). You almost don’t want to share it. Pair it with the Calicraft Buzzerkeley that’s on tap, humina humina.

I am torn about some of the vegetable dishes: the preparation of the raw kale salad ($9) didn’t feel special enough compared with the many other stars on the menu, and while the browned cauliflower is full of wonderful flavor (and it’s even mellowed in a light brine), I can’t justify the $9 price tag for five florets with carrot and cumin purée. Better value is found in the flavor-packed fried heirloom potatoes ($7) and the fried okra ($8), which Fernando soaks in buttermilk so it’s not even remotely slimy; the accompanying cashew nut curry is also meaty and hearty—it’s kind of an awesome (and fulfilling) vegan dish.

Larger plates (they’re about the portion of what you’d get in a tasting menu at a fine restaurant) include the beautifully roasted squab ($17) with forbidden rice, and you have to try the braised sturgeon ($18), which is inspired by another one of Dad’s recipes (he would toast the spices until very dark for an intense powder that Fernando coats the fish in for two hours). Steak lovers, opt for the bavette ($21), with a demi-glace made from the seeni (onion) sambol, and pork belly fans, there’s a really tender-yet-crisp version ($15) here with chicharrones, bonus. The lamb and pork meatballs ($13) are good but save them for your second or third visit when you have tried other more exciting dishes first.

Dessert: the hands-down winner is the Ceylon tea semifreddo ($8), which reminded me more of a zabaglione with its creamy texture, smartly finished with a brûléed top.

There are so many details about the preparation of these refined dishes I don’t have room to include here. It’s kind of staggering what goes into each dish—I want Fernando to teach some cooking classes so I can see the hopper in action, and how he makes the sambols and curries, and all the pickling he does (example: each vegetable on the pickle plate has its own pickle). You’ll taste things and wonder, “Hmmm, what IS that?” You’ll discover a new pantry, with lime pickle, Maldives fish, and the wonder of Sri Lankan cinnamon.

The wine list is well composed and versatile, equally matched by the beer list (Fernando is a huge beer fan, and has chosen some cool international bottles). I dig all the vermouths and sherries they stock, and the aperitifs were right up my alley, like the Adonis ($9), with oloroso sherry, Cocchi Torino, and orange bitters.

There are many components of finer dining in the service: flatware is presented to the table in boxes, servers are agile with good pairing recommendations, and the coursing is very precise (just order—the kitchen will figure what to send out when). The well-chosen music (love the Frenchie numbers) helps keep things light, which makes me think a little more warmth and a little less formality in the space would serve it well—the service style is kind, but very polite. 1601 is a little like the new kid at school—it just needs to make a few more friends before it starts getting picked first for kickball. So go check it out, and then you’ll probably check it out again—it’ll be a good friend.

1601 Bar & Kitchen            - 1601 Howard St. San Francisco - 415-552-1601

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

Comstock Saloon Will Soon Have a Second Bar


The Comstock dining room. Photo: Natalie Darville.

For those who struggle with finding a seat at the bar at COMSTOCK SALOON (you are not alone), this should come as welcome news: owners Jeff Hollinger and Jonny Raglin have decided to add a bar in the adjoining dining room against the wall. The 12-foot antique bar was found in Lodi and will have room for about eight thirsty patrons (there will also be a few high-top tables added). The bar will have its own bartender and will be serving the exact same drinks as the saloon bar—no “we don’t make this at that bar, you have to go to the main bar” nonsense. Yup, the vibe in the dining room is going to become a bit more lively. As Raglin stated, “Well, the demand for the booze outweighed the demand for people looking for a quiet place to dine.” They are doing the work themselves, so look for the new bar in November or thereabouts.

Comstock Saloon            - 155 Columbus Ave. San Francisco - 415-617-0071

New Bar in the Mission (ABV), Mikkeller Bar Opens Tivoli Sour Room, More Tosca Hires


Some of the shiny taps at Mikkeller Bar. Photo: ©

The illustrious Camper English at Alcademics has a nice scoop about what’s moving into the former Tokyo Go Go space: ABV. The project is from Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud (who owns Dalva/Hideout), Ryan Fitzgerald (known for his skills when he was at Beretta and who is currently the brand ambassador for Del Maguey mezcal), and Todd Smith (who rocked it at Bourbon & Branch and will presently get you tipsy at Hideout). The gents are going to be staying away from cocktail trends (no barrel-aging or drinks on draft, and no Edison bulbs), offering 10 to 15 drinks. There will be food as well, with a kitchen serving bar bites until 1am (everything should be priced around $10 and under, drinks included). There will also be classes, theme nights, and some ideas are sure to pop up in coming months. Look for a January opening or so. 3174 16th St. at Albion.

MIKKELLER BAR has opened their downstairs sour room: the Tivoli Sour Room. Eater mentions the room has room for 20, and is pouring exclusively lambics and sour beers, with 80 bottles. You can park it at the communal table or there are a couple of two-tops. Open Thu-Sat 6pm-2am; otherwise you can rent it for private parties. 34 Mason St. at Turk, 415-984-0279.

A couple of weeks ago, I broke the news that Ceri Smith was going to be the wine director at the soon-to-reopen TOSCA CAFE, but I was told to keep quiet about the second component: that she was going to be working with Randall Grahm. Scoop has an interview with the duo about their partnership, and also revealed the new bar manager is Isaac Shumway (previously Alembic, Bourbon & Branch, and Heaven’s Dog), who will be updating some classic cocktails, including making some tweaks to the House Cappuccino. White jackets will continue to be de rigueur behind the bar. 242 Columbus Ave. at Broadway.

Meat and Beer at Almanac's NotOberfest September 20th


Join Almanac Beer Co. at NOTOBERFEST at St. Gregory’s on Friday September 20th. The evening is a celebration of everything autumnal, and several local breweries will be pouring suds like pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest lagers, including offerings from Magnolia, Headlands Brewery, and Highwater Brewing. 4505 Meats will also be in attendance, with their superlative meaty goods, plus Jake Godby and Humphry Slocombe are doing dessert. The event runs from 6:30pm-9:30pm and tickets are $60, including all food and drink, and proceeds benefit The Food Pantry. 500 De Haro St. at Mariposa.

               Friday Sep 20, 2013 6:30pm-9:30pm $60 per person more info


the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)

Hoops and Gossip at the Cavalier

Marianne’s Salon at The Cavalier saw a couple of high-wattage guests recently: Kobe Bryant was there last week, and this week Gossip Girl star Jessica Szohr stopped in.

Star of the Small Screen at Nopa


Aimee Garcia, who plays Jamie Batista on Dexter, was spotted at Nopa on Tuesday night. Our spy reports that she was very friendly; she even posed for a photo.

No Tupperware Face at Tra Vigne

Gretchen Rossi of Real Housewives of Orange County infamy was spotted by our spy at Tra Vigne in St. Helena last Friday. No word on whether or not fiancé Slade Smiley was with her.

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