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Jun 13, 2016 14 min read

June 14, 2016 - This week's tablehopper: Italians do it best.

June 14, 2016 - This week's tablehopper: Italians do it best.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: Italians do it best.                    

The winners of the World’s Best Restaurant, Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore, of Modena’s Osteria Francescana. Photo: ©

Hello there! Greetings from the whirlwind. Did you miss me last week? I was busy hosting my last two tablehopper Vinho Verde events: one in New York (my first event in NYC!) and then I flew home to San Francisco on Thursday to throw the second one with Feastly on Saturday. Take a look at the photo albums: this one is New York’s Malaysian feast with chef Mei Chau of Aux Epices at New York Vintners, and here’s the San Francisco event with Butterfly chef Rob Lam, who cooked a Vietnamese dinner in Feastly’s beautiful loft.

Both events sold out, and were so damn delicious that I would love to be able to offer them again to you! The wine pairings were spot-on for both—so even if you didn’t get to attend, the next time you’re going out for a Vietnamese or Malaysian dinner, you know what to drink! Thank you to all the chefs and somms (Eugenio Jardim and Betsy Ross) and everyone else who helped me pull off these events. Stand by for future tablehopper shindigs!

I am currently running on very little sleep at the moment. I flew in to New York very late on Sunday night and tried to write as much of this column as I could yesterday before running off to attend the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants award show, held for the first time in New York. As you can imagine, it was quite the affair, hosted at Cipriani Wall Street. I got to interview a number of chefs for an article I’m writing for Time Out New York on where the visiting chefs like to eat when in New York (I’ll tweet it out tomorrow)! I felt a definite surge of Italian pride when Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena was named The World’s Best Restaurant 2016. Viva Italia!

I posted a bunch of pics on Instagram and Facebook. I hope you enjoy the snaps from the award show and the raucous after-party at Eleven Madison Park, which rose to number 3 on the list, making it the Best Restaurant in North America, and they won the Ferrari Trento Art of Hospitality Award! As for SF, it was great to see Dominique Crenn receive her World’s Best Female Chef 2016 award and to see the Saison crew break into the Top 50 at No. 27. I felt very fortunate to be there and to cover the event, with so much international talent in the room!

It would take an over-the-top event like that to take my mind off Orlando for a few hours. Kudos to Dominique for her heartfelt words onstage. Let’s all take good care of each other.

With love, Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

Corey Lee's In Situ Opens at the New SFMOMA


Umami soup by Hisato Nakahigashi of Miyamasou. Photo via @insitu_sfmoma.


Wood sorrel and sheep milk’s yogurt by René Redzepi of Noma. Photo via @insitu_sfmoma.

As if the reopening of SFMOMA wasn’t exciting enough, and now chef Corey Lee’s (Benu, Monsieur Benjamin) ambitious concept IN SITU is opening today. To recap, each dish on the menu is from a different chef, painstakingly re-created (as much as ingredients allow) by Lee and his team. The menu is like a gallery of chef artwork from around the world.

You can see the list of participating chefs here, a staggering and impressive lineup of global legends that includes Martin Picard (Au Pied de Cochon), Juan Mari and Elena Arzak (Arzak), René Redzepi (Noma), Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana), Anita Lo (Annisa), and locals like Alice Waters, David Kinch, and even Alex Hozven and Kevin Farley of The Cultured Pickle Shop!

Take a look at the menu here to see the first round of dishes and chefs—note that there is a lounge menu (for walk-ins) and a dining room menu. Lounge dishes include a lettuce sandwich ($12) with fermented romaine, goat cheese, and olive oil from Christian Puglisi of Relæ (Copenhagen, Denmark), while the dining room menu includes brown oyster stew ($28) with benne and Charleston ice cream from Sean Brock of Husk (Charleston, South Carolina); guinea fowl larp Chiang Mai ($24) from David Thompson of Nahm (Bangkok, Thailand); and Umami Soup ($38) with miso-marinated wagyu, asparagus, Inaniwa udon from Hisato Nakahigashi of Miyamasou (Kyoto, Japan). And, of course, there’s an homage to Cecilia Chiang of The Mandarin with guotie ($12), pork, shrimp, and cabbage potstickers. Take a look at In Situ’s Instagram for more images.

The restaurant is currently serving from 11am-4pm and will be extending to 9pm in the coming weeks. Reservations here. 151 3rd St. at Howard, 415-941-6050.

Now Open: Tawla, Souvla on Divis, El Buen Comer, Chicks and Love Pizza


Some of the many dishes at Tawla. Photo: Smeeta Mahanti.


Vegetable terrine and za’atar pita at Tawla. Photo: Smeeta Mahanti.


Bring on the juicy potatoes (at Souvla)! Photo: ©


Guisados and more from El Buen Comer. Photo courtesy of El Buen Comer.

Another exciting addition to our Mediterranean scene in SF is TAWLA, newly open in the Mission from first-time restaurateur Azhar Hashem, working closely with chef Joseph Magidow (formerly of Delfina). Hashem is Jordanian, and the menu meshes Eastern Med dishes (think Greece, Turkey, Iran, and the Levant—Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Jordan) with some seasonal and Northern Californian influences.

The duo has purposefully left kebabs, falafel, hummus, and tabbouleh off the menu, however; they are focusing on dishes that are more like upscale home cooking. Take a look at the menu here. There are also made-to-order breads, and they even collaborated with Belfiore Cheese Company on a Lebanese-style cheese. Quality wines and beers were assembled by sommelier Garret Nakamura (previously Jean-Georges and Saison), and low-ABV cocktails are from the Bon Vivants.

As for the restaurant’s name, it’s Arabic for backgammon; you can play outside on the back patio while waiting for a table (there are 66 seats total) and enjoying a cocktail. Open 5:30pm-10pm daily. 206 Valencia St. at Duboce, 415-814-2704.

Fans of the Greek pita wraps and salads with rotisserie roasted meats at SOUVLA will be happy to know they have opened their second location on Divis in the former Herbivore, “bringing the opa to Nopa!” All of your favorites on the menu are there, plus the all-Greek wine and beer list, and there’s some alfresco atmosphere with a back patio! Same hours too: daily 11am-10pm. 531 Divisadero St. at Fell.

Huge congrats to Isabel Caudillo, a La Cocina entrepreneur, who just opened her first brick-and-mortar location, in Bernal Heights, of her EL BUEN COMER. The menu is all about her soulful Mexican home cooking (she is a native of Mexico City), with antojitos like mini huaraches, gorditas, and fish tacos, with heartier guisados (stewed dishes) available in three sizes, like her puerco en mole verde, beef albondigas, and chiles rellenos. She is serving lunch (comidas corridas) for now, and July will bring expanded dinner hours (we’ll send you a reminder!). Hours for now are Tue-Fri 11am-3pm and brunch Sat-Sun 11am-3pm. 3435 Mission St. at Livingston, 415-817-1542.

And really quick, for the next time you’re picking up your bulk spices at Rainbow Grocery: CHICKS AND LOVE PIZZA is now open on the patio. Hoodline reports hours are 9am-3pm weekdays (serving breakfast and lunch).

Looking Forward to...The Salzburg, and Ippudo in SF!


One of the many awesome charcuterie boards at Union Larder. Photo: ©


One of the special ramen bowls at Ippudo New York. Photo: ©

A few months ago, Union Larder owner Jay Esopenko tipped me off that he had a new project coming down the pike, and now that the ABC paperwork has hit the wires, I can tell you more. Esopenko and his wife Melissa Gugni’s first project, Little Vine in North Beach, is about to have a neighbor: THE SALZBURG, which is moving into the former Cinecittà space.

Esopenko says it’s going to be an Austrian wine tavern (heuriger) featuring food, wine, and beer influenced by Germany, Austria, and Northern Italy. Here’s more: “The drink focus will be on the wine regions surrounding the Alps and their American counterparts like Tatomer, Massican, Matthiasson, Forlorn Hope, and Teutonic. Our house wine is being made by Sandlands and we’ll also have an stellar beer selection with over 10 on tap.”

As for executive chef Ramon Siewert’s menu, look for housemade sausages and salumi, and since this location has a grill and fryer, there will be schnitzel, a burger, and other dishes, too, many inspired by Alpine wine regions. Union Larder’s cheese director Kristi Bachman will be in charge of the Alpine-focused cheese program.

The same firm (8inc) that helped design Union Larder will be the architects for this project. They will be doing a complete demolition of the interior and facade (the front windows will open completely), and they will be adding a 500-square-foot heated patio with a fireplace out back. There will also be a small dining area downstairs available for private events (with room for up to 20 guests). I’ll keep you posted on this as things take shape. 663 Union St. at Columbus.

Back in January, the SF Bay Area was getting excited about the prospect of New York’s wildly popular ramen shop, IPPUDO, coming to downtown Berkeley, and now according to ABC license activity, SF is getting a location too! Eater heard back from an Ippudo rep, who confirmed it will be opening a location in the former Lark Creek Steak in the Westfield San Francisco Centre in March 2017. The location will be a big one, featuring “70 seats in the main dining room, 36 in the private dining room, 10 at the chef’s counter, and 20 in the bar.”

Pop-Ups (Jiangbing!), Events, and More


Tai Chi Jianbing! Photo via @taichijiangbing.


The iconic Roosevelt Tamale Parlor sign; Yelp photo by Marina N.

Here are some cool events and more for your consideration. First, the zany Gelinaz crew is back with another version of their chef shell game. On Monday July 11th is Walk with Us San Francisco, with 16 top chefs (including local chefs Gabriela Cámara, Joshua Skenes, and Dominique Crenn, as well as visiting chefs such as Sean Brock and Blaine Wetzel) creating a 16-course tasting menu. The event will be held at Corey Lee’s restaurants, Benu and In Situ (as if he isn’t busy enough right now). Tickets are $600, so there’s that.

Have you always wanted to try jianbing, the tender-but-crispy Chinese crêpe from Shandong that comes stuffed with an egg, scallions, cilantro, and add-ons like steak or ham? Here’s where you can: Tai Chi Jianbing is popping up inside Osaka Imai in the Outer Sunset. Tai Chi Jianbing’s Cheng Hu is using quality and organic ingredients that are definitely a step up and can cost up to $15 depending on what you get yours filled with (like chicken, beef, or ham). Open daily 10am-2pm except Tuesdays through July 2nd—and according to their Instagram feed, come early and prepare for long lines! There’s also talk of a food truck later on. (Via Hoodline.) 2445 Noriega St. at 32nd Ave.

There’s a new pop-up in the (sadly closed) Roosevelt Tamale Parlor from some of the folks opening Che Fico later this year on Divisadero (chef David Nayfeld and pastry chef Angela Pinkerton). The pop-up is called Mission D&A (as in David and Angela), and they are launching with a Russian menu called Mama Galina’s—Nayfield’s background is Russian, and the menu is in honor of his mother Galina’s cooking. Eater mentions it will start with aperitifs, then move to a five-course family-style dinner with pairings; $75, tickets and more here. It all starts on Tuesday June 21st, look for more concepts in the future.

Closures: Terra Cotta Warrior, El Capitan/Carafe, Hahn's Hibachi, and David Bazirgan Moving On


The interior at El Capitan. Photo by Jon Whitehead.

I have some closures and other changes around town to report on. First, it looks like Outer Sunset’s TERRA COTTA WARRIOR, one of the city’s few places offering Shaanxi cuisine, has new management and is closed until August 1st. Ugh. That place was perfect for our foggy weather and always easy on the wallet. Here’s hoping the new owners keep things intact. (Via Eater.) 2555 Judah St. at 30th Ave., 415-681-3288.

A tablehopper reader let us know that the wine bar CARAFE on Folsom was closed, and now Hoodline confirms both Carafe and EL CAPITAN (the former Radius, and Julie’s Supper Club for you fellow old-timers) have also closed. They are open for a couple of NBA and NHL games; details on their Facebook page. 1123 Folsom St. at 7th St.

Another old-timer has closed: the Noe Valley HAHN’S HIBACHI has shuttered after being in business since 1978! Noe Valley blog posts their farewell note, which says, “You have made this a great business, but, the rising cost of everything, in the city, has made a great business, obsolete. You all have been wonderful customers. See you, enjoy our food, over the years, has given us so much happiness. Again, we say, Thank You for your patronage. We will miss you greatly.” It sounds like Bistro SF Grill, the burger place in Lower Pacific Heights, will be moving in since they lost their lease. The Hahn’s locations on Irving and Polk streets remain open, so you can still get your bibimbap fix. 1305 Castro St. at 24th St.

And in chef news, chef David Bazirgan of DIRTY HABIT is moving back to his hometown of Boston after 13 years in SF. We will miss your wings, Baz! His last day is June 24th. (Via Scoop.)


the sponsor

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

(Sponsored): SF Lamb Jam Is Back! Don't Miss Out!

Lamb Jam is an epic tasting event and competition that brings together the most talented chefs in San Francisco to compete for the honor of Best Lamb Dish in SF and the chance to attend the finale in New York City.

Joining the chefs are local breweries, winemakers, and other local food artisans serving up tasty treats. Between bites, attendees can watch butcher demos, play in the interactive photo booth, meet local lamb shepherds, and concoct their very own lamb spice rub!

Lamb Jam is happening on Sunday July 17th from 3pm-6pm. Get your tickets here (21 and over only), and get in on the fun.

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

Liholiho Yacht Club Opens Louie's Gen-Gen Room in the Basement


The new basement bar at LihoLiho Yacht Club, Louie’s Gen-Gen Room. Photo: Medium Raw Arts.


The beautiful bar. Photo: Medium Raw Arts.

And now the folks at LIHOLIHO YACHT CLUB are giving us yet another reason to come by their ever-hot and packed place: they have opened a bar in the basement called LOUIE’S GEN-GEN ROOM. But it won’t get too crazy down there: the space is reservation only, with a completely different cocktail and food menu than upstairs.

Take a look at the menu here, which has snacks from chef Ravi Kapur like potato chips with French onion, egg, chives, and hello smoked trout caviar ($12.50); furikake waffle with uni, avocado, toasted walnuts ($18.50); and grilled cheese with Nicasio Square, black truffle, and maple butter ($12.50). Cocktails from Yanni Kehagiaras range from $12-$15, and include The Last Mango in Paris (LOL).

The 24-seat space got its name from the space’s former incarnation as Louie’s Market (as for Gen-Gen, it’s a made-up word because they liked the name The Genuine but wanted something more fun). Cheers! Specials are updated on Gen-Gen’s Instagram: @louiesgengenroom. 871 Sutter St. at Leavenworth.

Liholiho Yacht Club            - 871 Sutter St. San Francisco - 415-440-5446

Pacific Cocktail Haven (P.C.H.) Opens in Former Cantina


A selection of cocktails at P.C.H. Photo via Facebook.

The changes to the former Cantina on Sutter have been unveiled with the opening of P.C.H. (Pacific Cocktail Haven) from bar director-partner Kevin Diedrich and managing partners Andy Chun and Jan Wiginton (Sidecar Hospitality: Press Club, Schroeder’s). Opening on June 16th, the new name and concept is all about being a neighborhood bar, with good service (which ties in to the pineapple logo, a symbol of hospitality and a reference to the space’s history as Williams-Sonoma’s first San Francisco retail store).

The menu features cocktails that start at $11, and each has their own glass (and custom ice—there are four types the team uses, carving more than 300 pounds per month). There’s The Saffron ($13), with grilled pineapple, saffron, and mezcal, and you’ll find sugar snap peas in the Oh Snap! ($12), made with Aviation Gin, sugar snap peas, manzanilla sherry, absinthe, citrus, and tonic. There are also some large-format punches and a wine and beer list.

The space got an overhaul, with a brick wall that was revealed, new bar tops, wallpaper, and more. Open Mon-Sat 5pm to close. 580 Sutter St. at Mason, 415-398-0195.


the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)

International Smokin'

Last week’s opening of International Smoke at Mina Test Kitchen was obviously star-studded, since the project is a collaboration with Ayesha Curry. Also in the house: Stephen Curry and Drake! There’s a fun pic on chef Adam Sobel’s Instagram here. Good luck getting a seat at this pop-up!

The Cleveland Cavaliers Really Like Steak

It seems the Cleveland Cavaliers have decided to make EPIC Steak their dining hall this month for the NBA Finals. On Saturday June 4th, the entire team (including LeBron James) came in for dinner upstairs in the private dining room. The team enjoyed grilled shrimp, assorted pizzas, steak skewers, and empanadas as appetizers. Then they devoured a prix-fixe menu of Caesar salad; a choice of salmon, rib-eye, or New York steak; and a chocolate tart for dessert.

They were back again this past Sunday evening: LeBron James and 11 other guests (including teammates James Jones, J.R. Smith, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, and Dahntay Jones) returned to EPIC Steak for some surf and turf (lobster and steak). This time around they rented the entire upstairs so they could be a bit more private. (Dining out in SF right now can be a little tricky like that for them.)

So Sketchy

We got these tidbits a bit late after my column a couple weeks ago, but let’s do it! A lot of Saturday Night Live folks were spotted around the city. One spy said “Lonely Island/SNLers Jorma Taccone and Will Forte (MacGruber!) were at Dirty Habit” and another said “Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, and Norm Macdonald sat at the [Rose Pistola] bar before they performed in town. They were tons of fun, and happily took pictures with fans.”

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