An array of antipasti at the special Capezzana dinner at Boulevard, all ready to have olio nuovo drizzled on them. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
So how y’all doing out there? We have just gone through a doozy of a weekend—mine started at the Bridge Together demonstration on Friday morning, holding hands with a bunch of amazing folks and forming a chain across the Golden Gate Bridge. And then Saturday’s Women’s March was one of the most flat-out uplifting experiences, full of love, peace, and some rather brilliant protest signs. Way to come together, everyone. Felt so supportive. But we have work to do. And things to remember.
It was kind of a nutty weekend with some rather high-profile food events happening at the same time as the Cheeto’s inauguration, like the Good Food Awards (check out the winners here), and the Fancy Food Show kicked off on Sunday (I was so beat from marching in the cold and rain on Saturday, I couldn’t get myself out of my pajamas on Sunday to head to the show, my only chance to go).
Fortunately I got to hang out with some Italian food importers and purveyors around the dinner table, which is always a preferred place to meet. I have been eating a lot of pasta the past week, that is for damn sure. Embracing the carbs, for many reasons.
I’m heading to Lake Tahoe this weekend with my girlfriends, looking forward to being Powder Puff Girls in the snow. Hot toddies. And probably some pasta.
Take care of yourselves. Marcia Gagliardi
I have been keeping you posted on ALBA RAY’S, and just last night, the bar and restaurant opened in the Mission from owner Alvin Garcia and chef-partner Adam Rosenblum (Causwells, Popsons Burgers). This homage to New Orleans is named after Rosenblum’s baby daughter (Alba) and Garcia’s son, and the intention is to have it be a fun space for cocktails, dinners of Cajun fare, seafood boils with friends (right now with head-on shrimp, corn, potatoes, and andouille), and crawfish when it’s in season (plan on March to May).
The menu features classics like charbroiled Gulf oysters with herbed butter and romano cheese, boudin balls with a kicky Creole mustard aioli, a beautifully dark-hued gumbo, shrimp and grits, and two kinds of jambalaya (which is actually prepared paella style and served tableside). There are also dishes like salade lyonnaise and seafood linguine to round things out. Rosenblum worked at New Orleans’ Herbsaint, and the chef de cuisine is Matt Woods, previously executive chef at Schmidt’s and a New Orleans native. And we have Jimmy Galle of Gulfish to thank for the legit seafood sourced from the Gulf.
Groups will be able to take over the five six-person booths, and there will also be a zinc-topped communal table by the kitchen that seats 16. There are two-tops and round café-style tables in the dining room, along with ferns, ornamental iron arches and corbels, vintage chandeliers, and a velvet banquette. The 100-seat space was designed by Arcsine (Calavera, Duende).
The bar has nine New Orleans classic cocktails (like a Sazerac, Hurricane, French 75), plus absinthe service, and some blended drinks (gotta have a frozen Irish coffee) will be coming soon. Beers range from Abita to Belgian to Japanese, and Tom Patella (a partner at Causwells) and Rafael Souza (Lolinda) are behind the wine list.
Open Sun-Thu 5:30pm-11pm (bar and bar food until 12am), Fri-Sat 5:30pm-12am (bar and bar food until 1am). 2293 Mission St. at 19th St., 415-872-9409.
Opening this Friday January 27th will be the first location of New York’s THE HALAL GUYS in San Francisco. The Union Square/Tenderloin restaurant is opening in the former Naan ‘n’ Curry space. You can order their classic street food dishes: chicken and/or gyro or falafel over rice or in a wrap (the platter comes with rice, pita, lettuce, and tomatoes). Sides include fries, hummus, and tahini, and baklava for dessert. Remember: the white sauce is what will save you from their crazy-hot red sauce! There are late-night hours too. Look for an opening soon in Berkeley. Hours: Sun-Wed 10am-2am, Thu-Sat 10am-4am. 336 O’Farrell St. at Mason.
Newly open in the FiDi is HOMEGROWN SUSTAINABLE SANDWICHES, a Seattle-based sandwich shop. It’s known for being sustainable and environmentally friendly, and it even has its own organic farm that supplies produce for its Seattle locations. As for SF, the founders did some very local sourcing for the menu of sandwiches, salads, soups, and warm quinoa bowls—look for seasonal items too. They are currently looking to to start their own farm here as well—this is the first shop to open in the Bay Area, two more will be coming to Danville and Lafayette. Open Mon-Fri 7am-6pm for breakfast and lunch. 222 Battery St. at California.
Gelato lovers will want to check out the new COLETTA that just opened in SoMa. The founders—Venezuelan-born Antonio Massimini and Swiss native Henri Waltenspühl—attended Bologna’s Carpigiani Gelato University (I’d like an MA from there) and are taking things to the next level by making and pasteurizing their own gelato base in a state-of-the-art “clean room.” Look for superfresh gelato made daily with their own infusions from spices and herbs, with flavors like Almost Chai, Irish Coffee, Mint Chocolate Chip Stracciatella, and sorbetti too. Cones and pints are available. Open Mon-Sat 11am-8pm. 685 Harrison St. at 3rd St.
A quick reminder that KINJO—a sushi restaurant from the chef-owner of Saru in Noe Valley and Ijji on Divis, Billy Kong, and the chef-owner of Seiya in San Carlos, Kuo Hwa Chuang—opens tonight on Russian Hill. Takatoshi Toshi of Sushi Ran is running the kitchen, serving Edomae-style omakase sushi ($120). Open Tue-Sun 5:30pm-10pm. 2206 Polk St. at Vallejo, 415-921-2222.
URBAN REMEDY just opened in Hayes Valley, serving organic and plant-based food and juices, with six new menu items such as Blue Magic Milk and Umeboshi Sushi Salad. This is the company’s ninth location. There is both indoor and outdoor seating. 450 Hayes St. at Octavia.
Some quick tidbits for you (and I mean quick): looks like DECCAN SPICE, the Hyderabadi Indian spot on Valencia Street, is taking over the former A.G. Ferrari space in the Castro. 468 Castro St. at Market. [Via Hoodline.]
Chef Alicia Jenish-McCarron’s new menu is in place at BLACK CAT. Look for updated supper club cuisine with NorCal ingredients and modern techniques, like chicken-fried Devil’s Gulch rabbit with tea-soaked prunes and bacon-onion gravy; chicken roulade with king trumpet mushrooms, porcini cream, and cress; and the Kitten Burger with house pimento cheese, aged cheddar, lettuce, radish, carrot, and house-cut fries. Vegetarians will dig a Moroccan quinoa with chard, radish salad, and carrot soubise.
Have you ever dreamed about how amazing Paula Wolfert’s culinary library must be? Well, this is a bit heartbreaking, but she is actually selling it right now: her cookbooks in English are being sold at Green Apple Books in San Francisco, and you can find some of her foreign language cookbooks for sale on eBay. Don’t delay!
Some unfortunate news out of Oakland: chef-owner James Syhabout is closing HAWKER FARE on Saturday February 18th. (Let’s all pause for a collective groan.) Sadly it’s about the building—which has been sold with the surrounding buildings to investors—so the area is going to be developed (and Eater reports his lease went month to month). So he decided to close up shop. Fortunately the SF location will continue forth, and Syhabout is also plenty busy with his redux of The Dock. His first cookbook is coming out too. For a full-on experience with Lao Issan funk, plan on coming by Hawker Fare Oakland during its final week, when Syhabout is reportedly going to be bringing the heat and running dishes that didn’t end up in the cookbook. 2300 Webster St. at 23rd St., Oakland, 510-832-8896.
And now for some good news: Downtown Oakland has a wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzeria that just opened, BARE KNUCKLE PIZZA (you may recognize Viet Nguyen from his farmers’ market stall). There are pies for everyone, even a vegan pie. Open Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm. 351 12th St. at Webster, Oakland, 510-463-1524. [Via Nosh.]
More pizza: Charlie Hallowell will be opening a second location of his BOOT AND SHOE SERVICE, this time in downtown Berkeley in the former Build Pizzeria space. Look for an opening in a year or so. There is also an 8,000-square-foot basement club, but plans are TBD. 2286 Shattuck Ave. at Bancroft, Berkeley. [Via Nosh.]
The socially conscious and nonprofit 1951 COFFEE COMPANY is now open in Berkeley, providing employment to graduates from a refugee barista training program. Here’s more: “To date, 1951 Coffee Company has 26 graduates of its barista training program and participants have gone on to secure jobs at Blue Bottle, Due Torri, and Dropbox, among others. Currently, the training program is able to enroll eight participants per each two-week cycle. And now, graduates have the opportunity to gain additional experience by working at the café in Berkeley.” Co-founders Doug Hewitt and Rachel Taber partnered with the creative team at Montaag, a Norwegian-American research and design agency, to collaborate on the 1,176-square-foot interior that also helps educate coffee patrons about the path to resettlement. You’ll find an assortment of coffee drinks by Verve Coffee Roasters, cold brew from Berkeley’s Algorithm, and pastries from a variety of local bakeries. Open Mon-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat-Sun 8am-7pm. 2410 Channing Way at Dana, Berkeley.
More cawfee: there’s a new café in Albany, HAL’S OFFICE, which opened next door to Bonnee and Abraham Elterman’s frozen yogurt shop, As You Wish. Nosh reports they are serving Counter Culture Coffee, along with pastries from Oakland’s Firebrand. For now, hours are daily 7:30am-5:30pm. 1207 Solano Ave. at Cornell, Albany.
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There are many pop-ups that circulate through our city on nights when restaurants are closed, and one unexpected location is Dabba in the Financial District, a fast-casual daytime place which plays host to the pop-up R.T.B., serving 30-35 guests from Friday to Monday evenings. It’s a mightily impressive pop-up, with ingredients, creativity, and execution singing on a very high scale. Chef Rodney Wages has quite the pedigree, cooking at French Laundry, Benu, RN74, Morimoto, Saison, and he was most recently chef de cuisine at Atelier Crenn. Nope, no slouching in those kitchens. Oh, and he had a caviar business, United Artisan Caviar. (Always good when a chef is way into caviar.)
But it’s at this pop-up, a warm-up for his future restaurant, where he gets to riff on a range of influences, personal likes, and cuisines. It feels like he’s cooking for people who love to eat out, and who can roll with a tasting menu format without having to make a lot of substitutions. And Wages is always pushing: I ate there just one week ago and this week’s menu has almost entirely changed.
Our tasting menu ($89, service not included) featured a tour de force of top-notch seafood, with starters like grilled Sweetwater oysters with dill pickle (fab), and raw Maine lobster seasoned with preserved citrus and topped with Osetra caviar. (Sidenote: I love it when your server encourages you to eat something in one gluttonous bite.) The lightly grilled Monterey abalone was almost shockingly tender, with wild seaweed, braised cardoon, and black truffle (and a sauce we spooned up every damn drop of).
There are fun dishes like an aebleskiver filled with grilled broccoli and prepared like a takoyaki ball. Suddenly the heat scale got dialed up fast with spicy lobster noodles, with Maine lobster shells cooked with a touch of coconut oil into a stunning broth full of sweet aromatics and fresh herbs (like mint and Thai basil), with okra and Fort Bragg sea urchin kicking it in the bowl. We drank that one up too.
One of my all-time favorite Italian dishes, tortellini en brodo, show up here stuffed with smoked porcini and shiitake gel, plus thick shavings of smoked foie gras, all topped with a ham broth poured tableside. (Fortunately this dish seems to be a constant on the menu.)
And then for dessert, there’s foie gras cake—again, a playful one-biter. Yes, all of these ingredients are catnip for the gourmand set. And it becomes clear why he runs the pop-up on Sundays and Mondays—so industry folks can come by.
While $89 certainly isn’t cheap for a pop-up, the luxury ingredients and technique and complexity make it so worth it. It’s interesting to think how much this meal would cost in a real restaurant, but since that hasn’t happened yet, I say check it out before it does. The costs of operating a brick-and-mortar restaurant take a back seat in this bare-bones space, and if you truly love food, you’ll note the benefit instead of the detraction.
There are eight bottles of wine and sake available, and this is where I can see the Saison baller effect take hold (most are about $80 and up, but you can have any of them by the glass, or there’s a $23 glass of Collet, okay, it’s poured en magnum, but still), or you can do the beverage pairing for $78. Corkage is $35 per bottle.
After a couple of courses came out, I was like, wait a minute, how on earth is Wages carting all of this beautiful pottery and glassware and kitchen gear to this location each week? Because as anyone who has held a pop-up knows (raises hand), pop-ups require a monstrous schlep of everything, from what you need in the kitchen to what goes on the tables, and this pop-up was pulling out all the stops, all the way to the water pitcher. I found it an interesting detail that Dabba had some storage space to spare, so Wages can keep everything there during the week. Kind of a brilliant setup, and it makes a huge difference in hosting a pop-up on this level.
Now, the meal wasn’t pitch perfect—I found the maple and sweet potato purée with an otherwise gorgeous trout and roe dish to be extraneous, and some kelp wasn’t winning any points in the texture category once it was doused with the tortellini broth. Nothing major, really.
The room is chilly (don’t go sleeveless, ladies), and some folks may not totally jive with the occasionally rowdy hip-hop soundtrack. But I dug the energy and DIY aesthetic with a strong personal POV—because that’s how they roll at RTB. I like SF being a bit scrappy and chic at the same time. I applaud people making things work in an otherwise challenging restaurant industry landscape, with no PR or permanent address but a whole lot of hustle. And talent. And a funny pop-up name you’ll just have to figure out yourself.
R.T.B. - 1552 Fillmore St. San Francisco
Some quick updates for you, starting with the news that barman, Campo de Encanto pisco co-founder, and author Duggan McDonnell has been hired as director of beverage for CHINA LIVE, opening February 23rd. He is working on everything from the cocktails to the wine list (look for some exciting pairings, from sherry to unique Italian selections) to tea service. Not only does his oversight encompass the ground-floor restaurant, Market, but also the second-floor bar, Cold Drinks, and there will be even beer and wine sold off-sale (to take home). We’ll have a closer look as things develop in the coming weeks.
Beer fans, tickets are now on sale and moving fast for SF Beer Week 2017, running February 10th-19th, with more than 125 local breweries taking part in a variety of events. Get tickets to the opening-night gala while you can.
Every Friday, our Friday Fairy pays a special visit to a few lucky folks in New York, delivering fresh-baked challah and a hand-painted card. On Friday February 3rd, she’s flying over the bay, spreading love with Taboon’s freshly baked loaves. The first five tablehopper readers who email us will win a visit from the fairy. Don’t forget to tell us where she can find you (include your full name, address, and cell phone number, please). And you have to be located in San Francisco, thanks.
The Friday Fairy is powered by the Jewish Food Society, a new New York-based organization dedicated to preserving and nurturing Jewish culinary heritage. We’re building an online archive of Jewish recipes and the stories behind them. We also host pop-ups and special dinners. Our website is coming soon, but in the meantime, we hope you’ll follow along on Instagram (@jewishfoodsociety).
Monday Jan 23, 2017 – Saturday Feb 11, 2017
Gung Hay Fat Choy! And cock-a-doodle-doo. San Francisco knows how to really do it up for the Lunar New Year. Check out all these special dinners and more as we get ready to celebrate the Year of the Rooster!
On Monday January 30th, Brandon Jew is hosting a blowout eight-course dinner at MISTER JIU’S with chefs from SF’s top restaurants: Nick Balla and Cortney Burns of Motze/Crescent, Sarah and Evan Rich of Rich Table, Rupert and Carrie Blease of Lord Stanley, Brett Cooper of Aster, and Belinda Leong of b. Patisserie (and Mister Jiu’s pastry chef Melissa Chou will be creating a special dessert for the evening, too: frozen soy milk with red bean and chocolate). Dishes include stuffed chicken wings with pine, paprika, and jus from Rupert and Carrie Blease; roasted chicken consommé, foie, and winter mushrooms from Brett Cooper; and host Brandon Jew will be serving tea-smoked duck with sweet potato, osmanthus, and anise hyssop. At the bar, Danny Louie has two guest bartenders: Brian MacGregor of Macallan and Brian Means of Michael Mina Group.
Tickets are $150, and all proceeds will benefit the Chinese Historical Society. You can also enjoy a Chinese New Year-themed banquet menu at Mister Jiu’s from 1/24-2/11.
Rice Paper Scissors is popping up with a Lunar New Year Brunch at WINE KITCHEN on Divisadero on Sunday January 29th from 10am-3pm. The menu features a Lunar New Year Cake (in both Chinese and Vietnamese versions), a Chinese hamburger (rou jia mo, housemade buns with braised pork shoulder), as well as chicken pho, spicy lamb dumplings, and egg rice plates. There will also be a sparkling white sangria with kumquat, persimmon, and basil, and Vietnamese 33 beer too. 507 Divisadero St. at Hayes.
HAKKASAN has put together a limited-edition menu, available through February 11th, plus special cocktails. Dishes include a traditional Chinese prosperity salad prepared at the table and includes roast chicken, jellyfish, and mooli, as well as braised abalone, wok-fried tiger prawns, steamed Dover sole with pumpkin and shiitake mushrooms, and more. $128 per person. Come by on Saturday January 28th for extra good luck and watch a Chinese dragon dance.
M.Y. CHINA is offering Grandma Wu’s Chinese New Year Family Dinner, created by executive chef Tony Wu, with a Fortune Platter (roast duck, squid, jellyfish cucumber, barbecue pork), Golden Lobster (Maine lobster, duck egg, scallion, cilantro), Long Life (barbecue pork, shrimp, pepper, beech mushroom, egg noodles, XO sauce), and more. The eight-course menu is $288 and feeds six people. There are also some special prices on wines as well.
E&O KITCHEN AND BAR is getting crazy, as in crazy delicious, with a new dish they are offering for the Lunar New Year: Dungeness crab and chicken siu mai dumplings with black vinegar soy. Executive chef Sharon Nahm will be offering a Chinese New Year menu with other dishes as well to bring new fortune and prosperity for the year to come. 314 Sutter St. at Grant.
Even AMERICANO is celebrating the Year of the Rooster by serving Chinese-inspired steamed baos filled with duck or beef tongue, with hoisin, cilantro, and pickled cucumbers. Available January 28th-February 4th.
And don’t forget dessert! HUMPHRY SLOCOMBE is bringing back one of their popular sundaes: Chinese Food and Donuts! It comes with oolong ice cream, an orange-blossom Dynamo Donut, soy caramel, and crushed black sesame. Available in both shops Chinese New Year weekend (January 26-January 29).