It may not be raining men, but these Chinese lanterns are nice. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Howdy amigos. You keeping dry out there? I have been hiding in movie theaters (I highly recommend seeing La La Land if you want to forget about everything for a couple of hours) and restaurants (like experiencing the Chinese New Year/Grandma Wu’s menu at M.Y. China—and the showstopping dessert will bring a big smile to your face).
I was hoping to have a piece for you about ROOH today (it opens this Thursday!), but their menu wasn’t ready in time for my deadline, so I’ll share details with you next week. Let’s just say the preview meal I experienced was exciting and fun.
In other news, I decided to run a couple of reviews of two places that are ever-changing: In Situ and Postcards from La Costiera at Mina Test Kitchen. Now that I think about it, MTK would be really fun for Valentine’s Day, in case you haven’t found a spot yet (and the concept wraps up at the end of the month, so the timing is right!). You can read more ideas in my Valentine’s Day post from last week.
Okay lovebirds, I am all out of words for the moment—this week’s issue was a heftier one. I need a drink!
Bisous! Marcia Gagliardi
Perfect timing for this rainy-ass week. After gaining quite the following at their Lower Haight location, IZA RAMEN is expanding to SoMa. They will be opening their second location on Friday February 10th at 5pm. The menu is almost the same as Lower Haight’s, though they will be adding yakitori and kushiage skewers later. Dinner to start, and they may add lunch hours too. Hours are daily 5pm-9:45pm. 1155 Folsom St. at 8th St., 628-444-3070.
Last month I reported that BOBA GUYS was close to opening their fifth location on Fillmore Street (just next door to Wise Sons Bagelry), and they are now open. The menu features their trademark boba drinks made with brewed tea (no powders), Straus Family Creamery organic milk, and housemade syrups (no fructose). Drinks range from matcha-horchata to a strawberry-matcha latte. Open Tue-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-6pm. 1522 Fillmore St. at Geary, 415-967-2622.
Open in the back of the Boba Guys shop is SUNDAY BIRD, a takeout Korean fried chicken spot from New York’s Deuki Hong, of the awesome Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. Expect Mary’s birds, brined for 24 hours and double-fried (Korean Style), sold by the quarter, half, or whole. There are sides like honey-butter bao-scuits and slaw, and sauces too (soy-garlic, spicy Korean chile, and chicharrón). Hours are Mon-Fri 11am-9pm and Sat-Sun 11am-11pm. 1522 Fillmore St. at Geary.
A sneaky little dim sum parlor has opened above TASTE OF JIANGNAN called DIM SUM TEA HOUSE. The intrepid Melanie Wong of Chow has pics of the menu and more. She also mentions there are “discount coupons good through the end of the month on the counter downstairs and upstairs.” Hours are 11am-3pm, dinner may come later. 332 Clement St. (second floor) at 5th Ave., 415-702-6711.
I was just putting the finishing touches on this week’s column when I received the unfortunate news that ROSE PISTOLA has decided to close its doors after 21 years in business in North Beach. In their farewell note, they say, “While it’s been an amazing experience, with many friends and great memories made over the years, we have decided that due to rising costs it is no longer feasible to continue to operate. We have loved being part of this neighborhood and are so grateful for the support of the North Beach community over the past two decades. Many thanks to all our employees, vendors, and customers for their support and patronage over the years.”
Kudos to the team for such a long run, Rose Pistola was an integral part of the North Beach scene and the home of so many memories for people, both locals and tourists who would return again and again. I remember being so in love with their wood-fired pizzas and family-style dishes, the jazz and cocktails and outdoor seating. They did a lot of things right, and chef Steve Walker was doing a great job with his salumi and pasta dishes. Thanks to the team for taking such good care of so many people over the years. 532 Columbus Ave. at Green.
Sad news for Noe Valley (and beyond): Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan of La Ciccia have decided to close their casual pizzeria-enoteca, LA NEBBIA. Scoop says they decided to take a step back, try to work a little less, and focus more on their precious La Ciccia. Anyone who knows these two knows how hard they work, so good for them on taking care of themselves, although La Nebbia (and its insane selection of aged prosciutto) will be missed by many as an easy neighborhood hang. There are supposedly takers already for the space. Once the deal is final, expect to hear what’s next. 1781 Church St. at 30th St.
La Nebbia - 1781 Church St. San Francisco - 415-874-9924
SF’s loss is Emeryville’s big gain. After popping up as NYUM BAI and then enrolling in La Cocina’s incubator kitchen program, Cambodian Nite Yun is now serving her food from La Cocina’s pop-up stand in the Emeryville Public Market for six months (when she may have the opportunity to extend the lease or sign on for her own stall). Scoop reports she is serving three of her noodle soups: kuay teav Phnom Penh (rice noodles, minced pork, pork slices, crispy garlic, herbs, Khmer pork, shrimp broth), kuay teav Koh Ko (rice noodles, braised brisket, carrots, onions, crispy garlic, herbs, spicy beef broth, side bone marrow), and a vegetarian rice-noodle soup with roasted mushrooms and leeks. Hours are 11am-8pm daily. Emeryville Public Market, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville.
In response to the Cheeto’s recent executive orders targeting immigrants entering the United States, COMAL is running a Taco Bowls for Dreamers special throughout February on Mondays and Tuesdays. Come by for chef Matt Gandin’s fried flour tortilla “bowl” filled with rice, black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese, crema, guacamole, and a choice of either beef picadillo, rotisserie chicken, or seasonal vegetables ($15). Why a taco bowl? It’s in reference to Drumpf’s infamous 2016 Cinco de Mayo tweet that proclaimed his love for the taco bowl at Trump Tower Grill and “I love Hispanics.” Um, no. Net proceeds from taco bowl sales will be donated to the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (you can donate here), a nonprofit organization that offers legal aid and support services to immigrants and refugees.
Nosh reports that AG FERRARI has closed in Elmwood after 27 years, citing the ever-increasing cost of doing business as the cause. Employees will reportedly be offered jobs at other AG Ferrari locations (4001 Piedmont Ave. and 6119 La Salle Ave. in Oakland and 688 Mission Street and 3490 California St. in San Francisco). 2905 College Ave. at Russell, Berkeley.
Comal - 2020 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley - 510-926-6300
Merchants at the Marketplace will offer tastings and seasonal hors d’oeuvres ($2-$6 each), and Napa Valley Vintners will pour wine ($4 per taste). The event is free, with nominal charges for food and wine.
Marketplace shops will all be open from 5pm to 7:30pm for Valentine shopping on Friday night. There will be tango dancing and music to serenade visitors. Proceeds will benefit Slow Food San Francisco. Tickets will be available at the Ferry Building Friday night at tables throughout the Marketplace.
In our current food-world dynamic of always chasing what’s new (“Oooh, yeah, I had that dish, ‘grammed it, what’s next?!”), with diners traveling the world to check off a Michelin-rated or World’s 50 Best Restaurant chef’s signature dish, a restaurant like IN SITU perfectly feeds that voracious appetite.
In this restaurant nestled inside the updated SFMOMA, chef-owner Corey Lee (Benu, Monsieur Benjamin) and executive chef Brandon Rogers are working with chefs from around the world to replicate their dishes, from Massimo Bottura’s trademark Oops! I Dropped the Lemon Tart to Lee’s mentor, Thomas Keller, whose dish of Liberty duck breast and lentils from the French Laundry was also on the menu (and you know Lee nailed it).
While some of the dishes aren’t an exact facsimile and may feature local or seasonal ingredients where needed, otherwise they are pretty spot-on replicas, with the original chefs providing detailed instruction and guidance on how to re-create them (some even sent videos). And of course it could only be a respected and maniacally detailed chef like Corey Lee and his team who would be entrusted by top chefs around the world to even take on a project of this scale.
While the menu can be initially overwhelming (a bit like the website, whoa, where do I click?), just surrender to it not being a normal progressive menu, with appetizers, main courses, and dessert. Go with some friends who love food and have a sense of adventure and won’t mind having a dish of stone crab claw from Fook Lam Moon in Hong Kong followed by Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur’s “The Forest” from Menton, France, and then the nasal-clearing guinea fowl larp Chiang Mai from David Thompson of Nahm. It’s totally culinary ADD, don’t fight it. And not everything is elevated and high end: dishes like shrimp and tasso henican from Commander’s Palace in New Orleans also hold their own place.
Here’s what I did with my posse: we ordered the entire menu (11 savory courses and 3 desserts) and shared tastes of each dish—it was a blast. While it looked like a totally extravagant and baller move, in the end, it came to $316 for the total menu, divided by four, which came to $79 each. And then In Situ adds 20 percent service.
If you think about most nights out and high-end tasting menus in the city, it’s kind of a bargain to be able to globe-trot (no airfare needed) and taste many dishes from places you may have only heard or seen pictures of. And that’s what dinner here felt like: scrolling through your culinarily obsessed friend’s Instagram feed (or perhaps that would be you) and tasting each picture. Scroll, next picture, taste.
Some of the dishes were staggering, like Albert Adrià’s Jasper Hill Farm Cheesecake from Tickets in Barcelona, a trompe l’œil-meets-mic drop of a dessert (it’s still on the menu, just go get it and ignore the $22 price tag—it’s worth having your mind blown with how clever it is). The Apocalypse Burger from Anthony Myint is another one that will make you say, “Damn, so smart, and so good.”
Dishes are on high rotation, so keep up with In Situ to see what’s on the menu now. It makes perfect sense in the context of being a museum restaurant—the exhibitions are constantly changing.
Can’t get a reservation? There’s a lounge area with its own menu and plenty of room for walk-ins and a communal table, and you may be able to order some dishes off the main menu if you ask nicely.
Of course the flatware, stemware, china, wine selections (with many options by the glass), and service are all tops—all the way down to the most luxurious paper napkin you’ve ever had. The minimalist room is pretty stark and definitely lit up, but hey, it makes for better Insta pictures, which we know you’ll be posting.
In Situ - 151 Third St. San Francisco - 415-941-6050
The rotating playlist of hits keep coming out of the Mina Test Kitchen, with the latest incarnation, POSTCARDS FROM LA COSTIERA, paying homage to a culinary research trip chef Adam Sobel took all over Italy with Michael Mina last year. Like earlier MTK pop-ups, it’s a prix-fixe and family-style menu ($59) that you book in advance on Resy (served Wed-Sat), and you can add supplemental dishes, cocktails, and wine.
The menu opened with one of the best bites I’ve had in ages: a warm zeppole topped with the creamiest burrata, red onion, lemon, and a hearty scoop of Osetra caviar. It was like Italian blini. They should offer you the opportunity to double down (I’d gladly pay for a second hit).
The crudo section had some of the most tender “tagliatelle” of cuttlefish, with pomelo, fried onion rings, a little hit from the Calabrian citrus brodo (Sobel and his crew always season things just so), and a scattering of dehydrated squid ink and leek ash on the plate.
At this point, I was having severe pangs for Italy in the summer. There is a definite disconnect with this sunny, seaside food and the rainy weather outside (and the candlelit cavelike dining room—even though they did try to lighten things up by painting the walls). But in the end, I’ll take it—it’s a welcome blast of sunshine vibes from the country that knows how to do coastal summer REALLY well, even though you’ll have to reluctantly wriggle back into your wool coat when it’s all over.
For the pasta course, I say go for the housemade spaghetti alla chitarra with Manila clams and spicy broccoli—I couldn’t quite justify the $19 supplemental charge for the agnolotti di granchio (Dungeness crab), now $24, even though they were gorgeous little pillows with luxury ingredients like truffle and uni. With this menu and vibe, I recommend sticking with the classics.
The main course is roasted wild fish, and the perfectly grilled red snapper with Livornese sauce (tomato, fat capers, and Gaeta olives in an onion soffritto) was the move; we asked the kitchen to choose for us—another option was wild black bass, or a supplement of lobster or steak. Based on the pics I am seeing of the lobsters they are getting in, that wouldn’t be a mistake.
No matter what, do not miss the side dish of the patate croccanti con bottarga—roasted and smashed potatoes are fried and served with Tuscan herbs, and the umami-salty punch from the bottarga shavings take it to the next level. The crispy and blistered texture is unreal, a true homage to the magic of potatoes.
Dessert is their version of tiramisù, although I’m a traditionalist when it comes to this creamy sexytime dessert and I want those ladyfingers soaked in espresso and not crispy like they were here. The star for me was the exquisitely fresh satsuma they served at the very end, which is delivered fresh daily. Almost all Italian meals end with fruit, especially when you’re at someone’s house, so it was a very personal and sweet touch, and a touch of Chez Panisse as well.
The wine pairings from the different seas (Ligurian, Adriatic, Tyrrhenian, Sardinian) feature all my favorites, like arneis and pigato and vermentino. You can go for it and have pairings for $40, or have fun with all the by-the-glass options. Postcards from La Costiera is running until the end of February, and will then be replaced with their next concept, so pop by while you can for a little trip to the seaside. Buon viaggio!
Postcards from La Costiera - 2120 Greenwich St. San Francisco
As if SF Beer Week isn’t enough, there are two new places serving locally made brews. Open in the Outer Sunset is Woods Beer Co.’s fifth location, OUTBOUND, a 750-square-foot space they’re calling the club car (with an outdoor patio that will open in the spring). On tap: they are pouring six to eight rotating taps of Woods Beer and hosting a 20-gallon brewing system onsite, plus a Crowler machine to package fresh beer to go. You can nab some delicious El Porteño empanadas if you need a bite. They are planning a variety of events, so follow along for updates. Open Mon-Wed 4pm-10pm, Thu 4pm-12am, Fri 3pm-12am, Sat 11am-12am, Sun 11am-10pm. 4045 Judah St. at 46th Ave.
Opening this week in Civic Center is FERMENTATION LAB, a gastropub offering craft beers, fermented foods, and pub fare. Hoodline mentions the project is from Jeannie Kim of Sam’s Diner, who brought on the Beer Chef Bruce Paton (look for some unique and rare California beers, thanks to his many relationships with the brewer community). On the menu: pickled vegetables, deviled eggs, burgers, salads, and sandwiches. Open Tue-Sun 4pm-12am. 1230 Market St. at Grove, 415-626-1592.
Last month, I mentioned the crew at ABV (Todd Smith, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud) were launching their one-year pop-up series, Over Proof, on their upstairs mezzanine. They started this quarterly pop-up with Flip-Flop, a deep dive into rum and the food culture in the different regions of the world where rum is produced. If you want to take a break from this rainy, sweater weather, book a ticket to this tropical paradise, complete with vintage rum posters and beachy glassware.
The experience is a blast: everyone who bought tickets shows up at the same time, seated at high-top tables and the upstairs bar. Paired food from chef Collin Hilton and cocktails start coming out in waves, like rum ham musubi and jerked chicken wings and Pink Flamingos and a brilliant spin on a carbonated Presidente (the “Cuba Libre”). It’s impressive how quickly the team keeps the flow going, like riding a long, long wave of food and drinks. You’ll get quite the education on the different kinds of rum, the history of the cocktails, the dishes, and more, and the staff is happy to answer any questions, so take advantage and deepen your rum knowledge.
The team recently changed the days of the week Over Proof is running: it’s now just Thursday and Friday evenings, with one seating time at 7:30pm. As interest builds, they will add a Wednesday and Saturday night tasting. The price is now $66 (all-inclusive) per person on Resy. Grab some friends or a date and make it a fun night out—or do a buyout for a birthday or team outing. Flip-Flop runs through April 20th, and then a whiskey bar will start May 1st.
ABV - 3174 16th St. San Francisco - 415-400-4748