This week's tablehopper: March radness.
The Laughing Gas cocktail at our China Live event, with Kavalan whisky, viognier, fresh lime and pineapple, smoked honey, and bitters. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Has this glorious weather over the past weekend been making you pinch yourself or what? (Suddenly having my pale skin exposed to the sun has also made me pinch my “hi Helens,” but that’s another matter—time to double down on my daily plank time.) It was the perfect balmy weather on Friday to swing by the brand-new Media Noche in the Mission, check it out in today’s chatterbox.
Saturday was the tablehopper late-afternoon preview party at China Live with Kavalan single-malt whisky from Taiwan. What a great group—we had quite the feast, and director of beverage Duggan McDonnell mixed up some perfect daytime cocktails. China Live opens today for lunch, and I have a menu for you to peek at. (And Chinatown restaurant buffs should not miss the last month of the Eat Chinatown exhibit at 41 Ross!)
Sunday evening was the last night of La Cocina’s inaugural Restaurant Week, and I was so lucky to attend the communal Cambodian dinner at Nyum Bai in Public Market Emeryville with chef Nite Yun partnering with Mestiza Taqueria consulting chef Sophina Uong. What a fantastic meal—the ladies took turns with each course, a celebration of rice told through homey and flavor-packed Cambodian dishes. Thank you for all the work that you put into it, chefs! Be sure to visit Nite at Nyum Bai, and we should be able to visit Sophina at Mestiza very, very soon!
Chefs around the U.S. are holding their breath until tomorrow, March 15th, when the James Beard Foundation will announce the final nominees for all award categories for the 2017 awards at 9am Cali time. Follow along live via the foundation’s Facebook Live video feed and in real time on Twitter. Good luck and congrats to all!
Have a fun St. Patrick’s Day this Friday—I say skip the green beer and enjoy some St. Pat cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. 🍀
Sláinte! Marcia Gagliardi
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
City Counter, a Stylish and Modern Luncheonette, Is Coming to the FiDi
Coming to downtown is CITY COUNTER, a new daytime luncheonette inspired by classic Woolworth’s-style lunch counters, with an updated sensibility. Founder Harper Matheson is a San Francisco native, but was previously busy in New York working as a dancer and a restaurant hostess (a classic combination!), and then in management at places like Tia Pol, Char No. 4, and Maysville—she really fell in love with the restaurant industry. She also was working locally with Doug Washington on Grand Fare.
She is bringing on Blue Plate’s Sean Thomas as consulting chef. He’s building a menu that updates the American diner to 2017, one that reflects many backgrounds and food traditions, and Thomas’s globe-trotting food speaks to that. Dishes will be approachable and nostalgic, but New American and creative. Knowing Thomas’s freestyle ways, you can expect sandwiches and salads with captivating flavors. A few potential dishes he’s tinkering with are a Spanish tortilla sandwich with ‘nduja; licorice-braised pork served like a chashu burger; a salt cod croque; and a crispy greens salad with two kinds of rice, fried chickpeas, chorizo, and an egg.
Lunch service can be to stay or to go, and delivery and catering will be a big part of the plan (they plan to have their own online ordering platform). Happy hour will also be a focus, offering a cool space to go after work for a bite and an approachably priced glass of wine.
It’s a beautiful location in the Standard Oil Building (and just next door to Blue Bottle), and Matheson is excited to integrate the building’s Deco details. The counter itself is made of stone and 40 feet long, with 30 seats—it will have a big curve, and rest on steel posts that make it seem like it’s floating. A woodworker in Connecticut is making the stools, which will be simple and white. The 1,400-square-foot space also has four bay windows, which will have built-in bench seating and tables. Architect Nickie Huang will be balancing classic details, while keeping things current. Shawna Peterson, a neon artist in Oakland, is going to produce the City Counter monogram in hot pink neon for the space.
They are gunning to open in May, with hours Mon-Fri 11am-7pm. I’ll keep you posted on the menu and can’t wait to survey the interior before it opens. 115 Sansome St. at Bush.
Mission Openings Include the Cheerful Media Noche and Pink Onion
I have been tracking the opening of MEDIA NOCHE since I saw the first pic of their Cubano on Instagram and am so happy to report they are open, bringing tropical and happy vibes to the corner at 19th Street and Lexington in the Mission. It’s almost like they requested the beautiful weather we’re having this week for their opening.
To recap my original post, the project is from industry vets Madelyn Markoe and Jessie Barker, who worked with consulting chef Telmo Faria (Uma Casa, Tacolicious) on the Cuban menu—now Juan Martinez (Tres, Matador, Globe) is the chef de cuisine. The menu is casual and compact: you can come by for the trademark medianoche ($11.50) or Cubano ($12.50). Both are hot pressed sandwiches that come with ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard—the only difference is the medianoche is round and comes on an eggy brioche-style bread. Sidenote: this is some of the juiciest pork I’ve had in a Cubano, so good. There’s a fried chicken sandwich, the Celia (cute), with coconut slaw, avocado, and you’ll want to pour their Cuban green sauce all over it.
There are also bowls ($16 or $16.50), like ropa vieja and lechon asado, over black beans, rice, and coconut slaw, plus a couple of salads, including the bright verde ($6/$10) with young kale, cabbage, avocado, spiced pepitas, and a shaving of manchego with mojo vinaigrette (killer salad!).
You can start your meal with snacks like picadillo empanadas ($9), a must, plus hot little fried croquetas ($9) with smoked ham, Gruyère, and pickle that you dip into aioli. With this warm weather, the ceviche ($10) makes total sense, with calamari, shrimp, cilantro, lime, and plantain chips.
For dessert, there are Moon Bar ice cream pops in flavors like chocolate-dipped guava cheesecake and cafe con leche with cocoa nibs, developed by former Delfina pastry chef Jessica Sullivan. There are also guava pastelitos from La Ventana Cubana.
Service is fast-casual—you order at the counter, and then wait your turn for a spot at a table, either some communal ones or there’s counter seating. Some outdoor seating is coming too. The aqua-spiked space (designed by Hannah Collins Designs) makes you instantly happy, with custom concrete and hand-painted tile floors, plenty of wrought-iron touches, plants, and don’t miss the metallic banana wallpaper in the bathroom. You’ll find a flamingo mural outside by fnnch to match the neon flamingo inside, Fiona (now you know). Markoe, who has a music background and studied Cuban jazz, worked with her brother on curating the restaurant’s music.
You can also grab some wine (by the glass, carafe, and bottle, with two whites, two reds, a rosé, and a sparkling), plus sangria, beer, and aguas frescas. Hours are Wed-Mon 11:30am-10pm, closed Tue (look for some later weekend hours soon). 3465 19th St. at Lexington.
I mentioned the affordable Italian spot coming to the Mission, PINK ONION, a Sicilian-inspired panino, pizza, and pasta place, and it’s now open. To recap, it’s an extension of the Lo Coco’s restaurants in Oakland and Berkeley. Look for panini and salads for lunch, and 3-4 handmade pastas and about 10 pizzas with “lively salads” and housemade bread at dinner. There are 12 craft beers on tap and 6 wines on tap, primarily local. Open daily 4pm-10pm. 64 14th St. at Folsom, 925-323-1933.
New Openings Include Marufuku Ramen, The Caviar Co., and Baodown
I have a few quick openings around town to report on, starting with the latest ramen place to open in Japantown, MARUFUKU RAMEN. If you look at their menu, you’ll see their specialty is Hakata-style ramen (thin noodles, with varying levels of noodle hardness) and two kinds of chicken paitan ramen with a variety of toppings, spice levels, plus small rice bowls. Open Tue-Fri 11:30am-2pm and 5:30pm-9:30pm, Sat 11:30am-9:30pm, and Sun 11:30am-9pm. 1581 Webster St. Ste. 235 at Post, 415-872-9786.
Back in January, I broke the news that THE CAVIAR CO. was opening in Cow Hollow from sisters Petra and Saskia Bergstein, and they are now open—just look for the caviar cart in the window. You can come by for a variety of caviar, like white sturgeon, local hackleback, spendier golden osetra, and more approachably priced smoked trout roe, and you can pick up special orders too. Call ahead to book special caviar tastings with a group at their swanky table. Open Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12pm-4pm. 1954 Union St. at Laguna.
Open now in the former Game/All Spice (previously Masa’s) is BAODOWN, an import from Vancouver. Known for its Pacific Rim fusion dishes, Baodown started their service with an all-you-can-eat Hawaiian breakfast buffet, featuring loco moco, longanisa with garlic rice, and breaded Spam, served 9am-12pm. Yeah, you may need a nap afterward.
Starting this Wednesday March 15th will be the launch of dinner service, and according to their Instagram feed, dishes include huli-huli chicken, lechon pork, and kare-kare Alberta Beef short ribs (with peanut sauce, tempura bok choy, crispy garlic, sesame seeds, nam phrik, sweet soy). There are plenty of beers on tap to keep your palate fresh. 648 Bush St. at Powell.
Carbs Coming Soon: Dumpling Time and Kagawa-Ya Udon Noodle Co.
Carb lovers, these two pieces of coming soon news should make you happy. First, the Omakase Restaurant Group (Omakase and Okane) are going to be opening a casual dumpling and beer house, DUMPLING TIME this April in SoMa, just a couple of blocks from their other restaurants. (Owner Kash Feng is from Xi’an, China, so he grew up basically surrounded with dumplings—this is a project he has wanted to do for some time.)
Expect an array of Chinese and Japanese dumplings (primarily gyoza) made fresh throughout the day, with some California inspiration. Guests will choose their own fillings and dumpling skins and shapes, ranging from seafood, heritage pork, vegetarian, chicken, lamb, and wagyu beef, with the option of bright wrappers made with spinach, beets, and more. You’ll be able to watch the dumplings be made from scratch in a glass-enclosed “dumpling room.” Daily noodles will also be available. Plan on 10 local craft beers on tap, plus some bottled selections and wines as well. The 70-seat restaurant will also feature 20 seats on a patio. 11 Division St. at King.
(A quick sidenote, the Omakase PR team let us know Kash Feng will also be opening a yakiniku Japanese BBQ concept, steakhouse, whisky bar, butcher shop, and udon restaurant this fall to One Henry Adams, just by the roundabout.)
Meanwhile, udon fans will be visiting KAGAWA-YA UDON NOODLE CO., also due to open in April. The Mid-Market restaurant (just by the NEMA building) will be quick service, featuring housemade Sanuki-style udon (known for its square shape and flat edges). It’s famous in the Kagawa Prefecture in the Shikoku region of Japan, where there are more than 600 udon shops, and the local population consumes more than seven times than the national average. (Maybe I just found my future home?)
Chef Sean Lim (Palace Hotel, Kyo-Ya) and his wife Katherine Chiao were trained in Kagawa and imported Japanese kitchen equipment. There will be hot or cold broth available ($8-$15 a bowl), plus Japanese-style curries over rice and a variety of bites like Spam musubi (Lim is from Honolulu), onigiri, and tempura. Check out the udon menu here.
The 40-seat space will have a modern, minimalist aesthetic with an exhibition kitchen, a large custom communal table, and lots of natural light. Hours will be Mon-Fri 11am-7pm. 1455 Market St. at 10th St, 415-703-0995.
New Service: Lunch Launches at China Live, Brunch at Contrada, Hitachino & Wagyu Service
You have a few more hours to check out the new CHINA LIVE now: starting today, they are open for lunch, which means continuous hours throughout the day. Check out today’s lunch menu here. Bring on the lobster wonton soup and “Marco Polo” zhajiangmian noodles with minced pork. Hours (for now) are Sun-Wed 11am-10pm, Thu-Sat 11am-11pm. They plan to open earlier for dim sum on the weekends soon. Oolong Café should open by the end of March, with hours that start around 7am or 8am for tea service, baked goods, and more.
Over in Cow Hollow, you can now enjoy one of chef Jason Tuley’s fantastic pizzas over the weekend with California Caviar Co. smoked trout roe, crème fraîche (sorry not sorry, every time I write crème fraîche, I chuckle), soft scrambled eggs, and garden herbs on top. Yup, CONTRADA is open for brunch, with other dishes on the menu like soft scrambled eggs with Josey Baker seeded toast and black truffles, and short rib hash, plus brunch cocktails (low-ABV ones, to be clear). Hours are Sat-Sun 11am-3pm. And guess what? Their spacious patio is now open! 2136 Union St. at Fillmore, 415-926-8916.
Lastly, are you on the waiting list for dinner at HITACHINO BEER & WAGYU? I told you all about this project here, but I just wanted to update you that you have to be on the waiting list in order to score a reservation in the dining area for the kappo-style $68 nose-to-tail wagyu tasting menu (pairings are $30). Wait until you try the tongue and sirloin yakiniku (pics here)! But I have an insider tip for you: the bar is now open Tue-Sat at 4:30pm, serving Hitachino beers on draft and some bar snacks (beer menu here and snacks here). You can come in until midnight, no reservation necessary! Good luck finding a seat, however. 639 Post St. at Taylor.
GourmetFest, Special Dinners, Pasta Parties, and Outstanding in the Field
Some quick upcoming event notices for you:
Feel like getting out of town this weekend? It’s a good one to head to Carmel-by-the-Sea for the annual Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest 2017 (March 16th-19th), which features the largest gathering of Michelin-starred chefs in the U.S. There are special lunches (Daniel Boulud), a wild mushroom hunt, cooking demos in the Gaggenau Demo Kitchen, a 10-course rarities dinner feast, wine tastings (from Chateaux Margaux and Bouchard Père & Fils to Domaine des Comte Lafon, Chappellet Winery, and Champagne Pommery), tasting panels led by Larry Stone, Raj Parr, and Jeff Kellogg, and more.
On Sunday March 19th, Acquerello’s Suzette Gresham and 1760’s Carl Foronda are hosting a Freaky Friday-style “role-reversal” dinner at 1760, with Gresham whipping up dishes rooted in Filipino and Southeast Asian cuisine, while Foronda pulls a page out of Gresham’s recipe book with his personal interpretation of Italian cookery. Tickets and menu here. $75. 5:30pm-9:30pm.
Colu Henry’s pasta cookbook, Back Pocket Pasta, is out, and BARZOTTO is hosting a party on Tuesday March 21st, cooking up dishes from the book. Wine will be flowing as well. 7pm-9pm. $50. Tickets. (Books cost extra.)
And fans of Outstanding in the Field should know tickets for 2017 go on sale on Monday March 20th, with almost 90 table-to-farm dinners across North America. Some Bay Area events include Secret Sea Cove in Santa Cruz with guest chef Gonzalo Guzman of Nopalito; Tomales Farmstead Creamery with guest chef Nicolas Delaroque of Nico; Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero with guest chef Ravi Kapur of Liholiho Yacht Club; and Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales with guest chef Hiroo Nagahara of Nomica. Don’t delay if you see an event you want to spring for (yes, I am making a pun)—tickets move fast.
510 News: Doughnut Dolly Closes All Locations, Secret Scoop, Dora's
Last month brought the lousy news that DOUGHNUT DOLLY’s Hannah Hoffman was closing her Berkeley shop, and then last week, she announced on Facebook she was also closing her locations at Temescal Alley and at The Market in the Twitter building. Awww hell. Her “naughty cream” gained many fans the past five years, and she’ll be missed by many.
You look like you could use some news about where to go when your sweet tooth hits since you just got your cream-filled doughnuts taken away. Nosh brings word of SECRET SCOOP, a Thai gelato shop with flavors like chocolate lemongrass, roasted coconut, pandan leaf, salted tamarind sorbet, and black tea. They are made with natural ingredients, 100 percent rBST-free milk, and are reportedly “lower in sugar and saturated fat than traditional ice creams.” You can order any of the flavors over sticky rice. Open Mon-Thu 12:30pm-8:30pm, Fri-Sun 12pm-9pm. 1922 Martin Luther King Jr. Way at Berkeley Way, Berkeley, 415-939-2832.
If you’re craving something a bit more savory, come by DORA’S (previously known as A Dora Pie) in Berkeley for their stuffed sandwiches (“bunzas”) with fillings like chicken korma, beef and cheddar, and Vietnamese pork. Oh, and there are sweet pies too: key lime, apple, blueberry, and chocolate silk. There’s also now a taproom, featuring 12 taps (half are Fieldwork Brewing, and the rest are Altamont Beer Works, HenHouse, and Berryessa Brewing Co.). You’ll find 20 seats and an outdoor beer garden with room for 80 (!) and views of a competition-level rose garden. Well then. Open daily 11am-9pm. 1966 University Ave. at Milvia, Berkeley, 510-705-8800.
This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
(Sponsored): Trade and Media, Save the Date: Washington State Wine Is Coming to Oakland
Attention wine trade, restaurant industry, and media! Join us on Thursday April 6th when Washington State Wine comes to Oakland for a Trade and Media Seminar at Sunset Magazine’s Headquarters in Jack London Square from 11am-12:30pm, with lunch provided.
This is a global comparative tasting of riesling, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon led by Bob Betz, MW, the founder of Betz Family Winery. Panelists for the seminar and tasting include Sara Schneider of Sunset Magazine, Greg Harrington, MS, of Gramercy Cellars, and David Rosenthal of Chateau Ste. Michelle. This seminar is sure to fill quickly. Open to qualified trade and media only. Email (mention you saw it in tablehopper) or call 707-938-9703 with any questions. For those of you who enjoy blind tasting, you especially won’t want to miss this amazing event.
Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay and Navio
Looking for an excuse for an overnight getaway to gorgeousness? Maybe the renovated rooms at the RITZ-CARLTON HALF MOON BAY coupled with the somewhat recent hire of chef Jason Pringle who is now leading the Navio dining room are enough of a one-two punch to coax you to visit.
First, the property. It has always been a beaut, with a stunning view of the coastline and trails that impel you to walk in the morning, afternoon, and at sunset—there are even tide pools to visit. It goes without saying that golfers love this spot, while I prefer a cocktail or glass of bubbles out by the fire pits. Bring on the bagpiper.
The service is always so gracious and warm, you never want for anything. It’s fun to see families enjoy the resort, along with romantic couples, golf buddies, and girl getaways (there’s a fantastic spa on-site). It has something for everyone (well, if you have room on your credit card—keep your eye on their offers).
The renovated rooms are the picture of peaceful, with soft tones of gray and silver, and natural elements throughout. You walk in and just say “ahhhhhh”—the tones and materials are so calming, and the deep soaking tubs tell you it’s okay to forget about the drought (at least right now). Nothing tops Ritz-Carlton bedding, it’s always a dream to sleep in their cloudlike feather beds with 400-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. It’s worth holding out for a room with a coastal view—the ocean is beyond breathtaking, especially at sunset. Your window becomes the best artwork: a picture of NorCal beauty.
Since chef de cuisine Jason Pringle has taken over the hote’s maritime-feeling NAVIO restaurant, the food has definitely upped its game a few notches. (The restaurant will also be getting a renovation soon, I was told.) His background includes Epic Roasthouse and Aqua, where he worked for five years with Michael Mina and Laurent Manrique, eventually becoming executive chef. His style is definitely rooted in French technique and elegance, and his love of the seasons and Northern California bounty keep things changing daily—he’s big on foraging as well. The menu is primarily a celebration of seafood, but meat lovers have some choices too.
One evening, my dinner was a combination of dishes off the à la carte menu and the tasting menu ($125, now $135). If you see something on the tasting menu, you can order it à la carte. Our meal started with a stunning amuse-bouche with Dungeness crab, avocado, aioli, and a perfect quenelle of Sterling caviar—a bite built for bubbles.
My friend’s course of fluke crudo with matsutake and pear was far more interesting than my ahi tuna ribbons. While the flavors of mostarda and watermelon radish were complementary, the execution was just too strange (and the plate coated with black sesame overwhelmed—I found the dish was more about drama and show than truly enjoyable flavors and textures).
Things were back on track for me with an elegant dish of local red abalone with matsutake, freshwater eel, arugula oil, sea beans, agretti, fennel, and sea urchin. It had a Japanese simplicity, with an earthy broth, and let the freshness and flavors of the crustaceans really shine.
Hey, you, try not to fill up too much on all the breads from the extensive bread service. (It’s almost impossible to resist—mmmm, warm olive bread.)
Wine pairings are on point, even my curve ball request of only whites and bubbles was greeted with pleasure. (Trust, I can enjoy 2014 Domaine Matrot premier cru Meursault-Blagny alllll night.)
Things dipped again with the pasta course: my spaghetti alla chitarra with Dungeness crab was far too overseasoned and rich, and the pumpkin agnolotto was heavy and a bit pasty with the chestnut—the proportions felt off, like it had too much filling.
But then, an upswing—and to the top shelf! We were there during truffle season, so we got to experience those jewels of the earth with next-level, luxe scrambled duck eggs with shaved white truffle and smoked mascarpone. Ahhhh. Where’s that bread?
My favorite dish was the meaty sturgeon, which got the coq au vin treatment, with black pepper jus, lardons, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, and other vegetal additions to the plate, which remind you that you’re in California. Brilliant seafood main course, so savory and clever.
One of the desserts ($14) is a total showstopper: the s’mores fire pit. It looks like a little flaming pyre from the outside, with toasted marshmallow mousse, spiced chocolate granita, and graham cracker cake. Our apple dessert, however, turned into a mess of kataifi and melting apple sorbet. A pretty selection of migniardises ends the meal charmingly—oh, canelés.
If you stay overnight, you can return for breakfast in the morning and enjoy the view (more so than at night). The weekend brunch buffet is famous, a gluttonous affair every Sunday, with everything from dim sum to caviar to oysters and carving stations ($119). If you want to impress out-of-towners or take Mom out for a special meal, this is the spot.
A couple things to note: Navio is closed Mon-Tue. And the valet parking fee is an exorbitant $49 overnight ($15 during the week and $30 on the weekend is what you would pay to park for dinner). You kind of feel like you’re at a little kingdom in the sky while you’re there—it’s one hell of a special property. And nope, keys to the kingdom (or to get your car back) don’t come cheap.
Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
Anina Opens in Hayes Valley, Ferry Building Cocktails, Fort Point Expands, Speakeasy Closes
Okay boozehounds, you have a new patio to hit in Hayes Valley, courtesy of the Brass Tacks crew. The bar ANINA has opened in the former Flipper’s space, and it’s all about a colorful, tropical, cheerful, airy look, with just cocktails (no food). And what a perfect week to be open. See if you can cut out of work and stake out a spot at one of their beer garden tables. Hours: Mon-Fri 2pm-2am, Sat-Sun 12pm-2am. 482 Hayes St. at Octavia.
Mark your calendar for the next Ferry Building cocktail event: A Toast to Science: Spring Cocktails of the Farmers Market, on Wednesday April 19th and in celebration of Earth Day and the March for Science. There will be spring cocktails and bites from 20-plus Bay Area bartenders and chefs, thanks to CUESA, the United States Bartenders’ Guild, and the Exploratorium. These events are always a blast, with unlimited cocktail tastes from top-notch bartenders, three full-sized drinks, and hors d’oeuvres. 5:30pm-8pm. Tickets: early bird $55; general admission $60; last minute $65. Ferry Building Grand Hall, 1 Ferry Building.
Also at the Ferry Building, we received word that FORT POINT has expanded, taking over the Marla Bakery space that was adjacent to the Fort Point kiosk. There are now an additional 30 seats, where you can enjoy brewery-fresh beer delivered daily from Crissy Field, as well as locally sourced hot dogs and pretzels from Acme Bread, Golden Gate Meat Company, and Firebrand Artisan Breads. Hours are Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat 10am-8pm, and Sun 11am-6pm.
And some unexpected news was that local brewery SPEAKEASY ALES & LAGERS has ceased operations—the brewery and taproom are now closed, and what’s left of their beers on shelves is all that remains. We’ll have to see if another entity with some capital to spare takes over the facility or launches their own brand in the space. [Via Hoodline.]
Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
From Yellow Mimosa to the Yellow Jersey
A tablehopper reader wrote in to tell me Lance Armstrong came in to A16 on Saturday night (I was there on Wednesday for Festa Della Donna, when the restaurant was full of mimosa). He was with a party of six and reportedly said hello to a lot of people who recognized him. According to his Instagram, he was in town to see Hamilton.