One of the beguiling desserts at White Rabbit (with flavors of burnt hazelnut, sour cream, and wild strawberries). Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Heeeeyyyyy now! I’m back from three weeks in Russia, and as you can imagine, it was quite the adventure. My father and I had a blast at World Cup (we saw six matches!), had such a memorable dinner at White Rabbit in Moscow (with some of the most thoughtful hospitality I have experienced), fell in love with St. Petersburg (we were on palace duty like you wouldn’t imagine), we fully enjoyed connecting with locals in Samara and Kazan, and had one of our favorite traditional Russian meals in Nizhny Novgorod. (Da, we were all over the place.) And we ate extremely well! My new obsession is Georgian food, I can’t wait to try some recipes at home.
Russia was full of surprises: we encountered so much unexpected kindness and connection, and some shocking rudeness as well (sometimes it was so bad, all we could do was laugh—same goes for a few horrific restaurant service experiences we had, oh lawdy, really for the books). Full spectrum.
I’m currently sorting through my 1,500 images and notes and thoughts, and instead of running a tablehopper full of news in the next issue, I plan to run my Russia recap instead. Such an incredible place, it really shifted my perception. And there is so much I loved about the food, starting with cold borscht and pickled tomatoes (I totally brought a jar home to enjoy until I have a moment to make my own).
It has been a bummer to return home and come down with a cold (thanks, Airbus full of germy people), but the jet lag has finally lifted, so I’m excited to start heading back out on the town. We have a bunch of cute new openings! I have a number of news briefs in today’s issue, and be sure to hop over to my weekly Table Talk column for news on the new lunchtime incarnation of Duna (Smokebread), the latest chef-inspired cocktail menu at Trick Dog, a Benedict brunch, the new Tappy Hour at Barvale, and read about some of my favorite healthy lunches (or dinners) at Booster Foods, especially after being on the road.
Our local food world is processing some big news, starting with the departure of Michael Bauer from The Chronicle, who is retiring after 32 years. Let’s see who’s next! It’s such an exciting opportunity to bring on a fresh perspective and voice.
And then there’s the heartbreaking news of Jonathan Gold’s tragic death from pancreatic cancer. At 57. Such a shock. There’s no one who chronicled a food scene like he did—you’d learn so much about a place and a cuisine and people and culture in each review. His neverending curiosity, deep research, brilliant writing, keen observations, finely tuned palate, and warm-hearted passion for storytelling (especially the story of the many immigrant populations and their cuisines that make Los Angeles so great) are all why he was the Gold standard for food writing, criticism, and reviewing. Plus so many other reasons, it’s a long list. Be sure to read these tributes by Ruth Reichl and Gustavo Arellano, writers who knew him well and worked with him.
He was taken too soon, way too soon. Condolences to his family and many friends, to Los Angeles for losing their beloved culinary lighthouse and compass, and to future food writers and critics who won’t have his perspective and style at the ready to inspire them to research more, dive deeper, be curious, and become a better, smarter writer (he wasn’t one for faster). Make sure you watch the moving documentary about him (and his process), City of Gold. I’m doing a rewatch this week for sure. Man, such a loss.
Back on our local scene, here’s something for you to look over: as San Francisco moves toward banning plastic straws, there are unexpected ramifications for disabled people and the city’s hundreds of boba/bubble tea shops (many are owned by immigrants)—both issues and articles deserve your attention and consideration. While we can agree that plastic straws are terrible for the environment, it’s good to understand some nuances and facets of what will happen with the ban, and hopefully some solutions will arise soon.
One last thing before we dive in here: next Thursday August 2nd, I’m excited to attend the second annual North Coast Wine & Weed Symposium in Santa Rosa. (I know, California is amazing.) Anyone who’s in the wine industry will want to consider getting a ticket (they are almost sold out!) since the symposium is focused on helping the wine industry examine what impact the legalization of recreational cannabis use in California may have on the wine industry (and what can the cannabis world can learn from the wine industry). See you there?
There’s also a Terpenes and Terroir dinner with The Herb Somm and TSO Sonoma after the symposium at Healdsburg Shed (guaranteed to be a quality experience, these two host fabulous events together). I’ll be mentioning more in mymilligram this Thursday (you subscribe, right?).
It’s good to be home, hope to see you soon! Marcia Gagliardi
Big news at SAISON: chef-owner Joshua Skenes has brought on famed chef Laurent Gras (Chicago’s L20), and I remember being stunned by his cooking when he was at Fifth Floor back in, oh, 2003. Welcome back to SF, chef. Skenes is positioning the hire as a collaboration at Saison, and they could probaby use a fellow three-star chef in the group as they ramp up upcoming projects (Angler, Angler Los Angeles, and of course other things in the works).
Here’s a fun tie-in: when Gras departed Fifth Floor, it was Melissa Perello who took the helm, and she’s the focus of this next bit of news: Perello is expanding to Los Angeles with a new project. She’s going to be opening a 4,200-square-foot restaurant in Row DTLA in spring 2019 (it’s also where Tartine Manufactory is opening a location).
Look for something that is stylistically similar to Frances and Octavia, naturally, and Perello adds: “I was looking to expand on the ethos of our San Francisco restaurants while also exploring some new features such as cooking with live fire, a full bar, lunch service, and outdoor seating. With this new project, we’re able to check a lot of things off the wish list for an ideal space and type of experience we plan to offer.” It will be designed by Studio Unltd.
A couple other moves: after the wheels came off the bus at TOSCA CAFE, former chef Josh Even is now at Mark Nevin and April Sack’s TOFINO WINES, designing the wine shop and bar’s snack menu. It’s offering the break he needed while he plans his next move. 2696 Geary Blvd. at Masonic. [Via The Chronicle.]
The new chef de cuisine at ABSINTHE (which just turned 20) is Joel Ehrlich, previously at Bellota, and he is working with Absinthe Group executive chef Ryan McIlwraith on the menu (there are already some new additions). Meanwhile, Robert Leva (previously Redd) is taking over as cdc at BELLOTA.
There were a bunch of openings while I was away, so let’s dive in. First up, the charming YO TAMBIÉN CANTINA has opened in the Inner Sunset, in the former Wooly Pig. I mentioned this project back in April, from couple Isabella Bertorelli and Kenzie Benesh. Their daytime menu is focused on Venezuelan-Californian tropical food, from sandwiches (think pulled pork, spicy plantains, güasacaca sauce, and salsa picante inside an arepa) to bowls, plus baked goods and breakfast items. They are dedicated to seasonal, organic, and local produce (they are tight with Full Belly Farm) and are using Verve Coffee. Hours for now are Mon-Fri 7am-3pm and Sat-Sun 8am-3pm. Love their picante style on Instagram, check ‘em out. 205 Hugo St. at 3rd Ave.
Speaking of the WOOLY PIG CAFE, owner Lieng Souryavong has opened in her new Dogpatch location, and the namesake pork belly sandwich is back, along with breakfast bagels, tasty sandwiches, soups, and a poke bowl, with coffee service provided by Andytown. Open daily 8am-4pm. 2295 3rd St. at 20th St., 415-592-8015. [Via Hoodline.]
A tablehopper reader (thanks, bread man!) let me know about a brunch place called CRACKED & BATTERED that was coming to the former Aperto, and it has finally opened. The menu has a variety of international breakfast dishes, from shakshuka to nasi goreng, plus fried chicken and waffles, and more. Check out the menu on Yelp here. Open daily 8:30am-2pm. 1434 18th St. at Connecticut, 415-926-8645.
The former Dakshin on Polk has been replaced with another location of the popular MAC’D (the original is in the Marina). Open Sun-Thu 11am-9pm and Fri-Sat 11am-2am—that’s right, you can have buffalo cheese sauce and hot Cheetos on your mac and cheese while in a drunken stupor late on a Friday night. 2127 Polk St. at Broadway.
A second location of SoMa’s Mediterranean SAJJ has opened in the former Brindisi Cucina di Mare on Belden. You can come by for the same bowls and wraps and pita sandwiches, and you can order ahead of time if you’re so busy like that. Open Mon-Fri 11am-3pm. 88 Belden Pl. at Pine.
When KATIA’S RUSSIAN TEA ROOM closed, I mentioned her daughter Helen Simmons was going to be taking it over, and she has launched the new café concept with her husband, TASTEBUDS. Hoodline has additional details about the offering, which includes a New Orleans-inspired menu (including shrimp and grits), plus some classics like pancakes and French toast. Look for a happy hour starting at 4pm, with craft beers and wines as well. Breakfast is served until 2pm. Hours: daily 7am-7pm. 600 5th Ave. at Balboa.
Don’t worry, SF’s beloved OLD JERUSALEM hasn’t closed, it just moved a few doors down to a newer and bigger location, now with a back patio and twice the room. Mousakhan alfresco, in effect. 2966 Mission St. at 25th St.
Details have emerged about the Omakase Restaurant Group’s upcoming projects coming to One Henry Adams this fall, let’s review.
UDON TIME will be a fast-casual udon shop, featuring housemade noodles and customizable toppings under the direction of Dumpling Time’s chef Edgar Agbayani, and is due to open first, followed by THE BUTCHER SHOP BY NIKU STEAK HOUSE, a certified wagyu butcher shop that will be SF’s only Kobe beef retailer (selling A5 Kobe beef), and also offer domestically farmed beef, pork, and lamb.
And then there’s NIKU STEAK HOUSE, a 60-seat restaurant featuring kappo-style counter dining with a custom-made binchotan charcoal grill and a wood-fired yakiniku grill in the center of the restaurant. Chef Steve Brown from Cosecha SD in San Diego will be the chef, and Guy Crims is the head butcher for both the steak house and the butcher shop. All three businesses will have a separate entrance and their own distinct space. I’ll keep you posted.
I’ve been hungrily watching the BREADBELLY “bake sale” pop-ups on Instagram, offering some incredible Flilipino baked goods like ensaymada and Malaysian kaya toast, plus char siu sandwiches, and rotating kinds of Asian baked tasty goodness. Great news: according to an ABC license transfer, Breadbelly is opening in the former Heartbaker on Clement, and according to a post on Instagram, they hope to open this fall. I’ll follow up with more in-depth details soon! 1408 Clement St. at 15th Ave.
Also opening this fall will be a location of the East Coast’s LUKE’S LOBSTER, opening in SoMa, their first West Coast location (there are 10 in the U.S.). This Maine-based seafood company was founded by third-generation lobsterman Luke Holden and partner Ben Conniff, and is committed to sustainable sourcing practices. They’ll be serving lobster rolls, crab rolls, shrimp rolls, clam chowder, lobster bisque, salads, poppy seed slaw, and exclusive items from local partners. Stand by for more soon. 92 2nd St. at Mission.
And a quick switcheroo: according to tablehopper reader Thomas L., the Burmese RANGOON RUBY has vacated their location at 1608 Polk and have reopened in the former Sprig meal assembly location at 500 Van Ness (they were also cited recently for underpaying hundreds of workers). Taking over their Polk address will be a second location of ELLA’S AMERICAN KITCHEN, the famed brunch spot on Presidio. Will let you know when I hear back on timing. UPDATE: ELLA’S ON POLK ST. has a target opening date of Wednesday August 1st, with seating for 100 people. The hours of operation will be daily 7am-9:30pm.
Some closures to report, including the multi-million dollar CRYSTAL JADE, after four years at Embarcadero Four. No word who the new owners are just yet, but there is a taker for the 20,000-square-foot space. A couple years ago, there was a fun rumor that Yank Sing was taking over, but that didn’t manifest. Maybe now? [scratching chin] Four Embarcadero Center, Drumm St. at Sacramento.
Two years after opening DIP in North Beach, Mahmoud “Mo” Khossoussi of Maykadeh has closed his French dip spot. 1318 Grant Ave. at Vallejo. [Via Eater.]
There are some problems at Mission’s old-timer LA VICTORIA BAKERY (67 years and counting)—the Examiner reports sub-tenants (including Sour Flour) were evicted and given 30-day notices of “termination of tenancy”—read the article for details about the complicated story. The building was put up for sale, but it’s not clear if there is a buyer, or what the fate of the bakery is. 2937 24th St. at Alabama. [Via Eater.]
Jack London Square continues to percolate with new projects (Dyafa, Belcampo), and now includes the opening of FARMHOUSE OAKLAND in the former Jack’s Oyster Bar & Fish House from the team behind SF’s popular Farmhouse Kitchen and Montclair’s Daughter Thai. Today (July 24th) is the soft opening, with August 1st as the fully operational targeted date.
Chef and owner Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang (with co-owner and wife Iing Chatterjee) offer a menu that spans Thai street food to family recipes, from curries to noodles and salads, made with quality ingredients and plenty o’ spice! There’s also a full bar. There are seats for 65 inside, including bar seating, and 40 outside on the tropical patio (pooches are welcome). Lunch Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm, dinner Mon-Thu 5pm-9pm, Fri 5pm-10pm, and Sat 12pm-10pm and Sun 12pm-9pm. 336 Water St., Jack London Square, Oakland.
There’s another Charlie Hallowell restaurant I will be able to return to, now that he has also sold PENROSE to a former Pizzaiolo employee (and currently the chef of Flora in Oakland), Rico Rivera. Once a replacement is found at Flora, Rivera will shift his focus to Penrose, and a name change is likely, although the seasonal Cali style will remain the same.
The Chronicle also reports Hallowell has split from his business partner, Richard Weinstein. More: “Weinstein, who was also accused of unwanted touching and lewd remarks by 10 employees in the course of The Chronicle’s investigations, resigned his interest in Hallowell’s remaining restaurant, Pizzaiolo, on June 1. However, Weinstein will remain landlord of the properties where Boot & Shoe Oakland and Penrose are located; he also owns the building that houses Flora.” 3311 Grand Ave. at Elwood, Oakland.
I wanted to make sure you saw this heart-warming story in Nosh about TAMMY’S CHICKEN IN WAFFLES in Berkeley, a trans-owned business that has quite the charming story behind it. I love people. You can go by for some next-level, creative waffles daily 11am-4pm. 2466 Bancroft Way at Sather, Berkeley.
More heart-warming news (because we need it): after suffering a tragic fire just before their 50th anniversary (awful!), KC’S BBQ has risen like a smoky phoenix from the ashes in a new location. Come by for some BBQ and a beer on the patio and support this family-owned business in their new digs. 1235 San Pablo Ave. at Harrison, Berkeley. [Via Nosh.]
While I was away, I was sorry to hear Preeti Mistry and Ann Nadeau have closed NAVI KITCHEN in Emeryville—you can read their farewell note on Instagram. We’ll have to see what’s next for the space, and the duo.
I was walking on Divisadero after picking up some groceries for my post-vacation empty fridge, and was happy to see signs of life back at the Mojo Bicycle Cafe location, now FOOL’S ERRAND from John Dampeer, who came down from Noe Valley (Caskhouse, Hamlet) to join us. The space looks pretty similar, with a bit of a refresh and new mural. The parklet was as busy as ever.
The wine list has some unique choices, including some natural wines and Slovenian picks (cool) and the beer list also has some quality selections, both on draft and bottled (Cellarmaker, Fieldwork, and more). Here’s the wine by the glass and beer list, plus some snacks, including a couple salads and of course charcuterie and cheese. Free popcorn during happy hour: Mon-Fri 2pm-6pm. Open Mon-Sat 2pm-12am and Sun 2pm-10pm. 639A Divisadero St. at Grove.
A couple events for you: on Sunday July 29th, ‘Aina Bento is going to be popping up at Harmonic Brewing. Take a look at their bountiful bento boxes in my Table Talk post, and you can get your ticket here, which is good for one bento of your choice (I loved the BBQ kalbi ribs) and one beverage of your choice (just $17.50, a total steal)! Food service runs 2pm-6pm. 1050 26th St. at Minnesota.
Also in Table Talk, I mentioned CUESA’s upcoming Party Under the Palms: Summer Cocktails of the Farmers Market on Wednesday August 1st at Jack London Square in Oakland. It features an all-East Bay lineup of 12-plus bartenders making original cocktails using peak-season summer produce from Jack London Square Farmers Market. Count me in! All proceeds support CUESA’s education programs and the USBG’s professional development programs.
But here’s the bonus for you: use code “tablehopperoakland” for 10% off the $45 tickets! See you there? I’m planning to check out Dyafa after the party—there’s also the new Belcampo and Farmhouse Oakland! 5:30pm-8pm. Jack London Square, Palm Plaza (Embarcadero at Webster, Oakland).
Earlier this month, a tablehopper reader spotted Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) at Bi-Rite Creamery on Dolores. She reportedly “took a photo of her double scoop (maybe salted caramel?) and ate inside, then went outside to dance around.” Exactly the correct response to eating Bi-Rite ice cream.