You think you’re about to bite into a briquette, but really, it’s Gaggan’s taste story about a samosa you’d find in India’s chai parlors. (And it was one of my favorite courses of the meal.) Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Greetings from Santa Rosa, where I’m up here for a two-day cannabis trade show (Hall of Flowers)—and we got to listen to a rousing keynote from Gary Vaynerchuk last night. So cool.
After you read through today’s column, I want to be sure you also hop over for more news and events in this week’s Table Talk column (which includes a tip on where to find fab falafel in the Lower Haight, an awesome dumpling deal, and the Musica Marin Festival), and last week’s column includes a hands-on curing class, an awesome event this Friday about SF’s post-Quake restaurant history (see you there?), how to score a free scoop of PB&J ice cream from Humphry Slocombe, and should get you inspired to track down the bodacious double cheeseburger at The Board. Also: don’t forget Oakland Cocktail Week is happening through the 23rd!
Last week, I attended the #50BestTalks (a program from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants), with talks from chefs Dominique Crenn, Enrique Olvera, Daniela Soto-Innes, Lara Gilmore, Gaggan Anand, and Virgilio Martínez—take a peek at my post about Lara Gilmore’s talk, which I found particularly inspiring. The after-party and sneak peek of Angler was pretty fabulous—am excited for the upcoming opening.
A side benefit to having these chefs in town was a special and over-the-top pop-up dinner at Eight Tables, where chef-owner George Chen hosted chef Gaggan Anand from Bangkok (Gaggan is number one on Asia’s 50 Best list). Gaggan is famous for his emoji menu, which is the only clue you have to what the dishes will be (until you’re taking your first bite—many of the dishes are not what they seem). It’s playful, unexpected, full of storytelling, and so very delicious (especially with some elevated wine pairings). I can’t believe I got to experience it in Bangkok, and now another version one year later in SF. Kudos to both Gaggan’s team and the entire Eight Tables crew for pulling off such a sophisticated and complex one-night-only tasting menu. I think everyone was having a lot of fun, and not just the guests.
Okay, I need to get back to scouting some new products for mymilligram. See you in a couple weeks!
Due to open this Friday September 21st is BARBARA PINSERIA & COCKTAIL BAR in the former Panta Rei in North Beach from Il Casaro’s Francesco Covucci and Peter Fazio (they are also behind Pasta Pop-Up).
The approachable menu is veering more into a Roman-influenced direction, with California seasonality playing a strong part, too. I got a quick glance at a preview menu: there are antipasti like oxtail supplì, baccalà, and of course some artichokes to go along with that Roman theme. A variety of pastas will range from tagliatelle with ragù (two meats: veal and pork) to some Roman-influenced classics, like bucatini all’amatriciana (my favorite), cacio e pepe, and rigatoni alla carbonara. There’s also an interesting fusilli dish with mushrooms. Daily specials will be available too, like saltimbocca on Thursdays, and porchetta on Saturdays.
There’s a whole section of pinsas (not pizza), which come in an oblong shape, and anyone who is a Montesacro regular already knows the dough of this trending style of pizza is made of soy, rice, and wheat—it’s a lighter and easier-to-digest dough, and can have a nice crispness to it as well. Toppings will include one with truffled egg with smoked pancetta and red onion, and one of my favorite pizza toppings at Il Casaro (mortadella and pistachio) will be making its way over. Pastore Mennato is the consulting pinsa chef, with over 20 years of experience.
Just next door in the adjoining space is Barbara Express, which is where you’ll find a case full of teglia romana, the Roman-style pizza that is baked in a square pan and cut however large or small you want your slice(s) to be. Gabriele Bonci’s Pizzarium in Rome is the most famous spot—and Barbara will offer the first teglia romana in SF.
The dough is 85 percent water, and fermented for 48 hours (you should see the bubbles that form). It’s baked in an electric Cuppone oven in about three minutes, and has an airy crumb that is crisp and, good for us, can stand up to a variety of toppings. At Express, the teglia romana will be cut with scissors and sold by the ounce—toppings will change daily, ranging from sausage to carbonara, and then off you go. At the counter, you’ll also be able to order supplì, and espresso service in the morning with house-baked cornetti will be coming soon.
Another fun component to the entire operation is there’s a full bar, and Carlo Splendorini (Michael Mina, Pabu) is consulting on the bar program. Pull up a stool…
The light-filled space juts into a corner shaped not unlike a pizza slice, with 68 seats inside, and 40 outside on both sides of the building under the yellow awnings (let your seat choice follow the sun—Columbus or Stockton). The interior is clean and a bit industrial chic, with curving wood and metal chairs, both at high-top and regular-height tables, plus there’s a communal table. The bar features cheerful black and white tiles, and there’s some splash of oxblood red on the walls, and wallpaper is coming too. The artwork above the bar is from neighborhood honcho Jeremy Fish, and in case you were wondering about the name (and why “Barbara” is in neon), the name belonged to Covucci’s great-grandma, who was Roman.
The plan is to open this Friday, but confirm with their Instagram before heading over. Initial hours are Sun-Thu 11:30am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-12am, with brunch launching soon. 431 Columbus Ave. at Stockton, 415-445-3009.
Last week, I was invited to attend a preview of KAIYŌ on Union Street, and let’s just say you’re going to want to check out this spiffy restaurant and bar, even though I know Cow Hollow can be a tough sell for some folks. The owner is John Park (co-founder of Whitechapel and Novela), and it’s one of those places where there’s as much attention paid to the bar offering as the menu.
The food is inspired by Nikkei cuisine, a Japanese-influenced type of Peruvian food from Japanese immigrants in Peru. The flexible menu from chef Michelle Matthews will work well if you’re coming by for some bites to go with your cocktails, all the way to ordering a full spread. The Hokkaido scallop tiradito ($16) brings the Nikkei concept to life, featuring passionfruit leche de tigre, sweet potato purée, chia, and pickled red onion. There are also ceviches (including one made with heirloom tomatoes) and crudos, plus nigiri, sashimi, and rolls.
The high quality of the seafood is really apparent, and it’s partly to do with Ricky Yap, who consulted on the opening menu and sushi/seafood preparation techniques—if you were lucky, you got to sit at his counter when he was the sushi wizard at Akiko’s. The red snapper with plum pepper paste nigiri ($6 per piece) brought me back to his counter, and there’s also tender duck breast nigiri ($7) with shaved foie gras torchon and sherry gastrique. AND there’s an uni toast ($14) on the menu that is outstanding, with aji amarillo butter, chive, and fleur de sel. Don’t miss it.
You’ll also find more traditional Peruvian dishes, like anticuchos (skewers)—including the classic beef heart ($14), or you can go modern luxe with A5 wagyu kofta ($14)—and there’s also the option to get a half or whole rotisserie Mary’s chicken ($16 or $24), with side sauces and scallions. Speaking of sides, the haricot vert ($8) with miso hollandaise is a winner.
The extensive menu of cocktails is focused on Peruvian pisco and Japanese whisky, with ingredients ranging from lucuma and minted snap pea to ume and lemongrass oil. The names are anime-inspired, which also tie in to the artwork in the space. Sake sommelier Stuart Morris has assembled an extensive sake list, plus there are food-friendly wine selections and imported beers to try.
The space has a playful and vibrant look (overseen by Park and design consultant Hannah Collins), with a 35-foot living moss wall, a punchy yellow banquette, a marble bar, street art murals, and leopard wallpaper. Rawr. There’s also a swell patio out front (the space was formerly Ottimista-Enoteca), perfect for a nightcap or end-of-summer alfresco dinner. Open Sun-Wed 4pm-12am, Thu-Sat 4pm-2am. 1838 Union St. at Octavia, 415-525-4804.
Bayview has not just one but two new additions to their dining scene, and both are sequel restaurants from female chef-owners! Yes. Let’s start with the opening of CAFE ENVY from “Auntie” April Spears (of Auntie April’s and chicken and waffles fame). Her menu includes salads (like a Caesar and shrimp Louie), bar bites (beef, chicken, or salmon sliders, jumbo smoked wings), soups (including chicken and dumplings), a burger, a vegan soul bowl, and large plates like half a lemon and herb-roasted chicken, New York steak, or jumbo prawns, all under $20. You can peep a photo of the menu here.
Cafe Envy opened in the former Monte Carlo space, and there’s a full bar (her new type 87 license is the first new liquor license issued by the city in 80 years!). Open Mon-Sat 11am-12am. 1701 Yosemite St. at Lane and 3rd St. [h/t to Eater]
Another recipient of a type 87 license is the new TATO from chef/owner Kristin Houk, who is also behind All Good Pizza in the Bayview District. The Mexico City-style menu pays homage to Houk’s abuela-in-law, who cooked in Mexico City and taught Houk many family recipes. The menu includes a range of tacos, quesadillas, salads, tostadas, and more, featuring spit-roasted al pastor, chicken tinga, or butternut squash. The tortillas are from La Palma Mexicatessan, and all-organic produce from a woman-owned co-op called Veritable Vegetable in Bayview. Houk is committed to quality ingredients while keeping prices affordable (there’s also a great happy hour (Tue-Fri 4pm-6pm), with any three tacos for just $10).
The space has a mid-century look, with tiles galore, fun and bright yellow upholstered bar chairs, an open kitchen, and hand-blown glasses for beverages like a Bloody Maria with house escabeche. Newly expanded hours are Tue-Fri 11am-9pm, Sat 10am-10pm, and Sun 10am-3pm (subject to change). 4608 3rd St. at McKinnon, 415-948-0974.
Here are a couple quick sneak peeks of upcoming restaurant projects, and both involve chef Nick Balla, of Smokebread, and previously Duna, and Bar Tartine. He has been busy with his lunchtime Smokebread pop-up at The Perennial in SoMa, but according to this Forbes.com article, he has also been consulting on the menu for the upcoming BERBER supperclub in Russian Hill. Look for a North African-inspired menu, and they will offer live entertainment and performances in the back dining room (from belly dancers to aerialists). They’re targeting a November opening. 1516 Broadway at Polk.
In this article in the Chronicle, it mentions Balla is also planning a restaurant concept that will have the utilization of imperfect and surplus food/food waste at its core. Here’s more: “For his new business, Balla plans to have a central commissary and processing facility called Duna Kitchen, and to run Smokebread within it. The menu will have dips, spreads, soups and what he calls spoon salads — chopped vegetables bathed in vegetable-juice dressings (pureed from extra produce) best eaten with a spoon. The space will have to have room for equipment needed to juice, dehydrate and jar the tons of food he hopes to go through. There will also be a bakery for incorporating leftovers into bread, with out-of-the-box ideas like using dehydrated, oxidized (as in blackened) avocado to color and flavor a dark rye bread.”
Amazing, right? He’s considering a location in Bayview, stand by for updates and be sure to read the article for more details on this cutting-edge concept.
Just a couple quick updates here: first, Anthony Strong’s new Mission restaurant, PRAIRIE is targeting early October for the opening. Dishes on the “new school” Italian menu include: pane distrutto (giant, torn pieces of olive oil-toasted bread soaked in Early Girl tomato pulp, just like crunchy-juicy toast of a BLT), tagliatelle with cutting board ragù (which uses the juice and fat from a whole roasted chicken), and coal-roasted eggplant with umeboshi and Gaeta olives. Ready for all of this. And the highballs. Read more in my original piece here. 3431 19th St. at Mission.
Taking over the massive Crystal Jade location at Four Embarcadero Center will be HARBORVIEW RESTAURANT & BAR, a Cantonese restaurant. According to a post on Hoodline, they’re aiming for a late November opening. Drumm St. at Sacramento.
Your new cheese headquarters has arrived: THE CHEESE SCHOOL OF SAN FRANCISCO has reopened in its new Ghirardelli Square home, the historic “apartment house” in the central plaza: a two-story freestanding brick house right by the mermaid fountain, with some spectacular views. It’s not only an awesome cheese school, but there is also a cheese shop, a café, and a private dining space. Owner Kiri Fisher brought on architect Wylie Price (State Bird Provisions, Ramen Shop, Fisher’s Cheese + Wine) to design this cheese dream emporium. The first floor hosts the café and shop (full of specialty items, from a case of cheese to crackers to cheese knives), while the upstairs hosts classes and private dining with views of the bay.
On the café menu (overseen by Claudia Gutierrez Smith), you’ll find Fisher’s American artisan grilled cheese with three cheeses melted between country bread (you’ll want to add on the prosciutto jam, and maybe a side of tomato soup); plus there’s pimento cheese, prepared in-house with Hook’s five-year cheddar, Calabrian chilies, garlic, and herbs; smoky blue wedge salad; mac and cheese; French raclette; and fun dishes like “fish and chips” with house-cured salmon salsa, crema, and kettle chips. The café will offer counter service and serve food all day.
Cheesemongers will be available at the cheese counter to help with pairings and tastes, and charcuterie will be cut to order. There are two grab-and-go cases filled with a selection of cheese, charcuterie, antipasti, salads, and sandwiches in case you’re preparing a picnic, and you’ll also find chilled wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages.
Book yourself into an upcoming fall class (the pizza-making classes will use a new, three-tier pizza oven!), and there are even new drop-in classes on Friday afternoons. 900 North Point, Suite K201 at Larkin, Ghirardelli Square, 415-346-7530.
In case you missed the announcement on Twitter, where it spread like guacamole, beloved TAQUERIA CANCÚN has reopened on Mission after being closed for months for an upgrade. Time to go snag a super al pastor burrito, like, ahora. 2288 Mission St. at 18th St., 415-252-9560.
Also on Mission Street, but this is sad news: PRUBECHU’s chef Shawn Naputi and general manager Shawn Camacho just announced they will be closing after service on Saturday September 29th, after four-plus years of serving their Chamorro-style cuisine from Guam and building up a loyal community. Their farewell email mentions: “We are the latest causualty of the all-too-familiar San Francisco story of landlord disputes and rent increases. Though we are very saddened by this development we have our heads held high and are looking forward to the next chapter of our mission to spread our Chamorro culture through our food and hospitality.” 2847 Mission St. at 24th St.
Some fun pop-ups for you, starting with this amazing Sunday Supper at RITU INDIAN SOUL FOOD in the Mission (read more about the rebranded location in my Table Talk post), when chef-owner Rupam Bhagat will be cooking a three-course, family-style menu with his mom (Sudha), featuring family recipes. Sunday September 23rd, $40 per guest (exclusive of tax, gratuity, and beverages). The series will run every fourth Sunday of the month. 3111 24th St. at Folsom.
Chef Joe Sasto (previously of the fabulous Cal Mare in Los Angeles, Lazy Bear, and Quince), is doing a pop-up at TRUE LAUREL on Thursday September 20th, starting at 5pm until everytthing is sold out. He’ll be serving a few small dishes inspired by his favorite bar snacks, including nachos with puffed pasta chicharrones, parmigiano fonduta, refried ceci beans, and senise peppers, and “chicken Parm” tortelloni with mozzarella, pomodoro, garlic streusel, and basil (um, yes). Dishes will be $13-$15. A portion of food sales will be donated to the ACLU of Northern California. 753 Alabama St. at 20th St.
If you’re excited for the upcoming opening of LUKE’S LOBSTER in SoMa this fall (they’re looking at mid-October), you can have a warm-up at this pop-up at BLACK HAMMER BREWING. You’ll be able to try Luke’s Lobster rolls for the first time, along with a lobster shell and kelp saison, brewed with lobster shells coming from Luke’s, while Black Hammer’s head brewer foraged for the kelp in the Pacific Ocean. Friday September 21st, 5pm-8pm. 544 Bryant St. at 3rd St.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make authentic Japanese soba noodles, El Salvadorian pupusas, or, simply, the perfect steak, keep reading to learn how you can enter to win a complimentary class from San Francisco Cooking School!
You have until midnight (Cali time) on Sunday September 23rd to enter. We will announce the lucky winner on September 24th. Good luck!
You go AWOL! What a fun night for chef Gavin Schmidt, who had the honor of feeding Mike D (“and the D is for diamond”) at THE MORRIS on Saturday night. He was in town for a daytime gig (The Do-Over) at the Great Northern on Sunday.