You’ll want to order everything from the “lightly dressed” section of the menu at Ayala, like the uni, littleneck clams, and oysters. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Howdy, gang! I think most of us are back from our vacations and staycations and sadly have turned off our out-of-office messages (oh well, that was fun). Last week, I released my annual rant, the bore, of 10 things I don’t want to see in the new year, and I sure got a kick out of all your feedback, amens, and additions. (You can look at all the past bores here—just be sure to scroll down.)
Before we dive in to some restaurant news, here are some articles I’ve been writing elsewhere. I contribute a monthly report to Food Spark, a William Reed Media publication, about West Coast food trends, and here’s their end-of-year article on global trends from their trend spotters around the world.
I also had fun being part of Eater’s annual end-of-year questions for fellow food writers, the Year in Eater. A good one to look over is always SF’s Top Restaurant Standbys and The Bay Area’s Top Restaurant Newcomers of 2018.
This week’s Table Talk for Bay Area Bites takes a look at the recently opened Ayala, offering beautiful seafood and a chic style, while a trip across the Bay reveals awesome dishes at Dosa by Dosa (the idli fries!!), and you can check them out during Oakland Restaurant Week (among many other places). Boot and Shoe Service hosts a fire relief dinner series, and say cheers to Winter Cocktails of the Farmers Market. (I also want to make sure you didn’t miss the Greek treats and dumplings in last week’s Table Talk!)
I also wrote an article for Bay Area Bites on a new cannabis and craft beer (or wine) tour, The Sonoma County Experience! Check it out, man.
Now open on Mission Street is Annie and Craig Stoll’s PIZZERIA DELFINA DOWNTOWN in the former A.G. Ferrari space. I went by for a Sunday lunch, and it was busy with downtown shoppers, in spite of the monsoon-like weather conditions. There’s no stopping people from getting their pizza, am I right?
The space has 46 seats, divided between a dining area and another that feels more like a wine bar (with bright Pizzeria Delfina yellow seats)—and there are 14 seats at a counter too. Outdoor seating will have room for 22, we just need some nice weather to return. Envelope A+D is behind the design, which feels airy, simple, and clean, with white tile, California black walnut, concrete, modern lighting, and a fun mural by Shawn Bullen, which offers a playful spin on the classic Bay of Naples mural you see in all Neapolitan pizzerias, except this is about SF.
The menu includes their classic antipasti, like the chilled tripe (the best!), plus seasonal vegetables, and a few salads (the menu is updated weekly on Wednesdays), and then you can take your pick between red and white pies, 13 in all. We opted for one of each, and both were some of my favorite pasta dishes as pizza: carbonara (with guanciale, egg, pecorino, scallions, black pepper) and amatriciana (guanciale, chile, tomato, pecorino, black pepper)—both were $19 each. The pies had a fantastic and flavorful crust: so thin and crisp in the middle, with the perfect balance of bite and chew.
We also tried one of chef de cuisine Madison Montoto’s pasta dishes: burnt flour orecchiette, with broccoli rabe pesto, fennel sausage, and the rustic addition of ceci beans—what a hearty and delicious dish ($19). You can also opt for their meatballs, chicken alla diavola, and there was a special of mussel fettunta ($22).
Save room for dessert since they have Double 8 Dairy soft-serve (the California Street location just started serving it too!), which is made with creamy buffalo milk. I went for a swirl of fior di latte and chocolate ($6) and it was a dream.
The wine list is pretty extensive—you have a bunch of choices by the glass (both Italian and Californian) from wine director Sally Kim, and be sure to look at the two special wines for Pizzeria Delfina from Scribe and De Conciliis. There are seven beers on tap, and some non-alcoholic options as well. Hours are now Mon-Sun 11:30am-10pm and Sun 11:30am-9pm. 688 Mission St. at 3rd St., 415-286-9426.
Open today is SOUVLA’s fourth location (the first opened in 2014). They are now in the Marina and it’s their most beautiful location yet, with a 16-foot ceiling, a recessed entrance allowing for a mix of indoor and covered/heated outdoor seating, a standing communal bar, a 400-square-foot dining room anchored around an eight spit Rotisol rotisserie with vintage brass and copper accents, a plant installation by Talc Studio, and black-and-white portraits from Greece. There’s a to-go window for easy pick-up as well, which they know will come in handy when people are heading to Crissy Field, and with all the Caviar delivery they will have in the neighborhood.
You know the menu well: rotisserie-roasted, quality meats, wrapped in warm, fluffy pita bread or in seasonal salads with Greek yogurt sauces, and Greek frozen yogurt for dessert. Open daily 11am-10pm. 2272 Chestnut St. at Scott.
One more expansion: it looks like THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA is opening in the former Myconos on Polk Street (current locations include the Lower Haight, Mission, and Noe Valley). Hoodline says to look for a springtime opening. 1431 Polk St. at California.
Back in October, I broke the news that Russian Hill’s Zarzuela was closing after 24 years, and ABRAZO was opening in its place. Chef-owner Michael Pawlik (prviously Frascati) and his girlfriend and co-owner Amanda Banks Barker (Mamanoko) got it open just over the holidays. The updated menu has primarily Spanish dishes (you’ll still find octopus, but there’s a scallop tartare as well), and you’ll enjoy a refreshed restaurant inside as well. Open Mon-Sat 5:30pm-10pm, Sun 5:30pm-9pm. 2000 Hyde St. at Union, 415-872-9239. [Via Chronicle.]
Wine lovers, specifically Champagne lovers (raises hand) have a new spot to hang out in Dogpatch: UNGRAFTED has opened in Dogpatch, serving as a wine bar, restaurant, and wine shop. It’s from a married sommelier couple, Rebecca Fineman and Chris Gaither, who have brought on executive chef Nicholas Turpin (Boulevard) who has created a menu that goes much further than cheese plates: look for scallop ceviche, braised tongue tostones, salmon collar, Creole-spiced buttermilk fried chicken, short ribs, fries with sherry salt, and more (dishes range in a variety of sizes, mostly $10-$18).
In addition to wines by the glass, you’ll find a selection of half-bottles, plus beer, sake, and non-alcoholic options—all the servers are sommeliers, so you’ll be in good hands. The space has two levels and 90 seats, with some fun design touches. Open Mon-Sat 5pm-10pm and Sun 5pm-9pm (open for retail purchases at 12pm, and 2pm on the weekend). 2419 3rd St. at 22nd St, 415-814-2129. [Via Eater.]
There’s a new brunch and burger spot in Hayes Valley: LAGUNA, serving that lobster grilled cheese sandwich (pictured) with tomato bisque ($18), pulled pork hash ($15), soufflé pancakes ($13), and build-a-Benedict ($17), featuring housemade English muffins. There are also salads, sandwiches (including fish or pulled pork), and a few kinds of burgers. There is an emphasis on using quality and local ingredients, and housemade items, including pie. Open daily 9am-3pm and 5pm-9pm for now. 602 Hayes St. at Laguna.
And I forgot to run this item last month, whoops: the HINATA team have opened a new location in Japantown called SASA, serving Japanese lunch during the day, sushi, and a $60 kaiseki tasting menu in the evening. It’s from Hinata partner Weida Chen (Sushi Ran, Ijji), with chef Jing Huang (Sushi Ran, Kusakabe). [Via Eater.]
Tidbits: Palio's Big Update, The Table at Merchant Roots, New Brunch, Pho in the Mission, New Gus's Community Market
Congrats to PALIO, the FiDi restaurant formerly known as Palio d’Asti, which is now sporting a new name, updated look, and menu that has expanded to cover many regions of Italy (instead of just Asti). I walked in to the new dining room (renovated by AnV Architects), and thought it looked molto Milano, with a large bar now as a focal point (and 19 seats), and there are three private and semi-private dining rooms. Owner Martino DiGrande brought on Matt Grippo and Shirley Brooks (Bottom of the Barrel cocktail consulting) to overhaul the beverage program, while maintaining executive chefs and brothers Mauricio and Jose Alberto Martinez, who first started working there in the 1990s. Come in to the lounge for a pizza from the wood-fired oven and a spritz, or stay for lunch or dinner of housemade pasta and Barolo-braised shortrib. Open for lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, dinner Mon-Sat 5pm-10pm, happy hour 2pm-6pm. 640 Sacramento St. at Montgomery, 415-395-9800.
The Table at MERCHANT ROOTS is now offering tickets on Tock to upcoming dinners. There are just eight seats, and guests are served a tasting menu from chef Ryan Shelton with a specific theme for $110, with the option of a wine pairing for $75 from director of operations Madison Michael. Tickets for the latest series, Elements (“inspired by celestial bodies and the elements that make up our universe”), are available for January 31 and February is open too. There is also a Valentine’s Day option for $205. Shelton has been working on this menu for a while, so expect some exciting things.
SoMa residents have a new brunch option: TANK18 is launching Sunday brunch on January 13th, with dishes like shakshuka; seared polenta cake with white beans, grilled okra and pickled onion; skirt steak and eggs; and more. There is not only a selection of house wines, but a full bar offering brunch cocktails as well. Served 11am-3pm. 1345 Howard St. at 10th St.
A tablehopper reader tipped me off to a new Vietnamese pho restaurant in the Mission in the former Rhea’s—PHO ON BRYANT—take a peek at the menu here, which also includes some Chinese-style dumplings. Open daily 11am-9:30pm. 2200 Bryant St. at 20th St., 415-678-5560.
Over in Mission Bay, brothers Bobby and Dimitri Vardakastanis of GUS’S COMMUNITY MARKET just opened their fourth location, which includes their well-stocked grocery shelves and produce, as well as a deli and café featuring Andytown coffee. New offerings include a build-your-own ramen bar and pastries from Starter Bakery. Their father, the late Gus Vardakastanis, opened his first store on Haight Street in 1981. Open daily 7am-10pm. 1101 4th St. at Channel.
Back in July, I mentioned Clement Hsu, Katherine Campecino, and James Wong, the trio behind the awesome BREADBELLY pop-up, was opening a café in the former Heartbaker on Clement, and they are now open! Maybe you saw my in-depth post on Table Talk about their Asian-inspired baked goods, like ham-and-cheese ensaymada and Malaysian kaya toast, and they’re also doing char siu sandwiches, and rotating kinds of Asian-American baked goods. There’s espresso service from Wrecking Ball, teas, and beer and wine too. Hours for now are Mon, Thu-Fri 7am-4pm and Sat-Sun 8am-4pm. 1408 Clement St. at 15th Ave.
The third component to the San Francisco Proper Hotel lineup of businesses is now open: LA BANDE, a European-inspired café (joining Charmaine’s and Villon). It’s a gorgeous café designed by Kelly Wearstler, with Paris green tiles, black-and-white stripes, and brass, with indoor and outdoor with seating for 40 (there’s a heated patio).
Chef Mikey Adams has put together a menu of breakfast burritos, homemade yogurt topped with fresh fruits, sandwiches, French onion soup, and salads. You’ll also find fresh pastries from Firebrand (croissants, kouign amann, chocolate crumb cake, and more) and a full coffee bar featuring Counter Culture coffee, including nitro cold brew on tap. Wine and beer and limited cocktails are available in case you need a little something to get through your morning (you boozer). Open for breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri 6:30am-2:30pm. 1100 Market St. at McAllister.
And over in Bayview, there’s a new café called WORD. A CAFE., and they’re serving crab Benedict, salads, soup, and specials, plus baked goods, full coffee and tea service, and some pop-up dinners. And there’s also a Victrola! Open Mon-Fri 7am-2pm and Sat 8am-2pm. 5114 3rd St. at Bayview.
Cruising through Facebook, I saw this post from ALMANAC BEER CO. that they decided to not renew their SF taproom lease and will be closing after their final service on Saturday January 19th. (They were on 24th Street for two years.) Go get that burger and a fresh beer while you can. They say: “With our incredible new brewery, barrel house and taproom now open on Alameda, we’re staying focused on making the Almanac mothership the very best it can be (exciting news coming later this spring).” 2704 24th St. at Potrero.
Over on Geary, East African ASSAB has closed after 28 years. You really should look at the farewell note from owners Matheos Yohannes and Mehret Tesfalidet, what dear people. Best wishes. 2845 Geary Blvd. at Collins. [Via Eater.]
A reader sent in a less-than-heartening note in the window at CHOW on Church: they have cut their hours (without any explanation—I reached out for more but didn’t hear back), and are now closed Mon-Tue. They are open Wed-Thu 11am-9:30pm, Fri 11am-10pm, Sat 8am-10pm, and Sun 8am-9:30pm. 215 Church St. at Market, 415-552-2469.
I received some pretty heartbreaking news just after January 1st that a dear local chef, Colin Dewey, died in a tragic accident over the New Year (he reportedly fell down some stairs, how awful). So shocking. It’s hard to grasp that he is gone. Not only was Colin a thoughtful, talented, skilled, and completely badass chef, but he was just the NICEST guy. No attitude. He was all warmth, and so good-natured, and had a big, goofy laugh that I just loved.
I met Colin about 10 years ago when he was the chef de cuisine at Bix (and was behind my favorite cloth-napkin burger), while working for one of our other big hearts in this local culinary scene of ours, Bruce Hill. He left to work in New York (at Del Posto under Mario Batali and Mark Ladner, and at Felidia with Lidia Bastianich), but fortunately we got him back, and he was the executive chef at Zero Zero. He then went on a sabbatical to cook in Italy before becoming the exec at Florio, and he then went to Perbacco…
In past years, he has been working with Casa de Case importers as their chef, and I have been so fortunate to enjoy his cooking with the team at their annual warehouse dinner party (“Cena Nel Magazzino”). It was always such an impressive feat, seeing them cook a huge feast for so many guests, which seemed to grow massively each year. Tortellini in brodo, bollito misto, the biggest vat of polenta he had to stir with a huge paddle…he’d be in the makeshift kitchen, sweating and yet still smiling while manning three different pots on huge burners and berating me for taking pictures of him as he was about to burn the garlic. I remember cackling together.
For me, one of my favorite memories of his cooking was the incredible gourmet popcorn he created for the after-hours screening party I hosted for Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent. The Casa de Case crew recreated the famous Stars hotdog (Howard and Kris were big Stars regulars) and Colin made the most fantastic gourmet popcorn for the event since we were going to be in a theater: he made Parm Pop with 24-month parmigiano, oregano, and peperoncino, and Fish Pop, with colatura di alici, garlic, lemon, anchovy, chile, and bottarga grated on top. I swear, every chef at the party was losing their mind for this popcorn. Colin was so creative, and so prepared—I remember his station all set up just-so, and he was early. There was even a sign for the table. Come on! Such a pro. What a guy.
I can’t imagine the heartache everyone is experiencing who knew him well, loved him, worked with him, and grew up with him…he was such a special human. One who was tragically and unexpectedly taken from us, way too soon. Such a shock—it’s a tough one to grasp. Heartfelt condolences to his family and everyone mourning his departure, there are many. Rest in peace, sweet man. Heaven is so lucky to have their angel back, and they don’t even know about the Parm Pop.
The wait is over: Thad Vogler’s OBISPO is now open in the Mission, a cocktail bar featuring quality rums that pass Vogler’s exacting criteria and vision (a lens that is made from his love of terroir and rhum agricole and provenance and small-scale, artisan spirits, topics he explores in his recent book, By the Smoke and the Smell).
Vogler is one of our most thoughtful barmen, and is sensitive to some of the issues his bar inherently contains, like rum’s colonial history and origin as a product made by African diaspora and slaves on sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean, and a white man opening a bar in the heart of the Mission on 24th Street. He is partnering with Calle 24 and MoAD on the project (and working with them on the folk art in the bar), and they will receive some of the bar’s profits. He has ensured his staff all speak Spanish, the menu is in Spanish, and he is trying to keep prices affordable for neighbors. (I recommend reading through Esther Mobley’s in-depth piece on Obispo.)
As far as the cocktails, you’ll see three kinds of Mojitos, an El Presidente, ‘Ti Punch, and more, all $12 and under. This is also the perfect place to drink rum neat and ask questions and learn. The food menu includes empanadas, maduros, tostones, a Cubano sandwich, Jamaican oxtail curry, and grilled chicken, all dishes from rum-producing cultures and places. I’ll be posting more very soon on @tablehopper—I’ve been looking forward to this place opening for years (like many). Open daily 6pm-2am. 3266 24th St. at Capp.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Future Bars team has opened another tiki bar, ZOMBIE VILLAGE, in the former Tradition in the Tenderloin (they are also behind the popular Pagan Idol in the Financial District). The décor is definitely over the top: expect plenty of skulls, thatched huts, totems, and umbrella drinks. You can also rent private tiki huts. Open Mon-Fri 5pm-2am, Sat 6pm-2am, closed Sun. 441 Jones St. at O’Farrell.
Another closure on Polk Street: BLUR is closing this Saturday January 12th after 15 years of keeping many of us “well-hydrated” over the years (their two-for-one happy hour put the hurt on many). That stretch of Polk Street is going through big changes: Hemlock, Vertigo… Thanks for all the blurry memories. 1121 Polk St. at Post. [Via Eater.]
Thursday Jan 31, 2019 6:30pm–9:30pm $75 Tickets Cambria Gallery 1045 Bryant St., San Francisco
Pencils for Kids, Inc. is hosting their annual fundraiser on Thursday January 31st, in order to raise funds to support their annual mission trips to Thailand, Bali, and Myanmar. You may remember I attended the mission trip last year to Thailand and was incredibly moved by everything this organization does to help children in need in developing countries to attend school and, in doing so, build the foundation for a better future. PFK just celebrated their tenth anniversary, and will deliver backpacks, school supplies, and uniforms to over 2,200 children this year, but they can’t do it without your help!
The fundraiser, Small World Big Flavors, on the 31st will feature dishes from fantastic SF restaurants, like Azalina’s, Beyond Burma, ChiliCali, Esan Classic, and Garden Creamery. There will also be beverages provided by HelioRoast Coffee and Remy-Cointreau, plus wines as well. Tickets are $75.
You will be able to bid on silent auction prizes, and there will be amazing raffle prizes (including a round-trip ticket for two to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific in Premium Economy and three nights at a hotel!), and more!
It will be held once again at the stylish Cambria Gallery in SoMa. Don’t miss this special evening that can help do so much good. If you are unable to attend, but would like to make a donation, please visit here.