This week's tablehopper: yamas!
The theme for the Academy of Friends Gala was Neptune’s Fantasy, and my stylist friend @heatherhair ran with it! She took a special trip to the pet store to create my amazing headpiece. Neptune winked at me. Photo: Heather Caruso.
Hi gang! Happy International Women’s Day this Friday, and welcome to Women’s History Month. Cheers and respect to all the womxn!
And Happy Mardi Gras! I hope you have some gumbo in your near future. I have a whole bunch of PDO feta in mine: it ends up I’m taking a last-minute trip to Greece this weekend to learn about one of my very favorite ingredients that is always in my fridge! Yup, #fetatrip. I’m so excited. (I also need to swing by The Manufactory Food Hall at SFO—yay, an international flight!)
At the end of my dream PDO feta trip (it wraps up in Thessaloniki), I’m heading back to Athens for a week of exploration. The last time I was there, it was in 1999—it was the first day of my vacation and I was sitting down for my first moussaka in the Plaka when a monster 6.0 earthquake hit and really fucked shit up—including my head space. It was pretty devastating, with numerous buildings that crumbled and trapped people in the rubble. I got the hell out of there the next morning and fled to Sifnos. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to be on a ferry and off terra-not-so-firma.
But, I am returning! Athens, we have a make-up date! I’m thrilled to get to know the city properly, without dodging fallen buildings and rubble. (I’m gonna do a prayer before I leave: no earthquakes! Plllllease! And I’m buying some worry beads on arrival.) So, if you have any Athens recos to send my way, I’d be so appreciative! I’m going to spend a couple days on my own in Thessaloniki as well. Efharisto in advance!
The next tablehopper will be April 2nd, so publicists and restaurant folks, please make note of it for any pitches and event announcements.
Since I’m going dark for a bit (boy, do I need a break), today’s column is a bit heftier than usual. I also have my very last Table Talk column for you—KQED decided to not renew my contract, so that’s that (although I will still have some one-off pieces for them, like an upcoming feature on the women creating SF’s canna-culinary scene).
Last week’s Table Talk highlighted the fantastic sandwiches at Turner’s Kitchen, plus two places for Mardi Gras parties (tonight!), and start planning a field trip to Marshall for the reopening of Tony’s Seafood from Hog Island Oyster Co.
I’m happy to announce I’ve been doing some writing for Nob Hill Gazette, and here’s my recent feature on Michelle Polzine and her oh-so-special strudel at 20th Century Cafe! (Congrats to Michelle on her James Beard Award semifinalist nomination for Outstanding Pastry Chef!)
You can see all the James Beard Award semifinalist nominees, and the finalist nominees will be announced on Wednesday March 27th (the winners will be revealed at the annual James Beard Awards Gala on May 6th in Chicago).
Last Sunday was the 39th Academy of Friends gala, and wow, what a night! Our generous restaurant partners really knocked it out of the park for our guests, take a look at the pics here and here. Such delicious and beautiful bites! Of course, with a theme like Neptune’s Fantasy, the fashions were also so fun. It’s too bad I don’t like costumes and themes. We’re still waiting to see how much money was raised, but many many thanks again to everyone who contributed so generously to the gala! The generosity of the restaurant community is something else.
One more thing: you won’t want to miss this absolutely heart-wrenchingly delightful video about Jacqueline Margulis of Cafe Jacqueline fame. I see a soufflé in front of you, verrrrrrry soooooooon.
See y’all in April, and you can follow my upcoming Greek adventures and feta consumption at @tablehopper on the ‘gram or on Facebook!
Yassou! ~Marcia (rhymes with Garcia)
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
At Last: Noosh Soft Opening on Fillmore This Wednesday for Dinner
Sound the trumpets: after numerous delays, preview dinners, and early delivery on Caviar, you can finally come in to NOOSH firsthand for dinner this Wednesday March 6th (it’s their soft opening). Here’s the menu!
The project is from Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, who made quite a name for themselves with their Istanbul Modern pop-up series on Feastly, and are partnering with John Litz (Lazy Bear) on the project. They have a fine dining background (working in East Coast Michelin-starred restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and Le Bernardin) and are steeped in technique (in addition to their pop-ups, she has worked at Saison and he has been at Mourad), but will be keeping things casual for this location. They are both so warm and hospitable, and very passionate about every detail of their soulful cooking.
Look for Eastern Mediterranean flavors, with Turkish dishes, in addition to inspiration from Israel, Greece, and Armenia, with the fluffiest housemade pita bread and flatbreads from their wood-fired oven. I’ve been fortunate to attend two preview events, and have been blown away with the sophisticated layering of flavors and techniques—their food really pops. While the menu reads simply, there’s so much more going on.
For example, the halloumi kebab ($8) features housemade halloumi, with honey, Persian rose petals, and a Szechuan peppercorn spice mix that has Aleppo chile, cardamom, black cardamom, and green and red Szechuan peppercorn. It will awaken your senses before you even take a bite. (I got a personal look at the spices in their pantry, which includes special items Sayat’s father brings from the Spice Market in Istanbul, like Urfa biber paste.) The exquisite red pepper muhammara ($6 each/3 dips for $15) features Urfa biber and almonds, and is remarkable alongside their smoked yogurt. Each spread comes with a half chubby pita (I am going to get extra-chubby eating them).
The pricing is so refreshingly wallet-friendly. I almost rubbed my eyes with disbelief when I saw the offer on their menu with a choice of a kebab, a spread, and a choice of pilaf, potato, or salad, all for $14. (Kebabs range from $7-$9 for two skewers.) Their hearty chubby pita sandwiches are $12-$14, from a classic sabich with falafel, egg, eggplant, and their creamy hummus, to a Greek po’boy with fried calamari, tzatziki, and pickles that will transport you to a seaside vacation in two bites.
Desserts are just $7, from dreamy lokoumades with orange honey to a sour cherry ice cream sandwich with Urfa chocolate sauce (and is fantastic with the Urfa Manhattan I mention below).
Bar manager Andrew Meltzer’s cocktail program (scroll to page two) is as detailed as their cooking, like a whiskey highball with Westland American single malt whiskey, cacao, and clove; and you can enjoy the exotic flavors of the Kookoo Gimlet (California aqua vitae, banana, parsley, mastiha), and finish the night with their Urfa Manhattan. I fell hard for the salty-savory Gin and Tonic, with St. George Terroir gin, La Gitana manzanilla sherry, and marinated olives. All the cocktails are $10-$13 and we should all be very happy about it.
The wine list features 14 wines available by the glass, carafe, or bottle, with selections from Georgia, Hungary, Turkey, France, and California. Beer, cider, shrubs, and other refreshments are also available, including some Armenian foraged teas.
They are doing many things differently here, like starting with delivery on Caviar first, and they are also doing a fine-casual format instead of table service. When you arrive, you will place your order with an ambassador at a kiosk by the entrance, and they will run your credit card. You will be seated by their hosts at a variety of different areas: maybe you want a couple drinks and bites in the lounge, or a table for two, or a seat at the bar, or maybe in a nook in the upstairs mezzanine. You’ll get your food and drink much more quickly since it’s fired as soon as your order is placed. And don’t feel pressured to place your entire order in the beginning—any of the ambassadors can help with additional items, from more of their juicy and brightly seasoned meatballs to another cocktail. You also don’t need to flag down your original server—anyone can help you, and can close out your tab.
The space has an airy and welcoming style, one that reminds me of Los Angeles, Istanbul, Greece, and a touch of Santa Fe. From the white tiled bar and white painted brick walls, to the stucco elements, many plants and olive trees outside, white oak dining tables, large clear glass pendant lamps, and pops of Mediterranean blue throughout, it all combines to create a relaxed and happy feeling. The side room is Kitchen Table, Noosh’s private dining space, with a mural by Alexander Tadlock. The design was in collaboration with Eden Wright Design and Mokume Design.
The soft opening begins this Wednesday March 4th, with dinner service from 5pm-11pm. You can also continue to order delivery on Caviar for lunch and dinner. Stand by for extended hours soon, plus ticketed dinners, private dining at Kitchen Table, and more. 2001 Fillmore St. at Pine.
New Project Opening in the Former Farina from Liholiho's Jeff Hanak and Ravi Kapur with David Golovin
Incredibly exciting news just rolled in from the Liholiho Yacht Club team: Jeff Hanak and Ravi Kapur are partnering with David Golovin (Spruce,Village Pub, Rubicon, La Folie, and NOPA) on a yet-to-be-named restaurant that is opening in the former Farina space (and Anna’s Danish Cookies, for you fellow old-timers) in the Mission. Nope, no douchey private social club backed by Peter Thiel is going in. Just good people who understand hospitality, wonderful food, neighborhood relations, and how to take great care of their employees and guests. (So glad someone burned some sage and did an exorcism over there.)
Kapur and Hanak will be managing partners, while chef-partner Golovin will be driving the menu, showcasing his Eastern European heritage with a strong emphasis on wood fired cooking, slow smoking, and preservation. His seasonal menu will feature platters of smoked fish, grilled meats, and whole-vegetable cookery—Bay Area bounty in effect.
Seth Boor (Boor Projects) will be creating a welcoming space, and guests will be able to enjoy alfresco dining with sidewalk seating and at the rooftop patio and bar. Dinner will be served from 5-10pm, with brunch to follow on weekends. They will offer a limited amount of reservations and keep most seating open for walk-ins. Cocktails will be available, along with well-selected wines and beer. Look for updates in advance of their projected fall opening. 3560 18th St. at Guerrero.
Moongate Lounge Now Open Above Mister Jiu's, Serving Cocktails, Dim Sum, and Natural Wines
You looking for your new stylish hangout, full of Chinatown glamour and dim sum and playful cocktails? Of course you are. Now open above Mister Jiu’s is MOONGATE LOUNGE, where banquets were formerly held when it was the Four Seas.
Owners Brandon Jew and Anna Lee worked with Steph Wong-Swig Architects on the 5,000-square-foot space, which has a 55-seat cocktail bar and lounge, and an event space with room for 80. You feel like an extra on a Wong Kar-wai set, with the chic half-moon back bar lit up like a Miami bar in the 80s, vermilion velvet booths (with suspended lotus lights made from the original Four Seas light fixtures—oh, and the booths can be reserved), low-slung seating, and an entrancing and modern light fixture that dominates the room and changes with different LED colors—it’s the moon gate.
Chef Brandon Jew’s menu features creative bar snacks for $6 each, like spicy plantation peanuts with crispy anchovy, and the smoked oyster “youtiao,” which was almost like a crisp Chinese hush puppy. Elevated dim sum bites ($15) include chicken in a space suit (LOL), a play on a pig in a blanket-meets-bao, and an update on Crab Rangoon with Alaska king crab. The pig trotter ham sui gok was my favorite—made with glutinous rice, there’s an incredible texture experience when you bite into the lightly crisp exterior. You’ll also find a half-chicken ($20) from an original Four Seas recipe that was recovered from a newspaper clipping. Pastry chef Melissa Chou’s Parisian egg tart ($8) is more like crème anglaise than your typical dan tat, a creamy vanilla dream.
Cocktails from Danny Louie and Alex Kulick feature six house cocktails named after moons in our solar system, plus six rotating seasonal cocktails inspired by the Chinese lunar calendar. The art direction of the cocktail menu made my eyes pop out, I fell in love with all the saturated color and sets (I wonder whyyyyyy).
The Kerberos is a great place to start, with gin, green Chartreuse, salted kiwi, celery, and pink peppercorn. I stayed with refreshing with the Vernal Equinox, a frothy number with gin, bitter melon, sweet and sour, and jasmine, and then the Start of Spring, with vodka, spring pea, Suze, sarsaparilla, honey, and sesame. I love all the Chinese culinary touches they integrate into the cocktails here (and I’m also pleased to have a bunch more to try).
Wine director Louisa Smith ’s wine list is exclusively focused on natural wines (using organic and/or biodynamic practices with no additions in the wine, other than little to no sulfur), and you’ll find some selections for all budgets, but they are overall quite affordable by the bottle. Have fun.
Get excited to climb up the redwood stairs that date back to the late 1890s and have yourself a lovely evening. Open Tue-Sat 5pm-11pm. 28 Waverly Place at Sacramento.
New Openings: Fiorella on Polk, Dim Sum Corner, Hell's Ramen (from Iza Ramen), a Second Troya
Opening this Thursday March 7th is FIORELLA POLK from partners Boris Nemchenok (managing director) and Brandon Gillis (culinary director), with executive chef Eli Franco. Similar to the original Fiorella, Fiorella Polk will have its laid-back but well-dialed style, from the Cal-Italian menu centered on pasta and pizza from the custom Mugnaini wood-fired oven to the modern interior.
Some new dishes include calzones with seasonal fillings like broccolini with provolone, mozzarella di bufala, ricotta, and banana pepper salsa, along with housemade ricotta cavatelli al chicken sugo (want). Chef Franco will be making pastas in-house from scratch, and doing in-house butchery from whole animals. Stand by for a housemade charcuterie program as well.
You’ll find Italian and California wines selected by wine director Chris Tarbell, and bar consultant Patrick Poelvoorde has crafted a selection of low-ABV cocktails. The dining room seats 35, with a communal table for groups of up to 8, plus there’s a large bar area with room for 12 at a marble counter with a view of the kitchen. Bonus: sidewalk seating provides 8 outdoor seats. Springtime can’t get here quickly enough. Open Sun-Thu 5pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm. Brunch will come later. 2238 Polk St. at Green.
There’s a new fast-casual style dim sum shop that opened in the ground floor of the former Cathay House in Chinatown, DIM SUM CORNER, made from recipes developed by Koi Palace, and some of the items, like the dumplings, are supplied by Koi Palace’s commercial kitchen. It ends up Chris Yeo and his family are no longer involved in the project; San Francisco locals Jaynry Mak and her business partner, Eric Chung, have taken over both spaces (you can read more about their backgrounds in Eater)—the plans for the upstairs space are still in development, but fortunately the historic round bar and the bar lounge area remain intact.
Back to Dim Sum Corner: you will find xiao long bao, har gow, barbecue pork bao, and more, plus choose-your-own combos—check out the extensive and affordable menu. Order at the counter, and it will be brought to you, freshly steamed or cooked to order, or get it to go. There is also house milk tea with boba available. Open 11:30am-6:30pm. 601 Grant Ave. at California. [Via Hoodline.]
IZA RAMEN has a couple SF locations, and many fans of its ramen, and they have now opened a small shop in the Mission called HELL’S RAMEN. As you can gather by the name, they’re serving up some fiery ramen add-ons, like chile paste made from Carolina Reaper chile (one of the hottest chiles in the world), and there’s also a vegan ramen made with Impossible Foods meat, as well as a variety of appetizers, salads, curries, and more (menu here). It’s meant to be more of a “chef’s lab,” where you can try different dishes they’re developing. Sake and beer are also available. Open Tue-Fri 5:30pm-9:45pm (or until soup runs out). 2193 Mission St. at 18th St.
TROYA MEDITERRANEAN restaurant on Fillmore Street has opened a new location in SoMa from Turkish chef-owner Berk Kinalilar. It’s following the same fast-casual format, serving wraps, bowls, plates, and more with their braised lamb, roasted chicken, organic chickpea falafel, and housemade harissa and Turkish dips. There’s an outdoor patio and Turkish breakfast on the weekend is coming soon. Open Mon-Fri 11am-8pm. 214 Townsend St. at 3rd St.
Fancy Updates: Saison, Skenes Ranch, Muncy at Michael Mina
Chef and co-owner Joshua Skenes of SAISON and Angler announced the launch of his new project, Skenes Ranch, where guests with high credit card limits can have custom experiences and learn about foraging, fly fishing, hunting, and more. While he’s focusing on this new venture (he hasn’t revealed the location just yet), he has also announced chef Laurent Gras is the executive chef of Saison and now a managing partner (Gras came on in July of 2018). ANGLER LOS ANGELES is also opening soon in the Beverly Center in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, over at MICHAEL MINA, Nick Muncy (previously Coi) is the new executive pastry chef—look for spice-driven desserts that complement the Middle Eastern savory dishes, such as chocolate baba with kataifi, carob, orange blossom, or lemon-coconut cake with Buddha’s hand and meringue. He will also continue to release Toothache, his independent magazine.
Upcoming Closures (and Temporary Ones Too)
I am so so sorry to learn YUZUKI JAPANESE EATERY is closing on March 31st, after seven years in business. Owner Yuko Hayashi wrote a heartfelt note in her email today, hopefully she will post it on Facebook. I appreciated the quality ingredients and purity of flavor they always presented at this humble and thoughtful restaurant. You can go in for a last meal, and enjoy a 20 percent discount on all full bottles of wine and sake through the end of the month. Best wishes to the team. 598 Guerrero St. at 18th St.
After running Senegalese gathering place BISSAP BAOBAB for 20 years in the Mission, owner Marco Senghor is selling the business to help cover legal fees related to citizenship issues he’s having. A whole bunch of people are really hoping he can get everything sorted—he has hosted and built such a strong community here. Senghor is reportedly reopening in Oakland, so that’s hopeful. Little Baobab will remain open. Read more in the Mission Local piece. 3372 19th St. at Mission.
BI-RITE CREAMERY in the Mission is closing for mandatory seismic retrofitting, and plans to reopen in May. But before you start screaming over no ice cream, they’re come up with a great solution: their brand-new (and solar-powered!) Creamery Truck, which they have started parking outside the Creamery on 18th Street, serving pre-packed ice cream cups in their most popular flavors, as well as ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, cookies, and bottled beverages. 12pm-9pm daily. 3692 18th St. at Guerrero.
After three years in business, TAMARIND HALL THAI STREET FOOD & BAR in North Beach is due to close around March 15th—owner Salisa K. Skinner has young children and wants to be able to spend more time with them. 1268 Grant Ave. at Vallejo.
And here’s a follow-up on my news about COLETTA GELATO closing their Harrison Street location: I heard back from the owners and they are in negotiations on a much more prominent and accessible neighborhood venue, and they are still planning to offer Coletta Gelato at Little Finn in the Castro when it opens in late spring. Stand by for updates.
Friday Events: Off the Grid Returns, International Women's Day
On Friday March 8th, Off the Grid returns for their ninth season at Fort Mason Center. Every Friday night from 5pm-10pm, you’ll find over 30 food creators, with newcomers such as Horn Barbecue (Texas barbecue, every other Friday), and Lobsterdamus from Southern California, as well as the return of the OG street food trailblazer, Mission Street Food (check out my pics here). Look for a rotating roster of talent from BiteUnite in their dedicated Cubert space, as well as chefs from Instrucktional, Off the Grid’s 24-month mobile food incubator in partnership with Google—Soul Skillet, helmed by Oakland-born Ikeisha Fields, is first in the lineup. Returning faves Bini’s Kitchen, El Porteño, and Señor Sisig will also be there!
Keep cozy in sheltered Cubert lounge spaces, plus heat lamps and communal fire pits will help keep you warm (cocktails from Rye on the Road also help). In celebration of International Women’s Day, Off the Grid’s Tasting Ticket ($25 for four tastes from participating creators) will feature all female creators! Tasting tickets can be purchased in advance here, or at Off the Grid. One last incentive for Friday March 8th: take 20 percent off one ride to or from Fort Mason with Lyft using code OTGLYFT19.
This Friday is International Women’s Day, and the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco, Donne di Pizza/Donne di Cuore (a team of seven Italian pizzaiolas—female pizza chefs—coordinated by television personality and food writer Francesca Romana Barberini), and the Consulate General of Italy have organized three events in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A16 was the first SF restaurant to really publicize Festa Della Donna, and this Friday they will be hosting a Donne di Pizza takeover, with pizzas prepared by the visiting chefs! They will be serving four kinds, a regina: tomato, burrata, proscuitto di Parma; la gricia: fior di latte, guanciale, pecorino, black pepper; montarina: tomato, grana padano, basil; and Giovanna: pear, smoked pecorino, fior di latte, crema di cipolla, arugula. Shelley Lindgren will also be pouring wines made by women, and donating a portion of profits to La Cocina—the regular A16 menu will also be available.
The Donne di Pizza will also offer a cooking class at Bite Unite in SF on Saturday March 9th (10am-12:45pm), and will be offering a special pizza menu at Terún in Palo Alto on Sunday March 10th.
510 Updates: Mama Oakland from Bay Grape, Humphry Slocombe to Elmwood
Great news: Josiah Baldivino and Stevie Stacionis of Bay Grape in Lake Merritt are opening a restaurant just four doors up from their popular wine shop: MAMA OAKLAND. It’s going to serve three-course, prix-fixe ($29), red sauce suppers that should make you feel like you’re having dinner at nonna’s (even the space will be outfitted with some Stacionis family furnishings).
Seasonal and market-fresh produce will be highlighted in a soup or salad option, plus there will be two pasta choices (gluten-free is possible—and one vegetarian option, with vegan possible), and one signature “Mama’s sugo” option, plus a seasonal dessert or gelato and biscotti. Mama’s sugo was the inspiration for the restaurant, based off Stacionis’ Abruzzese great-grandmother’s cooked-all-day red sauce with braised pork and beef. You can also order a supplement of Mama’s meatballs.
Of course, the global wine list will rock—Baldivino is going to make it approachable, affordable, and there will be a small reserve list for those who want some baller bottles (to go with the meatballs, perhaps?). They plan to open this summer. 388 Grand Ave. at Ellita, Oakland.
HUMPHRY SLOCOMBE is opening a shop in the former Ici in Elmwood—look for some Berkeley-exclusive flavors. Timing TBA. 2948 College Ave. at Ashby, Berkeley. [Via Nosh.]
In the meantime, you can enjoy some scoops at Prizefighter this Friday March 8th from 6pm-10pm, from the signature Secret Breakfast, along with SF Beer Week collaboration flavors from Bay Area breweries. And on Friday March 15th, Humphry Slocombe will be giving away free scoops, with pints available for purchase at both Berkeley Bowl locations. From 12pm-2pm, stop by the Main location (2020 Oregon St.) or visit the West location (920 Heinz Ave.) from 3pm-6pm. Flavors include Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, Matchadoodle, Blueberry Boy Bait, and more.
This Saturday March 9th, THE ALICE COLLECTIVE in Oakland is hosting a fun brunch event, B-Side Brunch. They’re bringing in DJ Chatoyance of B-Side Brujas to spin vinyl while they serve up a brunch menu alongside mixed specialty mimosas in carafes and cocktails. The menu includes a homemade biscuit bar with crispy fried chicken, smoked brisket hash, smothered tots, seasonal frittatas, and fresh-out-of-the-oven homemade pastries. The $5 ticket will include entry, dancing, and DJ set; food, speciality mimosa carafes, beer, cocktails, and coffee will be available for purchase. 11am-2:30pm. 272 14th St. at Harrison, Oakland.
Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
WINeFare Tasting (Women in Natural Wine) and Nommo
On Saturday March 23rd, don’t miss WINeFare (an acronym for Women in Natural Wine) presented by Pamela Busch of The Vinguard—it’s the first and only wine tasting exclusively featuring women who work with natural wine. Winemakers and importers are coming from France, Italy, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and, of course, California. Denyse Louis, one of the founders of Louis Dressner Selections, the first importer of natural wine in the United States, is the guest of honor.
Tickets are $50, or $35 for educators, students, and wine industry folks (21+). (All proceeds from ticket sales are benefiting the Mary Elizabeth Inn, a San Francisco organization that provides housing and services to women in need.) 2pm-5pm. The Great Northern, 119 Utah St. at Alameda.
If you happen to live or work near Rincon Hill, you’ll be happy to know about NOMMO, a new bar from Jon Santer (Prizefighter), with hearty snacks, cocktails, and charcuterie from Bar Agricole’s in-house butcher, with plenty of seating (100). I’d been hearing rumblings about it for a while, and now the word is out and the doors are open. Read more in this piece from Eater. Open daily 4pm-12am. 396 Harrison St. at Fremont.
Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)
Swoon: Dame Helen Mirren Spotted
Quick intake of breath: Dame Helen Mirren was spotted dining at KOKKARI Sunday evening with her husband (Taylor Hackford) and another couple. My spotter says there were a lot of lookie-loos trying to walk by their table for a glimpse of her majesty. I mean, yeah. I’m still trying to recover from her breathtaking LEWK at the Oscars.