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Sep 7, 2021 16 min read

September 8, 2021 - This week's tablehopper: hump day dispatch.

September  8, 2021 - This week's tablehopper: hump day dispatch.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: hump day dispatch.                    

A sampler of mezze at the new Lulu in Berkeley. Photo: ©

Hi gang, I hope you enjoyed the long weekend (which is why you’re receiving this on a Wednesday). Can we just do away with Mondays forever? Seriously, it would be great. Monday, you won’t be missed.

Since the last tablehopper issue was all about my Croatia trip recap, we have quite a bit of news to catch up on this week. (Yeah, Monday was a holiday, but guess who was still working on this damn thing?)

I want to keep this intro short so I can go get a much-needed walk in before the wind gets even more annoying. But before I do so, I want to give a huge salute to Caleb Zigas, who announced his upcoming departure as executive director of La Cocina after sixteen years. Zigas has been one of the biggest change-makers in our local food scene, impacting so many lives and dreams with all his visionary work, heart-driven leadership, and his formidable team. I can’t imagine an SF without La Cocina—this business incubator is one of our finest organizations fighting for equity—and it’s going to be hard to fathom La Cocina without Caleb. Be sure to read his farewell note here. The search for a new leader is underway, with the goal of having a successor named by December 2021, if not earlier. ¡Muchísimas gracias, Caleb!

Enjoy the short week, everyone. Stand by for more fun ideas on places to eat and visit on my @tablehopper account! If you feel like throwing anything in my tip jar, it’s always appreciated.

Ciao! ~Marcia

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

New Openings Include Fiorella Sunset, Chīsai Sushi Club, SF Chickenbox, More


A Cal-Italian spread at the new Fiorella Sunset. Photo: Hardy Wilson.


The new rooftop seating area at Fiorella Sunset. Photo: Hardy Wilson.


Seafood tower handroll at the new Chīsai Sushi Club. Photo: Darren Samuelson.


SF Chickenbox bounty. Instagram photo via @sfchickenbox.

There are a bunch of new openings happening, starting with the latest and third location of FIORELLA in the Sunset (in the former Park Chow) from founders and co-owners Brandon Gillis and Boris Nemchenok. (Fun fact: it was also the site of the first American restaurant Nemchenok’s parents dined at when they emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1983.) This project has been a long time coming, but it sure is worth it. The location has a fantastic rooftop deck, plus new dishes from the new chef, Fiorella’s first foray into cocktails (from Candice Jae: Evil Eye, Lolinda, Alchemist, Macondray), along with housemade pasta and gelato.

The bi-level space offers a variety of indoor and outdoor seating (hello, retractable awning!), with a working fireplace and their trademark Flavor Paper Bay Area Toile wallpaper (yup, that’s Dennis Richmond on there). Fiorella Sunset’s chef de cuisine Scott Schneider comes from New York’s Ai Fiori, where he was honing his fine-dining chops for over a decade. The team will be cranking out housemade pasta in the glass-enclosed dough room, and new dishes unique to this location include housemade farfalle with peperoncino, marjoram, toasted breadcrumbs ($22); a clam pie (yes!); king salmon crudo ($17); romaine cacio e pepe with Little Gems, house-cured anchovy, pecorino, black pepper, fried capers ($14); and tempura-fried seasonal vegetables with salsa rossa, pecorino, and lemon ($10).

The new bar program includes eight cocktails, a large selection of amari and vermouths, and their wine lists are always full of interesting (and affordable) selections, plus there’s a Far West x Fiorella collaboration “Nice for a Slice” hard cider. Open for dinner to start, followed by weekend brunch and weekday lunch soon. 1240 9th Ave. at Lincoln.

I’m happy to see new life in the former ICHI Sushi space in Bernal, and from chef-owner and former employee Erik Aplin, no less (some former Ichi crew will also be joining him). Open as of Tuesday night is CHĪSAI SUSHI CLUB, the latest addition to SF’s omakase scene, with an innovative, Bay Area-ingredient spin. There are three nigiri-focused, omakase tasting menus: 13 courses for $80, 17 for $110, and a 12-course vegetarian (or vegan) menu for $65 (complete with tomato “maguro” prepared like tuna).

After ICHI, Aplin also worked at Akiko’s and Robin, no strangers to innovative sushi. Aplin is putting together a version of a Louie salad (an SF classic) with pickled daikon, finished with shaved, miso-cured egg yolk, and his “open-faced” hand rolls include a BLTA in its own custom holder. (Check out the pic of the seafood tower with raw scallop, Fort Bragg uni, and ikura, topped with nori butter melted on top, inspired by the flavors and components of a traditional seafood tower.) There will be some non-nigiri dishes, like an uni carbonara with udon noodles. Open Mon-Wed 5:30pm-9pm and Thu-Sun 5:30pm-10pm. 3369 Mission St. at Godeus.

Our man of fried chicken fame, Christian Ciscle, has moved SF CHICKENBOX’s to its new North Beach coop. Get your box (and mochi muffins) delivered or for takeout. Open Mon-Sat 10am-10pm. (You can also check out their latest collab: Songs for Community, Vol. 3, with 100 percent of funds raised from the compilation going to Arm the Girls Mutual Aid.) 464 Broadway at Grant.

Just next door to Café de la Presse (in the former Herlen Place wine bar) is a new and fast-casual location of SCOTT’S CHOWDER HOUSE (the first in SF), with chef Laurent Manrique acting as culinary advisor on the concept. The abridged menu features a variety of chowders and soups, salads, and seafood sandwiches/rolls for dine-in (crab, lobster), to-go, or delivery, along with beer and wine selections, and ice cream sundaes. Opening hours to start are Wed-Sat 11:30am-6:30pm and Sun 11:30am-4pm. 334 Grant Ave. at Bush.

Over in the Mission, the former Top Round Roast Beef (in the classic Discolandia space) is now a brick-and-mortar location of LA VACA BIRRIA, a San Bruno food truck from Ricky Lopez (via SFGATE). The menu includes birria tacos/quesabirria, birria fries, and birria ramen, as well as a torta ahogada. Open Wed-Sun 11am-9pm. 2962 24th St. at Alabama.

North Beach’s BRIOCHE BAKERY & CAFÉ just opened a location in the Upper Haight (in the former Sparrow). Their breakfast/lunch/brunch menu includes eggy dishes for breakfast, sandwiches, hot panini, tartines, and fresh-baked pastries, coffee, and wine, with early dinner too. The outdoor deck is open as well. Open daily 8am-9pm. 1640 Haight. at Belvedere.

Another location of GOTT’S ROADSIDE is opening at Thrive City in Mission Bay on September 17th. Look for the Airstream trailer serving beer and wine to go with your burger. Thrive City at Chase Center, 1 Warriors Way.

Exciting East Bay Openings Include Lulu and Tribune


The weekend mezze brunch board at Lulu in Berkeley. Photo: ©


Chef-owner Mona Leena of Lulu will help you to “think pink!” Photo: ©


The fantastic market fish amandine (with a tableside pour) at Tribune. Photo: ©


The bar and front dining area at Tribune. Photo: ©


The iconic Tribune Tower. Photo: ©

Hop on over to @tablehopper for pics of fantastic experiences I had at two new East Bay establishments, but first, I wanted to share some backstory on them here.

Last week, I visited the brand-new LULU from chef-owner Mona Leena in Berkeley’s Gilman District. This is her first brick and mortar, although you’ll recognize her from her popular pop-up, The Mana’eesh Lady, which she launched after Oakland’s Dyafa shuttered due to the pandemic (where she was the executive chef). Lulu has opened in the former Nest of Comforts tea house, and is the kind of restaurant you will wish was in your neighborhood. Translated from Arabic, Lulu means “pearl,” Leena’s childhood nickname (she is first-generation Palestinian, and born-and-raised Californian). It has a sunny, airy, cheerful interior, with outdoor seating under blue umbrellas.

The menu of Palestinian-inspired, California cuisine features her housemade baked goods (her breads are so fabulous), mezze brunch, and lunch, with a plan to start dinner service later this year. If you have any excuse to enjoy a midweek lunch with a friend, book it here (but be sure to make a reservation early, demand is high and there aren’t many tables). If you’re coming Fri-Sun, you’ll want to order the abundant and eye-popping mezze brunch board for two so you don’t have to decide between dishes like za’atar fried eggs, fried halloumi, labneh, baba ganoush, shakshuka, za’atar mana’eesh, seasonal fruit, and more.

The menu is full of creative and seasonal dishes, like the pillowy mana’eesh with a rotating menu of two kinds on offer each day, like Early Girl tomato, chèvre, and zhoug (a vibrant, spicy, green hot sauce) or akkawi cheese with seasonal fruit jam, or the fully loaded classic za’atar version, with brown butter labneh, hard-boiled egg, seasonal vegetables, and herbs. There’s a breakfast sando or a fried chicken sando on a simsim bun, bowls, and more. The menu just makes me so dang hungry. I also plan to come back for the shouka-quiles, made with pita chips, sweet peppers, Early Girl tomatoes, fresh feta, and soft-scrambled eggs.

There’s a coffee bar, with enticing espresso drinks like a rose brûlée cappuccino, cardamom-TCHO mocha, and caramel-tahini cold brew, all using coffee from Mother Tongue Coffee. You’ll be able to enjoy a tahini-caramel sticky bun or a “zalabyeh” cruller doughnut with black cardamon and lechera glaze with your coffee, or a housemade croissant with za’atar and feta for my fellow savory fans. Open Tue-Thu 7:30am-3pm and Fri-Sun 9:30am-4pm. Make a reservation! 1019 Camelia St. at 10th St., Berkeley.

Newly open in downtown Oakland’s historic Tribune Tower is TRIBUNE, a New American brasserie from chef-partner Omri Aflalo and operating partner-general manager Darrin Ballon (they are also behind Town Revival).

The minimalist space was designed with Jon De La Cruz (Che Fico, Leo’s Oyster Bar, The Cavalier), highlighting classic architectural elements of the 1923 building, but bringing in some modern-chic touches. There’s a spacious bar you’d be happy to dine at, tufted leather banquettes, comfy tobacco leather chairs, wood tables with quite a bit of space between them, and outdoor seating, too.

The focused menu highlights peak-season ingredients, like a tomato and melon salad with burrata ($20), or their house chopped salad ($17), and the truly divine pasta dish of housemade cavatelli with summer mushroom duxelles, Meyer lemon butter sauce, hazelnuts, chanterelle confit, chives, and pecorino ($22), don’t miss it. Afalo’s French background really shines in the grilled local fish “amandine” ($28), stuffed with a piperade farce and house-cured lardo, that you pour amandine sauce over (made with roasted almonds, barigoule, and shallots)—let me tell you, I’m not one to usually order the fish dish at a restaurant, but this one is IT. The wild rice pilaf and puffed rice on the side added nice texture, a common element you’ll note in most dishes here (also in the unexpected creamed corn presentation with white corn pudding, butter popcorn, and popcorn powder, so fun). There are also elevated touches (like a roulade preparation) and components, like cilantro oil or nasturtium “vert” thyme oil. I’m coming back for the burger. Sticky toffee cake with Bahri dates and burnt toffee sauce is guaranteed dessert happiness. Don’t attempt it alone.

Cocktails ($14) are playful and creative, and the wine list from consultant Martin Sheehan-Stross has some fantastic selections, including the crushable Gros Ventre Cellars vermentino from El Dorado that I really need more of in my life. Service has fine-dining chops, complete with some tableside touches, but feels relaxed and engaging. Open Thu-Sun 5pm-10pm for now. 401 13th St. at Franklin, Oakland.

For the month of September, Tribune is hosting a weekly guest bartender every Thursday, starting this Thursday September 9th at 5pm with Elmer Mejicanos of Red Window, serving up his Spanish-influenced cocktails like the sherry cobbler. September 16th: Nora Furst of the forthcoming Buddy Bar in San Francisco and beverage consultant with West Bev. Furst will create low-ABV, sessionable cocktails. September 23rd: Ron Boyd of Nightbird’s Linden Room in Hayes Valley will create light, seasonal cocktails. September 30th: Adam “Boots” Brogan, longtime San Francisco bar consultant, will focus on classic, San Francisco-inspired cocktails.

Coming Soon to North Beach: Cassava and (Maybe) El Farolito


Some of the popular brunch dishes at Cassava. Photo courtesy of Cassava.

A couple weeks ago, Outer Richmond’s CASSAVA co-owner Yuka Ioroi excitedly posted a sneak peek of their upcoming (and spacious) North Beach location, which is the former Trattoria Pinocchio (this is such a breath of fresh air, considering the crazed tirade the previous owner posted in the windows last year—ciao, pazzo).

Owners Yuka and her husband and chef Kristoffer Toliao are moving their neighborhood restaurant as part of their 10-year anniversary celebration, and plan to open in 2022. They just launched a WeFunder campaign, a “Kickstarter for investments” that allows the public to become angel investors (investors will receive a 1.5x repayment amount, plus special perks).

Here’s more about the fate of their current location from the press release: “After recent renovations, the current Cassava location in the Outer Richmond area plans to reopen later this fall, with reservations available for brunch. They will continue operating as normal there until the North Beach location opens, at which point the Outer Richmond location will be re-envisioned as a pop-up incubator with a rotating lineup of local foodservice concepts, a further testament to the creative tenacity of Ioroi and Toliao.” Stand by for updates in coming months. Go team go. 401 Columbus Ave. at Vallejo.

SF Chickenbox owner Christian Ciscle tweeted a few weeks ago that EL FAROLITO was going to be expanding their burrito empire and was coming to the former The House space at 1230 Grant Avenue. But this recent and in-depth post by Mission Local outlines how this opening is actually uncertain due to SF’s formula retail restrictions, ugh. We’ll need to wait and see what the Planning Department decides.

Updates: Lily's DB Crab Fried Rice Is Back, Changes at Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, Outerlands Reopens, Selby's Returns With a New $65 Menu


[#]1 DB Douchebag Crab Fried Rice at Lily. Photo: ©


Lily’s dining room. Photo: ©


The fabulous midnight chocolate cake. Photo: ©

Some positive news to report, starting with this update that is rich with wok hei: LILY has brought back their now (in)famous #1 DB Douchebag Crab Fried Rice…but for a cause! I suggested the idea to chef Rob Lam (we’re good friends) that he should bring this hyped dish back for charity, and I’m so proud of the Lily team for making this happen. It’s priced at $500 per plate, but before you get mad, $400 from each dish sold will be donated to community-based partner organizations. YES! SF New Deal is the first recipient, a nonprofit that has provided support to small businesses and food-insecure residents during the pandemic.

Limited to just 10 orders per week, available on Wednesdays and Thursdays ONLY. You need to make a reservation for Wed or Thu dinner and you can pre-order it; there are just five available per night.

This extravagant fried rice is topped off with red king crab from Japan, eco-certified sturgeon caviar, wagyu beef, Hokkaido uni, Jidori egg yolk, and much more magic (including their black truffle XO sauce). Chef Lam says, “We did this as a joke! A stoned-out, bored-ass, pandemic gift. To soothe a takeout nation during the holidays. It was a two-week special! We never meant for this to take off! The dish isn’t even Vietnamese!!” It quickly became so popular that it was difficult for the Lily team to keep up with the orders—they had to remove the dish from their menu, but now, the douchebag is back…for a cause! Thanks to everyone who is putting their money where their mouth is, and helping our local community. Head to to book a reso.

A tablehopper reader reached out with a depressing photo of a letter from MR. AND MRS. MISCELLANEOUS, announcing they were closing their Dogpatch ice cream shop after 11 years of scooping in the neighborhood. But great news: chef Deuki Hong and The Sunday Family team have taken over from former owner Annabelle Topacio, and are working with her to train their team on her recipes so some of her popular flavors live on. The location is now SUNDAY SOCIAL, running Thu-Sun 12pm-7pm, and will officially relaunch in October (look for additions like espresso, as well as cookies, pie, brownies, and more). 699 22nd St. at 3rd St. [Via Eater]

Happy to see OUTERLANDS announce their plans to reopen for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, starting with a counter brunch service. They just had their first service this past weekend; hours will be Thu-Mon 9am-3pm. [Via Eater]

Down in Atherton, the swanky SELBY’S is reopening after months of serving family meals for takeout and a brief period of indoor dining, and they’re returning with a special $65 prix-fixe, three-course menu. Enjoy a wedge salad or their three-milk Robiola ravioli to start, followed by their fantastic chicken parmigiana or fennel coriander-crusted duck breast, with their truly magnificent midnight chocolate cake for dessert (I dream about that dessert). You can upgrade with caviar service and other fancy Continental dishes. There’s also a bar menu (with the famed Black Label burger). Dinner is Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm. 3001 El Camino Real, Atherton.

Closures: In Situ, Le Marais Chestnut, Pläj, Kin Khao Dogpatch, Pane e Vino


Umami soup by Hisato Nakahigashi of Miyamasou. Instagram photo via @insitu_sfmoma.


The original interior of the très petite (and très charmant) Le Marais Bakery on Chestnut. Photo: ©


Khao soi at Kin Khao. Photo: ©

Some unfortunate closures have rolled through, starting with IN SITU at SFMOMA, which completed their five-year term at the museum (bummer about that last year, thanks for nothing, Ms. Rona). An email shared, “It was an honor to learn from some of the most innovative, talented, and influential chefs in the world and represent them here in San Francisco,” and cited they served “over 100 dishes spanning more than 25 countries, 20 U.S cities, and almost 50 years.” You can read a personal note from chef Corey Lee here.

Baguette and croissant lovers are dismayed over the news that LE MARAIS BAKERY is being forced to close their flagship Chestnut Street location in late October, after ten years in the Marina. In an email (as well as in this Instagram post), owner Patrick Ascaso mentions issues with their new landlord (and failed negotiations over the past two years), and how tragic it is to close their beloved location, especially after putting so much into it—it’s such a vibrant part of the neighborhood. Yesterday, I was sent a petition to Keep Le Marais Bakery in the Marina posted by one of their customers, here’s hoping it helps them find a way to stay. For now, they are open daily 7am-5pm. Their other locations in the Castro, Mill Valley, and the commissary on Sutter are still open. (You can also find their frozen croissants at Williams Sonoma, the sales of which have supported their bakery through the pandemic.) 2066 Chestnut St. at Steiner.

After nine years in Hayes Valley, owners Roberth and Andrea Sundell of the Swedish PLÄJ have decided to close the restaurant. In a farewell note on Instagram, they say: “We were very excited and hopeful when planning our reopening. Unfortunately, the reality of the current environment has created a scenario that we can not sustain.”  Sadly, this is a common refrain. Stockhome, their sister restaurant in Petaluma, will remain open.

After a year in Dogpatch, Pim Techamuanvivit has closed the offshoot location of KIN KHAO, partly because Restaurant Revitalization Funds were rescinded by the SBA from minority- and women-owned businesses (no thanks to white male business owners who filed discrimination lawsuits, assholes). Techamuanvivit will reportedly still be reopening the original location in the Parc 55 Hotel at some point.

After 30 years on Union Street, PANE E VINO has closed its doors—you can read their farewell note on their site. Best wishes to chef Bruno Quercini (who is reportedly retiring). (Thanks to eagle-eyed reader Leslie G. for the tip.) 715 Union St. at Gough.

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)

Booze News: Chezchez Opens in Former Bon Voyage!, Uma Casa's New Cocktails, Last Call


A spread of aperitivo-friendly bites at Chezchez. Photo courtesy of Chezchez Facebook.


The new Island Hopper cocktail at Uma Casa. Photo: Jackie Hancock.


Uma Casa’s Telmo Faria and Jessi Graham. Photo: Jackie Hancock.

Some quick boozy updates for you, starting with the opening of CHEZCHEZ from Bon Vivants Hospitality in the former Bon Voyage! in the Mission. The project is from founder Josh Harris; Drew Record, Chezchez operating partner and sommelier; Jennifer Colliau, BVH beverage director; and Timmy Malloy, BVH chef de cuisine. (Yeah, that’s a great lineup right there.) This new bar and restaurant is your new aperitivo HQ, with aperitivo-style food, aperitifs, cocktails, wines, beers, and drinks without alcohol, too.

Chezchez features imported tins of fish served with pain d’epi baguette, fresh seafood (like Oregon pink shrimp cocktail), lots of vegetables (like Champagne-battered and fried market vegetable fritto misto with Chezchez dip), meats (how about thinly sliced tri-tip, served cold with chile oil and blue cheese), cheeses, and more.

Chezchez’s drink menu sections include Bloodies, Daiquiris, Martinis, Negronis (including a frozen one), Old Fashioneds, and Spritzes. I just got thirsty reading about the Aperitivo Daiquiri with Martini Fiero, fino sherry, and lime. The wine list got a lot of attention here, with sections like High Acid Whites, Sparkling Wines, Chilled Reds, and Oxidized Orange Wines. There are 20 by-the-glass and -can offerings, and take a peek at the special bottles from the BVintage Cellar, an eclectic collection of old bottles that Harris sourced from a local estate.

The front terrace has seating for 50 on Valencia, with 18 spots at the counter of the original BV! bar, and another 18 seats at the back counter (and the private event Salon upstairs). Look for some great seats right by the big, new windows looking onto the street. Cheers. Open Tue-Sat 4:30pm-10pm. 584 Valencia St. at 16th St.

Last month, I mentioned UMA CASA got their liquor license, and his wife Jessi Graham just launched their Portuguese-centric cocktail program. Take a look at the brand-new menu here, which includes interesting ingredients like Azorean green tea syrup, piri-piri salt, and carob syrup. Happy hour just kicked off: Tue-Sat 5pm-6:30pm (at the bar only). 1550 Church St. at Duncan.

Over in the Castro, LAST CALL BAR has reopened under new owners Kris Foster and Tammy Soo, who reportedly want to honor the dive bar’s heritage and memorabilia and keep the awesome, disco-loaded jukebox as is, great. Open daily 12pm-2am. 3988 18th St. at Noe. [Via Hoodline]

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