This week's tablehopper: spring in your step.
Remember that Sake Omakase pop-up pairing event I told you about in my last column? Well, here’s just one course from it! I’ll be sharing more about this extraordinary experience soon—you definitely want to book a seat with Sumi! Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Hello, dear readers. I hope you’re enjoying the spring showers and flowers. We have Easter and Passover approaching next month, and I am just starting to add updates to my Instagram highlights for you. Be sure to keep checking back on those links!
I’m happy to see SF Restaurant Week is returning for a spring run, starting this Friday April 1st through Sunday April 10th. 160 participating restaurants (!) will be offering prix-fixe menus for brunch, lunch, and dinner. To celebrate, we have a fun giveaway for you in today’s column: dinner for two from Pabu and dinner for four from Lazy Susan! Be sure to check out the sugar mama below on how to enter to win!
Also kicking off this Friday is Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center (5pm-10pm), returning after two years of hiatus! I went to a preview last Friday, and you should get excited for quite the twelfth season lineup, with 25 food trucks, in addition to a full bar from Rye on the Road, a wine garden from Kivelstadt Cellars, and live music. Check out some new food trucks, including Vegan Mob, Al Carajo (peep my previous post), and Brazuca Grill (remember the feijorrito feijoada burrito I posted about?), new buckwheat burritos from Borsch Mobile (try the beef brisket or BBQ pulled pork), as well as returning longtime favorites like Señor Sisig and The Chairman (they have a new cumin beef bao with shiso tzatziki that is crazy delicious). More trucks are coming as things ramp up, plus theme nights and more. Wear your puffy coat and fuzzy hat and have some fun in the fog.
How about dinner and then a movie this Friday April 1st? Go see The Automat, a charming documentary directed by Lisa Hurwitz that recounts the lost history of the iconic restaurant chain, Horn & Hardart, which served affordable, quality food to millions of New Yorkers and Philadelphians for more than a century. It’s such a fascinating look at this innovative and progressive company, with layers of storytelling about the American dream. I loved the interview clips with Mel Brooks, what a character, truly, plus Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Colin Powell, and Carl Reiner. Don’t miss it!
It’s playing for a week at the Vogue Theatre, as well as screening at Landmark’s Albany Twin (Albany), Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (San Rafael), and Summerfield Cinemas, Santa Rosa. View the official trailer here.
Mark your calendar and get your tickets: I’m going to be joining The Cheese School of San Francisco for one of the Cheese Sex Death book tour events! Author Erika Kubick of Cheese Sex Death: A Bible for the Cheese Obsessed will be in the Bay Area for three events: a Marin farms tour, a book tour party (you’ll find me interviewing her there, while we snack on cheese and enjoy adult beverages!) on Saturday April 16th, and Easter Sunday cheese church! We hope to see you at one or all three cheesetastic events!
You should also save the date (and get tickets) for the first Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience, running May 20th-22nd. This three-day celebration will feature the best of Sonoma County food and wines, with special brunches, lunches, and dinners, a grand tasting event, panels, culinary demos, a concert, and parties! Can’t wait to check this out, will share more details soon.
Okay, whoooooosh! It’s time to dive into the news, let’s do this.
Gossip & News (the word on the street)
An Early Look at Pomet, a Restaurant from K&J Orchards, Now Open in Oakland
I recently dined at the newly opened POMET in Oakland, and wanted to share some details about this interesting project with you. It’s from Aomboon Deasy, literally the farmer’s daughter of K&J Orchards, famous for their incredible fruits, but especially their Asian pears (they grow 10 varieties—her father was an expert) and nuts. Aomboon is a second-generation farmer—her Bangkok-born mother Kalayada (a registered nurse) and father James (a pomology professor) started the farm and orchard in 1980, and she now owns it with her husband, Timothy Deasy.
K&J’s produce is adored by the local restaurant community—one of K&J’s first restaurant clients was The French Laundry—and Pomet (which means “orchard” in Roman) is now an extension of the farm and all its wide restaurant industry and fellow farm relationships. Aomboon previously sold produce to executive chef Alan Hsu while he was at Benu, and consulting sommelier Paul Einbund (The Morris), who has crafted a fantastic and fascinating wine and beer list for Pomet.
The menu is seasonal, California-celebratory, and designed to be neighborhood-friendly. Hsu, who is Taiwanese-American and a Bay Area native, seamlessly weaves in some Asian influences with peak-season produce and fermented vegetables. Many items feature a kiss of smoke from the hearth (which uses cherry and apricot wood from the orchards), like charred Brokaw avocado served with succulent flakes of smoked trout, nori, and citrus (Cara Cara orange).
Hsu was most recently the chef and culinary director at Sagra Farms at Stemple Creek Ranch, and their beef is used in a delicious tartare that is a riff on Korean tartare (yukhoe), with pine nuts and batons of K&J’s Nitaka Asian pear, served with a flurry of egg mimosa and buckwheat crackers that look like wings. There’s also an extraordinary and infinitely tender short rib main dish, the most expensive item on the menu at $46, and the four slices could give some diners pause—you may want to share a pasta dish if you’re a heartier eater. No matter what kind of diner you are (unless you avoid gluten), you simply have to get the toasted sesame and scallion bun ($6), a pillowy and feathery cloud you will slather with nori butter.
We also tried the coal-roasted turnip ($30), served simply with a “market haul” of Savoy cabbage, trumpet mushrooms, asparagus, celery, fava beans, and fried shallots, with the pop of pickled daikon and the crunch of peanuts over Koda Farms rice. It’s such a bountiful dish of the best produce—simple but so fulfilling. The entire menu reads like a who’s-who of our local farmers’ markets, with a variety of vegetable side dishes from other farms, and is a delightful celebration of springtime.
Dessert ($12) include a can’t-miss satsuma creamsicle pie (what a crust), and the peanut butter-miso cake with caramelized Shared Cultures cacao nibs is quite special. We also enjoyed their Shinko pear snow, with bright notes from red shiso leaves and lemon verbena. (I’m going to be posting more pics on Instagram this week, follow me: @tablehopper.)
The restaurant was formerly Homestead (Aombooon sold produce to the Sassens), and I love seeing the ceramic wreaths of fruits and pine cones adorning the outside of this Julia Morgan-designed building, what a perfect match. The dining room has a large, copper-clad open kitchen (you can hear the crackle of the grill and hearth), comfortable tobacco leather dining chairs, large picture windows that look out on Piedmont Avenue and the adjoining alley (where you’ll see outdoor tables), plus there’s a private dining room with room for 10. They’re still getting their sea legs, but service is warm and welcoming. Open Wed-Sun 5pm-9pm. 4029 Piedmont Ave. at 40th St., Oakland.
Back to Back Is Coming to the Former Venticello, with Pizza and Natural Wine
Opening in the former Venticello Ristorante on Nob Hill is BACK TO BACK, serving pizza, small plates, and natural wine. It’s from siblings Monica and Randall Hom, who were born and raised in SF, but have returned from New York to open this project. They’re first-time restaurant owners: Monica has been in the art world doing curation and sales, while Randall has been a product designer in tech. Their family owns the building, and it ends up 35 years ago, their mother ran a restaurant in the space for six months before she “got fed up,” and later leased it to Venticello.
The brother-and-sister duo are excited to bring their passion for music, pizza, natural wine, and dining out to this project, and will be playing vinyl (they’re inspired by the hi-fi listening bars they’ve enjoyed in Paris, New York, and Bar Shiru here in Oakland). The name “back to back” can refer to back-to-back DJs, and also as a nod to interaction in a busy place. They really want to create a community hangout, and adore the communal/shared nature of pizza. (And wine.) They also envision Back to Back as a great second or third date spot, since shareable food usually makes for a fun date.
They fell in love with Naples, and the restaurant will be centered around their wood-fired oven. They are currently hiring for a pizza chef and an AGM. They hope to open end of summer, but they have some renovations to do first—the space is going to have lots of wood and will look more modern, plus there will be a wall of vinyl. You can follow @backtobacksf for updates, I’ll keep you posted on the opening as it gets closer! 1257 Taylor St. at Washington.
Discover a High-End Korean Tasting Menu at the New Sura-Gan
Recently opened by the Mins Group (Sushi Hakko, Sushi Sato, Sushi Hon) is their latest project, SURA-GAN, offering a higher-end tasting menu of Korean dishes and luxury ingredients from chef Jongmoon Choi. He is inspired by recipes from history, and giving them a modern interpretation. (From their website: “Sura-Gan was the name of the kitchen for the king of Joseon Dynasty in Korea.”) The menu includes courses like an oyster in a crisp seaweed shell, snow crab crudo, amaebi sweet shrimp with uni purée, short rib, and 48-hour beef soup; the menu is $195/person. You enter through their restaurant, Sushi Sato, and will be guided to a private dining area. Open Tue-Sat 5pm-10pm, reservations recommended. 1122 Post St. at Polk.
New Openings Include Arang, Hi-Way Burger North Beach, Koolah Cafe
ARANG, the Korean restaurant on Fillmore near Safeway in the Western Addition has reopened, serving a variety of Korean fried chicken dishes (soy sauce, sweet and spicy) and five new soups that look like they hit the spot, like chicken soup with rice, and beef dumpling with chicken, featuring a 10-hour bone broth made with beef marrow and chicken bones. (Please note the menu on their website is their old one.) Open daily 11am-3pm and 5pm-10pm. 1506 Fillmore St. at O’Farrell.
A second location of Noe Valley’s HI-WAY BURGER & FRY has opened in the former Caffe Puccini in North Beach, serving burgers made with grass-fed beef, fried chicken sandwiches, a hot dog or Chicago dog, onion rings, all kinds of fries, and made-to-order cookies and Straus ice cream milkshakes. There are some outdoor tables as well. Open daily 11am-9pm. 411 Columbus Ave. at Vallejo.
Aussie alert: now open in the Outer Richmond is KOOLAH CAFE, which is one of the Aboriginal words for koala. Owner Brendan Dobbin—a 20-year hospitality vet—is married to an Aussie, and wanted to pay homage to Australia’s laid-back but meticulous coffee culture. They’re serving coffee and espresso drinks from Ritual Coffee Roasters, in addition to sandwiches and pastries. Open daily 8am-5pm. 6909 Geary Blvd. at 33rd Ave.
Closure Report: Maison Nico Temporarily Closing, Benkyodo's Final Days, Miss Ollie's in Old Oakland Has Closed
Some updates about closures around the Bay, starting with this temporary closure of MAISON NICO, who decided to commit to being an épicerie instead of a restaurant. Yay for us! In order to convert the space to be more efficient, they’re closing on Sunday April 3rd to make some updates, and plan to reopen later this summer. Which means this week is the last call for their brilliant aspic de homard en bouillabaise and brioche feuilletée! Open Wed-Sat 9am-6pm and Sun 9am-4pm. 710 Montgomery St. at Washington.
Sigh, the grandchildren at Japantown’s BENKYODO COMPANY, Ricky and Bobby Okamura, couldn’t find a buyer, so after 115 years in business, they’re closing the shop March 31st to retire. The lines of devoted fans to get one last bite of mochi have been very, very long; this slice of SF confectionary history will be missed. 1747 Buchanan St. at Sutter. [Via SFGATE]
I posted in my Instagram Stories last week that HOTBIRD has flown the Twitter building coop to Oakland—according to their post, they’re opening in April at 1951 Telegraph Ave. #2 at 20th St., Oakland.
Sad news out of Old Oakland: Sarah Kirnon held the last night of service for MISS OLLIE’S this past weekend, after 10 years of being such a charging station for the community, in so many ways. You can read all the details in this piece on KQED, which mentions she will be announcing a potential takeout project in Oakland at some point, and she is still looking for a location for her nonprofit project, Sanctuary. It’s not just her epic skillet-fried chicken and goat curry that will be greatly missed—Miss Ollie’s provided a deeply personal, grounded, safe space for people to gather and be in community, and to have a damn good time. Thank you for everything, Sarah. Catch you on the flip side. 901 Washington St. at 9th St., Oakland.
New Weekend Brunch at Merkado and Otra, and Every Day at Bluestem
There are a bunch of new brunch options to add to your weekend roster, starting with the new Jammy Jam weekend brunch at MERKADO in SoMa. If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know about their brilliant eggs Benedict that comes in sopes filled with carnitas and spinach, topped with chile de arbol hollandaise (so good!), and some other Yucatecan-inspired dishes. Add in fun weekend vibey music and brunch cocktails and their comfortable back patio and you’re set. Round up your friends and book a table. Sat-Sun 11am-3pm. 130 Townsend St. at 2nd St.
Over in the Lower Haight, OTRA just kicked off weekend brunch, offering dishes like “suadero” hash (slow-cooked beef, potato, fresnos, charred corn, and bean salsa y poached eggs) and enfrijoladas de hongos con huevos (cheese-and-mushroom stuffed tortillas, topped with black bean, poblano crema, cotija, and fried egg). Take a first look at the menu here. They’re also featuring their new hot sauces, including fermented fresno and habanero chiles. Don’t forget: they have full liquor, so you can get your swerve on. Open Sat-Sun 10am-3pm. 628 Haight St. at Pierce.
If you’re near downtown and craving brunch on a Wednesday, check out the new daily brunch at BLUESTEM RESTAURANT & MARKET. The menu includes pork belly Benedict with housemade peppered pork belly and blood orange hollandaise; shakshuka with baked eggs, tomatoes, peppers, harissa, garbanzo beans, sourdough, and citrus labneh; steak and eggs; and blood orange ricotta toast with blood orange-Campari marmalade, pistachios, chives, and olive oil on toasted sourdough (that sounds amazing). Brunch beverages include three flavors of mimosas, a regular and a “free-spirited” Bloody Mary, and the Celery Rage with celery, apple, parsley, apple cider vinegar, lemon, and pepper. Brunch is available Tue-Sat. 1 Yerba Buena Lane at Market St.
This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
Sponsored Event: California Artisan Cheese Festival Tickets On Sale!
Calling all cheese lovers! Get your tickets now for the 16th annual California Artisan Cheese Festival on Saturday May 7th in Santa Rosa.
Spend the day tasting Calilfornia’s finest artisan cheeses and other local, handcrafted products, perfect for pairing with cheese. And, of course, there will also be beer, wine, cider, and spirits to taste…plus so much more! Meet the local cheesemakers, winemakers, brewers, and distillers while sampling and enjoying live entertainment by the King Street Giants. Don’t miss this afternoon of cheese bliss!
Buy tickets at artisancheesefestival.com and follow @caartisancheesefestival for cheesy pics.
the sugar mama
(Sponsored Giveaway): Enter to Win Two SF Restaurant Week Dinners (from Pabu and Lazy Susan)!
San Francisco Restaurant Week is back, running Friday April 1st-Sunday April 10th. This year, 160 restaurants in SF will be participating with prix-fixe lunch, brunch, and dinner menus available for safe, onsite dining, takeout, and delivery. Get out there and support your favorite restaurants while discovering some new-to-you ones, too!
To get your appetites ready, we’re partnering up with Pabu and Lazy Susan on a DOUBLY DELICIOUS giveaway. One lucky winner will win an SFRW week dinner-for-two to Pabu (value: $150) AND a dinner-for-four from Lazy Susan (value: $65)!
To enter to win, all you need to do is visit this post on Instagram!
One lucky winner will be announced on Friday April 1st (at 10am PT), so don’t delay!
Terms: Retail value: $215. Restaurant Week menus are available April 1st-10th. Prizes must be redeemed in that timeframe. Dinners can be redeemed for onsite dining at the restaurants pending availability, takeout, or delivery if the winner is within the geographical delivery range of the restaurant.