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Feb 14, 2023 16 min read

This week’s tablehopper: have you heard?

This week’s tablehopper: have you heard?
Table of Contents

what’s cookin’

raw oysters at Foreign Cinema
Some (always) perfectly shucked oysters at Foreign Cinema. Photo: ©

Hello, loves! Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. (If you’re still looking for ideas on where to go, check my Instagram Story Highlight here.) Thanks for reading and supporting my column. In honor of the relaunch, I have a wonderful cheesy giveaway for you in the sugar mama, mwah!

Sooooo, this is the last week that you’ll be able to view all content for free before the (partial) paywall starts next Tuesday February 21st, when some content will be for paying subscribers only. Become an annual supporting subscriber and you won’t miss a single word or update or scoop or hot tip! You’ll also get extra perks—check out all the membership tiers here!

You have two more weeks to take advantage of the special annual intro offer for tablehopper readers, so smash that link before the price goes up March 1st. (It’s the best price you’ll ever see, I’m just sayin’!) And if you subscribe early (before February 21st), you’re automatically entered in the Proclamation Goods Duo giveaway AND you get the muffuletta deal at Café Zoetrope! Who loves you?!

If you’re wondering what this all means and why tablehopper looks different, please read this post and watch my video here.

Some of you who live out of town have written in to say you love reading tablehopper to help plan where you’re going to eat during your trips to SF, but you can’t justify an annual subscription. (News flash: it’s expensive to live and eat here!) But don’t fret—you can buy a monthly subscription for access to my content when you’re planning your next visit.

Thanks to some extremely generous Patrons and Super Patrons (we love you), I’m going to be able to offer some subsidized subscriptions to my fellow broke writers and creatives. Stand by for more on that next week.

Huge thanks to editor and founder Matt Charnock of the recently launched Underscore_SF—a fellow hyperlocal indie publication about SF—who just posted this extraordinary profile of me and the news of tablehopper’s relaunch. So appreciated, what a generous piece. Be sure to follow and subscribe to Underscore_SF for unconventional stories about our beloved city and its quirky citizens (like me!).

Speaking of quirky, have you been watching Cunk on Earth on Netflix? This mockumentary series has been getting the biggest guffaws from me at night—Fortuna can’t even sit on my lap, I’m laughing too hard and annoying the princess. It’s so droll and delightfully odd. Excellent viewing for when you’re slightly hellavated. Pump Up the Jam!

Do you have plans this weekend? Be sure to visit the magnolias in the Botanical Garden, they’re gorgeous right now. And Saturday afternoon is the dim sum brunch feast at Hong Kong Lounge with Fort Point Beer—get $7 off your ticket and join me at my table! I’d be thrilled to see you.

MUCH LOVE to you! 💋

the chatterbox

mural for Popi’s Oysterette
The mural for Popi’s Oysterette by Art of Manny. Photo courtesy of Popi’s.

Exclusive: Get Ready for Popi’s Oysterette, a Marina Oyster Bar and Seafood Restaurant with Chef Melissa Perfit (Shuck Yes!)

Opening at the end of February is Popi’s Oysterette, a 21-seater (with room for another 22 seats or so outside, eventually) that will be providing the Marina with an oyster bar and freshy-fresh neighborhood seafood restaurant, something that has been oddly missing from Chestnut Street.

And who better than badass chef-mermaid Melissa Perfit to create the SF seafood counter of our dreams? No matter how much Perfit tries to wriggle away from her seafood sensei reputation, it keeps its hooks in her! I loved having her in my neighborhood at Bar Crudo for years, and her seafood dishes at Ayala were spectacular. For the past two years, she has been the executive chef at Sister in Oakland, but when Joe Hargrave (Tacolicious) reached out to her about a space he secured on Chestnut that would be just perfect for a little seafood restaurant, she was hooked, again. It’s a fun reunion for them: Perfit was a line cook at his restaurant Laïola back in 2007—also on Chestnut Street—so life is funny that way. This time, they’re opening in the former Glaze Teriyaki space on the corner of Steiner, previously All Star Donut with the iconic sign (RIP).

Chef-proprietor Melissa Perfit has been hard at work on-site at Popi’s. Photo courtesy of Joe Hargrave.

A wonderful development is Perfit is now a chef-proprietor (yes, lady!), partnering with GM-proprietor Davin Affrunti (previously at Hog Island in Larkspur). While Hargrave and Tacolicious partner Mike Barrow developed, designed, and built the concept, they will not be involved in the daily operations after the opening, outside of managing the wine and beer list. Perfit mentioned to me that she always wanted a small seafood restaurant, but never knew how to make it happen. “Sometimes things work out!” Love to see it.

You can take a look at a preview of the menu below (FYI, things are still being tweaked and adjusted), but I love how it reflects classic SF seafood dishes done right, with nods to dishes from Perfit’s long career and expertise with seafood. First, the oysters: her favorite (Beausoleils) will be on the menu, along with oysters from Drakes Bay and Hog Island, plus Washington Shigokus and Kumamotos. I’m particularly fired up over the grilled oysters, which really reflect her creative palate, like the Daphne (thyme, green garlic, smoked paprika, sherry vinegar), Fred (with neighbor Marina Meats’ hunters’ sausage, orange, charred spring onion), and Velma (nori butter, yuzu, trout roe). Sign me up for a trifecta. Scooby-Doo, where are you?

A preview of the menu (still in progress).

The raw bar offering will also include littleneck clams, mussels, and caviar service, and check out the Big Popi platter (Popi is what Hargrave’s daughter calls his father, a retired sea captain). I love that there’s crab three different ways (classic cracked, marinated, or roasted), and there’s even a side of crab back/butter you can order (IYKYK).

As for some local seafood classics, Perfit makes a hell of a luscious Louie salad, and there will be crab and prawn cocktails in classic parfait glasses, and a Caesar with boquerones. Snack on some cured trout dip with sour cream and chives while you make up your mind. I’m excited to try her Dungie crab roll on a Firebrand brioche roll, and am happy she has one of her creative crudos listed (tombo tuna crudo with kumquat, tarragon, Aleppo pepper, crème fraîche). And, of course, there’s a lighter Mami’s salad with grilled shrimp, Little Gems, avocado, grapefruit, and Champagne vinaigrette, because they know the neighborhood.

Perfit has developed another sure-to-be-awesome clam chowder (with bacon, leeks, clams, and thyme), and there are some fried numbers, too, like fish and chips (in an Anchor Steam beer batter) and calamari. You can share a bowl of Manila clams (with Marina Meats Italian sausage, shellfish broth, chard, and grilled bread), and I’m thrilled to see version two of her green cioppino from Ayala, with mussels, clams, crab, squid, herb oil, roasted tomatillos, and grilled tomato bread. Can you believe this menu? It will expand and evolve in time and with the seasons.

The wine and beer list.

The tight wine list has the bubbles and muscadet and beers we need, because oysters and a crisp wine is one of life’s great pairing pleasures. The tiny but light-filled space is right on the corner, with exposed douglas fir rafters. They kept the original concrete floor, while adding bright blue mosaic tiles and terrazzo countertops. It’s going to feel cheerful (and the friendly neighborhood service style will match). There’s an open kitchen, with four seats on either side of the expo station at the counter, with the rest of the 12–13 seats at tables. They worked with Anand Sheth on the design/architecture, and Manny Fabregas painted the fun retro mural outside that has a nice, weathered ghost sign look (Ron Escobar is behind the graphics).

Inspections are happening this week, and they’re gunning to soft-open by February 27th, and planning to be fully open by March 1st. I will keep you posted on the date! They’re going to start with lunch service, eventually extending to all-day service (like 11am–9pm), open daily. 2095 Chestnut St. at Steiner.

Izakaya Rintaro Is Reopening This Week After Horrific Neighborhood Flooding Incident

A dream katsu lunch at Rintaro. Photo: ©

I spotted this wonderful news from chef-owner Sylvan Mishima Brackett on Instagram: Rintaro is reopening on Wednesday February 15th, after suffering major damage from the massive deluge around New Year’s Eve that flooded the neighborhood and restaurant. It was such a disaster. Fortunately, the community rallied to help support the team with a successful GoFundMe campaign, but I can’t imagine the hard work and stress of getting everything cleaned and repaired (Rintaro's interior features such beautiful woodcraft) to get back up and running these past six weeks. It’s truly wonderful to know this beloved restaurant has made it back. 82 14th St. at Folsom.

One of SF’s Best Dim Sum Restaurants Returns as HK Lounge Bistro, and More Dumpling News

The interior of the new HK Lounge Bistro in SoMa. Yelp photo by Albert C.

Just before the pandemic (in February 2020), I broke the news that Hong Kong Lounge Bistro (now HK Lounge Bistro) was opening in the 99 Rausch condominium development in SoMa—it was going to be the new home for Hong Kong Lounge II, which was tragically burned out when a gas line was breached and exploded into flames in 2019 (at 3300 Geary Blvd. at Parker).

Obviously, the project got delayed by the pandemic, and I was beginning to wonder if it was going to happen at all. So imagine my happiness when I saw Adam Mesnick of Deli Board posting about his dim sum feast this past weekend at HK Lounge Bistro! Like a phoenix rising from yet another disaster, it’s here!

Owner Annie Ho, who was once the owner of Hong Kong Lounge at 5322 Geary (which is still running, and where you can join me for dim sum this Saturday!) was serving some of the city’s best dim sum at her offshoot restaurant, Hong Kong Lounge II, so it’s very exciting to have her and her team back on the scene. It’s a much tinier location, so plan on making a reservation if you can. The Chronicle mentions the trademark pink walls are back, and many of their original dishes have returned, plus some new ones, too. Open Mon and Wed–Fri 11am–2:30pm and 5pm–8:30pm, Sat–Sun 10am–2:30pm. 1136 Folsom St. at Rausch (near 7th St.).

Another dim sum development: thanks to @LowerHaightSF for tagging me in a tweet, I learned that Dumpling Union in Cow Hollow is opening another location, this time in the former Maven space at 598 Haight St. at Steiner. I called and found out they’re targeting the end of February to open, stand by for spicy pork XLB and dan dan noodles!

Sequels: Per Diem Transit Center and Mamahuhu Noe Valley Now Open

The new bar at Per Diem Transit Center. Photo courtesy of Per Diem.

Some quick opening news: Per Diem in the FiDi has opened a second and spacious location at the Transbay Transit Center in SoMa (the original location opened in 2011). The new location has indoor and outdoor seating, with a large   island bar, a private dining room, and a cozy design. The approachable menu of Californian-Italian cuisine with some flair from executive chef Ollie Wallack includes meatballs, salads, pasta, flank steak, a burger, flatbreads, and more (with cocktails, including a nitro espresso martini on tap). Happy hour is weekdays 3pm–5pm. Open Mon–Fri 11am–9pm. 41 Minna St. at 1st St.

It looks like the fast-casual, Chinese American Mamahuhu has soft-opened their Noe Valley location. I mentioned this project back in May (via Noe Valley Voice), writing that Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s and Ben Noore and Anmao Sun were opening this third location in the former Toast on 24th Street. I’m a fan of their kung pao chicken, broccoli and beef, fried chicken sandwich, and almond cookies on Clement Street—the menu here appears to be the same. Open daily 11:30am–9pm. 3991 24th St. at Noe.

Closures Include Palette and The Phoenix Irish Bar

The dining room at Palette. Photo: Kelly Puleio Photography.

A few weeks ago, my tablehopper researcher noticed an ABC license change at the chic Palette restaurant in SoMa to a craft distilling license, which is perhaps a peek into some future plans for chef-owner Peter Hemsley, who is closing the business after four years of running a restaurant during the worst possible moment in time. In a note to followers, he said, “For fans and supporters, it will perhaps be no surprise that Palette will be closing its doors on Wednesday, February 15. We’ll have big news coming your way soon with what the future holds in store for our mission of being the most traceable seafood restaurant in the country.” You can read more about the closure in Eater.

After opening in 2001, Phoenix Irish Bar poured its last pints on Sunday February 12th. Mission Local reported back in 2022, when permits were issued to demolish the building in order to make way for a six-story, 18-unit, mixed-use building. You can read more from owner Eugene Power in this closure piece in Eater.

the sugar mama

For the LOVE of CHEESE! Enter to win two VIP early-entry tickets to the 17th annual California Artisan Cheese Festival Marketplace on Sunday March 26th!

The California Artisan Cheese Festival is back to three days: March 24th–26th in Sonoma Wine Country! Get your tickets to spend the weekend tasting California’s finest artisan cheeses, wine, beer, and spirits from local makers, along with complementary accoutrements. The weekend includes Farm and Producer Tours, Seminars and Tastings, a Cheese Crawl, and the popular Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace (this is one event not to miss)!

To enter to win tickets, all you need to do is visit this @tablehopper post on Instagram!

One lucky winner will be announced on Saturday February 18th (at 10am PT), so don’t delay! Retail value: $160.

the lush

One of the rooftop patio areas at Cavaña. Photo: Vivio Visuals.

An Early Visit to the Brand-New Cavaña, a Lively Latin American Rooftop Bar in Mission Bay

You could say the biggest trend in SF bars is rooftop bars, and the latest one is the new Cavaña that just opened on the 17th floor of the LUMA Hotel in Mission Bay, right by Oracle Park from managing partners John Park of Brick x Brick Hospitality Group (KAIYŌ, Whitechapel, Novela) and Anthony Parks (True Hospitality Group). They brought on beverage director Emilio Salehi and Miguel Salehi to develop the inventive cocktail menu, which highlights Latin American spirits, including high-end mezcales, tequilas, rums, piscos, and gins, with native and unique Latin ingredients, such as yerba mate, purple corn, and hoja santa (which they harvest from a woman’s tree in the Mission that came from a cutting from Diana Kennedy’s garden in Mexico, how about that?!).

Kiwi Hoja. Photo: Anthony Parks, Emilio and Miguel Salehi (Equal Parts Media).

Some favorites on the list from a recent visit were the Kiwi Hoja (an elegant, milk-clarified cocktail with mezcal, kiwi, Bolivian brandy, hoja santa, and lime) and the Melón Salvia (cachaca, tequila blanco, sage wine, cantaloupe, lemon, aloe vera—loved the lightly mentholated and herbaceous notes in this refreshing beauty). The Sangrita Chela would be perfect for brunch (mezcal espadin, sangrita verde, cerveza clara, poblano salt), ditto the Coco Cafecito (Venezuelan rum, toasted coconut, PX sherry, coffee, almond orange salt). The high level of execution is downright admirable when you look at how busy the bar is (soooo busy). You can also find classic caipirinhas, daiquiris, Margaritas, and more.

They’re also offering tableside bottle service: you can enjoy rotating half-bottles (375ml) or full bottles of high-end and rare mezcales, tequilas, and rums, with special accompaniments, like fruits, seasonal agua frescas, and housemade salts. Minimal-intervention wines and local beers are also available.

A selection of Pan Latin small plates. Photo: ©

The menu features Pan Latin shared plates from executive chef Alex Reccio—we enjoyed the bohlinhos de bacalhau (salt cod fritters), and laid down a good foundation for our cocktail session with the hearty arepas de pabellón (white corn arepas filled with brisket stew, black beans, peppers, cotija cheese; $22 for two), while the white fish aguachile de manzana would benefit from a milder fish selection, and the corn esquites tostada ($18), one of the few vegetarian items, should be repriced.

The patio that faces the ballpark. Photo: Vivio Visuals.

There are two patio areas, one with a view toward the ballpark (John Park told me they could easily hear Lady Gaga from the rooftop!), while the patio facing the sunset has an outdoor bar. There are heaters and wind guards and fire pits, but it’s still cold and breezy if it’s a windy, chilly SF night, so bundle up. (Many of us will put up with a lot for a stunning view, and this place has it.) There’s an indoor lounge area with reserved tables, which has you protected from the elements, and a very busy bar.

One of the indoor lounge areas and the bar. Photo: Vivio Visuals.

It’s a definite fiesta vibe, with the music dialed up, so don’t come for an important conversation that you need to keep discreet—there will be Latin American DJs and live performances from local Latin artists. The decór has a tropical-clubby sensibility, with lots of plants, rattan furniture, and Latin patterns and flair. Info on reservations here. (You’ll need to strategize your visit if you’re going on a game day, parking prices go sky high.) Open Sun–Thu 4pm–12am, Fri–Sat 4pm–1am. 100 Channel St. at 3rd St.

the socialite

Ramos Gin Fizzes await at Comstock Saloon's Mardi Gras party. Photo: Johnny Raglin.

Where to Let the Good Times Roll for Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is coming up on Tuesday February 21st, and here are a few quick picks for where you can celebrate Fat Tuesday. Partner Jonny Raglin was so inspired by a recent trip to New Orleans that he decided to host a Mardi Gras party at Comstock Saloon. They’ll have the ever-lovely Frankie Fictitious providing burlesque entertainment, along with a live brass band, The Crawfish Boys. Speaking of crawfish, they’ll be serving a crawfish boil and gumbo, along with classic New Orleanian cocktails. Open 4pm–midnight, dinner until 10pm. Band starts around 8:30pm, first burlesque act at 9:30pmish.

Curio, the Mission bar and restaurant attached to The Chapel, will be hosting a party with food and drink specials (including hush puppies, gumbo, king cake, Sazeracs, and French 75s). The Underpass Brass Band will be performing, kicking things off with a lively second-line-style parade down Valencia Street, followed by performances in the restaurant. 5pm–close (live music 5pm–8:30pm).

Of course, Brenda’s, Just for You Cafe, The Front Porch, CreoLa, Scopo Divino, Gentilly, Po’Boys Kitchen, Dumpling and Cajun Seafood, and Queen's Louisiana Po-Boy Cafe have the NOLA dishes you’re craving. (I just might pick up some gumbo from Gumbo Social at Sunset Mercantile on Sunday so I have some at the ready.)

Join Me at Merkado for My Taco, My Choice! on March 7th

Get your ticket for My Taco, My Choice! Photo: ©

Coming up on Taco Tuesday, March 7th, 2023, is My Taco, My Choice!, a Bay Area chef taco competition in support of women’s reproductive rights at Merkado in SoMa. A portion of proceeds will be donated to The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. Local female chefs will preparing and serving their own unique takes on the taco as they see fit, drawing on any cuisine or culinary culture—it’s their taco and their choice! (If you’re interested in participating, drop me a line/just hit reply!)

The event will be emceed by ABC news anchor and reporter Gloria Rodriguez, and joining me as a judge is Lupe M. Rodriguez, executive director of The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, and Jessica Kapoor, chief of staff at Saison Hospitality. The People’s Choice taco will be featured on Merkado’s Taco Tuesday menu for the rest of March; the overall winner will be highlighted throughout April.

Guests will enjoy one taco from each chef and a Margarita (alcoholic or n/a), $45 in advance via Eventbrite; $50 at the door. Doors open at 5pm for cocktail hour, the event runs 6pm–8:30pm. It will be held in the indoor plaza and outdoor patio area at Merkado. 130 Townsend St. at 2nd St.

the matchmaker

Head Chef Wanted for Plant-Centric Spot Opening Late Spring

Blossom & Root, a totally plant-based restaurant opening in the East Bay, is seeking a creative head chef focused on farm-to-table cooking.

We are committed, open-minded vegans with the resources to ensure success and growth opportunities. Our ideal candidate: 1) feels strongly about cooking in tune with the seasons; 2) creates recipes that are simultaneously elevated and approachable; 3) leads by example to foster a collaborative team approach; and 4) shares our reverence for healthy, whole ingredients—no faux meat, please!

If you have four-plus years of increasing responsibility, please send your resume to and reference this tablehopper ad. Located in downtown Danville—only a 25-minute drive from Oakland; commute bonus is available for the right candidate.

the archivist

Check out the groovy former design of the Tonga Room! 

This vintage postcard of the Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel has a postmark from 1974 on the back. So stylin’!

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