Shotaro Kamio, former executive chef of Yoshi's in San Francisco and Oakland, has opened his first solo venture outside of Japan on Fourth Street in Berkeley. The restaurant is called Iyasare, and offers a seasonal, rustic, Japanese menu of roasted and charcoal grilled meats and cooked seafood dishes, as well as the sushi, sashimi and the modern omakase experience for which Kamio is known. Ingredients are sourced from small, local, organic farms, high quality local fish purveyors and Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market. Sakés, artisanal Japanese and local craft beers, wines on tap and saké cocktails round out the beverage program. The sophisticated 35-seat dining room (with an additional 12 bar seats, and a 25-seat, heated outdoor patio) formerly housed O Chame. The name "iyasare" means "to be healed," and is a personal reference to the 2011 tsunami in Japan that struck near Kamio's family home. Dinner Wed.-Mon. Iyasare, 1830 Fourth St., Berkeley, CA 94710, 510-845-8100.
A casino opening doesn't usually merit mention on restaurant news pages, but the new Graton Resort & Casino, opened November 5, 2013, in Rohnert Park, Calif., near San Francisco and wine country, features 13 new eateries, including some from notable chefs. Douglas Keane, former chef of now-closed Cyrus, has a wing joint called DK Wings inside the casino; casual pasta and pizza enclave Tony's of North Beach is the latest from world-class pizzaiolo Tony Gemignani (Tony's Pizza Napoletana, Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza & Slice House, Capo's); and Martin Yan has opened a second M.Y. China within the compound (the first is inside San Francisco's Westfield Centre). Graton Resort & Casino is open daily and many of the restaurants offer late-night dining. Open daily. Graton Resort & Casino, 288 Golf Course Dr., Rohnert Park, CA 94928, 707-588-7100.
The Barrel Room restaurant and wine bar will open on College Avenue in Oakland in early December, joining the flood of new establishments in the Rockridge neighborhood. Owner-sommeliers Sarah Trubnick and Carolyn Johnson debuted the first Barrel Room on Post and Taylor in San Francisco in 2011, and with this new location will continue to specialize in small production international wines (usually with a changing monthly focus on varying regions) in an intimate, approachable atmosphere, with the addition of French-inspired, wine-friendly cuisine from chef Sam Paulding (Oliveto). The room will be small and rustic with about 30 seats, as well as ten seats at outdoor bistro tables. Look for wine tastings, seminars and happy hour specials in the coming months. The Barrel Room, 5330 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, no phone.
Stones Throw has taken over the former space of Luella in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Executive chef Jason Halverson offers a seasonally inspired menu with dishes such as chestnut raviolo with chanterelle mushrooms, roasted Brussels sprouts and truffle butter. Stones Throw, 1896 Hyde St., San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-796-2901.
Executive chef Grace Nguyen's (Slanted Door, Out the Door) fast-casual concept eatery Asian Box has opened a third location in San Francisco's Union Square, located in the high-end food court in the cellar of Macy's department store. The branch joins outposts in Palo Alto and Mountain View, and more are expected to open in Los Angeles before close of 2013. Lunch & Dinner daily. Asian Box, Macy's Union Square, 170 O'Farrell St., San Francisco, CA 94102, 415-288-3688.
Downtown favorite French bistro Cafe Claude has a new sister restaurant on Greenwich Street in the Marina District. Cafe Claude Marina opened September 18, 2013, providing the neighborhood around Lombard Street with an intimate, 49-seat restaurant evocative of old world French glamour, with antique tin ceilings, vintage chandeliers and other design details sourced from France. Cuisine from chef Doug DeGeeter (Cetrella, Chez TJ) is traditional bistro-style and composed from locally-sourced ingredients, including some crossover dishes from the original Cafe Claude such as steak tartare and soupe a l'oignon. Cafe Claude Marina's beverage program includes a short list of low-alcohol apéritif cocktails as well as a wine list focused on the Loire Valley and a good beer selection. The restaurant is the fourth for owner Franck LeClerc, who also owns Gitane, Claudine and the original Cafe Claude. Dinner Tues.-Sun. Cafe Claude Marina, 2120 Greenwich St., San Francisco, CA 94123, 415-375-9550.
Locally owned Gott's Roadside (formerly Taylor's Automatic Refresher) has opened a fourth location in Palo Alto's tony Town & Country Village. Gott's is known for low key, California-style American classics --- think freshly made burgers and fries paired with handspun milk shakes or glasses of good wine (though there are plenty of lighter options such as salads, fish tacos and wild caught salmon poke). The fast food-style restaurant with counter service has long been a Napa Valley staple (located in St. Helena and Napa's Oxbow Public Market) and has a big presence within the San Francisco Ferry Building. The Palo Alto outpost features a similar casual-modern vibe with plenty of outdoor seating, and pedigrees for the locally sourced meats, produce and other ingredients. Look for added breakfast service in the coming months. Lunch & Dinner daily. Gott's Roadside, Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, #65, Palo Alto, CA 94301, 650-326-1000.
The new incarnation of the old Fog City Diner has opened, helmed by chef Bruce Hill (Bix, Zero Zero, Picco, Pizzeria Picco) and featuring a totally revamped property. The restaurant is called simply "Fog City" and showcases Hill's modern American plates such as high-end burgers, grilled meats, seasonal salads, crudos and seafood. The iconic chrome diner has been extensively retooled by local architect Michael Guthrie, who has expanded the triangular dining room to 145 seats, with 30 surrounding a central onyx-hued bar (set aglow from below with LED lights in tribute to the former Fog City Diner) and 20 outside, taking advantage of the venue's prime location on Battery Street near the Embarcadero. New details also include an exhibition kitchen, wood-fired oven and seven-foot grill. Chef de cuisine is Erik Lowe, who has served the same roll under Hill at Bix for the past five years. Fog City Diner original founders Bill Higgins and Bill Upson (Cindy Pawlcyn left the project more than a decade ago) remain co-owners of the property. Fog City, 1300 Battery St., San Francisco, CA 94111, 415-982-2000.
Since restaurateur Anna Weinberg and chef Jennifer Puccio teamed up to open SoMa's modern, market driven brasserie Marlowe in 2010, their success has been unstoppable. Their second restaurant, Park Tavern on Washington Square in North Beach, opened in late 2011, and has remained a hot ticket ever since. Now the duo have ventured into the Union Square area with The Cavalier, a posh-yet-approachable London-style restaurant and lounge inside the new Hotel Zetta San Francisco. The restaurant is designed by Ken Fulk, and features an all-day menu of brasserie cuisine. The Cavalier, Hotel Zetta, 55 Fifth St., San Francisco, CA 94103, 415-321-6000.
Judy Rodgers, Chef of Zuni Cafe, Dies
Award-winning Zuni Cafe chef Judy Rodgers passed away on December 2, 2013, at the age of 57, from a rare form of appendix cancer. Rodgers had been chef and co-owner of Zuni since 1987, and in that time helped raise the bar for female chefs, California cuisine and, ultimately, simple, social American dining drawing from French and Italian rusticity. Born in St. Louis, her influences included a chance placement in France with the Troisgros family when she was a high school foreign exchange student, and a meal at Chez Panisse in the late '70s as a Stanford University student that led to a cooking apprenticeship there. Under her leadership, Zuni won the James Beard Outstanding Restaurant award in 2003 and Rodgers was awarded the James Beard Outstanding Chef in America title. Her cookbook, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002) became an instant industry classic. Zuni Cafe, 1658 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94102, 415-552-2522.
Ten-Year Anniversary Star Line-Up At Quince
Quince marks ten years this December, and to commemorate, chef Michael Tusk has called upon friends Alice Waters, April Bloomfield, Michael Anthony, Danny Meyer, Sean Brock, Marco Canora, Jonathan Benno and others to celebrate by joining him in the kitchen for a series of special dinners that started December 1, 2013. A portion of the proceeds from each evening benefits The Bocuse d'Or USA Foundation. Choose your night and make reservations by visiting quincerestaurant.com/events and calling 415-775-8500. Quince, 470 Pacific Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133, 415-775-8500.
Napa News: Sean O'Toole's Torc Revitalizes Dormant Ubuntu Space
Up in downtown Napa, a new restaurant called Torc --- the Gaelic word for boar --- debuted on November 25, 2013, in the dormant Ubuntu space located at 1140 Main Street between Pearl and First. (Ubuntu's combined vegetarian restaurant and yoga studio received critical attention for its cuisine when it opened, and further notoriety for its abrupt closure two years ago this month.) Chef-owner is Sean O'Toole, formerly of Hopper Creek Kitchen, Bardessono, Quince and Cotogna. This is his inaugural solo venture, featuring casual contemporary American cuisine with subtle international inflections, using locally sourced and foraged ingredients. Wines include eighty by the bottle, such as vintage Burgundies and Napa cult wines, and a by-the-glass list curated by beverage manager Cynthia O'Toole (The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, Kenzo Estate). Industry followers may remember that the husband-and-wife couple opened Bardessono together in 2009. Initial menu items include violet artichoke soup with chanterelles, mint and lemon; Dungeness crab salad with Buddha's hand citrus, satsuma, avocado and herbs; and mains like Hudson Ranch heritage pork with cheddar grits, collard greens and mustard sauce, and roasted chicken for two with black spice, coconut rice and spicy bok choy. Though refreshed, the bones of the space remain mostly untouched, retaining the 30-foot ceilings, and transforming the former yoga studio into a private dining mezzanine. Look for brunch beginning January 2014. Dinner nightly. Torc, 1140 Main St., Napa, CA 94559, 707-252-3292.
Dungeness Crab Season Begins
Dungeness crab season officially began November 15, 2013, and restaurants of all styles and price points across the bay are announcing their intentions for the sweet meat. Some examples: Beginning late November, the peninsula's 31st Union will offer a warm Dungeness crab salad as well as crab-laced mac ‘n’ cheese and orecchiette with winter squash, Bloomsdale spinach and sea urchin sauce. Boulevard has several Dungeness crab salads, a risotto and deviled Dungeness crab bisque in the offering. Honor Kitchen & Cocktails in Emeryville will serve a nightly Dungeness crab sandwich on a toasted bun with garlic fries on the side. And La Folie has a Dungeness crab salad with cauliflower panna cotta, spiced crab vinaigrette and a curry tuile on the tasting menu.
Well-intentioned Berkeley start-up company SpoonRocket is hoping to transform food delivery one meal at a time, beginning with the Bay Area. The service provides members with $6 gourmet meals made fresh and delivered within 15 minutes of order. Delivery is free and available from 11 a.m.-4 a.m., and choices are limited to two healthful options per day --- one for herbivores, one for omnivores. The company currently delivers to Berkeley and Emeryville, and will launch service to the Oakland area beginning November 1. Visit www.spoonrocket.com for details.
Michael Mina Launches Wine Club & Online Boutique
Restaurateur Michael Mina has a new online wine boutique and club, offering members international selections from among Mina's restaurants and their notable lists. Offerings are chosen by Mina Group sommeliers, led by wine director Rajat Parr. Michael Mina Wine Club members will receive four shipments of six cuvees per year at two price points --- "hidden gems" at $120 per shipment, and "wines of consequence" at $300 a shipment. Along with expert curation, amenities will include recipes to accompany wines, tasting notes, winery stories and other features included in shipments, as well as a newsletter, opportunities for wine classes and first access to wines available for sale. Visit www.minawineclub.com.
Enjoy Waiheke Island Yacht Club Through 2013
The America's Cup treated the city to more than just races --- San Francisco locals and visitors have until the end of 2013 to enjoy New Zealand style bites and beverages at Pier 29 pop-up restaurant Waiheke Island Yacht Club, featuring cuisine from chef Hayden McMillan (Auckland's TriBeCa). The restaurant serves dinner nightly, with a nightly happy hour from 4 p.m.-7 p.m., as well as lunch Thursday and Friday and brunch Saturday and Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. The ad-hoc restaurant is set inside a pier warehouse and features a unique, bay-side atmosphere and experience. Waiheke Island Yacht Club, 1256 The Embarcadero, Pier 29, San Francisco, CA 94105, 415-956-1048.
David Kinch's Manresa Cookbook
Manresa chef-proprietor David Kinch has released his first cookbook, Manresa: An Edible Reflection. Readers will find recipes for Kinch's farm-to-table dishes, such as courgettes with cultured cream, nasturtium vinaigrette and pistachio crumb. Manresa, 320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030, 408-354-4330.
State Bird Reopens, Evolves
State Bird Provisions has wrapped up its expansion and remodel and reopened for business, with reservations now available (though spontaneity is still encouraged, as a large portion of the dining room and chef's counter are reserved for walk-ins). New amenities include a raw bar, bigger foyer, new floors and a second bathroom. Family-style meals with set seating times and menus (including one that comprises every small plate available that night) are now an option for two new special tables that can each accommodate between 6-8 people or be joined for a large party of up to 16. Dinner is also now served on Sundays. State Bird Provisions, 1529 Fillmore St., San Francisco, CA 94115, 415-795-1272.
Tosca's Second Act
Famed North Beach bar and nightclub Tosca Cafe is the scene of the first restaurant project outside New York City for chef April Bloomfield and partner Ken Friedman (The Spotted Pig, The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, John Dory Oyster Bar). The 92-year-old former bar's atmospheric interior has been beautifully preserved and carefully spruced up, to include an intimate open kitchen build-out; the piano, opera-only jukebox and antique espresso machine remain, but the venue's Naugahyde banquettes have been replaced with red leather, and the bar's antique murals, posters and celebrity portraits are now spot-lit from below. Chef de cuisine Josh Even is a veteran of Bloomfield's New York venues, and was head chef at John Dory Oyster Bar. The menu is Italian, including many shareable plates such as roast chicken for two and a charcuterie program. Wines join cocktails (and Armagnac- and bourbon-spiked cappuccinos) as a highlight under co-wine directors Ceri Smith and Bonny Doon Vineyard winemaker Randall Grahm. The restaurant opened October 10, 2013, and, in a rare move for San Francisco, is open for dinner until 2 a.m. Dinner Tues.-Sun. Tosca Cafe, 242 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133, 415-986-9651.
San Francisco Culinary Tours Continue
This fall and winter, The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, continues its series of San Francisco culinary tours hosted by local media personality Liam Mayclem, a London native known as the KCBS Radio "Foodie Chap" and host of "Eye On The Bay" on CBS 5. Tours begin at the hotel and provide transportation to some of the city's most famous food-heavy neighborhoods, with exclusive, behind-the-scenes peeks into the whos and hows of the local industry. Look for special holiday tours on December 7 and 14 --- the first with an eye towards local gourmet goodies, including VIP tastings with the artisans behind Recchiuti Confections and Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, and the second focused primarily on festive cocktails from top local venues. Each tour is limited to 12 participants; cost is $199 per person (additional charges for special meals may apply). Details on all tours, as well as tickets and other information, are available at www.ritzcarlton.com/sanfrancisco. The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, 600 Stockton St., San Francisco, CA 94108, 415-296-7465.
Aperitif Hour at Range
Range has launched a new “Aperitif Hour.” This innovative program includes a special menu of aperitif cocktails and exclusive sherries, amaros and vermouths along with bar snacks designed to pair perfectly with aperitifs --- all served daily at the sleek, popular Mission District restaurant between 5 and 6 p.m. Read more on GAYOT's blog. Range, 842 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-282-8283.
Lunch at Prospect
One of downtown San Francisco's nicest dining options just got a little nicer --- Nancy Oakes's Prospect has begun serving weekday lunch. Chef Pam Mazzola's approachable contemporary California cuisine and the restaurant's prime location at Spear and Folsom make it a fitting choice especially for business lunching, though it's sure to become a new favorite for downtown and Embarcadero visitors and locals as well. Check out the new menu here: www.prospectsf.com. Lunch hours are 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Prospect, Infinity Towers, 300 Spear St., San Francisco, CA 94105, 415-247-7770.
À La Carte at Saison
Saison, the progressive, modern American restaurant that recently received GAYOT's coveted 18 rating, has started an à la carte menu option in its bar and salon. Prices in the restaurant's dining room are notably high --- one menu per night for $248, with optional wine pairings for an additional $148 or $248 --- with a recommended time of three hours to dine. The à la carte model in the bar and salon provides an approachable alternative for diners looking to sample Joshua Skenes' cooking. Saison, 178 Townsend St., San Francisco, CA 94107, 415-828-7990.
W San Francisco and TRACE restaurant have a new executive chef in Jason Rea, who took the reins in early October. Rea's résumé includes stints at Water Grill and Ciudad in Los Angeles, Bluehour in Portland and Town in New York City. Locally, he was sous chef at Michael Mina and, most recently, executive sous at RN74. He will oversee all menus and culinary operations for the 404-room hotel, including banquets, two bar and lounges and the concept restaurant. Meanwhile, former executive chef Paul Piscopo has a new position as executive chef of The St. Regis San Francisco and its restaurant, Vitrine. TRACE, W San Francisco, 181 3rd St., San Francisco, CA 94103, 415-817-7836.
Some news from the Mission: Look for longtime small-plates favorite Andalu to close at the end of 2013 to make way for a new Chinese dumpling restaurant project from Brandon Jew (Bar Agricole) and the team at Tacolicious (located in the Marina, North Beach and the Mission). The new restaurant, expected mid-2014, will feature affordable small plates of Chinese-inspired dumplings, noodles, vegetable and other dishes with a San Francisco bent. The approachable, 60-seat dining room will feature an open kitchen and full bar. Andalu's final night of service is New Year's Eve 2013, and after 12 years of popularity is sure to host many good-bye drinks in its final weeks. Andalu, 3198 16th St., San Francisco, CA 94103, 415-621-2211.
After nearly eight years, sushi standout Sebo has closed. According to a tweet, the inability for chef-owner Michael Black to negotiate an agreeable lease for his Hayes Valley restaurant offered him, "a great opportunity to spend time with my family and newborn son as well as work on a few projects for the future." The restaurant was a haven for lovers of omakase with pristine fish, and commanded a cult following from its inception (then with co-owner and chef Danny Dunham) for its seasonality and sustainability. Its last night of service was October 26. We look forward to future projects from Black and his team. Sebo, 517 Hayes St., San Francisco, CA 94102, no phone.
Eight-year-old Mission District restaurant Maverick will be shuttered indefinitely due to an early morning fire October 25, 2013. No word yet on the cause of the fire, that also forced the evacuation of the three-story building's upstairs apartments. Maverick, 3316 17th St., San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-863-3061.
Luella, one of Russian Hill's more prominent neighborhood dining enclaves, known for its balanced mix of friendly warmth and sophisticated cuisine from chef-owner Ben de Vries, has closed after nearly nine years. According to reports, de Vries made the choice in order to spend more time with his family, but he does intend to return to cooking, next kitchen TBD. Luella, 1896 Hyde St., San Francisco, CA 94109, no phone.
San Francisco diners lost a diminutive and much beloved restaurant in August --- chef Dennis Leary's eight-year-old Canteen. The tiny, 20-seat dining room with open galley kitchen, still very much a success, was shuttered so Leary could focus on present and forthcoming projects, including The Sentinel, Golden West, House of Shields, and upcoming properties Cafe Terminus and Trocadero Club. Canteen, 817 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94109, no phone.
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