Stylish Mission District favorite Loló, formerly on 22nd Street, has packed up and moved into more prominent digs on Valencia Street. The larger space (the dining room seats 65, main bar seats 14 and a dedicated agave bar has nine seats) means expanded artwork from co-owner and artist Lorena Zertuche, whose vivid, sharply whimsical décor of found objects and art in vibrant colors defines the restaurant's aesthetic. Co-owner and executive chef Jorge Martinez's menu of Jaliscan-inspired small plates offers many new dishes, including oyster and pork chin confit sopes, black mussels and calamari escabeche, and panko encrusted avocado tacos. Also featured in this incarnation are a new cocktail program with a focus on mezcal and seasonal ingredients, and an agave bar highlighting specialty mezcal and tequila tastings, including monthly flights. Look for lunch and brunch to follow shortly. Dinner Mon.-Sat. Loló, 974 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-643-5656.
Los Angeles food truck Lobsta Truck has rolled north into San Francisco, bringing New England-style lobster and crab rolls to the Bay. Twenty-nine-year-old founder and owner Justin Mi is a UC Berkeley grad, but also has family ties in New England, hence the East Coast bent in cuisine. The truck has debuted a new fish ‘n’ chips plate exclusive to San Francisco, alongside clam chowder, lobster bisque, whoopie pies and the lobster and crab sandwiches on split-top rolls with either hot drawn butter or seasoned mayo. Look for them at Off The Grid food truck events. Lobsta Truck, Locations vary, San Francisco, CA 94109, no phone.
Sachin Chopra, chef of Peninsula favorite All Spice, will bring his cuisine to San Francisco with Game in the former Masa's space inside the Executive Hotel Vintage Court. On board as executive chef is Zack Freitas, current chef de cuisine at All Spice, and Chopra's wife and business partner Shoshana Wolff is co-owner and wine curator. Chopra is known for his California-Indian cooking but this first San Francisco venture will feature food dubbed "new American exotic" --- namely game animals such as bison, Guinea hen, pheasant and venison alongside more conventional cuts of grass-fed beef and wild fish, blended with innovative ingredients and spices. Look for an opening in the coming months. Game, 650 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108, 415-392-4666, 888-388-3932.
The space that housed North Beach classic Washington Square Bar & Grill on and off under various owners from 1973-2010 will see some new life starting spring 2014. Chef-owners Teague Moriarty and Matt McNamara (Sons & Daughters, Sweet Woodruff) will open The Square restaurant and bar in the historic building off Washington Square Park, and plan to offer straightforward, approachable American cuisine and cocktails made with high-quality ingredients. Look for a March debut. The Square, 1707 Powell St., San Francisco, CA 94133, no phone.
Hayes Valley neighborhood ice cream shop Smitten Ice Cream is expanding within the Bay Area, with a new location inside a Los Altos Whole Foods (and upcoming openings in Lafayette and Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood). The new Silicon Valley branch features the company's small-batch, made-to-order seasonal ice creams, sundaes and other treats all made with local, sustainable and organic ingredients, and is open daily from 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Open daily. Smitten Ice Cream, Whole Foods Market, 4800 El Camino Real, Los Altos, CA 94022, 650-559-0100.
The team behind Gather in Berkeley are trying their hand at San Francisco with the opening of Verbena on Polk Street. The restaurant occupies the former Rex Cafe space (most recently, and briefly, Marbella) and features a 62-seat dining room with high ceilings, an illuminated wall of pickled ingredients and a prominent full bar helmed by Michael Ireland (Quince, The Restaurant at Meadowood, The French Laundry); upstairs, a mezzanine seats 12 and there are 16 possible sidewalk table seats for sunny Russian Hill days. Chef Sean Baker has created a menu of seasonal, shareable California plates --- think duck meatballs, trotter terrine, swordfish with cioppino verde and chicories with pumpkin seed milk. Note: The restaurant is a stone's throw from Gioia Pizzeria, another Berkeley expat. Look for brunch, a mainstay in this neighborhood, to begin in the spring. Dinner nightly. Verbena, 2323 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-441-2323.
The Barrel Room restaurant and wine bar has opened on College Avenue in Oakland, 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 are continuing 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 is 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, 510-655-1700.
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.
Bigger Digs at La Mar
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana has unveiled a newly remodeled lounge with banquette seating and expanded patio to their waterfront venue, increasing the heated outdoor seating capacity to 130 guests. A lively, upscale choice for Embarcadero dining since its debut in 2008, the modern Peruvian restaurant features Gaston Acurio's cuisine and Peruvian-inspired cocktails with terrific views of the Bay. La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, Pier 1 1/2, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111, 415-397-8880.
Bread on the Rise
Burgers, fire cooking, pickles --- Bay Area restaurant trends are fun (and tasty) to follow, but one of local chefs' more recent priorities really gets back to basics. Fresh, house-made bread is appearing in baskets, alongside cheeses and around sandwiches in San Francisco and in the Bay --- a product many restaurants used to leave to local companies such as Acme Bread. Now, Quince and Cotogna, led by pastry chef Alen Ramos, have taken over their own baking in twice-daily batches using Cotogna's wood-fired oven, organic flours and heirloom grains. Chefs Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty will hopefully carry over the house-made breads they serve at Sons & Daughters to their new spot The Square opening in March. Outerlands, Rich Table and of course Tartine Bakery and Bar Tartine, whose famous breads are growing increasingly innovative from baker Chad Robertson, remain wonderful sources of fresh bread products.
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.
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.
The end of 2013 has marked the closing --- some only temporarily --- of several longstanding San Francisco institutions. Twelve-year casual Mission favorite Andalu has shuttered to make way for a new dumpling restaurant. Schroeder's German Restaurant, in the same Financial District location since 1959 but open in San Francisco since 1893, is currently closed and undergoing a remodel under new ownership. Over on Nob Hill, Big 4 Restaurant is also closed for a major refresh, with assurances to its well-heeled clientele that the concept will stay intact. Fifth Floor Restaurant & Lounge in the Hotel Palomar, possibly the most chameleonlike of its high-end peers over the past 14 years, shuttered on January 17 to begin another major transformation led by chef David Bazirgan --- word has it the name will change and cuisine will skew more approachable and cocktail-friendly. Hog Island Oyster Company inside the Ferry Building shuttered January 16 in order to expand into the former Ferry Plaza Seafood space, and will reopen this spring. And over on the Embarcadero, New Zealand pop-up Waiheke Island Yacht Club sailed into the sunset for good with the new year.
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