San Francisco: Restaurant Openings
Jason Fox, executive chef and owner of Commonwealth, together with Timothy Felkner, owner of consultancy firm Vigilante Hospitality, will open Oro in late summer 2015. The new property at 8 Mint Plaza (formerly Thermidor) will feature a menu of shareable California small plates overseen by Fox and executed by chef de cuisine Travis Day (Central Kitchen, Yoshi's). Specialties will include whole animal butchery, charcuterie and a unique "blind" tasting line-up of off-menu items tailored to individual preferences, served family style. The beverage program is headed up by some big names, including wine director Kelly Evans, most recently of Saison. Oro, 8 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94103, No phone.
The old Nombe space in the Mission has been transformed into the 65-seat Myriad Gastro Pub under chef-owner Tricia Tracey, most recently opening chef of Mixx Bistro in New Jersey. The restaurant, cocktail and craft beer enclave features eclectic, seasonal pub cuisine in the form of snacks and small and large plates, including salt cod fritters, bone marrow, roasted meat sandwiches, meat stews and roast fish dishes. An innovative wine list provides more than 20 by the glass. Look for weekend brunch to begin in July. Dinner nightly. Myriad Gastro Pub, 2491 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-525-4335.
Michael Mina has a new pop-up and test kitchen space in the Marina District, and the first event is a collaboration between Mina and RN74's executive chef Adam Sobel called "Middle'terranea," focusing on eastern Mediterranean cuisine with a nod to Mina's Middle Eastern background (he was born in Egypt). Family-style dinners begin July 23, and will meld flavors from Egypt, Lebanon, Israel and Turkey and feature salads, fish in aromatic broths, char-grilled and roasted meats and other dishes. Tickets are $45 per person, exclusive of tax, beverages and gratuity. Beverage pairings are $30 per person. The MINA Test Kitchen is also available for private events. The MINA Test Kitchen, 2120 Greenwich St., San Francisco, CA 94123, 415-310-8371.
Joshua Skenes (Saison) and Los Angeles-based restaurant owner Adam Fleischman (Umami Burger) will open a fast, casual Chinese restaurant in downtown San Francisco called Fat Noodle. Hand-pulled noodle dishes (along with rice and egg noodle base options) will be served in a production-line fashion as guests choose various broth, meat, vegetable and sauce toppings. Fat Noodle, 92 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94105, no phone.
Billed as an "homage to her mother and grandmother's cooking," and featuring cuisine reminiscent of her native Brittany, Dominique Crenn's upcoming Hayes Valley restaurant Petit Crenn is said to be shooting for a July opening. Set in the space that housed Bar Jules for eight successful years, the sister offshoot of Crenn's famous Atelier Crenn will be a casual café and restaurant with all-day service, including a prix-fixe dinner option most evenings. Petit Crenn, 609 Hayes St., San Francisco, CA 94102, No phone.
Oakland's Uptown district has a new mixed-use space called The Hive that is about to get a new restaurant. Chris Pastena (Lungomare, Chop Bar) will open Mexican destination Calavera. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant with 18-foot ceilings is designed by Arcsine, and features an abundance of wood, subtle color and interesting geometry in the décor. The restaurant promises an impressive tequila and mezcal selection, along with "reimagined" regional Mexican cuisine. Calavera, The Hive, 2337 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612, 415-867-3967.
Sabio on Main will open in August 2015, bringing upscale, contemporary dining to Pleasanton. Executive chef and co-owner is Francis Hogan, formerly of Bluestem Brasserie, whose specialties include whole animal butchery, charcuterie and cheese mongering. Hogan is also a certified sommelier. His seasonal, sustainable menu will feature small plates showcasing a range of international flavors --- European, Asian, Latin American and even Caribbean fare --- but more than 50 percent of the menu will highlight Spanish cuisine. Sabio promises an extensive wine list and artisan cocktails, as well as indoor and outdoor seating for lunch, brunch and dinner, and a full bar. Sabio on Main, 501 Main St., Pleasanton, CA 94566, No phone.
Aster from Brett Cooper (Outerlands) and the Daniel Patterson Group has opened in the Mission District. The artsy, 45-seat space features clean lines and mid-century and craftsman detailing, a communal table the length of the restaurant, booths with plush banquettes, and art by Jesse Schlesinger and Pakayla Rae Biehn. Cooper's cuisine is modern, local Californian, showcasing ingredients from small farms, ranches and seafood purveyors. Pastry chef is Sean Ehland. Aster is among those restaurants heralding a tip-free format, where menu prices are inclusive of all service. Aster, 1001 Guerrero St., San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-875-9810.
Chef Melissa Perello (Frances) has taken over the old Baker & Banker space at Octavia and Bush Streets in Pacific Heights. Her new restaurant is named, appropriately, Octavia, and features an open kitchen, 55 seats and Perello's seasonally driven California cuisine. Octavia, 1701 Octavia St., San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-408-7507.
Chef Aaron London utilizes pristine vegetables in innovative preparations at his Mission District restaurant, Al's Place. (London was last seen at former Napa standout Ubuntu.) Note: This venture is not vegetarian --- London uses meat and fish. But his technique with vegetables gives those still smarting from Millennium's San Francisco departure reason for excitement. Al's Place, 1499 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-416-6136.
Look for a summer 2015 opening of Bon Marché Brasserie & Bar from Matt Semmelhack and Mark Liberman, cofounders of the Mercer Restaurant Group (AQ Restaurant & Bar, TBD Restaurant). The 7,500-square-foot space will provide a variety of all-day dining options for mid-Market denizens, including a full-service brasserie, coffee shop, raw bar, craft brewery under master cicerone Rich Higgins and a lounge, along with a private dining room for special functions. The grand, Art Deco-inspired venue will have a vibe reminiscent of the Marais district of Paris. There will even be a flower shop. Though Bon Marché will be overseen by Liberman, executive chef is Matthew Sieger, and the focus is seasonal French fare for lunch and dinner. Pastry chef is Rikki Garcia; sommelier is Allegra Angelo. Bon Marché is part of Shorenstein Properties' redeveloped 1355 Market Street historic building, now known as Market Square. Bon Marché Brasserie & Bar, 1355 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94103, No phone.
The Barrel Room has opened a 60-seat, rustic-modern wine bar and restaurant on Sansome Street between Clay and Sacramento, which will have a tasting room and retail shop to go along with its sit-down dining and imbibing (there is even an underground "speakeasy" with a full bar). The menu from executive chef Manuel Hewitt will change quarterly to highlight diverse regional cuisine (French, German, Austrian, Italian, etc.), with seasonal cocktails and featured wines to complement. Overall, varietals are international, often hard-to-find, with a variety of flights and more than 50 available by the glass. There are also international and local craft beers and a happy hour from 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri. The Barrel Room's debut regional focus is Latin America. A second location is in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood (5330 College Ave., 510-655-1700). The Barrel Room, 415 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA 94111, 415-956-6900.
Aatxe (pronounced aah-CHAY) is a Basque restaurant on the street level of Upper Market's 100-year-old Swedish American Hall, home of musical venue Cafe Du Nord. The venture comes from a partnership between cocktail team The Bon Vivants (Trick Dog) and Ne Timeas Restaurant Group (Flour + Water, Central Kitchen, Salumeria). Aatxe's chef Ryan Pollnow, former chef de cuisine at both Flour + Water and Central Kitchen, staged at Mugaritz early in his career. The restaurant features 50 seats, a full bar with a focus on Spanish-inspired drinks and exclusively Spanish wines, an open kitchen with counter seats, and a menu of Basque-style plates, from pintxos to large entrées, served late every night. Aatxe, Swedish American Hall, 2170 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94114, 415-471-2977.
Chef-owner Ravi Kapur, known for his eight-year stint with Nancy Oakes at Boulevard and as opening executive chef of Prospect, together with Nopa and Nopalito owners Jeff Hanak and Allyson Jossel, opened Liholiho Yacht Club in January. The comfortable, narrow, playful restaurant in San Francisco's Lower Nob Hill invites diners to "grind, talk story, get jag" (eat, hang out and let loose) and enjoy a taste of Kapur's native Hawaii. Kapur's heritage driven concept began in 2011 as a sought-after pop-up around town; the name comes courtesy of Kapur's uncles on Oahu, some of whom lived on Liholiho Street, who threw large beach parties in the name of the fictitious "Liholiho Yacht Club" during Kapur's youth. The wall-size black-and-white photograph behind the bar is of Kapur's mother. Look for dishes such as marinated squid with crispy tripe, cabbage, peanuts, fried shallots and mint, or lamb ribs with dates, almonds and watermelon radishes. Liholiho Yacht Club, 871 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-440-5446.
Bastille Day at La Folie
Of all the celebratory Bastille Day meals going on in Francophile-rich San Francisco this year, we have to hand it to Roland Passot --- in his typical, twinkly-eyed fashion, the two five-course, prix-fixe menu options at his lovely restaurant La Folie really capture the holiday's spirit. Those with VC money may opt for the Royaliste for $175, featuring items such as foie gras torchon "Madame de Pompadour" with pickled pluots, shaved turnips and plum gastrique, and double consommé "Royale" of oxtail and duck with gold leaf "Louis XVI" duck sausage, bone marrow custard and truffles. The Revolution menu (for only $150) features (slightly) less gilded fare --- examples include Brentwood Farm corn soup "Robespierre" with mousseron mushrooms, lobster and chili oil; braised short rib "Bourguignonne" with roasted summer baby root vegetables and lardons. Sorry, Roland, either menu will ensure diners will eat like royalty. Prices exclude tax, gratuity and wine pairings. La Folie, 2316 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-776-5577.
Express Prix-fixe Lunch Monday-Friday
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana has an express prix-fixe lunch option weekdays from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. For $26.95, diners are offered three courses with items such as cebiche, chicken wings and Peruvian desserts, and guaranteed turnaround time is one hour or less. La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, Pier 1 1/2, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111, 415-397-8880.
Plank Serves Lunch
Jack London Square's newest --- and largest --- addition, plank restaurant, has started serving weekday lunch. The 50,000-square-foot, indoor-outdoor venue features dining and a full bar with 50 beers on tap, as well as bowling, bocce ball, sports viewing, billiards and arcade games. Adults only after 9 p.m. plank, 98 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607, 510-817-0980.
Thomas Keller Collaborates with Seabourn Cruise Lines
Fine dining aboard Seabourn is about to be elevated to another level with the cruise line's partnership with Thomas Keller (The French Laundry). Read more about this collaboration on GAYOT. The French Laundry, 6640 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599, 707-944-2380.
Brasserie S&P Now Under Loews
Loews took over ownership of San Francisco's former Mandarin Oriental hotel in early 2015. But business diners will be pleased to note that the hotel's restaurant Brasserie S&P remains open for business. Chef Adam Mali heads up the team, the sophisticated bar includes a focus on gin, and the casual-elegant, 90-seat dining room still serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Brasserie S&P, Loews Regency San Francisco, 222 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA 94104, 415-986-2020.
With Spring Comes Picnics at the Presidio & Fort Mason
Off The Grid's food truck gatherings become two richer each spring with the return of Picnic at the Presidio and Off the Grid: Fort Mason. Sundays from March 1-November 1, Picnic at the Presidio offers street cuisine enthusiasts the chance to picnic in style among the Presidio's greenery on the Main Post lawn in a leisurely environment that includes more than 30 food trucks and specialty purveyors, bocce ball, yoga classes, live entertainment, good views and plenty of Bloody Mary drink kits. Blankets and Adirondack chairs are available for rent. Friday evenings from March 6-October 30, 30-plus food trucks congregate at Fort Mason Center for a lively combination of outdoor food and entertainment, with Magnolia brews, cocktails and wines adding to the Friday-night feel and appeal. For a list of participating food trucks, visit offthegridsf.com.
Hottest Ticket in Town
Mission District restaurant Lazy Bear (an anagram of chef David Barzelay's last name) has given State Bird Provisions and other notoriously difficult-to-get-into San Francisco restaurants serious competition since its brick-and-mortar opening in July, 2014. Barzelay was a former lawyer with only brief staging experience when he began his underground dinner parties in 2009. Now, diners purchase nonrefundable tickets for one of two dinner seatings Tues.-Sat., each comprised of 40 guests and each treated as a dinner party --- cocktails are passed before guests are directed to their pre-assigned seats at two 22-foot communal tables. The kitchen is completely open to guests and Barzelay and staff actively interact with diners throughout the experience. Cuisine is modern American and ranges from 12-18 courses. Cost is $110-$150 per person, with optional beverage pairings for an additional $75. Service fee and tax are not included. Tickets are released in advance on a monthly basis; join the restaurant's mailing list for alerts. Dinner Tues.-Sat. Lazy Bear, 3416 19th St., San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-874-9921.
Dine, Give Food at Off The Grid
Off The Grid food truck market gatherings will host local food bank representatives on select dates through December to accept donations of nonperishable goods. Check the market schedule at www.offthegridsf.com for when and where to take food items, or make a direct donation using Square for mobile payment.
Former executive chef Kelly McCown has left Goose & Gander in St. Helena. Howard Ko is now the chef. Goose & Gander, 1245 Spring St., St. Helena, CA 94574, 707-967-8779.
Three years after purchasing Pascal Rigo's La Boulange Bakery brand for $100 million, Starbucks announced on June 16, 2015, that it will shutter all 23 La Boulange cafés located around the Bay Area by the end of September of this year. The cornflower blue awnings and signage of La Boulange bakery-cafés grace most of San Francisco's tonier neighborhoods, and the chain's quality baked goods have fed café-goers and provided picnics for locals since French-born Rigo founded the first La Boulange on Pine Street in 1996. Now, La Boulange baked goods fill the shelves of Starbucks, but Rigo has left Starbucks and his cafés will no longer be a part of Bay Area culture. We look forward to seeing what will come next for him in either the baking or restaurant realm.
Two closures around the Financial District will affect late-night diners and revelers. On Montgomery Street, dot-com leftover Bubble Lounge has finally burst after 17 years and who knows how many bottles of Champagne. Meanwhile another late-'90s-born venue, Globe from Joseph Manzare, closed after service on May 30, taking with it numerous memories of industry dining.
After more than 30 years, Annabelle's Bar & Bistro --- a consistently inviting, serviceable choice for tourists and suits near the Metreon and Moscone Center --- shuttered after service on May 15, 2015. Its website promises a transformation and reopening in July 2015, so stay tuned. Annabelle's Bar & Bistro, 68 Fourth St., San Francisco, CA 94103, no phone.
Famous vegan destination Millennium Restaurant closed at the end of April 2015. The restaurant had set the gold standard for organic, plant-based fine dining. According to a letter posted on Facebook, Millennium's lease is up and two of its owners are retiring. However, executive chef and co-owner Eric Tucker --- who has been with the restaurant since its 1994 inception --- has moved the concept to Oakland (5912 College Ave.). Millennium Restaurant, The Hotel California, 580 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102, no phone.
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Check out the 2015 edition of GAYOT's Annual Restaurant Issue, which features the Top 40 Restaurants in the US and more.