San Francisco: Restaurant Openings
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 June 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 as of June 2015, 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.
Oakland favorite CommonWealth Cafe & Public House has a new Emeryville baby sister, the CommonWealth Micropub, located on Adeline Street in what's known to locals as the Triangle District. The wee spot may be short on space --- tight tables in the nicely appointed interior accommodate about 15, while outdoor tables offer a bit of stretching room for 20 or so more --- but it's big on charm and intent thanks to the owners, husband-and-wife team Ross (a Scottish native) and Ahna Adair. There is no bar, only table service, with a daily changing selection of about eight to ten draught ales, lagers and ciders. However, the U.K.-inspired menu boasts nourishing flavors: Scotch broth, robust samosas, Yorkshire pudding and shepherd’s pie. Note: All service charges are included in the bill, no tips required. Lunch Sun., Dinner Tues.-Sun. CommonWealth Micropub, 3986 Adeline St., Emeryville, CA 94608, 510-858-5122.
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 in what looks like May if all goes according to plan. 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, No phone.
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.
Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson Team Up on Loco'L
Maverick chef Roy Choi’s upcoming healthy fast food spot in Watts, Loco’L, is projected to open in late summer or early fall. Choi (Kogi, POT) has teamed up with San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson (Coi), who will also open a Loco’L in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. The chefs share a goal of “revolutionizing” fast food. Healthy burgers will be made with grains and tofu, buns will be nutrient-dense, and they will be priced at only 99 cents. Choi insists there will be no sodas, only agua frescas.
Drought Dining --- Early Summer Weather Means Eating Al Fresco
All sun and no rain has led diners to enjoy some early summer-style dining options around the bay. In Oakland, the Dock at the Lake Chalet has opened for business, featuring al fresco dining and a lively bar on Lake Merritt with gondolas parked tableside. In San Francisco near AT&T Park, The Yard at Mission Rock is a new shipping-container pop-up village at the corner of Third Street and Terry Francois Boulevard, featuring street food from Off The Grid, an Anchor Brewing beer garden and an al fresco wine bar among many offerings. Remember --- all this pretty weather comes at a cost. As of April 15, California diners receive water at their tables by request only.
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.
Rose Pistola has a new executive chef in Steve Walker, who joins the North Beach restaurant from Corso in Berkeley, where he was chef de cuisine. Walker will focus on updating the Italian menu with new programs such as whole animal butchery, salumi made in-house, house-made pastas and daily changing seasonal menus. Rose Pistola, 532 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133, 415-399-0499.
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 --- will move the concept to Oakland. Millennium Restaurant, The Hotel California, 580 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102, no phone.
After a promising first year, Verbena --- sister restaurant to Gather in Berkeley --- closed abruptly on March 23. It reopened March 26, under the same ownership, as Reverb Kitchen & Bar, with chef Ryan Shelton in charge of the kitchen. Cuisine is comfort food made from local, seasonal ingredients, and a focus on craft cocktails, with dinner nightly and brunch on weekends. Verbena, 2323 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109, no phone.
Ala Romana has closed unexpectedly. The restaurant from Allegro Romano owner Lorenzo Logoreci opened in late 2013. The property is for rent. Ala Romana, 1098 Jackson St., San Francisco, CA 94133, no phone.
After only several months, Game --- the "new American exotic" restaurant from Sachin Chopra, located inside the former Masa's space --- has already closed. Chopra shut the restaurant after service March 7, but will transition it into a second All Spice, Chopra's Indian standout on the Peninsula, within the week. According to the website, the new All Spice opens Friday, March 13. Game, Executive Hotel Vintage Court, 648 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108, no phone.
Radius on Folsom Street has closed. The restaurant caused a splash when it opened in 2010, for its notable focus on using ingredients found within a 100-mile radius. A portion of the space, still owned by Radius owner Jon Whitehead, has already morphed into a casual café and wine bar called Carafe; Whitehead will transform the rest of the property into a second restaurant in the months to come. Radius, 1123 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94103, no phone.
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