Les Clos will open September 20, 2014, bringing new wine bar-café blood to San Francisco's SOMA district. The all-day enclave for food, wine and gourmet retail will be the latest venture from Mark Bright, Saison's owner-sommelier who also owns Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant and Vinyl Wine Bar, both in San Francisco. With Les Clos, Bright hopes to bring a French wine cave feel to the experience --- the grey walls are decorated with original fifteenth-century maps of Burgundy, and chocolate leather couches, a dramatic natural wood bar and communal area, as well as 10 tables for dining, lend rustic intimacy to the 1,200-foot space. Chef is Shawn Gawle, former pastry chef of Saison, also trained in savory French technique, who has planned a rich, French-style menu for Les Clos' café: escargots, cheeses, caviar service, moules Provencale, croques monsieur and broiled oysters are some of the promised offerings. The 5,000-bottle wine list, including 40 by the glass, will be exclusively French with a focus on Burgundy, Bright's preferred region. Partner Cara Patricia Higgins, also a Saison veteran, will oversee the wine and drink program as well as operations. Les Clos, 234 Townsend St., San Francisco, CA 94107, 415-795-1422.
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. Game, 650 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108, 415-392-4666, 888-388-3932.
Located in tony Hayes Valley, helmed by chef Corey Lee (Benu, The French Laundry) and focused on modern French bistro cuisine, Monsieur Benjamin is one of San Francisco's most noted new restaurants of the summer. Lee has created an appealing menu of bistro classics --- escargots, mussels, steak tartare appetizers, and mains such as blanquette de veau, steak frites, and grilled fish amandine --- plied with his famed technique. Environs are sleek, urbane, sexy and approachable, with glass-heavy décor offset by old-school French design touches, such as the heft of true bistro tableware. The restaurant is also making waves for being open until 1 a.m. nightly, a rarity in San Francisco. Look for lunch in the coming weeks. Dinner nightly. Monsieur Benjamin, 451 Gough St., San Francisco, CA 94102, 415-403-2233.
Chef Alexander Alioto, former chef and partner of Seven Hills in San Francisco, has opened Plin in San Francisco's Mission District. Alioto serves mainly Italian seafood and handmade pasta dishes at this neighborhood restaurant. Chuck Furuya and Alioto's father, Nunzo Alioto Jr., is in charge of the wine program, which features wines from Nunzo's own cellar. Plin also serves cocktails made with hand-pressed juices and house-made infusions. In addition to seafood and pasta, the menu features a host of vegetarian options, meat, game and poultry. Alioto's mother, Joanne Alioto, oversaw the design of the restaurant's interior, which has a warm, contemporary feel and incorporate earth and sea elements. Plin, 280 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94103, 415-655-9510.
Expanding from southern California is Napoléon's Macarons, with locations set to open in two Bay Area Westfield mall properties this fall. The pâtisserie specializes in the classic French treat, but also takes it in new directions --- covered in chocolate, for example, or sandwiched with ice cream. Look for it in the Westfield San Francisco Centre and Santa Clara's Westfield Valley Fair.
Townie restaurant and bar has opened on University Avenue in downtown Berkeley, offering dinner until midnight six nights a week. Executive chef is 27-year-old Dana Ryan, a native Bostonian, who has worked at State Bird Provisions, Gather and RN74. Owner and manager is Nima Shokat of popular Berkeley local hangout Missouri Lounge. The restaurant features seasonal small plates and a strong cocktail focus, as well as 16 draft beers and an international wine list. The dining room seats 75, with several communal tables. Free parking is available in the rear of the building. Dinner Tues.-Sun. Townie, 1799 University Ave., Berkeley, CA 94703, 510-356-4903.
Michel Bistro is a new Provencal-style brasserie/gastropub in Oakland's Grand Lake district from the team behind Amelie wine bars in San Francisco and New York City, Germain Michel and Samie Didda, together with Jean-Michel Fabregon. Executive chef is Anthony Salguero (Plumed Horse, Commonwealth, Saison). The 60-seat restaurant and full bar features typical French brasserie cuisine and a drink focus on pastis. Brunch highlights are oysters and savory French fare such as croques monsieur. Dinner Tues.-Sun., Brunch Sat.-Sun. Michel Bistro, 3343 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, CA 94610, 510-836-8737.
Michael Mina has opened not one but two new restaurants inside 101 California Street in San Francisco's Financial District, both in partnership with chef Ken Tominaga of Sonoma County's Hana Japanese Restaurant. The first is Pabu, a refined, modern Japanese izakaya and sushi bar. Featuring an atmosphere both rustic and urbane, the restaurant has a full bar, 22-seat sushi bar and omakase experience from chef Tominaga and young sushi chef Yoji Harada (Pabu Baltimore), and a warm dining room built to welcome sophisticated FiDi diners. Lunch at Pabu is served Monday through Friday, and dinner nightly. The Ramen Bar offers a fast-casual Tokyo-style ramen experience for lunch Monday through Friday, with some outdoor terrace seating. Pabu & The Ramen Bar, 101 California St., San Francisco, CA 94111, Pabu: 415-668-7228; The Ramen Bar: 415-684-1570.
Big 4 Restaurant in The Scarlet Huntington got a refresh under new owners the Puccini Group, and has a new chef in Kevin Scott (Jardinière, Hog Island Oyster Co., Paragon Restaurant). Longtime fans should find the spot updated but mostly unchanged --- the piano, deep booths and white tablecloths remain. Hog Island Oyster Co. reopened in expanded digs within the Ferry Building, taking over the adjacent, former Ferry Plaza Seafood space. The roomier interior features double the seating and a new, large oyster bar. On the brand-new list, Trou Normand has caused quite a stir since its March unveiling. Run by Bar Agricole's team, the 50ish-seat bar and restaurant sits within the 1925 Pacific Telephone building at 140 New Montgomery, also home to an upcoming project from Aziza's Mourad Lahlou. Chef is Salvatore Cracco (Adesso, Bar Agricole), cuisine leans country French, and charcuterie is a strong focus (as are cocktails and trou Normand spirits). On the fun side, the Mission District's new Urban Putt caters to a hip, mini-golf-loving crowd, with 14 indoor holes, cocktails and American food.
New Cookbook from Tacolicious
Tacolicious has a new cookbook called Tacolicious: Festive Recipes for Tacos, Snacks, Cocktails and More. It delivers easy instructions on how to make all-time favorites like classic guacamole, delicious margaritas, homemade horchata and a variety of tacos. Read more on GAYOT's Tumblr. Tacolicious, 2031 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123, 415-346-1966.
6.0 Earthquake Rattles Napa
An earthquake measuring 6.0 hit southern Napa County at 3:20 a.m., Sunday, August 24, causing serious damage in Napa and felt widely through wine country and the East and North Bay. It was the largest Bay Area tremblor since 1989's 6.9 Loma Prieta quake. Aftershocks hit Sunday morning and were warned as possibilities for several days. Napa saw gas and water main breaks, rubble falling from building facades and interiors, street buckling and plenty of broken bottles, glassware and other damage, especially downtown. Power was out for roughly 60,000 people and businesses. Reports of restaurant damage include moderate damage at the Bounty Hunter Wine Bar that spared the spot's collection of most highly prized wines; fallen bricks filling parts of the interior of Don Perico Mexican restaurant; and Carpe Diem Wine Bar on Second Street saw extensive damage to the exterior. Affected wineries and tasting rooms include Saintsbury Winery, Matthiasson Wines, Silver Oak and many others. Bounty Hunter Wine Bar, 975 First St., Napa, CA 94559, 800-943-9463.
Manresa Closed Due To Fire
Chef-proprietor David Kinch's Los Gatos restaurant Manresa has closed due to extensive fire damage. The blaze reportedly began early in the morning on Monday, July 7, 2014. No one was hurt, but structural damage includes much of the roof and one side of the restaurant. "What happened in the early morning hours [on July 7th] was a setback," said Kinch in an official statement. "Manresa was a restaurant but it was much more than that. It is a family to us, one of shared vision, and of the pleasures and conviviality of the table, a gathering place of friends and family to share." Kinch thanked the Santa Clara County Fire Department for their quick response, and members of Manresa's local and international community of friends, guests and colleagues for their support. "We believe our mission as a team and our small contribution to the industry is much larger than this setback," Kinch continued. "We will be back, not just in this building but in many other ways." Manresa, 320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030, 408-354-4330.
Restaurant Michael Mina has a new lead sommelier. Evan Hufford comes to the restaurant from a year at Saison, where he was head sommelier and then restaurant director. Before that he was with L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Joël Robuchon Restaurant in Las Vegas, and sommelier at Arizona's Kai restaurant at Wild Horse Pass Resort for five years. Michael Mina, 252 California St., San Francisco, CA 94111, 415-397-9222.
Gather in Berkeley has a new executive chef. Charis Wahl has taken over from owner Sean Baker, who departed Gather's kitchen to focus on his new San Francisco project, Verbena. Wahl was opening sous chef at Gather and rose to chef de cuisine. She has also worked at Rivoli Restaurant and Ozumo. Gather, 2200 Oxford St., Berkeley, CA 94704, 510-809-0400.
Fans of diminutive South of Market favorite Marlowe should note that the restaurant has left its digs at 330 Townsend St. to prepare for a reopening two blocks north in Coco500's former space at 500 Brannan St. Look for the launch in the new, roomier location in early October. Marlowe, 330 Townsend St., San Francisco, CA 94107, no phone.
Chef-owner Henry Vortriede has announced the upcoming closure of his ten-year-old Oakland restaurant Montclair Bistro, slated for the end of September. The quaint property has been sold to two fellow Oakland chefs, Joe Schnell and Tracey Belock (Tribune Tavern), who plan to reopen it as Chowhaus in the fall. Montclair Bistro, 6118 Medau Pl., Oakland, CA 94611, 510-482-8282.
Loretta Keller's nine-year-old Coco500 closed after dinner service on July 9, 2014. The elegant little SoMa small plates restaurant was beloved for much more than its cocktail program and deep-fried green beans; Keller's cuisine (as at Bizou, her previous restaurant in the same location) stayed ahead of, and often sparked, trend. In a stroke of symmetry, Keller has turned the space over to another strong female restaurant team --- chef Jennifer Puccio and restaurateur Anna Weinberg, who together with Weinberg's husband James Nicholas own Park Tavern and The Cavalier. Marlowe closed on September 14, 2014, to prepare for the move into the new, roomier location, with reopening targeted for early October. Keller's remaining San Francisco restaurant is Seaglass inside the Exploratorium. Coco500, 500 Brannan St., San Francisco, CA 94107, no phone.
It's time for San Francisco to say goodbye to the romance and luxe tasting menus of 28-year destination restaurant Fleur de Lys, scene of countless proposals and anniversaries over the decades. Chef Hubert Keller and his wife and partner Chantal shuttered the restaurant after dinner service on June 28, 2014. Chef Keller's youthful dynamism (a regular media personality, he is also an enthusiastic live DJ) always provided charming contrast to Fleur de Lys' opulent, tented ambience --- but it was that same sense of showmanship that made his new French cuisine sparkle, and why the restaurant continued to flourish even after a devastating fire and total revamp in 2002. We look forward to whatever Keller has next up his sleeve. San Francisco's Burger Bar, Burger Bar Las Vegas and Fleur by Hubert Keller, also in Las Vegas, remain open. Fleur de Lys, 777 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94109, no phone.
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