San Francisco: Restaurant Openings
Manresa executive chef/owner David Kinch, head baker Avery Ruzicka and Andrew Burnham have partnered to open a brick-and-mortar shop ManresaBread, inspired by the local farmer's market and pop-up retail success of Ruzicka's small-batch breads and pastries. On offer: levain and other classic breads, sticky buns, monkey bread and innovative selections such as kuri squash streusel muffins and polenta sourdough made at a permanent bakery near the retail space. ManresaBread, 276 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos, CA 95030, no phone.
James Syhabout is expanding his mini-empire into San Francisco with a second location of his popular Oakland eatery Hawker Fare on Valencia Street in the Mission. Similar to the Oakland venue, San Francisco's Hawker Fare features "funky, spicy delicacies" with mainly Thai and Laotian flavors, in a menu spanning snacks, salads, one-pot and specialty selections, grilled food and rice and wok-tossed dishes. Group dining is encouraged as dishes are meant for sharing. Upstairs, a bar called Holy Mountain features cocktails referencing New Orleans, Haiti, Trinidad and Brazil, regions that celebrate Carnivale and Mardi Gras. The bar and lounge, dubbed an Everyman's watering hole, promises to be pretense-free and always evolving, with bar bites that may include dried squid jerky, pork rinds and roasted peanuts. Both Holy Mountain and the drink menu at Hawker Fare's bar are designed by Christ Aivaliotis and Troy Bayless, the bar duo behind all the beverage programs at Syhabout's properties. Hawker Fare, 680 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-800-9000.
Manos Nouveau, located for a short time in the Mission, has reopened in nouveau digs in the Castro. The dramatic Latin-French restaurant from Manuel Montalban features large picture windows and cushioned banquettes. Local artwork lines the walls, curated by partner, creative director and artist Caitlin James. The chef is Gualberto Nic Camara, who Montalban met when they were both at Fresca. Food mixes Latin and European influences, and wines are biodynamic or sustainably farmed from South America and the Iberian Peninsula. Dinner Tues.-Sun. Manos Nouveau, 3970 17th St., San Francisco, CA 94114, 415-872-5507.
As of December 16, 2014, The Progress is open for dinner nightly. It's a project from the busy people at State Bird Provisions, located within the same building. Expect prix-fixe menus wherein chosen dishes are served to a whole table, family style. The Progress, 1525 Fillmore St., San Francisco, CA 94115, 415-673-1294.
Offal celebrant Chris Cosentino (Incanto), together with partner Oliver Wharton, have opened Cockscomb on Fourth Street in SoMa. The approachable, industrial 100-seat restaurant inside a former shoe factory (and formerly Zuppa) features two floors, art by Jeremy Fish and Sam Flores, and touches of Cosentino's signature dark wit (including a row of taxidermy roosters). Food is, as expected, a blend of whole butchery and fresh, local ingredients (beef heart tartare; duck fat cauliflower; Grandma Rosalie's tripe; wood-oven-roasted pig's head to share), and there’s an oyster bar, wood-fired-oven and plancha dishes. Two full bars feature wines, beers and Negroni on tap, as well as cocktails showcasing local gins. Dinner Mon.-Sat. Cockscomb, 564 Fourth St., San Francisco, CA 94107, 415-974-0700.
The Lower Haight neighborhood's new little bakery, Choux, from French owner Laura Athuil, specializes exclusively in French cream puffs. Pastry puffs are filled with chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, coffee, salted caramel and a range of other custards. Catering is a specialty. Open Sun.-Thurs. Choux Bakery, 248 Fillmore St., San Francisco, CA 94117, 415-757-0722.
398 Restaurant & Bar touts "Euro-American" cuisine from executive chef Sam Fechheimer (Delano Hotel Miami Beach, Il Cane Rosso); Fechheimer also helms nearby Klyde Cafe & Wine Bar. Menu items lean rich but affordable, including grilled scallops in a mushroom-truffle cream sauce, Caesar salad topped with Maine lobster, and a signature millefeuille dessert. Cocktails are a focus, crafted by Brian Felley and Mo Hodges of former bar Big, supplemented by a short list of local and international wines. The dining room (previously Max's on the Square) can seat 124. Dinner nightly. 398 Restaurant & Bar, 398 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102, 415-654-5061.
Sachin Chopra, chef of Peninsula favorite All Spice, has brought 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 features 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, 415-874-9481.
Aatxe (pronounced aah-CHAY) is a forthcoming 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); the duo will also combine forces to reopen the downstairs Cafe Du Nord after a remodel. 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 will feature 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, no phone.
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.
Changes in Potrero
For years, Jocelyn Bulow seemingly had a monopoly on casual French elegance on Potrero Hill with his beloved Chez Papa and Chez Maman bistros. With the end of 2014, Chez Papa closed, and now there will be changes to Chez Maman as well. The old location of Chez Papa, still under Bulow ownership, will transform mid-March into a new Chez Maman. The old Chez Maman will then become casual offshoot Chez Maman Rotisserie. Bulow also has a stake in Mexican cuisine, and his Papito Potrero has a new chef in Efren Villalobos (Mamacitas, Mexico DF, Marino, Papito West). (On a side note, Bulow has sold his property Papito West at 425 A Hayes St. in Hayes Valley to general manager David Alexander.)
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.
Chinese New Year at Hakkasan
Hakkasan will celebrate Chinese New Year and the Year of the Sheep with an optional eight-course New Year's feast offered from February 9-March 1, 2015. Menu items will include traditional dim sum, spicy prawns, stir-fry black pepper rib-eye and grilled Chilean sea bass in honey as well as seafood dishes such as abalone and dry scallop fried rice. A "kumquat wishing tree" will end the meal to sweeten the new year; on February 19, local lion dance troupes will perform around the restaurant, bringing good luck and representing fortune, wisdom and joy. The menu will cost $138.88 per person (in accordance with the Chinese tradition that eight is an auspicious number); à la carte dishes will also be available during the month for $20.88 per item. Hakkasan, One Kearny, 1 Kearny St., San Francisco, CA 94108, 415-829-8148.
New Full Bar at Boxing Room
Mardi Gras season got a little more festive this year at Boxing Room, the New Orleans-inspired restaurant from the Absinthe Group located in Hayes Valley. The restaurant boasts a new full bar --- outfitted in vintage New Orleans details such as brass instruments and an old Saints helmet --- and cocktail menu from Absinthe Group's bar operations director Jonny Raglin, and opening bartender Bobby Baker returned after a stint managing six popular local watering holes under Future Bars. Executive chef Justin Simoneaux has expanded the seafood bar (marinated mussels, Louisiana-style barbecued shrimp) and added a sampler called "Taste of the Swamp": turtle soup, fried frogs’ legs and alligator sauce piquant. Boxing Room, 399 Grove St., San Francisco, CA 94102, 415-430-6590.
Nine Years for Amelie Le Bar à Vin
Germain Michel and Samie Didda are celebrating nine years for their flagship wine bar Amelie Le Bar à Vin, a hip, romantic Polk Street enclave (there is a sister wine bar of the same name in Manhattan, and the duo also own Michel Bistro in Oakland, Calif., with Jean-Michel Fabregon). To celebrate, Amelie in San Francisco will now open and begin its two-hour happy hour daily at 5 p.m. instead of 5:30 p.m., and the bar and lounge has launched a new menu of French and Spanish nibbles, as well as pizza from Pizza Agricola. Look for live music and DJ events Wednesdays from 6 p.m.-9 p.m., Saturday from 6 p.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Amelie Le Bar à Vin, 1754 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-292-6916.
Forthcoming Book from Atelier Crenn
Atelier Crenn chef-owner Dominique Crenn will release a book in November 2015 called Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste. Her restaurant was named one of GAYOT's 2012 Top 10 New Restaurants in the U.S. Atelier Crenn, 3127 Fillmore St., San Francisco, CA 94123, 415-440-0460.
White Tablecloths Return to Michael Mina
As a nod of respect to executive chef Ron Siegel's cuisine, Financial District restaurant Michael Mina has upped the quality of experience in the dining room. White tablecloths have returned, and the room features fewer tables to decrease noise and increase intimacy. In addition, the restaurant has moved to a mainly prix-fixe menu format: four courses (with amuses and other additions) for $95 per person, with vegetarian options available; Siegel's nine-course "Ketto" tasting menu is $165 and requires whole table participation. A short à la carte menu is available at the bar for dinner and during lunch. Michael Mina, 252 California St., San Francisco, CA 94111, 415-397-9222.
Manresa Back In Business
After five months of reconstruction due to a fire in July, David Kinch and the team at Manresa have re-opened for regular dinner service as of January 2, 2015. Reservations can be made online at manresarestaurant.com, by calling the restaurant or via OpenTable. Manresa, 320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030, 408-354-4330.
The French Laundry Closed Temporarily for Renovations
The French Laundry closed temporarily for extensive renovations, including a new kitchen. (The dining room will remain unchanged.) Construction could take months, and the restaurant has confirmed closure at least through February. Stay tuned for alternative ways to experience The French Laundry in the interim. The French Laundry, 6640 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599, 707-944-2380.
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.
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company's 15th Holiday Season Events and Specials
San Mateo County’s Half Moon Bay Brewing Company will commemorate its 15th holiday season with different events and specials. They will host a Funky Sweater & Sneaky Peat Winter Ale Release Party to introduce the new big, malty Sneaky Peat Ale. A “Funkiest Sweater” winner will be announced for a special prize, while everyone else in their funky sweater will also receive little gifts. The party will take place on Friday, December 5, from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. You can also kick off an early New Year with the brewing company, who will host a family-friendly “Early Bird New Year’s Eve” from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. on Tuesday, December 31. A menu and drink specials will be available. Lastly, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company will begin their “When it Rains, We Pour” specials from December 31, 2014, through March 31, 2015. If there is an 80% or more chance of rain in the Half Moon Bay area, drinks will be offered at happy hour pricing. Simply show them the forecast on your smartphone. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, 390 Capistrano Rd., Princeton by the Sea, CA 94019, 650-728-2739.
Verbena has undergone a chef shuffle. Sean Baker is no longer with the project, and Ryan Shelton is now executive chef. Shelton's path through Bay Area kitchens includes stints as chef de cuisine at Baume, pastry chef at Chez TJ and executive chef at Le Cigare Volant and Palo Alto Grill. Eric Fenster and Ari Derfel remain co-owners of both Berkeley's Gather, where Charis Wahl is executive chef, and Verbena, keeping the sister relationship between the two restaurants. (Notably, Baker and Gather have also parted ways.) Verbena, 2323 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-441-2323.
Florio on Fillmore Street has a new executive chef in Colin Dewey, most recently executive chef of Zero Zero. Dewey has plenty of French and Italian cooking in his background, having worked at San Francisco's Bix, New York's Del Posto and as Lidia Bastianich's sous chef at Felidia. He spent this winter on a cooking sabbatical, staging in Piemonte, Fruili, Umbria and on the Amalfi Coast. His menu at Florio will focus on the Mediterranean stretch "from Provence to Naples." Florio, 1915 Fillmore St., San Francisco, CA 94115, 415-775-4300.
The outlandish restaurant-performance experience supperclub has shut down after a decade in operation. supperclub, 657 Harrison St., San Francisco, CA 94107, no phone.
After two and a half years, The Abbot's Cellar closed at the end of January. According to the restaurant's announcement on Facebook, "it is becoming more and more difficult to be profitable in this industry in San Francisco, especially for a labor-intensive, fine dining restaurant." However, the group's second venue, The Monk's Kettle, "...is going nowhere" in the best sense: not only is the casual, craft-beer-centric gastropub thriving, but it now has a lively outdoor patio to mitigate crowds. The Abbot’s Cellar, 742 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110, no phone.
Another year, another round of restaurant closures. In San Francisco, five-story (and storied) Empress of China said good-bye on New Year's Eve after 48 years of white-tablecloth dining in Chinatown. Over on Union Street, relatively new French outpost Cafe Des Amis shuttered January 4, and down in the Mission District, five-year-old Nombe did not greet 2015, closing after service on December 31, though the sushi restaurant company will still provide catering, private events and sushi-making classes. Call 415-235-7745 for information or to book. In the Napa Valley, étoile at Domaine Chandon shuttered January 1, ending its fine dining run. Going forward, the space will be used for tastings and private events. Also in wine country, Healdsburg's 15-year Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar closed permanently after one last New Year's bash. Adieu to all!
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