After a year lying empty, the former Wo Hing General Store space at 584 Valencia Street (which was also the original home of The Slanted Door in the 90s) has been rechristened as Urchin, a modern, California-style French bistro from the husband-and-wife team behind Ame at the St. Regis and Terra/Bar Terra up in St. Helena.
Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani have long ties to the local restaurant scene, and this marks their second San Francisco restaurant and their third in the Bay Area fourth if you count Bar Terra, the casual next-door option to their flagship, Terra, which shares the same kitchen.
I first talked about Urchin in June, and the team made quick work of the renovation, taking Wo Hing's minimalist aesthetic and adding a mural (drawn by Sone), new booths painted international orange, and a series of mirrors and cafe tables on the mezzanine to give the space a bistro feel. (Check out photos from Eater and Urban Daddy.) For this project, they've partnered with Ame chef Michael Morrison, who serves as chef, and Ame's general manager Susan Naderi Johnston, as Eater reports, and they're taking menu inspiration from the current bistronomiques trend in Paris, putting modern twists on classic bistro dishes like cassoulet; baked mussels in escargot butter; and a vegetarian version of brandade (usually made with salt cod). See the full menu here.
Doumani grew up in the Napa Valley as the daughter of Carl Doumani, owner of Stags' Leap Winery, and she met Sone in the kitchen at Wolfgang Puck's Spago in L.A., where she was training as a pastry chef and baker under Nancy Silverton. Sone grew up in Miyagi, Japan and went to culinary school in Osaka, and after opening Spago Tokyo and working for four years at Spago Hollywood, he and Doumani opened Terra in 1988 to much acclaim.
Doumani earlier said, by way of explanation for the name "Urchin," that it symbolizes "a time when kids were allowed to run free" in the streets, as street urchins but there's also obviously a direct reference to sea urchin, which appears on the menu in a signature spaghettini dish, with egg yolk.
The place is now open for dinner only, and you should note that like Wo Hing, there is a full bar, and cocktails are being mixed by Ame and Comal alum Rafael Jimenez Rivera. Brunch is likely to be added in the coming weeks.
Urchin - 584 Valencia Street between 16th and 17th - Open Sunday to Thursday, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., and weekends 5:30 to 11 p.m.