The restaurant economy, like the rest of the Bay Area's economy, has been booming these past couple of years, and 2015 is showing no slowdown in the openings department. We've got a trio of long-promised solo projects from three very talented chefs who currently don't have kitchens to speak of former Prospect chef Ravi Kapur, former Ubuntu chef Aaron London, and former Bar Agricole chef Brandon Jew as well as several big spinoffs in the works (Frances, Aziza, Perbacco, Hawker Fare), and the much anticipated revamp of Cafe du Nord at the hands of the Flour + Water crew, just to name a few. Below, I've ranked what I consider to be the most exciting upcoming openings among the crop that we currently know about.
An ambitious but tiny new upscale Mexican-California restaurant from Sons & Daughters alum Val Cantu is debuting directly after New Year's Eve, on January 2, and it promises to add a new foodinista destination to the already restaurant-rich Mission. The four-course tasting will start at a reasonable $45, and if the restaurant's Instagram account is any indication, this place should have some serious style going for it aided by Cantu's wife, who works for designer Ken Fulk and maybe at least one profane dish.
3115 22nd Street between Capp and South Van Ness
12. American Masala
Top Chef Masters contestant Suvir Saran, who has the honor of being the first chef to earn a Michelin star for an Indian restaurant in the U.S. at New York's Devi (from which he departed in 2012), has been working on a big new restaurant in the NeMa building at 10th and Market for over a year now. The only hints he's given about the menu are that it will be farm-to-table Californian, but through an Indian lens, and that it will be more American than it is Indian in concept, hence the name. The place was due to open this past fall, but as with most openings there's been a delay, so expect this place to sneak in before winter is over.
14 10th Street
11. China Live and Eight Tables
As I talked about back in August, restaurateur George Chen (Shanghai 1930) is at work on a huge new Chinatown project with multiple floors, and facets. The main component is China Live, a retail market, noodle bar, and 155-seat restaurant with "five specialized exhibition kitchens." If that weren't enough, the second floor of the 30,000-square-foot space will house a fine-dining restaurant called Eight Tables, which will in fact only have eight tables and will serve a 12-course seasonal Chinese prix fixe for around $200. And the top floor will house a cocktail lounge called Madame's Parlour. Look for this place to open by March or April if all goes well.
10. Bon Marché Brasserie
The somewhat delayed spinoff project from the AQ team, a huge (125-seat) all-day restaurant in the base of Twitter HQ on Mid-Market, was due to open by the end of 2014. I don't have an revised ETA for them just yet, but look for this big, French-inspired brasserie to come along sometime by the middle of the year. Here were the original plans as laid out way back in February 2013. Inevitably this place will be bustling, and will be one of the anchors of the city's newest dining 'hood along with The Perennial, American Masala, and Alta CA across the street.
10th and Market
9. Hawker Fare's New SF Location
We heard the good news in November that talented Oakland chef and ever-expanding empire-builder James Syhabout was finally bringing something to SF in the form of a second location of his Thai-street-food-inspired Hawker Fare. The rice-bowl-focused spot has been doing steady business the last couple of years in its unassuming digs near Broadway and West Grand Avenue in Oakland, but he'll be making a potentially big splash in 2015 in the Mission taking over the enormous space that was just vacated by Amber Dhara. With Hawker Fare's relatively low price point, and the addition of a full bar, this could definitely prove to be a popular spot.
680 Valencia Street at 18th
8. Perbacco's Unnamed Brasserie Spinoff
Also last month we learned that the space at the corner of the Bloomingdale's store on Mission that's been the home of 'wichcraft for the last nine years was being taken over by the Perbacco team of Umberto Gibin and chef Staffan Terje to open an as-yet-unnamed non-Italian restaurant that they're billing as a brasserie and as the foodinistas can tell you, brasseries are trending big time.
7. Cafe du Nord and Aatxe
Along with the reopening of the Swedish American Hall as a brand new, acoustic music venue and a new venue for Noise Pop there will be a street-level Spanish spot from Central Kitchen chef Ryan Pollnow called Aatxe, and a full-service restaurant and bar from the Flour + Water and Trick Dog teams downstairs in the former Cafe du Nord venue space which will now be more restaurant than venue. The menu's been kept under wraps so far, but hints are that it's going to be pretty casual with an "approachable bar menu," featuring stuff like burgers, salt cod croquettes, and maybe meaty items from Salumeria. The complex is supposed to be at least partly open by February for the Noise Pop festival, but it's unclear whether the restaurants will both be open by then or not.
2170 Market Street at Sanchez
6. Aaron London's Unnamed Mission Project
London, who was short-listed for a James Beard Award while working at Ubuntu shortly before the Napa vegetarian spot closed for good, has been working to get his own restaurant open for several years now, and as he announced in November, it's finally taking shape. He's inked a deal for the former South End Bar 'n' Grill at 26th and Valencia, and given that he was trained as a fish butcher at New York's acclaimed Blue Hill before moving west, you can expect a menu that's going to be both vegetarian- and pescatarian-friendly, with a few meat options too. He's aiming for a spring opening.
1499 Valencia Street at 26th
5. The Perennial
Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz, two of the people who helped launch Mission Street Food, and subsequently Mission Chinese Food and Commonwealth, have a big new project headed to the Mid-Market vicinity in 2015. As we discussed earlier, it's an ambitiously sustainable effort where they hope to complete an entire "closed loop" cycle of food growth, waste disposal, and regeneration, composting their own waste and growing most of their own vegetables using that compost in a West Oakland greenhouse. While saying they don't want the menu to read like a Portlandia sketch, it still might, kinda. Nevertheless, Myint and Leibowitz have never disappointed in the past, and this project should reflect all of their good taste as well as their idealism. The goal is for a February opening.
59 Ninth Street at Mission
4. Mister Jiu
This passion project from former Bar Agricole guy and SF native Brandon Jew is most definitely going to create buzz, and, he hopes, will draw a new generation of diners back to Chinatown. Using the pre-Americanized version of his own surname in the restaurant's name, Jew is aiming to reimagine Chinese cuisine using his own diverse skill set, and he'll be doing so in a renowned, historic space the Grant Avenue digs formerly home to two big SF Chinese restaurants dating back to the late 1800s: the famed Hang Far Low, and Four Seas. The opening is still TBA.
731 Grant Avenue
3. Melissa Perello's Unnamed Frances Spinoff In Pacific Heights
Chef Melissa Perello, who earned wide acclaim, some enduring popularity, and a ton of press upon opening the diminutive Frances in the Castro in 2009, is ready to do something a bit bigger in a whole new neighborhood. She's signed a lease for the former Baker & Banker space at Octavia and Bush, which was also, notably, the original home of Quince and a gorgeously perfect space for her to spread her wings again. She hasn't revealed a ton of details beyond the fact that she's hoping to do something very similar to Frances, but on a larger scale. Look for updates in the coming months.
1701 Octavia Street at Bush
As we saw last week via some Ulterior Epicure preview pics, the new downtown spinoff of Aziza sounds pretty fancy, though still Moroccan and in a similar haute California vein. The place should be opening in January in the space adjacent to Trou Normand in the base of the Yelp building, and chef Mourad Lahlou recently told Inside Scoop that the design "is modeled after the blueprint of a Moroccan home," with smaller rooms leading off of each other. Following along from Aziza is talented pastry chef Melissa Chou, who's been nominated for the James Beard Award for best pastry chef every year in recent memory.
140 New Montgomery
1. Liholiho Yacht Club
Easily the most exciting thing coming up this year will be the new kitchen stage being built for chef Ravi Kapur. After leaving his post as opening chef at Prospect, and having had many years of training at Boulevard where he ultimately became chef de cuisine, Kapur decided to get back to his roots and do some really interesting, Hawaiian-inspired, pan-Asian-meets-California food at his roving pop-up, dubbed Liholiho Yacht Club. After some earlier hints that a new collaboration with the team behind Nopa to open his own restaurant at 871 Sutter Street would be something entirely different, Kapur announced last summer that the new restaurant would follow the path started with the pop-up and would also be called Liholiho Yacht Club, inspired in part by casual "pop-ups" Kapur's uncle used to do in Hawaii 30 years ago. For hints about the food, check out Facebook. An opening date is still TBA, but it may be fairly soon in the new year.
871 Sutter Street between Leavenworth and Jones