Happy New Year, everyone. Though we've got a bunch of good stuff to look forward to, restaurant-wise, in 2015, the last week of the year brought with it its usual surprise closing announcements.
Etoile, the iconic, 37-year-old wine country restaurant at Domaine Chandon, made the big announcement that it was closing on New Year's Eve. As Inside Scoop reports, the restaurant existed separately from the winery, and complications with ABC regulations governing the amount of wine that can be purchased by a lessee from an onsite winery ended up being the nail in the coffin for the place. Chef Perry Hoffman, who grew up in Yountville (his grandparents sold the French Laundry to Thomas Keller), will be on board until January 16, but by spring the space will transition into an expansion of the winery's tasting room. Sad.
The other big surprise, closure-wise, is the news that four-year-old Cow Hollow brasserie Café Des Amis (2000 Union Street) is giving up the ghost too. As Eater notes, the place has seen some lackluster reviews and a parade of different chefs in that time, so despite the fact that the French brasserie concept is making a big comeback all over town, this may not be a complete surprise. The owners claim there was a lease issue, but this is a gorgeous restaurant space and hopefully it won't stay empty for long.
Also in the news, downtown British pub Elephant & Castle (424 Clay Street) is closed, and will be becoming the new location of Fish & Farm. The existing Fish & Farm on Taylor is likely closing, and the lease is up in May, though Inside Scoop does not have confirmation of restaurateur Michael Najjar's plans.
Ryan Scott closed his very short-lived gastropub concept Mason over in Potrero Hill, as Eater reports.
And this was, as previously announced, the last week for Empress of China. Goodbye old kitschy friend.
Over in the Castro, Le Taza (4230 18th Street) is becoming Bar Vero, as Hoodline reports. It sounds mostly like a rebranding, with the menu of Latin fusion fare staying mostly the same, but it's getting a light remodel as of January 14th and will reopen as Bar Vero on the 19th, open for lunch and brunch only until the dinner menu can be solidified.
Remember the saga of Drake's Bay Oyster Co.? Well they finally closed their shop and oyster shack last week near Point Reyes, as ABC 7 reports, but as we heard earlier they have a new restaurant planned.
And as the Contra Costa Times reports, 11-year-old, Giants-themed McCovey's restaurant in Walnut Creek is making the big move to the city. They're closing in February and looking to move somewhere closer to AT&T Park.
The Week In Reviews
Michael Bauer was most unhappy with the newly renovated Oliveto, though he says the renovation itself "soars." The long-lived Rockridge restaurant looks nice and isn't so noisy anymore, but he was disappointed with just about all the food, says it's too expensive, and gives the place a sorry two stars, with one and a half for the food.
Anna Roth, meanwhile, gushes over the Southern food at Brenda's Meat and Three (which also made SF's Best New Restaurants list), calling it "a restaurant worth breaking your resolutions for." She loves the "beautifully fried" chicken, the meatloaf, the oyster stuffing, and the fried bologna sandwich that's only on the lunch menu. And, she adds, it's all "food that makes me happy."
Update: Even though Bauer's Sunday review was, literally, nowhere to be found (on Google, SFGate, or SFChronicle.com) on Sunday, here it is, and SFGate says it published Friday. He reviewed Izakaya Rintaro, the new Japanese restaurant in the former Chez Spencer space from Chez Panisse alum Sylvan Mishima Brackett. He says that while an "[Alice] Waters-like integrity infuses every aspect of the experience at Rintaro," the food is only sometimes good, and the service is downright terrible. In its first two months, food-wise, "intentions aren’t always realized," and it sounds like you should definitely avoid the "Odd Bits Chef’s Choice" skewer plate. All told: two stars.