Coming in April to the former Baker & Banker space at Octavia and Bush a space that was notably also the original home of Quince, ca. 2009 is the second restaurant from chef Melissa Perello, dubbed Octavia. Perello's first solo effort, Frances, debuted to immediate acclaim and long waits for reservations in late 2009. And as she tells SFist, she had her eye on this Octavia space even back then, during the year that Quince was relocating downtown and she was looking for her first restaurant space. For various reasons, the timing didn't work out then, and Baker & Banker ended up nabbing it and opening around the same time as Frances. But when the place became available again last fall, Perello and team pounced on it.
I spoke with Perello about the project, and though she's still short on details regarding he menu, she will say that it won't be a carbon copy of Frances, but will be much aligned with it, in vibe and spirit. So, you can expect easy-going but formal service, as well as easy-going, flavorful food with some fine-dining flair as well as a few new aspects, and a commissary pastry kitchen in back that will service both restaurants, and become a casual private dining room, as it was back in the Quince days.
She's aiming for an April opening, but much the way Frances opened with just a few days notice, five and a half years ago, you can expect that Octavia will slip open by surprise at a date still to be determined.
SFist: How is the renovation coming along?
Melissa Perello: It's getting really close. We're just waiting for the contractors to finish up a few pieces so that we can get into the kitchen and start the final phase here.
Apart from having a bit more seating, do you see the overall vibe of the restaurant being pretty similar to Frances?
Yeah, we're going for the same atmosphere. A friendly neighborhood place with formal service but not a lot of pomp and circumstance. You know, chill. There are some tweaks in the wine program, a few other things. There's a communal table and there won't be any counter seating here.
One exciting thing is we've opened up the kitchen to the dining room. It's going to feel a lot more open. We'll be able to see out from the kitchen, and guests will be able to see in, and there'll be more opportunity to interact.
Have you worked out any of the menu? What can we expect that might be different from Frances?
I actually have not worked out a lot of the menu. One major focal point and one difference will be that we're serving oysters. I haven't figured out what the details of the service will be, or how many kinds will be offered, but that will be new.
The general format of the menu will be very similar to Frances but not the same. There'll be an assortment of smaller bouchés and some more traditional-sized appetizers. And a handful of entrees as well as couple that are a little larger format and geared toward sharing. There won't be any menu carryover from Frances none of the same dishes.
Like I've said I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel and I'm not suddenly going to start making pizza or tacos but I think it's naturally going to evolve into its own thing. And likely catering to a slightly different clientele.
We might have a couple more desserts on the menu. Sarah Bonar, who's been at Frances for three years, will be spearheading the pastry program at both restaurants. And she'll be moving over here and will be doing a lot of the pastry production over here, because the back part of the kitchen will become a kind of commissary space for both restaurants.
Did you ever imagine that you'd be a restaurateur?
I second-guess myself every day. I never expected it. But what you come to realize after a certain amount of time is that I have this great group of people who have worked with me and been on this ride with me, and I want to be able to create new opportunities for them. And that's part of the drive to get the second place going.
I've always been intrigued by this location and I even looked at it back when it was Quince and Michael and Lindsay [Tusk] were planning on moving, back when I was looking to open Frances. And this time it all just kind of fell into place.
What were some of the biggest surprises about Frances, either right after it opened or more recently?
Right off the bat the biggest surprise was hitting the ground the running like we did. We didn't anticipate being so busy right away. All the accolades and attention was a big surprise, and a lot of fun. But what we've been most pleasantly surprised by is the reception of the neighborhood. We have guests who come in once a week, or a couple times a week, and they're kind of like our family and we're hoping to recreate that over here at Octavia.
Octavia - 1701 Octavia Street at Bush - Opening in April