This week on the food beat we heard some cries of dessert forgery from a Blue Bottle pastry chef pointed at SFMOMA's new cafe, we saw Petit Crenn and The Perennial land on GQ's national list of best new restaurants, and we learned about Black Cat, a new restaurant and lounge headed for the Tenderloin. Now, for all the rest that's been going on.
The big opening this week, besides Locol in Oakland, was Bellota, the Absinthe Group's homage to Spain, in the Airbnb building (888 Brannan) with executive chef Ryan McIlwraith most recently the chef de cuisine at Coqueta at the helm. As Inside Scoop reports, McIlwraith riffs on some classic Spanish tapas items like croquetas, making his with clams, sea urchin, pickled ramps, and seaweed powder. And taking a cue from State Bird Provisions, there will be a cart circulating the dining room offering pintxos, charcuterie, and of course jamon Iberico. Drinks have been created by Comstock Saloon guy Jonny Raglin, and there is a nightly happy hour where you can hobnob with Airbnb execs from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
The Keystone, over in the former Annabelle's location on Fourth Street, "has had a few identity crises" as Eater puts it since it opened last fall. Now the menu has taken a turn to Southeast Asia, mashed up with the American South, at the hands of chef Banks White, who for several years has helmed the kitchen at Berkeley's FIVE. Think Thai-style fried chicken, collard green lumpia, "south x southeast" fried ribs with soy and calamansi glaze, and grilled fish with Malaysian curry butter and green papaya salad.
Balompie Cafe (3345 18th Street at Capp), known for serving some of the best pupusas in town, is shuttering temporarily for the rest of the year. As Mission Local has it, the building is being retrofitted, and the owners hope to reopen there in 2017. But, as Capp Street Crap previously noted, that building changed hands in December 2014, and things could certainly change in the seven or more months that this construction will take.
The Financial District now has an Israeli-inspired fast-casual spot from the AQ/Bon Marché team called Sababa. Per Inside Scoop, the restaurant grew out of some Mediterranean staff meals that former AQ cook Guy Eshel (who was born in Israel) would make when he worked there. Expect hot, house-made pita stuffed with your choice of falafel, chicken shawarma, ground beef kofta or fried eggplant, as well as hummus and salad options.
Over in SoMa, Custom Burger at the Best Western Americania Hotel (121 7th Street) is closing and in its place, as Hoodline reports, will be K-OZ Restaurant & Brewery, “a comfort cuisine hosted buffet style concept with our own brand of coffee and beers.” No idea what's up with that name, but look for that to open this summer.
The very popular Boba Guys, who have already expanded from SF to New York, are now opening their biggest location to date, a flagship store (their third here in the city) coming to 8 Octavia at the edge of Hayes Valley. They had a friends-and-family event last night, and it looks as though they'll be softly open this weekend, though Eater doesn't quite make that clear. In addition to their "authentically San Franciscan" milk teas and other beverages, they'll be serving onigiri (rice balls stuffed with things), toasts, and, eventually, beer from Black Sands Brewery.
Inside Scoop brings news that this weekend marks the opening of a temporary, summertime beer garden at Ghirardelli Square's west plaza, brought to you by Lagunitas Brewing Co. and local infused-water startup Hint. Hours will be noon to 7 p.m., Thursday to Sunday, and it will be open on holiday Mondays as well. Also, 50 percent of the beer garden's proceeds will go to local charities.
Over in Portola, FDR Brewery (that stands for Ferment. Drink. Repeat.) has just made its soft-opening debut. As The Portola Planet explains, the nanobrewery project at 2636 San Bruno Avenue has been two and a half years in the making, and after some finishing touches it will have its grand opening on June 25. For now, they've got four house brews on tap: The San Bruno Saison, Ole Black, Orange is the New Black, and the Inauguration Session IPA.
Longtime North Beach institution Da Flora, the Venetian-inspired spot at Columbus and Filbert, is changing hands after 22 years in business. Owner Flora Gaspar, 60, has decided to retire and pass the restaurant on to her longtime chef, Jen McMahon and McMahon’s husband, Darren Lacy, as Inside Scoop reports. With a lot of loyal, local clientele you can expect that not much will change. Also, Gaspar and her partner Mary Beth Marks will continue to run the tiny retail shop two doors down that they opened in recent years, selling Italian imported goods and spices, and Gaspar will continue to be the restaurant's wine buyer.
In the Mission, Evil Eye is taking the place of the short-lived Coco Frio at 2937 Mission Street (also formerly Savanna Jazz), and Mission Local explains that the 70's-vibe-y, cocktail and small plates spot will open next week, June 2. It's mostly going to be a bar focused on seasonal cocktails and punch bowls, but with "elevated bar bites" as well, and a pool table and pinball machine.
And in yet another example of mid-Market gentrification, we have greasy spoon Sam's Diner (1220 Market Street) getting a new neighbor partly owned by the diner's owner, Fermentation Lab (1230 Market Street), a beer-focused restaurant/bar. Also, apparently, the food menu will include fermented items, like kimchi, I guess. Inside Scoop says the new spot will open this fall.
This Week In Reviews
The Weekly's Pete Kane takes a first crack at Fénix, the Mexican replacement concept in the TBD space which, it sounds like, is a bit less TBD in its mission. He calls dinner there "a genuine pleasure," especially calling out the oxtail sopes and the large-format pork shank dish, which he said "essentially disintegrated on contact with a fork."
Michael Bauer is newly in love with Aster, the Mission restaurant from the Daniel Patterson Group and chef Brett Cooper that he was previously lukewarm about after its 2015 opening. A year in, he says the restaurant has "crossed the finish line, thanks to further refinement in the decor and, more importantly, the intricate handiwork of chef-partner Brett Cooper." He adores Cooper's gorgeously styled plates, in particular a pork dish and the trout, and he says service has improved too. All told: three big stars.
And for his Sunday review, Mr. Bauer checks in on Basalt, recently open in downtown Napa in the riverfront space formerly home to Fish Story. He finds the space a whole lot less awkward than it was when the former restaurant opened, but he the menu, with some Latin influence, is "a little unfocused." He also finds a couple overly sweet cocktails, but he does love a dish of clams and chorizo with toasted noodles and broth, and gives props to chef Esteban Escobar's fried oysters with spicy "deviled" aioli. The final verdict: two stars.