The chef-couple of Nick Balla and Cortney Burns who are still in the process of taking full ownership of the restaurant they've helmed for the past five years, Bar Tartine are already in expansion mode, as we learned in August. And the casual, prix fixe, Japanese-and-other-things spinoff, Motze, will be opening very soon by late October in what was recently home to Herbivore at 983 Valencia.
As managing partner Jamison Wiggins tells Inside Scoop, the plan is only to make this a temporary project with a set "sunset" date in 18 months, or early 2018 which is a curious approach but perhaps a clever one in this uncertain restaurant climate, giving diners the sense of something that will necessarily have a shelf-life, and is therefore maybe a bit more special and exclusive. Tablehopper adds that Motze will feel "high energy and feel lively and experimental," and the 18-month plan allows them not to think about investing too much in the space at the outset, keeping opening costs down.
They'll be doing a relatively reasonably priced, family-style prix fixe along the lines of the "friends and family" menu Balla and Burns have been offering at Bar Tartine which will soon be rechristened Crescent, since Tartine Bakery owners Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson will no longer be involved, and will soon be completing their sale of the restaurant to Burns and Balla. The deal will be $58 for a nightly changing prix fixe, with heavy influence from Japan, though Balla insisted to SFist in August, "We never want our food to be pigeonholed and Motze won’t be any different. Japanese flavors and cooking techniques will be the starting point, but we’ll continue to draw from and be inspired by other culinary traditions."
And the other unconventional thing here is that the $58 price tag is all inclusive, with no service charge or gratuity added which also adds to the home-style vibe that the team is hoping to create.
Balla tells Tablehopper he's looking for "more heavy metal!" in the vibe, which may or may not be a clue as to the dining room soundtrack, and he also says the food will have more rustic and spicier flavors than the food at Bar Tartine. Dish ideas that have been floated, just to give you an idea: black koji and flax seed crackers with salmon roe; poached chicken with tomato chili paste; chicken fat dumplings with egg and shiso; and house-made mung bean noodles and tofu.
Bar Tartine has always been high on my list of favorites around town, with its constant sense of newness and experimentation combined with the humbleness and hand-crafted nature of the food itself like discovering a friend's foreign grandmother who makes magic every time she sets foot in the kitchen, and makes all her own sausage and cheese. So the possibilities presented by the new project are, I think, pretty exciting.
I'll update you with an opening date when it's announced, or you can follow them on Facebook, where word may appear shortly.
Motze - 983 Valencia Street near 21st - Opening in late October, with hours to be Tuesday to Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m.