Posts for December 20, 2012

Nabe Opens Friday in the Sunset; Solbar Goes Asian

Sunset: Take a look inside Nabe (pronounced nah-bay), the new Japanese hot-pot restaurant we mentioned the other week, opening tomorrow. [Eater]
Mission:The Hideout at Dalva is doing special holiday concoctions like the Egg Noggy Nog (bourbon, Campari, maple, egg, allspice, cream, and coffee bitters). [Tablehopper]
Hayes Valley: Smitten Ice Cream is doing a Sticky Toffee Pudding flavor, now through Christmas Eve. [Hayeswire]
Oakland: Where to eat at the Oakland Airport (hint: bring your own food). [Eater]
Calistoga: Chef Brandon Sharp and sous chef Bradley Borchardt at Solbar are mixing things up and doing a new lounge menu for the winter, featuring "unique interpretations of Asian comfort food that stimulates all five senses," including a brisket and wasabi steam bun, and smoked duck ramen with house-made noodles. [Grub Street]

Big New Rockridge Safeway Gets Approved

The proposed complex includes a cafe and rooftop seating where the gas station now stands.

That controversial new Safeway complex in Oakland's tony Rockridge neighborhood finally got approved during an epic, eight-hour City Council meeting on Tuesday night. Neighborhood and Safeway reps came to the bargaining table over a few remaining issues, which centered largely on the size of the new store, which replaces a long-lived but outdated, smaller store on the same property. They've settled on a 45,000-square-foot store (which is still bigger than most of the neighbors want) with 9,500 square feet of ancillary retail, and a parking structure which includes rooftop parking. One remaining sticking point which the store seems to insist on is a big sign that will read Rockridge Safeway, which is still giving much of the aesthetically sensitive residents fits. “We gave up in the end," says Councilwoman Jane Brunner. [Oakland North, Earlier]

Should a Few Dim Sum Dumplings Cost $20? Like Ever?

You should have noted by now the openings of two high-end Chinese spots in the downtown vicinity: Hakkasan, which originated in the U.K., and M.Y. China, which is TV chef Martin Yan's first U.S. restaurant. The two restaurants debuted within days of each other in early December, and though Hakkasan is decidedly swankier (the buildout, which with solid woods, cost a reported $7 million), they have a fair amount in common in their attempts to serve more dressed up and expensive versions of Cantonese cuisine to a town accustomed to keeping it cheap and cheery in Chinatown and the Richmond/Sunset. SFoodie's Tamara Palmer, a resident of the Sunset, pays a visit to M.Y. China to decide for herself if their $18 plate of five dim sum dumplings (they're pork dumplings studded with black truffle) is worth the price. She sounds only mildly impressed, and concludes, "They're worth trying once as a fun splurge." Meanwhile at Hakkasan, they have a steamed dim sum platter that will run you $26. We can't yet give you an informed opinion of them ourselves, but the early consensus amongst Yelpers is that this particular dish is worth the price, and both the chive and duck dumplings get repeated high praise, as does the siu mai. [SFoodie, Yelp]

Local Bar Stars Show Off Their Home Bars, Such as They Are

Josh Harris's antique jigger collection.

The Bold Italic (and writer Grant Marek, also a Thrillist editor) take a tour of the home bars of seven of the city's bar stars, including Comstock Saloon's Jeff Hollinger, who has an elaborate, Brady-house basement setup; Bryan Ranere of Laszlo and Foreign Cinema, who uses his cocktail-loving grandmother's shaker; and Rio Grande/Trick Dog's Josh Harris, who doesn't drink anymore himself but who keeps an enviably collection of estate-sale booze bottles and antique jiggers. As for what Trick Dog, delayed lo these many months, will look like when it finally opens early next year? "It. Is. Going. To. Be. Awesome." [Bold Italic]

Bauer Says Café Des Amis Is ‘Less Ambitious But More Delicious’; Matthews Returns to Georges

Cafe Des Amis

Nearly two and a half years after opening, and after a couple of unspectacular reviews (his first review was a sorry one and a half stars, and then last January he said it had "improved" to the two-star level, but that some dishes were still "all wrong"), Michael Bauer returns to Café Des Amis once again. It's been over a year since executive chef and Bacchus Restaurant Group partner Mark Sullivan took full control of the kitchen, and Mr. Bauer says he's succeeded in making the menu "less ambitious but more delicious." It's now a reliable place for "for solid rendition[s] of the classics along with informed service," and he's especially fond of the pâté de campagne, leek and potato soup covered with a salty pastry dome, and their "fine" roast chicken and steak frites. The chocolate mousse remains "one of the worst versions I've had." The tally: two and a half stars. [Chron]

Read more »

Top Chef Seattle Recap: David Rees on Beautiful Berries and Shredded Jeans

Padma doesn't do pink.Photo: Bravo

On the last Top Chef before the Feast of St. Christmas, we find Josh moaning about his shattered reputation as a pork expert. He vows to never cook pork again. Pigs across the country breathe an oink of relief, then go back to rolling around in their own fecal matter.

"Beautiful, beautiful berries ... " »

Nevius: Restaurant Moratoriums Are Not the Answer

Speaking of the Valencia restaurant explosion and the subsequent one-year freeze on new restaurants proposed by Valencia merchants, everyone's favorite print-world curmudgeon, C.W. Nevius has piped in with a characteristic argument against government intervention. "You can't put a moratorium on progress," he insists, and he points to similar panics among merchants in Noe Valley and the Castro in the 1980s when those neighborhoods were gentrifying. Also, Supervisor Scott Wiener argues that, as a result of city-imposed moratoriums, "the food scene in both neighborhoods suffered" for two decades afterwards. [Chron]

Watch These Adorable Old People Try to Get Through Their Lines in This Truck Stop Commercial

This older man and lady having lunch at Dysart's Restaurant in Bangor, Maine, are having a bit of a hard time saying their chicken potpie is "baked in a buttery, flaky crust" during the filming of a commercial for the place. They keep trying anyhow, though, which really just makes them the best.

"Flaky!" »

Bar Bambino Owner Blames Valencia Restaurant Boom for Restaurant’s Closure

"The decision to close was a lengthy, gut-wrenching decision I had to make. It’s one of the most painful and difficult decisions I’ve made in my life... Our location is being left out of this vortex of transformation on Valencia Street. I put my stake on 16th Street six years ago and I still believe in that neighborhood. I think there is going to be a great transformation for that area." — Bar Bambino owner Christopher Losa on his just-announced decision to close the restaurant after six years of solid reviews and decent business, though the last year of competition has been rough. [Mission Local]

Sloshed: The Pro-Am Guide to New Year’s Eve Drinking

Don't be this guy.Photo: Bettmann/CORBIS

New Year's Eve is our one mandatory holiday — you must celebrate. Try telling people you're staying in on December 31 and you will see them go through stages of confusion, disbelief, moral outrage, and activism that will end with them making plans for you. But while the idea of everyone being out is fun in theory, it's sloppy in practice. Seasoned party veterans mingle with nightlife n00bs, and nobody can get a drink because every bartender in America is in the weeds. This has to stop.

Read more »

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Off the Grid North Berkeley Suspended Indefinitely

Last night marked the last Off the Grid market in North Berkeley for the foreseeable future as the city has not renewed their permit. The reason has something to do with a neighborhood association "reconfiguring" the space the trucks usually park in, but we suspect there may have been some of the oft-seen brick-and-mortar vs. truck tension here. In any event, OTG founder Matt Cohen says he's on the hunt for a new location for next year. [EBX]

Berkeley’s Gather Expanding to Marbella Space on Polk

The front bar area at Marbella.Photo: Brian Smeets/Grub Street

The team behind popular Berkeley eating and drinking spot Gather, Eric Fenster, Ari Derfel and chef Sean Baker, are close to signing a lease on the former Café Rex/Marbella space (2323 Polk Street), vacant since early November. As the Chron reports this a.m., the new restaurant won't be called Gather, but it will have a similar ethos in terms of its local, organic ingredients and balance between vegetarian/vegan dishes and omnivore fare, and Baker — who was named Chef of the Year by Esquire in 2010 — will serve as chef at both places. Also, says Fenster, "Since there are fewer seats, we can refine the cuisine a little bit." And because of the space's prominent, recently remodeled bar, cocktails will be a focus as well (the Berkeley restaurant already has a great, if small cocktail program focusing on local spirits and seasonal fruits and herbs). Will the vegan charcuterie make a repeat appearance? We shall see. Opening date is TBA, but look for updates in a couple of months. [Chron]

Watch the Real-Life Fruit Ninja Slice Melons, Spare Kittens

The best fruit-slicing video game you've maybe played on your phone comes to life in stunning detail in the short made by Scott Winn, who makes a lot of wonderful things. This ninja bisects pineapples, watermelons, and lemons (sort of) with the greatest of ease. He would never hurt a flying kitten, and, at the 1:02 mark, he pummels a Twinkie. This really ought to be a feature film.

Watch out, tiny kitten! »

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